where do we start…

This Sunday, I will be preaching on the prologue of Ecclesiastes – ch.1:2-11.  I find it awkwardly familiar in that the verses remind me of the journey I have trod theologically over the past few years.  3 years ago, I preached a sermon series “Strong Faith is for Weak People.”  It was an attempt to engage “strong Christians” in a churched setting who struggled to be able to articulate the finished glorious work of the gospel of Christ.  I was one such person.  Then, 18 months ago, it was a passion of mine to probe Scripture and literature to discern a theology of weakness that I might put on paper in book form.  Dream, dream, dream.  But I was chasing something tangible and pragmatic that would scratch the itch and comfort myself and many people I know whose only hope to discover grace seems to only be through the gospel covering our weakness – physical, relational, emotional, spiritual.  2 Corinthians was my starting point for a gospel-driven theology of weakness.  I pitched my tent there for some time.  About 9 months ago, I packed up my belongings and headed back in from my weakness wildernesss… sensing I needed to quit exploring, quit writing, and just survive pastoring, parenting – and most importantly, husbandring. 

What has transpired since is a churchplant that has been launched by the strength and grace of Christ alone – a process that has revealed and covered and exposed and covered and threatened and covered the weaknesses of myself and many others who are dependent on Christ to do a good work through West Valley Presbyterian Church!  He is doing that good work!

The vision statement of West Valley did not come from me, but rather a collection of called churchplanting families who sought the Lord, his Word and our context to paint a picture of the kingdom of God coming to earth through a church plant.  The vision is this –  “to be a church for the West Valley, in order that Jesus Christ is celebrated as the only hope for the brokenness in us and around us.” There you have it.  You can actually see it – the weakness theology coming out in vision form.  We long to be a church of the broken (weak sinners) who embrace and engage the broken around us (weak sinners) living in broken world (weak and sinful) SO THAT our weaknesses become the continual catalyst of authentic worship of Jesus Christ, who alone has conquered the weakness of this fallen world, and promises to bind up our brokenness by his resurrection power!

Months ago, I had the hunch that the first sermon series of West Valley PCA “public services” would be Ecclesiastes.  There you have it… the subliminal weakness theology coming out again!  Yep – Ecclesiastes is a money book that speaks to a broken culture that knows the emptiness of life under the sun (aka desperate weakness).  The cry of the book – “Vanity of vanities, all is vanity” – is the answer to the overarching question (1:3) – What does man gain by all the toil at which he toils under the sun?  Nothing, that’s what he gains.  It is that distressing, our broken world and our debilitating weaknesses ARE that bad – we gain nothing by our efforts, says Qohelet (the Preacher).

Sounds depressing.  And yet, it makes for a good, honest, biblical weakness theology – a diving board into the pool of the grace of the gospel!  See, what has amazed me is that the probing questions of Ecclesiastes is very similar to the question of Christ in Mark 8:36 – What does it profit a man to gain the world and forfeit his soul?  No profit, that’s what he gains.  How incredible that the depressing worldview of Qohelet starts with virtually the same question of Christ – which ultimately pointed to the hope of the gospel for souls who rest on him to lay down his life and raise it up again in victory over the vanity of this sinful world! 

So it’s the same starting place for all of us.  We gain nothing in this world… nothing.  Vanity of vanities.  Weakness is real, be honest.  And yet, it’s not hopeless if it is true that the “nothingness of our gainless vain world” was the very reason that God, by his gospel, has sent Christ to conquer the cycle of meaningless weakness and vanity!  Rest on that.  Weakness theology or realistic theology – call it whatever you will.

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