Rev. Peter McNabb
Unless the Lord Builds the House…
Founded in 1847 the church was moved to its current location here in 1859 and has continually served the community ever since. On the Texas historic registry, Wheatland UMC was the first church established in our area and, by the grace of God, continues in its mission to this day.
The rural community of Wheatland was annexed by Dallas in the mid-1950’s so it is now part of a large busy city. Except for a few renovations over the years, the church building remains much the same as it was when originally constructed.
When we celebrated 165 years last September, I received a humorous letter from Dr. John Fiedler, the senior pastor of First United Methodist Church of Downtown Dallas. And he kind of conceded in the letter that though they are known as “First Church Dallas” having been founded in 1848, that Wheatland actually edges them out, founded in 1847. But he also noted something special: That it’s one thing to start a church; an entirely different one to keep it going for 165 years—now 166 years. And I think the same thing can be said about a business, or a school, a city or a family.
This altar, oh, if this altar could talk! What it’s seen since the 1800s. The prayers it’s heard. Young couples have stood before it and pledged their lives to one another. Children and adults of all ages have come here to receive the waters of baptism. Young men and women have prayed here before going off to war: most recently Afghanistan and Iraq, and before that Vietnam, Korea, Europe and Asia during both World Wars (and by the way, there’s a Pearl Harbor veteran right here in our midst tonight—be sure shake his hand and thank him.) And this altar goes back even further---even to the Civil War—when our country was being torn apart by brother against brother—prayers were lifted up right here.
Last Sunday, three new members pledged their love for God and His church right here at this altar. Loved ones have said goodbye here at this altar at funerals and memorial services. And most importantly, people have given their lives to Jesus Christ right here at this altar. They have reached out to our Heavenly Father. And they have found Him here at this altar.
Many prayers have been prayed here and many tears have been shed here. If you think you’ve got problems tonight, do not be embarrassed. Do not be ashamed. This old altar—it’s heard ‘em all. We’re going to invite you at the end of service to come down and pray either by yourself or with one of our pastors in attendance tonight. Don’t miss this opportunity. God could be calling you to in this holy place for such a time as this.
BUILDING THE HOUSE
Did you catch that part:
Unless the Lord builds the house… The “house” here is symbolic of
anything major: your life, your family, your business, your school, your church,
your city – Unless the Lord builds it---the workers labor in vain.
Unless the Lord watches over
Unless the Lord watches over the city, the guards stand watch in vain. I don’t care how strong our police force is in Dallas, it makes no difference if there is the sin of domestic violence in the home. I was shocked to learn at a meeting I attended at the Hampton Road Library at the beginning of this year about the level of domestic violence in our society today. You can have the best police force possible. You can have the best home security system. You can have a gated community with bars on your windows. But despite our sophistication and our technology, one in four women today have experienced severe abuse at the hands of a partner. Mrs. Jan Langbein, a preacher’s kid and devoted United Methodist, is now the executive director of the Genesis Women’s Shelter, spoke to us. She says it crosses all lines: racial, age and socio-economic. She says there is just as much a chance that a woman is being beaten up tonight in the worst ghetto apartment in South Dallas as there is a woman being beaten up in a multi-million-dollar mansion in Highland Park. And it’s got to stop.
A 40-year-old woman, Karen Cox Smith, who worked as an executive assistant at UT-Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas was shot to death in January in the parking garage at the hospital by her estranged 42-year-old husband. Police had planned to arrest him the next day on a family violence warrant. It’s got to stop.
I am overjoyed to see that Mayor Mike Rawlings has gotten in front of this issue and has a rally planned for this Saturday morning at 10 am at Dallas City Hall. It’s called Dallas Men Against Abuse. (We have flyers for that event right here—please take one—and go!) The mayor wants the men of this city to take this seriously and start speaking out. He says: “It’s not real complicated, OK? It’s not like a 10-step program and you’ve got to practice it every morning. This is real simple: Don’t hit women. It’s bad. You’re not a man.”
Pray for our Mayor as we seek to allow God to shape us and build this house—this city---God’s way. Unless the Lord builds the house, the builders labor in vain.
FUTILITY OF BUILDING YOUR
During Jesus’ life, the Romans were in power. And where Jesus lived, the land of Israel was ruled by a King named Herod. Actually over a period of about 80 years, there were several kings named Herod: Herod the Great, Herod Agrippa I, Herod Agrippa II, Herod Antipas. About seven in all. You don’t need to know all their history, but what you do need to know is they all did evil in the sight of the Lord.
There were some who had their
wives killed. Their own children killed. Most gave only lip service to
religion—if that much. But, oh, did they build. Big houses for themselves. A
big Temple, too. But do you know what happened to the Herods—their family line
and their building programs? Total destruction. One of the last of the
Herods was kind of a smooth-talking politician. And after he gave a stirring
speech, the crowd said, “Wow! This is not the voice of a man but the voice of a
god!” And King Herod just kind of smiled and took it all in. He refused to
give that praise to God. And in Acts chapter 12, it says because of that
immediately, an angel of the Lord struck him down, and he was eaten by
worms and died on the spot.
Whose Kingdom are you trying to build---yours or God’s? Unless the Lord builds the house, the builders labor in vain.
LIKE ARROWS IN THE HANDS
OF A WARRIOR
A quiver is a container that carries arrows and a full quiver indicates five arrows. If you have five children, and I know some of you who do, you can attest, that your quiver is full—very full! And that’s a good thing. But I want to say a word to you who have fewer children. My wife and I have only two, for instance. Some have one or some have none. You guys especially get this: Your quiver is very full. You have 157,521 arrows. That’s how many children are in the Dallas ISD alone. And we as a City have them in very full quivers—our schools. And when we look at the positive side instead of the negative side, we know that with God as our Father, we have the ability as skilled archers—you and me--to propel them into the future! And watch them soar! They truly are arrows in the hands of the warrior.
You want to make a difference in this world? You want to leave this place better than you found it? Go see your local Principal. Get involved in your church’s children’s program. Volunteer with the Girls Scouts of the Boy Scouts or the Recreation Center.
We had a new baby born in our congregation last October. And I was privileged to be at Methodist Hospital the next day. The baby girl was born in the middle of the night. And that afternoon, many of her relatives came. And one who desperately wanted to see her little cousin was a girl about 10-years-old named Caela. Caela had to go to school that morning, even though she wanted to go see her new little cousin so much. But she endured the full day, probably watching the clock every minute until she could get out and go to the hospital.
After school, her Mom brought her to the hospital. Caela sat down on the couch in the hospital room and they placed this new baby, Christian Sophia, into her arms. And she held her real secure. And the 10-year-old’s face lit up and just smiled and she said, “This one’s mine. This one’s mine.”
What if each of us looked at one child with that same kind of love? What if we took responsibility for her and the other 157,521 children who are right in our midst? What if we took them and said we are going to point them in the way that leads to righteousness and propel them into a future that is God-ordained just for them? I had a teacher like that. I had a Boy Scout leader like that. I had a Sunday School teacher like that. I had a brother like that. And I had a Mom and Dad like that. Can we do the same for these children today?
God is working in human affairs. Only when our efforts are in harmony with His can a true sense of success be achieved. Unless the Lord builds the house, the builders labor in vain.
Let’s sing hymn #545, The Church’s One Foundation.
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