It’s a small word, only 3 letters, however when I looked up its definition in Collins English Dictionary, I found not one, but eight different ways the word could be used.
It can be a conjunction, a preposition, an adverb, a pronoun and a noun.
The word of course is “But” and if you have been at Cornerstone for any length of time you’ve heard me say, “After the but comes the truth.”
Now, I’ve used that phrase so long that I’m not even sure where I first heard it. So, I googled the phrase to see if that would provide a clue to its origin. And I got eight hits. Three of those hits were for a review of a restaurant in California, that had been posted in Trip Advisor, and they read: “They mean well, no doubt, and as far as Mexican food is concerned it’s the best in Marbella… But (and after the “but” comes the truth), the staff can be slightly arrogant.” Ouch.
And then there were four of my sermons where I had used that expression and the last post was from a church in Missouri where the pastor had used an entire portion of one of my messages, verbatim, including the phrase.
So, I guess I’d be safe to say, “As I’ve always said, after the but comes the truth.”
The theme of my preaching over the next couple of months will be “After the but. . .” and we will be looking at various places in the Bible that the word “But” is used and the truth that follows.
And so, for our purposes we will use this definition from the Collins English Dictionary: But: conjunction (coordinating)
1. contrary to expectation
I.e. he cut his knee but didn’t cry
Or, after the but, comes the truth.
This morning I want to take you to an afternoon forty days after the resurrection.
Jesus’s apostles had watched him die on a cross on Friday and then saw him after he rose from the dead on Sunday. And they spent the forty days after the resurrection with Jesus. They ate with him, they talked to him, and they listened as he taught them.
We are told in Acts 1:3 During the forty days after his crucifixion, he appeared to the apostles from time to time, and he proved to them in many ways that he was actually alive. And he talked to them about the Kingdom of God.
And they still didn’t get it. After all they had been through together, after all they had heard him say, after the crucifixion and resurrection they still didn’t get it.
If we keep reading we hear them ask Jesus: Acts 1:6 So when the apostles were with Jesus, they kept asking him, “Lord, has the time come for you to free Israel and restore our kingdom?”
It was like they just saw the entire Easter weekend thing as a prelude to Jesus overthrowing Rome and setting up his kingdom.
And this isn’t just a one off. It doesn’t say they asked him, it said they kept asking him. Knock, knock, Penny. Knock, knock Penny. Knock, knock Penny.
If it had of been me, I’m sure I would have said, “seriously guys get a clue, haven’t you heard a thing I’ve said?”
Instead he tells them, Acts 1:7 He replied, “The Father alone has the authority to set those dates and times, and they are not for you to know.”
Maybe it would have been a good time to remind them of what he had said in Mark 13:32 “However, no one knows the day or hour when these things will happen, not even the angels in heaven or the Son himself. Only the Father knows.”
“Seriously guys get a clue, haven’t you heard a thing I’ve said?”
And while this might be a good time to segue into a discussion on end times, I’m not. Instead we are going to move on to the next verse which is one of my favourite verses.
Acts 1:8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
And there’s our but of the week.
Jesus had spent three years with the apostles. Three years that they watched him teach and they watched him heal. They had seen him crucified and they had seen him after God had raised him from the dead and now the future of the movement that he had started comes down to these words.
It’s here that Jesus defines what His Church will do.
And so he tells them, You May be Comfortable Where You Are, But . . .
They were just ordinary men. They had been tradesmen, fishermen and bureaucrats. Some of them were nationalists who longed for Israel to return to her glory days, and others just wanted to go along to get along.
But as far as we know, none of them had travelled more than a hundred miles from where they were born. The closest they had come to travelling into a foreign land was their brief forays into Samaria. Which was more like going into a sketchy neighbourhood.
Their entire lives had been spent in an area half the size of Nova Scotia. They were comfortable with their customs, with their language. They knew the best places to eat and the places to avoid.
They knew the people and they knew the places. They were comfortable.
And besides would it be fair to expand outside of Jerusalem and Judea before everyone in Jerusalem and Judea had the chance to respond to the message of Jesus?
And those were valid concerns.
But. . .
But Jesus knew that if Christianity was going to become a world changing movement that they would have to change.
With this command Jesus was reminding the Apostles, You May be Comfortable With Who You Are With, But . . . For all their differences the apostles were a pretty homogeneous group. They had been brought up in the same culture, they shared a common language and they had a common faith.
For the Apostles, Israel was a small island of righteousness in a sea of wickedness. They were Jews and everybody else.
For the Apostles, they were Jewish, and Jesus was the Jewish messiah, and that settled it. Why would they even think about reaching beyond the borders of what they had always thought of as God’s promised land which was occupied by God’s people.
Maybe you’ve heard of the Hunt-Lenox Globe. Or maybe not. It dates from around 1510 and is the second oldest globe in existence. It is housed in the New York Public Library. And on the globe, down by Asia is a Latin inscription which translated into English reads, “Here are dragons.”
Scholar tell us that wasn’t inscribed because anyone had actually seen dragons, but simply because they had no idea what might be in that area.
I’m sure if the apostle had of been map drawing types that they would have indicated the area outside of Israel as “Here are pagans, and here are heathens.”
For the Apostles there was no need to reach beyond Judea because there was nobody worth reaching outside of Judea.
And those were all valid concerns.
But. . .
But Jesus knew that if Christianity was going to become a world changing movement that they would have to change. And within a generation the church was made up of more gentiles than Jews.
And Jesus was telling his followers that day, You May be Comfortable With How You Worship, But . . . For all their lives the apostle had worshipped the same way. They knew what was acceptable and what wasn’t acceptable, they knew what was expected and what wasn’t expected.
They had grown up singing the same songs and hearing the same scriptures being read and the same prayers being prayed. They could probably do it in their sleep, and probably had.
For the Apostles, Christianity was just Judaism with Jesus. For them life would go on, they would continue to go to the synagogue, hear the Old Testament Scripture being read, and listen to the same prayers being recited that had be recited for over a thousand years.
By the time of Jesus Jewish worship music was primarily performed by the families of singers who officiated in the Temple. The participation of the congregation in the Temple song would be limited to certain responses, such as “Amen” or “Halleluiah,” or formulas like “Since His mercy endures forever,” etc.
And ancient Hebrew music, like much Arabic music today, was probably monophonic, that is there is no harmony. And they were probably thinking; what if the new people like different music than we like, or want to worship different than we have always worshipped?
And those were valid concerns.
But. . .
But Jesus knew that if Christianity was going to become a world changing movement that they would have to change. And it wasn’t very long that the Christian worship experience was very different than what the Apostles had grown up with.
Jesus knew that there would be a temptation among his followers to become complacent and comfortable with their new found faith and that the longer they stayed in Jerusalem the easier it would be to get into a rut, and we all know what a rut is right? It’s a grave with both ends kicked out.
And so, Jesus told his followers that if they were going to be obedient that it was going to require change on their behalf.
And nobody likes change. In Robert Kriegel’s book “If It Ain’t Broke, Break it” he writes, “The only people who like change are busy cashiers and babies with wet diapers.”
It was also from Kriegel that I first heard the phrase, “Sacred cows make the best burgers.”
There is an Old Testament verse that I discovered years ago that has promoted me out of various ruts through the years, and it is Amos 6:1 NIV Woe to you who are complacent in Zion.
Many of you are aware that we went through a process in November called Maximizing impact, and it wasn’t easy for the staff as we went through a self-evaluation and a church evaluation. But out of that God pointed me back to Amos 6:1.
In December I took three days to go on a spiritual retreat, and during time my heart was drawn to the book of Acts and in particular Acts 1:8 and I was challenged to get out of the rut I was in.
Through the time that I spent in prayer and the book of Acts, what stirred in my heart was three words. Here, Near and Far.
If you came to either of our vision nights that we had in January and February you heard me speak about those three things, and what the future holds for Cornerstone.
And through that time away I kept coming back to Acts 1:8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
There is a Plan for Here It is in the here, that we are most comfortable. It is here that things are the most familiar. It is here that we need to make sure we have the frame work in place for the near and the far.
For the disciples the here was Jerusalem and Judea. This was the place they had grown up, the place they went to school, the place they had won their victories and experienced their failures.
Jesus wasn’t telling them to leave Jerusalem and Judea, he was telling them they would have to add to Jerusalem and Judea.
In our case, this is our here, this building, the ministries that have grown up here in the past 14 years. But it’s broader than that, it is the collective memory of who we were before we were Cornerstone Wesleyan Church, when we were Bedford Community Church and met at the LeBrun Centre in Bedford and before that at the Empire Cinemas.
And we aren’t leaving our here, but there are things that we need to do to make the here more effective as we seek to reach our community for Christ.
The meeting tomorrow night to talk about our first impressions is part of that.
Allowing more opportunities for people to connect is part of that and providing some support ministry opportunities beginning this fall like Grief share and Divorce Care are part of that plan.
We are working on more ways to help you grow in your Christian walk and to have more people involved in ministry. Not just thinking of your service at Cornerstone as volunteering but as ministering.
But, it’s not just about the here.
Let’s go back to our scripture, Acts 1:8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
And there is a Plan for the Near. Not only were the Apostles told they would be witnesses at home, but also in Samaria.
Samaria was only 68 KM from the hill that the apostles stood on that day, but it might as well have been a world apart.
There was history between the Jews and the Samaritans. They had a common heritage, but hundreds of years before things changed, and they had very little to do with each other.
How many people watched Corner Gas when it was on TV? Do you remember what the reaction was of the people of Dog River whenever anyone mentioned the neighbouring town of Wullerton? Yeah, they spit on the ground. That pretty well summed up the feelings between the Jews and Samaritans.
And that was the next area that the Apostles were told they would be witnesses to. And their first reaction must have been: why? There’s lots to do here, and if the Samaritans really want to hear about Jesus they can come here.
But Jesus was more about building bridges then building walls. As evidenced by some of the stories in the gospels. Including the story in John 4. We read the account in John 4:3-4 So he (Jesus) left Judea and returned to Galilee. He had to go through Samaria on the way.
Now technically Jesus didn’t have to go through Samaria, Jews avoided Samaria all the time. But here we read the story of Jesus meeting the Samaritan woman at the well. And the story ends in John 4:39-41 Many Samaritans from the village believed in Jesus because the woman had said, “He told me everything I ever did!” When they came out to see him, they begged him to stay in their village. So he stayed for two days, long enough for many more to hear his message and believe.
We don’t have a Wullerton or Samaria in our neighbourhood, but right next door we have Sackville/Beaver Bank.
This year, we had an open door in the shape of 917 Windgate Drive, in Beaver Bank. This is an eight thousand square foot church that had been the former home of Sackville Wesleyan Church. And it is here we are planning on launching a satellite campus in the fall of 2020.
Why? Because there are people in that area that we will never be able to reach from our Gatehouse Run location.
Now we unpacked this at our last vision night in February and hopefully answered some of your questions then.
At our last leadership team meeting Rob McDowell was appointed to the position of Campus Pastor. And Rob and Stefan and I are part of a training cohort with a number of other churches, learning best practices for launching a Satellite location.
There will be meetings coming up in the future where you can find out more about our vision for Cornerstone Windgate and how it’s going to roll out. But for now, you can talk to me, or Rob or Stefan.
We could stay put, but there are people that we will never reach staying here. We have room in our worship centre for growth, but we are running out of room in our children’s ministry area and our parking lot.
We could invest millions of dollars here to correct those problems or we can expand 12 Km away for a fraction of the cost and reach people who would never think to try a church in Hammonds Plains.
But it’s not just about the here and the near. Let’s go back to Jesus’s words that day, Acts 1:8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
You see, There is Also a Plan for the Far We live in a world that has shrunk. Most of us are accustomed to some type of contact with the ends of the world today. We can jump on a plane and be almost anywhere in the world within 24 hours.
If you were to look down through the Cornerstone responsibility list, you would find people from around the world who worship with us. There are people from every continent who call Cornerstone their church home, well except for Antarctica.
But two thousand years ago, not so much. Unless you were a sailor or a soldier chances are you didn’t wander far from your home.
Travel was difficult, often by foot, there was no Expedia to book your accommodations through. So, for the apostles who had never been more than a couple of hundred kms from where they were born the ends of the earth was unimaginable. Not only were the ends of the earth far away but they were populated by people with strange languages, strange customs and different faith backgrounds.
But, the reality was that the unimaginable became possible. With a little push or two within a generation the Christian Church had spread to the ends of the known world. It was in Italy, Greece, Turkey, India, Egypt and Ethiopia to name but a few.
While Cornerstone’s first worship service didn’t happen until April 9th, 1995. Twenty-four years ago this Sunday, the church stepped into existence on July 1st 1994. Twenty-five years ago, in July. And less than a week later we signed up to support our first missionary. And it’s been a part of our DNA ever since.
We have supported missionaries around the world and when World Hope International was formed in 1996, we were one of the first churches to sign on as a partner.
For the past number of years, the Cornerstone church family has been very generous in providing funds each Christmas to help drill wells in Africa. We have seen wells drilled in Sierra Leone, Ghana and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
But, what about next steps? What if we could have a bigger impact than simply providing clean water?
In October our missions pastor visited Sierra Leone, to ask that very question, how can we make an even bigger difference at the ends of the earth? And Pastor Deborah came home having seen the difference that can be made in partnering with World Hope in their Village Partnership program.
We are now in the preliminary phase of establishing a village partnership with Kenenday, a small village in Sierra Leone. This three-year partnership will involve drilling a well to provide clean water, providing latrines and sanitation facilities and helping to establish a permanent home for the small Wesleyan church.
Will any of this be easy? No. Will it be cheap? No. But to quote John Kennedy, “We choose . . . to do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard.”
We could choose to remain comfortable and secure here on Gatehouse Run but is that what we are being called to do. Is God calling us to be witnesses just here? Or Is he telling us that we will be witnesses in Hammonds Plains, Sackville Beaver Bank and in Sierra Leone?
And at the end of the day it is about obedience and about lives that will be changed and saved that otherwise wouldn’t be.
And because we choose to do the hard, there will be people in heaven who might not have been there otherwise. And because we choose to do the hard there will be lives saved, children educated, and people reached for Jesus in a small village on the other side of the world.