Praying as a Priest: “On Behalf of Others”
I Samuel 7: 2-9; I Peter 2: 4-10
Pearl: As priests we hold each other up and form a spiritual structure.
Function: To motivate worshippers to commit to each other as priests so to keep the spiritual structure of the Church sound.
In Exodus 19:6 is recorded a message that Moses gave to God’s people, “…you shall be for me a priestly kingdom and a holy nation.” That note is struck again by the prophet Isaiah in 61:6, “…you shall be called priests of the Lord, you shall be named ministers of our God….” Finally, this concept is picked up as a directive to the early church as we read in I Peter, “…let yourselves be built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood…you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation…” (I Pet. 2: 5, 9). How are we to be a “priesthood;” how are we to be priests to each other in the church?
In prayer and in other ways we hold each other up serving “as priests” to each other.
My former church was in the midst of a major building renovation and expansion and a collapse in a portion of the foundation of the oldest part of the building occurred.
- The collapse occurred under a corner of the sanctuary structure which was a solidly built brownstone building. The builder was excavating around the entire foundation of the old building down to the footer in order to provide a French drainage system and to fix a leaky basement condition. The problem was that instead of opening a small portion of the foundation a little at a time they opened all along the entire side of the building. To the builder’s horror a blow-out occurred of the corner of the building such that from ground level down to the footer an entire corner of the building opened up.
- The contractor acted quickly to shore it up with jacks, cinder blocks, and a backhoe, and masons worked quickly to build a new wall on that corner. Amazingly the entire side of the church building did not come down. In fact the upper stones all held together and the old building was saved.
- We reserved another facility for worship that Sunday as a precaution in case it was not safe to use.
- We were so impressed with the craftsmanship of the original stone masons who laid the stone so well in an interlocking fashion that even when the bottom blew out, the superstructure held together. There was not even a conventional footer as would be poured today but simply stones laid side by side as a footer.
The church is a spiritual super-structure which depends upon the integrity of the “priesthood” to remain standing!
- The extent to which we remain interlinked and hold onto each other and pray for one another and serve one another will keep the church structure strong to endure.
- While we were enjoying glorious worship last Sunday here at Highland, all hell broke out in another worshipping community in Southerland Springs, TX.
- That church family is now holding each other up as is the whole community as a “royal priesthood.”
- Other churches have seen such evil break out. Each of those communities of priests have had no choice but to hold onto each other to maintain the soundness of their spiritual structure in the face of horrific circumstances.
Some friends decided to take their lame friend to Jesus to be healed.
- They made their way carrying their friend upon a mat.
- Upon arriving at the house where Jesus was it was so crowded that they would not be able to bring their friend before Jesus. They might have left deciding to try another time.
- Instead these friends went to the roof and began to dig a hole.
- Once they got the roof open, they lowered their friend down to where Jesus was. Jesus was most impressed by the determination of these friends of the lame man. He was also impressed by their faith. Jesus cured the man’s lameness.
- Let’s think about the three friends for a moment who literally carried their friend to Jesus.
- They did serious damage to someone’s home. I am sure that as they decided to dig they also made plans to restore that roof which they damaged. No matter how much work would be needed to restore that home they would do it. They so wanted to get their friend to Jesus so that he might be cured.
- These friends acted as priests to their friend.
- To what lengths will you go for each other within the Body of Christ? As a “royal priesthood,” “a holy nation” you are called to bear each other’s burdens.
- We Highland Presbyterians are holding each other up a lot through many griefs lately! It’s what the Body of Christ does!
We hold each other up, we even carry each other as “priests” as a “holy nation of chosen people.” We go to God on our own behalf and on behalf of each other. This is the doctrine of the “Priesthood of All Believers.” We have direct access to God in Jesus Christ and we have direct access to Christ on behalf of each other.
This Veteran’s Day weekend we remember with deep thanks all of you who served and who are serving. Our U.S. military has a motto “no soldier left behind.”
- Is this not a “priestly” concept? Soldiers will carry each other out of harm’s way. Soldiers will go back into the heat of the battle to rescue another soldier.
- Desmond Doss was a soldier who refused to carry a gun. He barely made it into the army for that. He was abused and harassed by other soldiers and his commanding officers who did not want him to serve along their side because of his refusal to touch a gun. He promised to be right by the side of his fellow soldiers saving lives while they were taking lives. His commanding officer said he would not be by his side since he wouldn’t carry a gun. But during one of the bloodiest battles of WW II on Hacksaw Ridge of the Pacific island of Okinawa he was credited for single-handedly saving 75 soldiers. He joined the army as a combat medic because he believed in the cause of WW II but as a Seventh-day Adventist, he had vowed not to kill.
- Under a constant barrage of gunfire and explosions Doss crawled on the ground from wounded soldier to wounded soldier all through the night. He dragged severely injured men to the edge of a ridge, tied a rope around their bodies and lowered them down to other medics below. Doss says, “I was praying the whole time. I just kept praying, ‘Lord, please help me get one more.’”
- His fellow soldiers changed their minds about Desmond. In fact, they would not go back into battle the next day without him. The invasion was literally delayed while they waited for Private Doss to finish his prayers; they were so determined to have him with them.
- In 1945 President Harry Truman awarded Desmond Doss the Medal of Honor.
- Doss lived out the notion “no soldier left behind.” He acted as priest to his fellow soldiers. Many were saved because of his dedication and because of his self-sacrifice. There is a Hebrew saying, “Save one person, you save 10,000 persons.”
- In the church we carry each other; we bear each other up, through prayer, and through many other kinds of service. In Christ you have a community who will not leave you behind!
On this Stewardship Dedication Sunday we commit to maintaining the mission and ministry of Highland Presbyterian Church, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), even the whole world-wide Church of Jesus Christ.
- For most of us this is mostly about our local church: Highland Presbyterian Church. In truth no matter anyone’s involvements in the church beyond this local church, the local church is the most fundamental expression of the Body of Christ to each of us. Every believer is most alive in Christ as they are connected to a local expression of the Body of Christ.
- The local church is exceedingly important to every believer in it.
- The integrity, stability, and continuity of this church is vital to each of us and even to the surrounding community.
- Your commitment is vital to the integrity of this spiritual structure known as Highland Presbyterian Church.
- This local portion of the Body of Christ depends upon us all to commit to hold each other up; to serve each other; to help each other; to support each other.
- We are a spiritual house made up of “living stones.” The integrity of the structure depends upon how well we lean upon each other and interlock in systems of support and connection and trust.
- Like that wall of stones which were expertly laid to support each other even when the bottom fell out, we also lean upon each other and carry each other so that the whole spiritual structure remains intact.
We do so because we are a “holy nation,” a “royal priesthood,” a “chosen people” in Jesus Christ. We serve each other as Christ intended his people to do!