Well, we've made it to the last letter of my VISION for the Antrim Church of Christ. First, a quick review of the first five letters:
- V — Values — My vision for the Antrim Church of Christ is that we will only get our values from the Bible and that we will value heavenly things more than earthly ones.
- I — Integrity — My vision for the Antrim Church of Christ is that we will always have integrity.
- S — Seriousness — My vision for the Antrim Church of Christ is that we will take our calling seriously.
- I — Intimacy — My vision for the Antrim Church of Christ is that we will have greater intimacy.
- O — One — My vision for the Antrim Church of Christ is that we will be one.
And Christmas Day is appropriate for the N, because N stands for nucleus and nucleus represents the One whose birth we are commemorating…and celebrating…today.
My vision for the Antrim Church of Christ is that Jesus will be our nucleus.
The problem with choosing a metaphor for anything is that there is always a point at which it falls apart. All the more true when the object of your metaphor is an infinite, perfect being. However, as long as we don't try to take it too far, saying Jesus is our nucleus is a great word picture. As I mentioned in my original VISION sermon:
[ These are quick sermon notes…not cleaned-up…and missing the "extras" that come out in the audio (which is available here). All quotes are from the English Standard Version unless otherwise noted. ]
- Without a nucleus, and atom is nothing.
- Without a nucleus, an atom has no weight.
- Without a nucleus, an atom will break up.
- An atom can only have one nucleus.
- Without Jesus, we are nothing.
- Without Jesus, we have no weight.
- Without Jesus, we will break up.
- We can only have one nucleus.
Now, if we have any nuclear scientists here, they'll already point out that, actually, an electron does have some weight…about 1/1836 that of a proton…or around 9.109 x 10-31 kg.
But, the fact remains, that the nucleus, with it's positive charge produced by comparatively massive protons, is the center and…it would be fair to say…the cornerstone of an atom…
And that it is the composition of the nucleus that defines what the element is. If you've taken even high school chemistry, you know that elements can have extra…or be short…electrons (these are "ions"), but they remain the same element. Take away a proton…that is…mess with the core of the nucleus…and it's not the same element.
Sure…you can also change the number of neutrons in a nucleus, but in that case you would still have the same element (these are "isotopes"). Of course, not all isotopes are stable…for instance when I was going through Nuclear Power School in the Navy, we had to get a radiation check on our chests. The guy informing us about the test told us not to eat too many bananas beforehand because bananas contain cesium, and a small percentage of that cesium would be radioactive.
Now, I suspect he was exaggerating a bit…and that we'd get ill (or dead) eating enough bananas to throw off that test, it's true that if any of the cesium in that monkey food didn't have the stable quantity of 78 neutrons (for its 55 protons), then it's half-life would run anywhere from millions of years to less than a millisecond.
So, bear with me as I push the atomic analogy a bit further.
Let's say that we humans are electrons…
- You can change the number of electrons, and the element remains the same element.
- You can change the number of members, but Christ's church still remains the church.
Let's say that doctrines are neutrons…
- You can change the number of neutrons, and the element remains the same element.
- However, if the number of neutrons isn't the optimal quantity (for example, 78 for cesium), the element becomes unstable and will decay.
- Churches can have different doctrines, and still be part of the body of Christ.
- However, if you mess enough with the neutrons…the doctrines…the church will become unstable…and will decay…
Let's say Jesus is the protons…
- If you change the number of protons, it's not the same element.
- If a congregation doesn't worship the biblical Jesus, it is not a Christian church.
Finally…protons are positive and electrons are negative.
- Jesus is positive.
- Ever since our parents in the Garden chose a lie over their creator, humans are negative.
- An electron only connects to the atom because of the nucleus' positive charge…not because of the neutrons…
- We only connect to the church because Jesus, lifted up, has drawn us…not because of doctrines…
Now, at this point I'm kind of happy we don't have any nuclear physicists or chemists in our congregation, because I most assuredly have messed up something scientifcally…or there must be some exceptions to the rules…
But I did tell you that metaphors are always limited, didn't I? 🙂
Not to mention, I never claimed to be a scientist… 🙂
Even though 2,000 years ago they didn't know enough about atomic particles to have it be used as a word picture in Scripture, even now I think a metaphor they did use is even better than my nucleus one. In my VISION sermon, I shared a couple scriptures in its quick nucleus section:
According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building upon it. Let each one take care how he builds upon it. 11 For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 3:10-11).
So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. 22 In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit (Ephesians 2:19-22).
Just as I've suggest that Jesus is the nucleus of the church…our church…Jesus is…and must be…the cornerstone of our church…the only foundation that can be trusted to keep us standing until the day the voice of the archangel tells us our Lord is coming in the sky.
A day that cannot come too soon.
And whether it is me or someone else who the Lord appoints to stand before you, Jesus must be the cornerstone…the foundation…of every sermon. I am reminded of Paul's words to the Corinthians:
2 And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. 2 For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified (1 Corinthians 2:1-2).
"I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified."
Nothing except Jesus and Him crucified.
Earlier in his same letter to the church in Corinth, Paul also said:
For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, 24 but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men (1 Corinthians 1:22-25).
"We preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to gentiles…"
But…"the foolishness of God is wiser then men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men."
And you might remember how I earlier said that we joined God's church "because Jesus, lifted up, has drawn us." That was an allusion to Christ's own words in John 12:32:
And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.
To which John immediately explains:
He said this to show by what kind of death he was going to die (John 12:33).
Not to rain on our "baby in a manger" celebrations, but Paul and the apostles didn't preach Jesus Christ and Him in his diaper…
And Jesus knew it wasn't His arrival that would ultimately draw His fold out of darkness. It was His death.
Yes, as we discussed last week, some people have a hard time believing Mary was a virgin…but the lost world doesn't really have a hard time with the warm-fuzzy nativity stories.
But they have a big, big problem with Christ crucified…
Because Christ crucified reminds them of their sinful need for a savior. They love their sin.
What draws us repulses them.
Because they are either their own God or attracted to the God of this world.
Luckily, the same Jesus who didn't give up on us does not give up on them…and praise God that every year we have a great excuse to remind our coworkers, our friends, and our family of the "reason for the season."
- So, celebrate the virgin birth.
- Celebrate the babe in the manger.
- Celebrate the gifts from the Magi.
- Celebrate all that is good in the nativity story.
But, don't forget to lift Him up the way the apostles did…
And pray that the unsaved around us, too, will be drawn by the cross.