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[The following is an abridgment of a sermon preached by Bishop Cheney
early in the Twentieth Century. His message is as relevant today as it
was when first preached.]

A PLEA FOR REVERENCE

“And the anger of the Lord was
kindled against Uzzah, and God smote
him there for his error, and there he died
by the Ark of God”
II Samuel 6:7

FOR seventy years the sacred Ark of God’s Presence had been exiled from
the land of Israel. But David was seated on the throne, and ruling
over a consolidated monarchy.

No wonder that in the first flush of his success, he seeks to hallow
his political and military capital at Jerusalem by the restoration of the
Ark of the Covenant.

Are there, in the mischance which overtook David’s well-meant
enterprise, and in the quick and tragic death of one of those employed by him to
bring back the long-banished symbol of God’s Presence, any lessons for
you and me in the twentieth century?

I. I Find Here An Ancient Lesson In Reverence For Sacred Things

Everything in the account suggests a nation wild with enthusiasm over
the project of having the Ark, as a visible and tangible token of the
God of their fathers, set up in their capital city.

But all experience and observation show that even in times of the most
genuine religious excitement, reverence is the religious quality held
in least esteem. Familiarity with sacred things is apt to result in
such dealing with them as degrades what is divine to the common level.

So here. For twenty years the Ark had been in the house of Abinadab at
Kirjath-Jearim. Perhaps his sons had come to regard it as a part of
the furniture of their paternal home. When it was to be removed, these
guardians, as well as King David himself, seemed to forget the solemn
state in which the Mosaic Law prescribed that the Ark should be carried
in its journeyings.

The whole preceeding was of an irregular and lawless sort. The Ark was
treated, not as the earthly residence of the Holy One, but as a mere
piece of the nation’s property to be transported in the easiest and most
convenient fashion. And when the oxen swayed the cart to the peril of
its upsetting (which would not have been, had the Law been observed),
Uzzah, who had been familiar with the Ark for twenty years of its
sojourn in his father’s dwelling, attempts to steady it, only to be smitten
with swift and terrible punishment.
Now let me say that it is very easy for us, after the lapse of thirty
centuries, to say that Uzzah’s punishment was wholly out of proportion
to his offence. It undoubtedly was so, if gauged by our ordinary ideas
of reverence.

But suppose we look at it from another viewpoint. Why not reason that
the very fact that the Law affixes such a fearful punishment to such a
crime is proof of how abominable in the eyes of the Law is the kind of
wrong-doing committed? Was not the sentence meant to be a teacher of
men’s consciences, an illuminator of their moral vision, to show into
what an abyss of guilt he plunges who betrays a sacred trust?

I believe that precisely this is why Uzzah’s awful punishment stands
recorded here. It is what your children call an “object-lesson” to teach
you and me what God thinks of careless, indifferent dealing with what
is sacred and divine.

Robert Collyer, whom so many of us older men and women remember,
preached, before he left Chicago, a sermon on the text: “I was glad when
they said to me, Let us go into the house of the Lord.” He himself
relates that one of his hearers came to him, and said, “Dr. Collyer, I wish
you had preached that sermon twenty years ago, rather than one you did
preach, in which you told us that it was sometimes better to worship God
in the woods or meadows, or in our own homes, than in Church. For we
did not need the justification of neglecting God’s house. We Chicago
people are all of us ready enough to stay at home or to wander about on
Sunday.”

That was a whole generation ago. If the venerable preacher could visit
Chicago today, he would find that the drift away from God’s house has
become still easier.

Perhaps you urge, that non-attendance is not irreverence. Uzzah rashly
handled the Ark. These people do not rashly handle the Church. They
do not touch it. They simply keep away from it.

Some years ago, in time of political strife and bitterness, an opponent
of the statesman who then occupied the executive chair, scornfully
said: “I would not cross the street to speak to him” That is exactly what
the modern contempt and indifference to public worship says of Jesus
Christ.

Is it, or is it not, irreverence?

Do not stop there. Look at some of the motives which lead men and
women to attend Church. Ask some of your acquaintances why they do, at
least now and then, find themselves in a worshipping congregation?

Because there are churches where they can get the best music in town,
except at the Opera. There are some preachers who are more magnetic
than any secular orator. There are few places in the city where these
people can while away an idle hour as enjoyable as in some churches!
Every one of you knows how much there is of that kind of church attendance.
And you know that it is a total misconception of what Church and
worship mean.

I never can forget the sense of humiliation which swept over me, till
the hot blood rushed to my face, when once a stranger took my hand as he
was leaving Church, and (doubtless meaning to be complimentary) said:
“I have been greatly entertained by your sermon.”

II. The Case of Uzzah Suggests That God Did Not Need Or Desire Any New
Ways To Bolster Up The Ark Of His Presence.

For it was a new thing which Uzzah did. Not even the consecrated High
Priest had ever laid his hands upon the Ark. Golden rings were set in
it on either side; and through these, rods or poles, covered with
gold, were thrust, so that it might be lifted up and carried without
contact with human hands.

But emergencies (we are apt to say) demand heroic measures. Uzzah
evidently felt that a crisis had arisen, in which he-the temporary guardian
of the Ark-must find some new means to preserve it.

Oh, how unconsciously do men today mould themselves afer the pattern of
Uzzah!
Dismally as owls blink in the light of the sun, some men are trying to
make the world believe that Christianity is tottering to its fall.
They have not succeeded yet in making the world believe it. But they have
roused the fears of some who “profess and call themselves Christians.”
They are trembling for the coming downfall of the Gospel. They tell us
that the Church is not attended as it was once, that congregations have
lost all relish for preaching, and that despite organized revival
efforts, the world is not evangelized.

Naturally, they devise new means to keep the Church from perishing.
They must stretch out their hands to steady Christianity on its wheels.

I am not here as a critic of other ministers. But it does startle me
to take up one of our papers, and read the topics on which ministers are
to preach, the bread they are to break to starving souls. There are
literary essays on George Eliot, and Shelley, and Bryon, and Ruskin.
There are analyses of Shakespere’s plays, and dissertations on the
European war. There are lectures on women’s suffrage and the lessons to be
learned from aviation and the automobile. Why have such topics invaded
the pulpit? Because, like Uzzah, the notion is abroad that the Gospel
has lost its power, and that the Ark of God is trembling to its fall.
The hand of a new method must be outreached to save the Church.

Well, the world says that no preaching can attract like the drama.
While churches are thinly attended, the theaters are crowded. The more
spectacular the more do they draw. Why should not the Church avail
itself of the example? The old Gospel does not fill our places of worship.
Some way must be found to keep the tottering Church from falling.

And our modern Uzzahs stretch out the hand of theatrical display to
steady it.

But has not the tendency become prevailent to subordinate the
evangelical to the social? “To get people in,” as the expression is,
entertainment is added to entertainment, and not always of the sort that
elevates, or quickens what is best in our nature. The more given, the more is
required. Just as a dose of morphine may quiet pain to-day; but the
amount must be increased tomorrow, so in this effort to attract to the
House of God. The Church that chooses that method will ultimately find
itself reduced to the level of one out of the thousands of places of
public entertainment. And the world will always outdo the Church in that
competition.

I read not long ago of a vessel caught in that hurricane which swept
the South Atlantic in August last. Battered by its fierce fight with
wind and sea, it yet pushed its way in triumph over Nature’s tremendous
forces, and entered its port a conqueror in that terrible ordeal.
Passengers and crew were saved, when death had seemed inevitable. All but
one! In the height of the tempest he lost his faith that the ship could
ever weather the storm, and in the madness of despair, leaped overboard
and perished.

Beloved, I have no fear for Christianity. How could I have, if I
believe Jesus Christ, who said, “The gates of hell shall not prevail against
it”?

The peril is not for the ship which Jesus pilots. The danger is that
of men and women, who desponding of the Church, the Gospel, and the
cause of Christ, abandon Christianity in despairing unbelief. May you and
I trust our Pilot!


Parish News
The St. Andrew’s Preschool Christmas Program took place on Friday,
December 20, 2002. The children sang and acted out portions of the
Christmas story.

The annual Christmas Eve Candlelight Service took place on a snowy
December 24th. The newly remodeled chapel was truly beautiful as we
gathered to celebrate our Savior’s birth.

Thank you to those who contributed non-perishable food items for the
Tinley Park Food Pantry. Your thoughtfulness and generosity is most
appreciated.

In Memory
Mrs. Sadie Case (93) went to be with the Lord on December 23, 2002.
Sadie had been a member of St. Andrew’s or its predecessors since
childhood.

Missionary of The Month
The Bishop Oommen Samuel Family (Oommen & Mary), Susan & Brian.
Superintendent, Treasurer, Pastor, Bible Teacher. Reformed Episcopal
Mission. Lalitpur, India.

Domestic Missions
Pray for the 97th Synod of the Diocese of Mid-America to be held in
Dallas, TX at Church of the Holy Communion on February 20, 21, 2003.

Happy Birthday!
Feb. 1 - Anna Zaleski
Feb. 3 - Adele O’Brien
Feb. 9 - Mike Acke, Sr.
Feb. 14 - Edwina Greco
Feb. 18 - Lawrence Klingen
Feb. 23 - Lorie Conn Stultz

Notice! If you would like your birthday month and day entered in the
Parish Register, please call the church office at (708) 614-7404 with
the information. Thank you.


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