Student Sunday

Taking The Time To Identify And Protect Our Sacred Space With God.

Charles Homer
Jan 2, 2022    28m
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What is your sacred space with God? Where do you go to pray, read the Bible, and sit in silence with God? Once you have identified them, what steps can you take to defend this space and time with God from outside distractions? Here's why sacred space is so important, it's in those times of connection with God, it's in those sacred practices and sacred places, where we are filled with God's presence and where we're going to find healing. Video recorded at Los Gatos, California.

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Anxiety Depression Youth 

Transcription
messageRegarding Grammar:

This is a transcription of the sermon. People speak differently than they write, and there are common colloquialisms in this transcript that sound good when spoken, and look like bad grammar when written.

Charles Homer: [00:00:02] Happy New Year Venture, so glad that you guys are able to join us online this weekend. This weekend we are having our Student Sunday, and our students are running a little bit of what's going on for this weekend. I'm excited to be teaching with you guys as the High School Pastor.

Charles Homer: [00:00:19] And as I was thinking about what we were going to cover today, and what makes sense for a Student Sunday, and then what makes sense for the first Sunday of the year? I really wanted to come to this idea of defending sacred space, and just so we're all on the same page of what that's about, I'm talking about defending the areas where we're able to connect with God. And so I mean, I'm talking about coming to church. I'm talking about reading your Bible. I'm talking about prayer. I'm talking about fasting. I'm talking about silence and solitude. I'm talking about all of the spiritual disciplines, just the activities, the things that we could do, that allow us to connect with God, those sacred spaces, and what we've got to do to kind of like set some parameters to defend those sacred spaces.

Charles Homer: [00:01:06] Honestly, in student ministries, it's one of the consistent themes that we have. As students are needing to develop their faith for themselves, they need to figure out, man, hey, how do I develop a priority for coming to church? How do I figure out how to read my Bible myself? How do I develop a prayer life? Like, how does silence and solitude work in the 21st century when I'm constantly on TikTok, and all of those things that go into, man, how are you going to develop and mature your faith?

Charles Homer: [00:01:32] And honestly, for New Year's, I am excited to have this be the message that we kick off the year with. As we think through all of our different priorities, all of the different things that we say, like, I want to grow in this area, I want to improve in this. What about your connection with God, what about your sacred spaces? So that's where we're going to be going. If you have your Bible, open it up to Matthew chapter 21, that's where we're going to be teaching out of this weekend.

Charles Homer: [00:02:00] Before we get there, let's go ahead and go for a little personal story. I grew up in a house that defended sacred spaces, and kind of what the mentality for my house was, was you're going to have a chance to hear from God, whether you want to or not. I grew up in a pretty conservative Baptist world, and there's this saying that was like pretty frequently repeated just growing up in church, is that it took three to thrive. And what that meant was you go to church Sunday morning, Sunday night, and then you better show up for Wednesday night prayer meeting as well, because it's going to be those three services that cause you to thrive spiritually, three to thrive. I don't even want to know what would happen if we missed one of those services, but that was kind of the world that I grew up in. And there's like no like bad blood in it for me, anyway, I loved going to church and I enjoyed my time there.

Charles Homer: [00:02:58] But there's one particular Sunday where we were getting ready to go to the evening service, and my mom was getting all the kids ready, there were still five kids at home at that time. And I just got this thought in my mind like, maybe, just maybe, my mom won't notice that she's missing one of her five kids, and I'll be able to avoid a church this weekend. And so in our playroom, we kind of had this ten, and so I opened up the tent, crawled into it, zipped it back up closed, and I just got so quiet, just thinking maybe they'll be able to avoid it. And I heard them go out the front door, get into the car, the car started, and I was thinking like, I think I actually might have accomplished it. And then the car just kept running, and then the front door opens again, and I was hoping, please let it be mom coming back in to find me. It wasn't mom, my mom had sent in my little brother. He opens up the tent and he is like, Charles, it's time for church. I pretended to be asleep, oh, is it church time right now? And you might be able to fool like mom or something, she might have been sweet enough to give me the benefit of the doubt. My little brother looks at me and he's like, you know it's church time Charles, come on, let's go.

Charles Homer: [00:04:04] But that idea that you're going to have a chance to hear from God, whether you want to or not, plus a little bit of violence, is what we see in our passage this weekend. In Matthew chapter 21, starting in verse number 12, it's a story of Jesus cleansing the temple "And Jesus entered the temple and drove out all who sold and bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons. 13He said to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer,’ but you make it a den of robbers. 14And the blind and the lame came to him in the temple, and he healed them. 15But when the chief priests and the scribes saw the wonderful things that he did, and the children crying out in the temple, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” they were indignant, 16and they said to him, “Do you hear what these are saying?” And Jesus said to them, “Yes; have you never read, “‘Out of the mouth of infants and nursing babies you have prepared praise'?” 17And leaving them, he went out of the city to Bethany and lodged there together."

Charles Homer: [00:05:12] Dear God, thank you for this new year, just the freshness that comes with new year and the new possibilities that are opened to us. God, I pray that as we come into this new year, you would help us to make sacred space, areas where you can connect with you, those practices and those places a priority in our lives. Lord, thank you that you love us enough to desire a relationship with us, that you care, and you've provided a way for us to have a relationship with you. Lord, be with us this weekend, I pray these things in your name. Amen.

Charles Homer: [00:06:02] We don't do it super often, and honestly, at this point, my boys are getting a little bit too old for it, but my two younger girls still like to wrestle. Brooklyn is 10, and Charlie is 5, and for Brooklyn and Charlie, what we mean by wrestling is like going into my bedroom and just kind of doing all of the crazy, rambunctious things. And so we'll pick up Brooklyn lift her up over the head and then drop her down onto the bed and do that again and again and again. And Charlie will do it one or two times, and that's all that she's good for. And then they'll want to fight, snd so there'll be like tickling matches, and we'll be running around the room, jumping over the bed, and you can imagine the ungodly amount of noise that comes from a scenario like this. And more than once, what's happened, is that as all of this craziness is happening, Kristen, my wife will come into the room and say something along the lines of, did you not hear me? I've called you for dinner like 27 times. And we've had enough practice with this, that at that point, the girls and I know what she's not saying was like, did you not hear me? What she's actually saying is, how is it that you're causing such a ridiculous amount of noise up here that you didn't hear me calling from downstairs, hey, it's time for dinner, come on down.

Charles Homer: [00:07:29] That's what Jesus is asking in this passage, he's saying, hey, can you not hear God? Can you not hear what God's trying to say to you? The Jewish religious leaders had taken the whole children of Israel, and they had led them to this place where, as a whole group of people, they weren't hearing from God. The temple had turned into a bustling marketplace instead of a place where there could be quiet and contemplative prayer, man, there were sheep running by, there were birds in cages, there was money being exchanged. And instead of a serene place where a connection with God was possible, Jesus was asking, can you not hear from me?

Charles Homer: [00:07:29] This year, though, things were going to be different. Jesus wasn't going to let this Passover be another Passover that was just rushed through, and the significance of the moment was lost, Jesus was going to do something. And this part of the story actually reads a little bit like a comic book, right? Where it's like Jesus flips over the tables, you can imagine the visual effects of when the birds get pushed over, the birds flying over the air. And I imagine Jesus, maybe just with that angry look in his eyes, just driving the money changers, driving the animal sellers out of the court of the Gentiles, which is the location where this is happening.

Charles Homer: [00:08:59] In John chapter 2, the Bible tells us that Jesus actually made a whip and was whipping people in order to get them out of the temple area. And I loved this passage as a kid because as a kid, man, it presented a superhero, Jesus. As a kid, the Jesus that we're told about in Bible stories, and in the little picture Bibles that my family would read, is Jesus was always like meek and mild, right, there was a sheep next to him, there's a kid sitting on his lap, there's a halo over his head, and it's just kind of this oh, like soft and meek and mild Jesus. But here in this passage, it is superhero Jesus, he's over there, he's flipping over tables, he's pushing people out of the temple area. And man, there's this fire in his eyes, and as a young man, it's like that Jesus resonates with me.

Charles Homer: [00:09:47] But the same Jesus that resonated with me in my teenage years is kind of a little frightening now. Because Jesus, in this passage, is angry. Man, he's not just some pushover that has infinite grace, that anything goes, do whatever you want to do. Don't worry about it, like I'm a meek and mild Savior, I'm going to die for your sins, and we all love that Jesus. But here Jesus is angry, he's bothered, there's something that is a wrong that he is going to fix, even if it requires a little bit of zeal from his side.

Charles Homer: [00:10:28] And so the question that we have is, why was Jesus mad? Jesus was mad for a couple of reasons. Jesus was mad, really, because there was a lot of injustice that was happening. I mean, there was a racial injustice that was happening, there was also economic injustice. Racial injustice, because where this market is taking place is in the court of the Gentiles. The court of the Gentiles is there on the Temple Mount, and it is a place that was designed for Gentiles to be able to come and worship the Jewish God. But instead of having this be a place of worship, they made it into a marketplace. And this was the one way of saying, hey, we're not interested in having outsiders come to worship the Jewish God, this is an insider only thing, so there was a racial issue going on. Not only the racial issue but also the economic issue, Bible commentators will say that more than likely what is happening here at the temple, is that as people are exchanging their currencies, people are being charged just tourist rates where they are getting charged in inflated rates in order to make those exchanges, and people are getting wealthy on the backs of this religious ceremony that's happening there in Jerusalem.

Charles Homer: [00:11:47] But it wasn't just that there were racial and economic issues, really. I think the deeper issue is this, I think the reason that Jesus was mad, was because God's intention for the temple was being violated. Here's what I mean by this, from the beginning, God's intention for us, for his creation, was a relationship. In Genesis, we read about God coming down to the Garden of Eden in the cool of the day in order to walk and to talk with Adam. Man, that relationship was broken when Adam and Eve rebelled against God, but that rebellion didn't bring an end to God's desire for a relationship, but God set in motion a redemption plan where he would come and restore a relationship with his creation. And throughout the Old Testament and into the New, we see pictures of God desiring that relationship.

Charles Homer: [00:12:39] I love the story of Enoch, it's a quick couple of verses. The Bible tells us that Enoch walked with God, and he was not, for God took him. And then Moses, Moses was a man who talked with God face to face, as a man talks with his friend. And then God eventually came to Moses and said, Moses, I want you to build me a tent, I want you to build me a tabernacle where I can meet with my people. When Moses finishes the construction of the Tabernacle, it says that God's glory descends in the form of a cloud onto the temple, and God's presence was there in the temple, and that was the place where God would meet with his people. The Tabernacle would get transitioned to the temple when Solomon built it, and the intention for the temple was exactly the same thing, that this was going to be the place where God would meet with his people. The same thing when Solomon was dedicating the temple, that again, God's presence came down and the priests who were performing the dedication service for the temple, they couldn't proceed anymore because the cloud of God's glory was so thick, they weren't able to proceed with their service. From the beginning, God's intention was that he would have a relationship with his people. Jesus was mad because that intention was being violated.

Charles Homer: [00:14:04] And every parent who has taken their kids to Disneyland knows what it's like when their intentions are being violated. If you've ever taken young kids into Disneyland, you've probably had a situation like this, where at the beginning of the day the kids are having the greatest time, they're running here, they're running there, they're more excited than they could ever be. But then it comes like six or seven o'clock at night, and the kids are getting a little bit more tired, they're trying to all crowd into the stroller at once. They don't want to walk anymore; they're not wanting to wait in any more lines. And eventually, as the time progresses, they get a little bit more cranky, a little bit slower-moving, and then eventually, I know that this has happened to me a handful of times, where they just well up and they're crying. And as a parent, here is my desire, to kind of get down on their level and tell them, this is supposed to be the happiest place on Earth, but you have made it into a place of consistent whining. Where our intention, for the moment, isn't being realized, and instead, it's being violated. I imagine that Jesus was more frustrated than parents at Disneyland.

Charles Homer: [00:15:25] God's intention of having a temple where people can meet with God, that grand intention was being violated. Instead of it being a house of prayer, the people had turned it into a den of robbers. Charles Homer: Before we get, real quick, into, man, how dare they, man, we would never do something like that. I mean, can we just rewind a little bit and see that this market that they had there at the temple made total sense? And here's what I mean by that, all of the things that were happening there in the court of the Gentiles needed to happen. In order for Passover to take place, people needed to make a sacrifice. And so they needed a place to buy their sacrifices, those lambs, and those birds, they were needed for the religious observances that were taking place there at the Temple, man, the sacrifices needed to happen. And then also the exchange of currencies, in order to pay your temple tax, every male had to have the Jewish temple shekel, and that was the only way that you could pay your temple tax. And so the exchange, it had to happen.

Charles Homer: [00:16:33] And here's what I want us to see, not only did this event have to happen, the Court of the Gentiles is actually the place that makes the most sense for it. This right here is a picture of a model of first-century Jerusalem, it's at one of the museums there in Jerusalem today. And you can see as you look at the Old City of Jerusalem, that if you're looking for a place to have a giant market, and we're talking about a significant enterprise here...Josephus, who is a Jewish historian, writing a few years after this, under the reign of Nero, said that on one particular Passover, there are two hundred and fifty thousand lambs that were killed in one day during Passover. And then he does his quick math in his historical work and says, that if you estimate 10 people for one lamb, that puts it at roughly two point five million people in this ancient city of Jerusalem. And so this is a massive enterprise and something that's necessary. And then as you look at the picture, man, if you're trying to find a flat place close to the temple where you would be able to have this market, there's no better place than right here and right here, which is the Court of Gentiles. It's within the city walls, it's protected by the garrison where soldiers would be able to protect this, it has close proximity to the temple, so you could take your sacrifices over there quickly.

Charles Homer: [00:18:02] All of this made sense, but here's what I want us to see, that despite the fact that this enterprise was needed and that it was convenient, Jesus wasn't having it. And here's what I want us to realize, that business and convenience. shouldn't clog up our sacred spaces. Business and convenience shouldn't clog up our sacred spaces. And I know for me, as I'm looking at the things in my life that spoil those sacred places, those sacred times, the sacred rhythms that I try to pursue to mature my relationship with Jesus, man, a lot of them fall into these two categories, business and convenience.

Charles Homer: [00:18:55] How many times have you guys been sitting in church and your phone goes off, and you get a text or an email that you just have to respond to right away? And it's just that business, it is that work, creeping into the sacred spaces? Or maybe you're reading your Bible, and that same thing, a text, or an email pops up, and it's like, oh man, I want to continue reading my Bible, but I have to respond to this right now. Or maybe it isn't business that that's creeping in, maybe it's just the convenience, right? Where it's like, ooh, like, I want to come to church on Sunday, I really would enjoy it, but then I've got to miss like the first few football games, and it's going to throw my fantasy league all off, and maybe I'll just catch the podcast or I'll watch it on video, don't worry about it.

Charles Homer: [00:19:40] And for many of us, business and convenience are frequently clogging up our sacred spaces. And it's not just a few of us that have this difficulty, as you look at the statistics for, specifically, Californians asking how often do you go to church? For people who say that they come weekly, it's about 28%. And this is for all religions, going to any type of worship service, 28% percent of Californians say they go weekly. Nearly weekly would be 19%. And about once a month would be 51%. And these are just self-reported statistics, and self-reporting is notoriously high where people are trying to say like, oh yeah, this is what I actually do. But when you look at actual church data, the average family who faithfully attends a church normally comes once to twice a month, why is that? For so many of us, it's business and convenience clogging up our sacred spaces.

Charles Homer: [00:20:47] Man, as the High School Pastor, I even see this in middle school and high school, where it's like, oh man, I got so much homework to do. I've got an A.P. test this weekend. Oh, I really got to finish up my college applications. Or it's like, oh, I just couldn't find a ride. Or none of my friends are going. Business and convenience clogging up our sacred spaces.

Charles Homer: [00:21:09] What we don't realize, is that we were made to connect with God. The Bible gives us this reminder, "Don't give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing." He says, "All the more as you see the Day approaching." And here's the reason why, the reason that those sacred spaces are so important, is because sacred space is needed for healing and praise.

Charles Homer: [00:21:47] I love this in the story, after the temple is cleansed, it says, "The blind and the lame came to him in the temple, and he healed them." Here's why sacred space is so important because it's in those times of connection with God, it's in those sacred practices and sacred places where we are filled with God's presence, that's where we're going to find healing. In a day and age, especially in the younger generation, where anxiety and depression are out of control and running wild, and this idea of healing, of God coming and meeting your deepest needs, man, we need that. But how do we get it? Sacred spaces, the ability for us to meet with God.

Charles Homer: [00:22:33] The first result is healing, and after there's that healing, the Bible tells us that there are, "Children crying out in the temple, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” It's after we have those sacred spaces, that we are able to experience the healing. And from the healing, we're able to live lives of genuine praise, we're thankful for God, we're thankful for all that God has done in our lives. Sacred space is needed for healing and for praise.

Charles Homer: [00:23:08] But I don't want us to think that Jesus was simply here, helping us to understand our need for sacred space. Jesus here is doing something so much bigger than that, what Jesus is doing here, is Jesus is ending the sacrificial system. You might come to Jesus and say, Jesus, if this sacred space is so important, why are you putting an end to the sale of the sacrifices? That's the very way that God has commanded his people to find atonement and be right with God. And the reason that Jesus was OK with ending the sacrificial system, putting an end to what was going on that Passover at the temple, was because he knew what he was doing. In Hebrews, again, it tells us that Jesus was the perfect sacrifice. That he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves, but by means of his own blood, thus securing eternal redemption. Jesus was putting an end to the sacrificial system because he was going to be the perfect sacrifice.

Charles Homer: [00:24:13] At the end of his death on the cross, it says, "At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, and the rocks split." And this gives us the image, it's not the temple anymore, we all have a direct access to Jesus. And if Jesus was so passionate about preserving the integrity of the temple, that it be a place where people are able to pray, where they're able to hear from God, when just five days later the temple curtain was going to be torn in two, and the temple was going to become obsolete. If he was so passionate about the temple, even though five days later is going to become a non-issue, how much more is he passionate about us having a place and a time to connect with God? How much more passionate is he to have us defend our sacred spaces?

Charles Homer: [00:25:13] And as we wrap up, just a couple of questions for us, what are my sacred spaces? And I'm saying that you should ask yourself that, what are my sacred spaces? What are the ways that I connect with God? Again, I'm talking about attending church, I'm talking about reading your Bible, I'm talking about a life of prayer, I'm talking about the practices of silence and solitude and even celebration. The spiritual disciplines, the activities, that allow us to connect with God. What are your sacred spaces? And then secondly, how do I defend them? Maybe some of us need a little bit more sleep, maybe some of us need a little less sleep. Maybe some of us need to get in the habit of turning our phones into airplane mode. Maybe some of us need to schedule that time on our calendar where we say this is the time that I am going to be reading my Bible and practicing prayer, this is the day that I'm going to be fasting, this is the day that I'm going to have a chunk of time for silence and for solitude. What are your sacred spaces, and what do you have to do to defend them?

Charles Homer: [00:26:21] One of my favorite missionaries is a man named Hudson Taylor. Hudson Taylor was a missionary to China at the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century. Hudson Taylor began the China Inland Mission, and successfully put missionaries into every Province of China, something that no other missionary had done to that point. And towards the end of his life, he was traveling from province to province, and at the time that this story was written, he was in the northern provinces of China, traveling with his daughter and with his son-in-law. And his son-in-law, who wrote the fantastic book, Hudson Taylor's Spiritual Secret, recounts how even though they would spend long days traveling, sometimes by wheelbarrow, other times with coolies, and arrive in just very difficult living quarters, most of the time with just one room for all of the people to be staying at one time. That even in those conditions, after the night would set and everybody would be getting to bed, one sound that he would hear every night was the lighting of the match, you could see the flicker of a candle, and between the curtain that separated Hudson Taylor from the rest of the group, you would see his shadow reading the Bible and spending time in prayer. People who are familiar with him, they would say that from the hours of two to four a.m. Hudson Taylor would spend every morning in prayer, those undisturbed hours where he would be able to have concentrated time of getting to know God, and spending time with him in prayer. And there's no doubt that this man of God was able to do miraculous things for God because there was just this strict defense, I'm going to defend my sacred spaces. What are your sacred spaces? What are you going to do to defend them?

Charles Homer: [00:28:25] Thanks for joining us this weekend.



Recorded in Los Gatos, California.
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Venture Christian Church
16845 Hicks Road
Los Gatos, California 95032
408.997.4600