Old sermons have modern meanings.
I have now been sitting on the sidelines for far too long, watching the Session consume itself. I can no longer stay silent. The sermon of July 19, 2020 is still burning in my ears. Hearken back, if you will, to that morning. As I sat on the pew listening to Pastor Hall read from John 15, I had no idea just what would unfold over the next year.
Do you remember the topic? It was God’s pruning the dead weight from the vine as the wise and loving gardener. In well-trained fashion, Pastor Hall started into the first part of his three-part sermon. It was on point. Moving on two point number two: “pruning in the church.” Watch a minute or two to refresh your memory:
“We moan and we complain about church pruning don’t we? We fret that maybe God doesn’t know what he’s doing and we think we’re the only church in history that has had painful difficulties or members divide, and we forget that for years, for centuries, schisms have occurred, saints have died, churches have been re-shaped by the divine gardener that prunes us.”Rev. David Hall
As I listen again, in light of what has gone on since then, I have to wonder whether it was mere coincidence that this was the sermon prior to the congregational meeting that set ablaze the long-standing infighting on the Session and within the Congregation. This meeting and the actions surrounding it have created rifts and schisms that ultimately resulted in the Session convicting one Ruling Elder and studying how to charge three more for opposing the majority opinion.
Back in July, Hall spoke about how division, schisms, and difficulties in the church are just pruning. Based on the actions undertaken by the Session, it would appear that the Session is the one seeking to “prune” instead of the great gardener, our Lord. Unlike God’s perfect pruning, this worldly pruning is not seeking to sanctify. This pruning is seeking to maintain and build political power structures and remove anyone that dislikes what has been going on. True pruning is not the work of those who cannot see the heart, cannot see intentions, and cannot judge rightly because of the plank in their own eyes. The Session has taken on a role that is beyond its authority and what’s worse is that the Session is doing so for worldly (and even worse, political) reasons.
We should all be reminded of Romans 16:17-18:
I urge you, brothers and sisters, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them. For such people are not serving our Lord Christ, but their own appetites. By smooth talk and flattery they deceive the minds of naive people.
From the pulpit you will hear that everything is fine. You will hear that the church victorious marches forth. But, reader, that pruning is indeed afoot, and not in the right way. I ask therefore, If the Session intentionally divides God’s church, when is it time to avoid them because they are no longer serving the Lord Jesus Christ? I fear they are deceived, seeking to hang onto worldly power at the expense of those who are their brothers and sisters in Christ. I would urge everyone to speak to their Elder and tell them to stop supporting division. It is time to heal this church through purity, unity, and a re-focusing of the church leadership on God and His work.