Saturday, July 18, 2015
Sermon Summary from last week (July 12th), “The Call and the Journey!” (Acts 9, 13, 26, Gal 1)
I thought last week was going to be my one shot at the Apostle Paul. Conversations in the parking lot indicated a thirst and a need for more. Therefore, we begin a seven week series, “Paul: His Journeys and His Letters.” After all, Paul was the second most important person in the New Testament; and maybe, just maybe, ever. His 13 letters (13 of 27 books of the NT) bridge from the Oral Tradition (There was no need for written Gospels because most couldn’t read and the church was centered in Jerusalem. If you wanted to know about Jesus, you just asked the Apostles.) Paul, out of necessity began writing his fledgling churches when reports of issues arose. In doing so we first learn about salvation through the Cross of Christ, the resurrection and the hope of ours, the Lord’s supper, and the commandment to love one another long before the Gospels came into existence. Paul was at the same time the most important theologian and the most important evangelist in the church, ever.
In about 49 ad, followers of Jesus were in prayer and worship in Antioch when the Holy Spirit set aside Saul and Barnabas for the ministry to the Gentiles. I wonder if we have the expectation of meeting Christ in worship? As we together lift our voices in prayer and song, as we hear the Scripture read and the Word proclaimed, do we encounter Jesus? Do we hear a call on our live? Will we leave worship changed? Ponder it.
Anyway, led by the Spirit, Paul and Barnabas head for Cyprus and then Asia Minor where they proclaim Jesus as the Messiah who in fact is the Son of God, and whose death on the Cross is for us and for our salvation! A few are converted, Gentiles are ecstatic to know that the Good News is for them too. A few extreme Jews rebel at the news and drive them out of one town after another but not before Paul and Barnabas are able to establish a church in each location. They return to Antioch with great celebration for what the Holy Spirit has done for the Gentiles.
I’m reminded of the popular devotional “My Utmost for His Highest.” That is what Paul did. I wonder what our lives would look like if “utmost” was our byword. I wonder. How about you? Amen.
Friday, July 10, 2015
Sermon Summary, July 5, 2015 “Freedom!” (Galatians 5:13-14)
Fourth of July was a big deal growing up, especially with the freedoms of small towns. John Adams had believed the approval of the Declaration of Independence would be long remembered with “pomp and parade, shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires and illuminations from one end the continent to the other.” And growing up, we had it all.
But 1700 years before 1776, there was a greater Declaration even more important than ours, one that without which there may not have been Christianity or Western Culture as we know it. God would have had to find another way. At the heart of it was this: “You were called to freedom, brothers and sisters; only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love become servants of one another. For the whole law is summed up in one word, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Galatians 5:13-14; in fact the whole book of Galatians is the Christian Declaration of Independence.
Paul had founded churches in Galatia (Central and Northern Asia Minor) and upon returning found they had regressed to legalism, espousing that Gentiles (that’s us) must follow the 613 laws of Moses and be circumcised to be a follower of Jesus. Paul was emphatic that it was by grace we have been saved by faith and not of our own doing. No one can be saved by works of the law. “You were called to freedom, brothers and sisters.”
Even “love” is not a legalism. God through the Holy Spirit, Christ within us, will make us into the kind of person whose nature it is to be loving. When we respond to the nudging of the Holy Spirit we will find our lives producing the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. (Galatians 5:22-23) And, there is no law against these things! Live by the Spirit; be guided by the Spirit! The measure of our life in the Spirit is the quality of our relationships. If we find them diminished we ask, “Did I miss the nudging of the Spirit to be more loving, more patient, more gentle, exercising more self-control? Live by the Spirit. Be guided by the Spirit. Amen.
Sermon Summary, June 28, 2015, “Becoming Loving” (John 13:34-35)
We’re finishing the Gospel of John this week. We’ve said before that in John, Jesus gives but one commandment, “to love one another, even as I have loved you.” But of course, Jesus loved with a perfect love. How do we do that? In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus called us to “be perfect, therefore as your Heavenly Father is perfect?” (Matt 5:48) How do we do that?
We’ve witnessed examples, one a week ago, of followers of Jesus who seem to have run passed us in becoming perfect, in loving as Jesus loved, as forgiving as Jesus forgave. The most recent was the survivor and family members for the victims in the Charleston Emanuel AME church who came before the court with a uniform chorus of forgiveness. “Christ in them” has made them the kind of person whose nature it is to love and to forgive. It would be against their nature to not be forgiving. We have seen this previously in the Amish shooting in 2006. It would have been against their nature not to forgive. (It is God’s nature to love all, forgive all.)
How is it we do that? We are transformed by grace. CS Lewis says that God will make us into the kind of creatures whose very nature it is to love as Jesus loved, who will become perfect as our heavenly father is perfect.
A good and respected friend, Rev. Tom Albin, Dean of the Upper Room, says that transformation requires three dimensions: Information, experience, and community. All three are necessary but by themselves not sufficient. He uses Alcoholics Anonymous as an example. Information by itself is not sufficient or a 12 step brochure would solve all of the addict's problems. He or she needs a model, an inspiration, a sponsor would has been there to provide the experience along the way. Lastly, the meetings where the person is loved for who the are, forgiven when they falter, encouraged on the journey is also needed. And all of AA is service, to those within and those yet to find their way.
In our Christian walk, we also do so in three dimensions: 1) Within, “Christ within us.” We read, study, emulate, we strive to become more like Jesus. It is our devotional life. 2) In the midst of Jesus’ followers, the church, an extension of the twelve. We are loved, forgiven, held accountable in the midst of his followers. And 3) At the margins. We join Jesus’ ministry at the margins. It is there where we learn to love the unlovable, forgive the unforgivable. We do so in ministry. And we do these three over and over again. And we are changed! Amen.