Finding my way, sharing my finds
Several weeks ago, my friend from Charlotte and I attended a service at The Point in Apex as part of my Triangle church tour.
My first impression? This is the kind of church where it would be easy to get to know all of the other parishioners by first name. After all, this church (which is actually one campus of three) is relatively small, with roughly 75 people (if that) attending the 11 a.m. service on August 23.
What’s more, the layout of this church (which looks to be in an old restaurant or something) really lends itself to forming intimate connections with others fairly quickly. That’s because the main area where people sit to hear the sermon, the concession area and the book store area are all in the same large room. The only things that delineate one area from another are a few selectively placed columns. I liked this because it almost felt like we were attending church in someone’s living room; there was definitely something very comfortable and inviting about the set-up.
When he came to the front, I marveled at how young this pastor was. Here was this fresh-faced man who barely looked out of college, with bright eyes and slicked back hair. Later in the sermon, he mentioned he was born in 1984, making him around 31 years old.
This is a fairly new concept for me because every other pastor I have seen has been at least in their 40s, with some in their 60s.
I pondered about what the implications are for a congregation to have such a young pastor leading them. One benefit I see is that church members will have a front row seat to how this pastor uses the Bible to face all of the typical ups and downs that life brings: the first few years of marriage, the first child, the first graduation of a child, etc. There’s something very attractive about that, I feel like, especially if you’re a young family who just happens to be going through the same life milestones around the same time.
On that particular Sunday, Pastor Matthew spoke on Luke 7:36-50:
A Sinful Woman Forgiven
36 One of the Pharisees asked him to eat with him, and he went into the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table. 37 And behold, a woman of the city, who was a sinner, when she learned that he was reclining at table in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster flask of ointment,38 and standing behind him at his feet, weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears andwiped them with the hair of her head and kissed his feet and anointed them with the ointment.39 Now when the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him, for she is a sinner.” 40 And Jesus answering said to him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.”And he answered, “Say it, Teacher.”
41 “A certain moneylender had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty.42 When they could not pay, he cancelled the debt of both. Now which of them will love him more?” 43 Simon answered, “The one, I suppose, for whom he cancelled the larger debt.” And he said to him, “You have judged rightly.” 44 Then turning toward the woman he said to Simon,“Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. 45 You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not ceased to kiss my feet. 46 You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. 47 Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.” 48 And he said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” 49 Then those who were at table with him began to say among[a]themselves, “Who is this, who even forgives sins?” 50 And he said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”
Pastor Matthew gave the context that Jesus previously called out the Pharisees were hypocrites because they would honor God with their lips but their hearts were far from Him.
In contrast, Pastor Matthew said, the woman in the passage above was able to demonstrate her love for Jesus because she was aware of how great her sin was.
He gave us this context to understand just how incredible this woman’s actions had been: “Simon was a pretty big deal in town and at this party, Jesus was the guest speaker.”
This woman, who had not been invited to the party and who had a reputation for being a sinner, came to the party anyway to pour this expensive perfume on Jesus’s feet and wipe them with her hair. This is significant, Pastor Matthew said, because a woman’s hair was her glory during this time.
“She’s basically saying that he’s king and I want to give him my best,” said Pastor Matthew.
Jesus then tells Simon the story about the moneylender and two debtors to illustrate why he’s about to forgive this woman of her sins: Just like the person with the greater debt loved the moneylender more, the woman at the party “gets how amazing Jesus’s love is because she knows she’s a sinner.”
While the Pharisees might not feel like they need Jesus as much because they think they’re better than, this woman recognizes that she’s a hopeless sinner, but in Jesus, she (and all of us) can find hope, said Pastor Matthew. Because, quoting Romans 5:8, he said, “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
That’s why the woman in Luke 7 was “busting through social barriers” to get to him at this party, in order to show honor him with her expensive perfume and anointing of his feet, said Pastor Matthew.
“The reason you can have hope in being a sinner is that you can embrace that you need a great savor,” said Pastor Matthew.
At this point, Pastor Matthew gave the congregation the big takeaway of the sermon: Our love for Jesus correlates with our understanding of our sin:
“Maybe you don’t hear who you are from Jesus. Maybe you hear who you are from Satan,” said Pastor Matthew to the congregation. “One reason why you don’t show love and forgiveness is because you don’t understand the love and forgiveness that has been given to you.”
Before ending his sermon, Pastor Matthew encouraged everyone to take the next steps toward becoming more like the woman in Luke 7: Receive forgiveness and Demonstrate Love.
I loved that as we segued into communion, the church band played this song that perfectly tied into the message:
I really enjoyed this church service and could easily see myself getting involved there. I also like the fact that the pastor is only four years older than me because that means that I will likely be able to relate to any personal stories he relays during his sermons. Of course, the downside of that is that I won’t enjoy the benefit of hearing from a seasoned pastor who has already made many life mistakes and who now has that 20/20 hindsight (plus the additional insight on God’s teachings) to impart on us as a congregation.
I will leave this church in the Maybe category for churches I might want to attend full-time after my church tour ends. We shall see where God ultimately leads me!