Prayer of Dedication by jkl31239


									                                 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

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

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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