Prayer of Dedication Hamilton Bible Fellowship October 20, 2007 When Putter asked me to give the prayer of dedication at this service, my first reaction was “Oh, goody.” My second reaction was “I’m glad he gave me some advance notice rather than calling on me in the middle of the service.” In an attempt to find out more about what is involved in a prayer of dedication, I consulted both my Bible and my dictionary. In so doing, I came to see the prayer of dedication as much more important than I had originally realized. I also came to see it as much less about us and much more about the future than I had originally thought. First, I reread the Old Testament books of Ezra and Nehemiah, hoping to get some ideas from the prayers used to dedicate the temple in Jerusalem after it had been rebuilt by the exiles who returned from Persia, or the prayer Nehemiah used to dedicate the wall around the city after he supervised its rebuilding some years later. While neither book provides the text of these prayers, I did learn some valuable lessons about what it means to dedicate something to God. First, dedications were occasions of great joy. The ceremonies were elaborate and noisy, with lots of music and the sacrifice of hundreds of animals. While we no longer sacrifice animals, we have had plenty of good music this evening and we should be joyful on this important occasion—not just quietly happy, or eager to get out of here, but joyful. Second, humans are sinful creatures, prone to forget the solemn promises we make to God whenever we dedicate something to Him. One of the lines in the hymn we sang earlier captures us accurately: “Prone to wander, Lord, I know it, prone to leave the God I love.” When Ezra and Nehemiah arrived in Jerusalem, some years after the rebuilding of the temple, they found the Jews engaged in a number of practices abhorrent to God. Far too many had intermarried with the locals, taking on aspects of heathen religions. And the rich were actively exploiting the poor in ways that had to be stopped. In sending Ezra and Nehemiah, God had provided exactly what was needed at the time, however: the rebuke and correction they needed to get back on the right path. My dictionary provided two alternative definitions of the verb to dedicate, both of which are pertinent for us tonight. First, to dedicate something is to set it apart for a sacred or solemn purpose. What are the sacred purposes to which we dedicate this building? We can start with the Great Commandment: To make this church a place where people grow in love for God and their neighbor. Also, to make this a church where scripture is presented as both trustworthy and authoritative, and where the word is preached, in season and out of season. Second, my dictionary also tells me that to dedicate something is to give it up, wholly and earnestly, to some person or end. To put the same thing a different way, when we dedicate something, we let go of it. In this regard, Eugene Peterson suggests that we should give up everything we do to God, placing it on the altar as our sacrifice, for Him to use as He pleases. The need to do both these things—to set HBF apart for sacred purposes and to let go of it, placing its future in God’s hands, was clearly set forth in Paul’s second letter to Timothy. In this passage (3:14-4:5 NLT), Paul is passing the torch to Timothy; he is letting go. He is extremely realistic about human nature and about the problems Timothy will face down through the years. This passage, it should be noted, embodies the consistent vision of HBF from its founding to this night, when we come together to dedicate this beautiful new building to God. Paul writes to Timothy: But you must remain faithful to the things you have been taught. You know they are true, for you know you can trust those who taught you. You have been taught the Holy Scriptures from childhood, and they have given you the wisdom to receive the salvation that comes by trusting in Christ Jesus. All scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It straightens us out and teaches us to do what is right. It is God’s way of preparing us in every way, fully equipped for every good thing God wants us to do. And so I solemnly urge you before God and before Christ Jesus—who will someday judge the living and the dead when he appears to set up his kingdom: Preach the word of God. Be persistent, whether the time is favorable or not. Patiently correct, rebuke, and encourage your people with good teaching. For a time is coming when people will no longer listen to right teaching. They will follow their own desires and will look for teachers who will tell them whatever they want to hear. They will reject the truth and follow strange myths. But you should keep a clear mind in every situation. Don’t be afraid of suffering for the Lord. Work at bringing others to Christ. Complete the ministry God has given you. In recognition of what it means to dedicate this building to God, I offer the following prayer: Lord, in dedicating this church to you, we both set it apart for sacred purposes and let go of it, placing it on your altar for you to use as you see fit. Now and down through the years, when all those present tonight are gone, make this a church where people learn to love you with all their hearts, minds, and souls. Make this a place where people learn to love their neighbors as themselves, and show us ways that we can use this building to meet the needs of people within this community and the larger world. Finally, make this a church that always remains faithful to your Word. When HBF goes off track, as history suggests that we will sooner or later, send us Ezras and Nehemiahs to rebuke and correct us. Keep this church true to its founding vision, a vision that upholds your Word as trustworthy and true. As we dedicate this building to you, we pledge ourselves to preach the Word, and to be persistent, whether the times are favorable or not. Our prayer and our charge for those who follow us down through the years is that they would also preach the Word, in good times and bad, whether people are inclined to hear it or not. May HBF always remain faithful to and rooted in your Word. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
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