Frontier vs. Fortress – These two words are about as different as night and day.
The word Frontier brings to mind the wild west, covered wagons, cowboys, Daniel Boone, adventure. The word Fortress makes us think of castles and kingdoms, knights and princesses, dungeons and protection.
These two words refer to two entirely different time periods in history.
Th[e] Warwick Castle, in England, built by William the Conqueror in 1068. It was a formidable fortress in the middle ages. Now it’s a popular tourist attraction where people can go pretend to be knights and princesses, or fight dragons.
Covered wagons are much more recent, from the 1800s, the century during which the people from the East Coast of America moved west across the unexplored frontier.
We’re even talking about two different continents – castle fortresses are mostly found in Europe, covered wagons that explored the frontier were found here in America.
Though these two words are more like apples and pigeons than they are apples and oranges, we can see that they represent two different mindsets.
The question before us today, as a church and as individuals is this:
Do we choose fortress
Which one (frontier or fortress) looks more like Jesus’ words to us from today’s reading in Matthew 28? Is Jesus saying, “Go, build buildings and make them big and sturdy? No, he says:
Go, make disciples, baptize and teach, and know that I am with you.
Jesus calls us to choose frontier.
These words are at the very end of Matthew’s gospel. Jesus’ last words, what we call the Great Commission, are Jesus’ final instructions. The disciples did go, as we see in the book of Acts, and many people in the 2000 years since have also followed Jesus’ command to go, and because of all of them, we are here today.
Along the way we have also built some fortresses. We don’t necessarily set out to build them, but we do, both in the way we allow our buildings to be uninviting, and in the way we build walls around our hearts.
It’s hard to see how a place is a fortress when it is so familiar to us, so instead think about a time you went somewhere you have never been before.
- How did you decide to go there? What was it like when you got there?
- How did you know where to park? Where to go into the building?
- What to do once you got inside?
Have you ever decided to go somewhere and then when you got there the place was so NOT inviting that you changed your mind and went back home? Maybe it was a restaurant or store that looked dodgy.
This happened to us once when we went to visit a church. We found the place and figured out where to park fairly easily, but it was a challenge to figure out which door to go in. Once we got inside, we wandered around a bit trying to figure out where to go. By the time we did find the room where the worship service was happening, we were starting to feel rather unwanted. The room was dark, the chairs looked pretty uncomfortable, and since nobody had yet even made eye contact, we figured nobody would notice if we left, and so we did.
Going to a church for the first time is a step into the frontier, a journey into the unknown.
Jesus sends us out as pioneers into the frontier. In high school I was a pioneer. Literally. This is the mascot from my high school. We were the Simi Valley Pioneers. This is in California. For those crossing the United States in the 1800s this was the holy grail, the final frontier. In high school, we were encouraged to have “pioneer spirit.” Pioneer spirit is:
“a willingness to endure hardship in order to explore new places or try out new things”
Jesus sends us out as pioneers into the frontier of Sterling, Kansas. Maybe Sterling doesn’t seem like much of a frontier, but it is our frontier.
How do we choose frontier over fortress right here in Sterling, KS?
Jesus tells us to Go. And every week at the end of worship, that’s what we do. We go. We go to lunch. We go home. We go to work. We go to school.
Jesus is telling us to find some new places to go.
Jesus is also telling us to go to our usual places with new eyes, and new hearts. One of the places we have built fortresses is in ourselves. It’s a normal part of life. We go out. We meet people. People say and do hurtful things. We put up some walls for protection so we don’t get hurt again. We stay in our holy huddle where it’s safe.
Or we go out and we see what’s happening in the world and it’s horrible and hard to look at and that hurts. We don’t know what to do about it, so we put up some walls for protection so we don’t get hurt by looking at those horrible things. We learn not to see them anymore.
What’s happening is this: When the Holy Spirit gets to working in us, the Spirit gets us to look at our own comfort and safety less, and to look out for others more, and helps us to more and more see people with God’s eyes. When we see with God’s eyes, eyes of compassion, we gain empathyand we see people’s pain, and we begin to feel it along with them. When this happens we’ve crossed into the frontier. It’s challenging.
Choosing frontier means we go anyway.
It also means we make disciples.
We might be saying, “I don’t know how to make disciples.” The reality is, though, that we do. We do it all the time, actually. Whenever we read a book that we really like, or see a movie that is really good, or meet someone who made a big impression on us, or eat at a restaurant with really good food, or see a really good play, what do we do? We tell people about it. We make disciples. And books, movies, plays, stores and restaurants live or die based on the amount of “buzz” they get when we tell people about them.
- We tell about our experience
- We tell what was special about it
- We encourage people to check it out for themselves
It’s the same with telling people about Jesus
- First we have to be following Jesus ourselves, letting Jesus lead us and transform us
- Then we pray and watch for opportunities to tell others about our experience
In all of this, we are never alone. Jesus is always with us.
“And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Matthew 18:20
Do you remember what they always said during the opening credits of Star Trek?
Space: the final frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise. Its five-year mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no man has gone before. (Gene Roddenberry)
No question, space is a frontier. But when they say “boldly go where no one has gone before,” they’re forgetting about Jesus. He was there when the world was made. “He was with God in the beginning.” (John 1:2) There’s nowhere we can go that he hasn’t already been. And nowhere we can go that he doesn’t go with us. He says, “I’ll go with you. Let’s go!” As we go, we need to be talking to him, asking him to show us where to go, who to talk to, what to say, and when to say it. Praying and trusting.
Karl Barth said, “To clasp the hands in prayer is the beginning of an uprising against the disorder of the world.”
So today we’re going to put this into practice. We’re going to go out and pray together.
Prayer is a two-sided conversation. We talk to God and we listen for God. Today we are going to talk to God and ask God to speak to us and show us Sterling with new eyes, with God’s eyes.
We’re going to “Prayer Walk” together today. As we do this, we are seeking to connect in a deeper way with our community, and we are inviting God to speak to us.
- We are asking God to show us what we have failed to see.
- We are asking God to give us new eyes to see what has become invisible to us over time, and new ears to hear what has become “white noise” to us.
The act of walking gives our bodies something to do. The walking is a sort of calming distraction so that our minds and our souls can focus on listening to God.
We aren’t ending our worship in the usual way today. Actually, our worship today does not end. As we sing our closing song, we’re going to walk as we sing, walking out to the front of the church. We’ll finish our song on the lawn. We’ve put a few chairs out there for those who need to sit. And we’ll pray together for a moment there, and then we’ll go prayer walking.
As you go out, you’ll find three sets of prayer cards. Three levels of prayer walks. The green are the shortest, prayers for right here or within a block of here. The yellow ones take you out a few blocks. The red ones go beyond that a bit. Take a card and walk and pray.
When you’re done, you can go home or to lunch, OR if you’d like, you can come back here and spend a few minutes talking about what we experienced and giving thanks to God for this time together. I will be here excited to hear your stories and pray with you.
May God watch over and bless our going out and our coming in from this time forth and forevermore. (Psalm 121:8)