1. It was early in 1911, and William P. Merrill was aboard a steamship somewhere on Lake Michigan, headed toward Chicago. It was a moment of great significance.
a. In his personal and professional life, he was about to take on heavy responsibility and influence, for later that same year he would move to New York where he would serve for more than twenty-five years as the preacher for one of the most famous churches of his time.
b. In his religious group, a large amount of time and effort was being invested in what they were calling “a world-wide Brotherhood Movement.” In fact, Merrill was returning from a tour in the interest of that movement, and he had been approached about composing a hymn that would urge followers of Christ to rise up in brotherhood.
c. In his country, many were responding to uneasy circumstances in the world by dreaming of peace. Steel magnate Andrew Carnegie wanted to establish an organization seeking to end war forever, and William Merrill was instrumental in starting what is now known as the Carnegie Council on Ethics and International Affairs.
2. While the boat was steaming along, Merrill was thinking about a periodical article entitled “The Church of the Strong Men,” which he had read.
a. That, he later wrote, along with the situation in his life, brought this hymn up, almost without conscious thought or effort.
b. Song: “Rise Up, O Men of God”
3. We’re ninety-nine years later, but it would be hard to think of any words that more perfectly fit the needs of our present year.
a. It still takes “heart and soul and mind and strength to serve the king of kings;” the “day of brotherhood” still needs to be brought in and “the night of wrong” needs to be ended; the church’s strength is still “unequal to her task” and she awaits the support of those who want to see her great.
b. I noticed that Phil Sanders, in a recent “Search” newsletter, used these same words to offer this observation: “In challenging times, God’s people rise up. They do not hesitate, make excuses, or leave it to others. They realize God calls them to act and to meet the need of the time.” (The SEARCH Light, December 2009)
c. But how do we do it?
1. “As brothers of the Son of Man”
a. We take comfort in understanding that the Son of God was not ashamed to call us brothers, and that he was made like his brothers in every respect (Heb. 2:11, 17). We must also hear the call in this same truth: our task now is to stand as brothers of the Son of Man.
i. In doing the will of God, he became like us; we must now become like him in doing the will of God.
ii. John 6:38
iii. Mark 3:35
b. The character of a man of God who rises up to meet the need of the hour–the character we want to imitate–has been demonstrated by Jesus.
i. One mark of it is energy.
(1) John 4:34
(2) Luke 19:10
(3) Acts 10:38
ii. Another mark of his kind of character is courage.
(1) The un-self-conscious boldness to say or do what was right and needed
(2) The gentle strength to not submit to the religious legalists, to not accommodate the religious liberals, and to not be intimidated by the political secularists
(3) The ability to cope with the disapproval of critics, the danger of opposition, and the disappointment of weakness
iii. A third crucial mark of the character we want to rise up and stand alongside is mercy.
(1) Often said to be the very thing that moved Jesus
(2) Man enough to care about an embarrassed family, to ask help from an ostracized woman, to help a hurting father, to offer an invalid man the gift he really needed, to not cast condemnation at a person taken in immorality, to provide light to a blind man, to weep with the hearts broken by grief, to appeal to the one contemplating betrayal, and to comfort friends whose faith would be tried
(3) Luke 5:31, 32
c. These are the three qualities which came together in the humility Jesus modeled at the supper when he washed his disciples’ feet.
i. There was some kind of dispute going on among them over which was to be regarded as the greatest (Lk. 22:24).
ii. John 13:2-5
iii. John 13:12, 15, 17
d. Mark 10:45
i. To be served or to serve? To take or to give? For self or for many?
ii. At these intersections, we decide whether we will rise up as brothers of the Son of Man.
2. “Tread where His feet have trod”
a. 1 Timothy 6:11, 12
i. This year we will try to rise up as people of God in this way to meet the needs of our time.
ii. We will ask the Lord to help us stand with him by growing in the family characteristics of energy in his work, courage in doing what is good, and mercy toward everyone.
iii. Our goal will be, as the hymn says, to “Lift high the cross of Christ, Tread where His feet have trod...”
b. Our intention is to seek to do this by taking the Lord’s heart and his teaching and addressing these five themes:
i. What we believe and why
(1) Blocking and tackling: what are the basics of our faith, and why do we believe in them.
(2) Robb: “I think that for the rest of my life we will have to go about our teaching this way.”
ii. Culture and conscience
(1) A lot of the issues discussed in politics and entertainment have spiritual dimensions. How do we tell the difference?
(2) What is a Christian mind, and how does it approach matters like these?
iii. Families that work
(1) A counselor who is also a preacher: “I’m so weary of the ungodliness I see in these marriages and families...”
(2) Our homes are the most immediate laboratory of our faith. Does it work?
iv. For the building up of the body
(1) This is the reason, after all, the Lord gave the church shepherds, evangelists, teachers and members with something to contribute to the work.
(2) How do we grow into these roles?
v. Getting involved in people’s lives
(1) Not just in our services, and beyond our building, and not with money.
(2) Light has to get out from under the basket, salt has to not only be distinctive but also to be applied. How?
1. Not all the aspirations of William Merrill’s song were immediately fulfilled.
a. He lived until 1954 and never saw all the peace and brotherhood he urged men of God to rise up and bring in.
b. Those who were interested in Carnegie’s organization to end war planned to gather on August 1, 1914 on the shore of Lake Constance in southern Germany. But when Germany invaded Belgium, trains carrying delegates were halted and turned back and other delegates were arrested by German authorities. The arrival of the First World War was just the beginning of the disappointments of any dreams about banishing war.
2. “Rise Up, O Men of God,” however, continues to speak to us and to call our hearts to “have done with lesser things” and to “give heart and soul and mind and strength to serve the King of kings.”