You have heard that it was said, “You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? [NRSA: Matthew 5:43-47]
Koinonia Fellowship is hard
a. We are already doing what is hard these days, why tackle something else that is hard?
b. It is the one thing that God has commanded us to do.
c. It is the motivation on God’s part that provides for our own salvation.
d. Finally, we see what heaven is like, every time we love someone who is difficult to love.
e. And if do don’t want to love then we are not likely to enjoy, being the body of Christ, heaven, nor eternity with God and the al People of God.
Typically this is how the conversations start:
Q: Preacher, When it comes to loving our enemies, the favorite example, “do you mean we are suppose to love someone like Hitler?”
A: the easy to say, but difficult to do answer is: a 100% yes!, but..
If you are sharing a conversation with someone and they respond to you by saying, “Yes, but ..” then 99% of the time they think they are being polite or kind, and follow up explaining why your wrong with their perspective. It is a good way to start or continue an argument or have someone stop communicating?
Return to the example
In this case, our answer to the radical question, “Are we we suppose to love someone like Hitler?”, will answer with this question: “is there someone who need to learn how to love more than a Hitler?”
In this case, the yes is a Yes!, and the “but” is a qualification that it is not easy to follow through in action with the words about being loving.
In the example of Hitler, there is nothing acceptable about his beliefs, leadership, behavior, or role in history. Someone filled with evil is not our excuse to judge them and skip loving them as the person of God’s creation that has become so twisted.
Our role is not to judge, it is to be witness to a world of sin, evil, corruption and destruction, a doorway to the grace of God.
How easy it was for people to adopt the group think, to fear retaliation, to not want to take a stand, to exchange the words of faith for the compliance of the community. But let us not be stuck on the character of history.
We have plenty of people that we would not want to have lunch with, not want to invite into our homes, not what to sit next to – even in church. If you started a list of people be careful because these may be the very people God is calling you to reach out with your witness of love and grace.
This is where the words of love come to life and reveal what we hope for in heaven.
Daily we are surrounded with the push and pull of people calling for us to be politically intolerant of someone else. There is not a parable, teaching, or example where Jesus says for us to divide up people in the groups and to hate one and love the other. That’s the task of politics these days.. It is not our command, goal, or charge.
The First step is to have a reversal prayer: When I hear some, I try my best to give that moment to God. Sometimes I fail, and social media is vicious. I am hopeful we will soon no longer be dependent on FB to provide our streaming. (we will share it on multiple platforms, but no longer require people to use FB to share our worship, that’s like only using wine in communion for those who struggle with alcohol, an aside.)
When we are confronted with someone difficult to love or to think of in a loving way, begin to look at them as God see them. God loves us while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us before we ask for his help. Someone who is our enemy be based on something about them, ourselves, or both.
The prayer is this. “God help me to see the world from their perspective, your perspective, and see the sins and evil in my own life. Transform us all to your will and heart. Amen.” Or something toward seeing these three perspectives.
The second action is not just pray but make a first step toward loving.
An action is not simply a good thought and a hurried prayer. Allowing the words of our faith and heart to marinate with God’s word and love, prepares us to begin with INTENTIONAL steps of loving, reconciliation, forgiveness, invitation, opening dialogue.
For those stuck on the Hitler example, there are times that were a mortally at risk for showing love. What would Germany have looked like if every person stepped forward in love rather than either joining the crowd or keeping to themselves?
The End of Days:
It has been the most frequent question I have been asked in the month of July. I offer the two things we do know from scripture: While no one know the hour or the day, we all can see the seasons and signs.
Behind that question is desire to have some order in the chaos we experience in the world. The more hurricanes, tropical storms and tornados, flooding and earthquakes in China, pandemic threats, political ultimatums, and the drama of being on the winning side, not to mention that threat to split our denomination…
a) Its fair to ask is this it? If yes, then we just need to hang on and be faithful a little while longer,
b) If no, we don’t have to deal with the tribulation AND all this chaos..
People are asking this because they want to know is God going to show up and fix things?
Is God going to speak those words to justice and healing to the nations?
Is God going to let us suffer and die, ask the persons with leprosy outside the city?
Is God hearing our suffering and struggles, our fears and lack of control?
Do God love us?
Is God’s love based on events of the world, or is God’s love for us greater than all the chaos??
Step 1. Reversal Prayer, Step 2. Taking the first steps in ACTing in love. Step 3.
Do not measure love by the world’s standards.
We need God’s love most when we are not pacified by being part of the majority.
We need God’s love most when its not easy to see with our eyes and heart alone.
We needs God’s love when we are afraid, broken and pressed down more than when we can manage.
And if “WE” need that much love, then so do our enemies.
Go back to the idea of a list of enemies. Don’t list them all, but who are the first three people who you picture or name when you hear enemies. (Don’t list groups of people, name the first personal names that fill you heart and mind.)
1. Pray for that person all day, all afternoon, all evening. Ask God to help you see the world and you from their perspective. Pray for God to transform their heart and your heart to find some point of grace between you.
2. Pick up the phone, reach out in person/at a distance, write a prayerful email, send a love letter to that person telling them what you are praying for them and yourself. Make the first step.
2B. To not act, to not take the first step is to not trust God’s love to heal. Try and fail is rewarded, ignoring is participating in the lie that we are loving as we have been loved.
3. The Reward for loving first, is the treasure of seeing who God deals with us in Christ. God has no idea if we will love back, God has been disappointed many times… And yet, it is that never failing love that is my only hope and grace.
We don’t have to love people’s ideas, behaviors, choices… and we don’t have to give them what they want us to give them to prove our love… the love is what we are commanded to do by God, with God, for God.
Failure is to not try loving because we are afraid, or have failed before. Koinonia people love because Christ loved us first, and continues to love us always. Hear the Good News and live it!
If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing. Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends. But as for prophecies, they will come to an end; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will come to an end. For we know only in part, and we prophesy only in part; but when the complete comes, the partial will come to an end. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways. For now, we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known. And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love. [NRSA: 1 Cor 13]
This chapter is both wonderful and intimidating. We love it and we held to its words and love.
Paul calls us to “love like we are family.”
Families do not always agree. Families fight, divorce, hold grudges, abuse, neglect… why in the world would we want to love like a family’s love?
Too often we label our failures of trying to be a loving family as the standard. Therefore, we confuse reality with the model that is before us.
Instead of modeling family experience, we look to the fellowship God reveals for us:
Loving as Paul describes is
1) a love based in God. What is love? Look and listen to God for God’s examples of love and loving relationship.
2) a love that can hold people in relationship even when their thoughts and behaviors are out of bounds. (I love you even though you are doing ‘wrong’ or thinking ‘wrong’.
3) a love that is not grounded in emotions but loves us in relationship to God even when you and I both have failed to love as God loves.
The Framework of God’s family: Based in Love, Loving the sinner, Love is Eternal
It’s important to clarify: I family operating on God’s love will look like the love described in this chapter. And, a Church family or koinonia fellowship, operating on God’s love, will look and sound like the relation described in chapter 13. But it is not automatically true.
We are a church denomination, that has actively talked about divorce for 22 years. We have been more focused on trying to keep the family together than learning to love the sinners despite their sins. We have aligned ourselves in the those who are correct and those who are wrong, blaming each other for the current reality. WHEN the reality is that we have accepted this lie as our truth.
The Church has always been called to be Christ’s body and not ours. It even sounds awkward to hear ourselves say: RS Church is Christ’s church, we usually say, “RS Church is ‘my’ church.” My service, my music, my class, my friends, my history, my offering, my, my my…
Christ came to give himself for sinners. He always named the sin, and forgives the sinner, so that new life my eternally be in God.
Talking about loving people and actually loving people is the difference in saying the latest slogan or catch phrase about who we love, or who we support is not, in itself, AND loving enough to actually stay in relationship with God’s strength. This is to love as Paul describes. It is not at easy when we deal with the worst in each other.
There is a reason that many couples include this passage in their wedding ceremony as it is the description of the type of relationship that are setting as their measure. At the foundation of a marriage it is a good base to start. When half of all marriages end in divorce we must reexamine how we love.
Love sets boundaries for everyone in the relationship. When we are out-of-bounds, we break the relationship of love. Through GRACE God works to redevelop trust and rebuild. But our continued disobedience leads us to end relationships. Sometimes ending a relationship is the only way we can move forward.
In society, we recognize that we might love our enemies, but their behaviors so violate trust and respect that we incarcerate them to separate them from others. This is not the model of love, but it is the accountability of not loving.
• Just as God is revealed in creation, in the purposeful design of creation, with its order, beauty, and seasons of life, death, and renewal of life.
• God’s love can be seen throughout creation, in God providing for what we need not only to eat and drink, but to challenge and expand our minds, and to live together in community.
Pieces are the Whole
Wisdom, knowledge, faith, sacrifice are all parts of the relationship, but love is the reason behind them all. Prophecies, knowledge, physical nature all need to mature, but only mature in love.
Reclaiming the Heart and Hope for our Relationships
Love is.. (This activity ALWAYS requires God’s help, when we are on our own, we our out of bounds)
Love is patient; kind; not envious, boastful, arrogant, rude, not selfish, irritable, nor resentful; it rejoices in doing what is Godly, what is true. It bears, believes, hopes, and endures all things; Love never ends.
Starting with Confession
Which of these do we struggle?
Օ – Patient
Օ – Kind
Օ – Rejoices in Truth
Օ – Seeks what is Godly
Օ – Bears
Օ – Believes
Օ – Hopes
Օ – Endure
Reactive / opposite
Օ – Envious / Content
Օ – Boastful / Humble
Օ – Arrogant / Respects
Օ – Rude / Kind
Օ – Selfish / Selfless
Օ – Irritable / Care
Օ – Resentful / Appreciative
Which do we experience from others most?
Օ – Patient
Օ – Kind
Օ – Rejoices in Truth
Օ – Seeks what is Godly
Օ – Bears
Օ – Believes
Օ – Hopes
Օ – Endure
Reactive / opposite
Օ – Envious / Content
Օ – Boastful / Humble
Օ – Arrogant / Respects
Օ – Rude / Kind
Օ – Selfish / Selfless
Օ – Irritable / Care
Օ – Resentful / Appreciative
What are the correlations and connections with what we struggle and the struggles of others?
Are they connections that begin in opposition? Then we know where to ask for God’s help.
And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love. [NRSA: 1 Cor 13]
Patient and Kind, Truth and Godliness
Bears and Believes, Hopes and Endures
Content and Humble, Respects with Care and Kindness
Selfless and Appreciative. Love is forever.
1 Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all their multitude. 2 And on the seventh day God finished the work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all the work that he had done. 3 So God blessed the seventh day and hallowed it, because on it God rested from all the work that he had done in creation. [NRVA]
Mark 2:27 Jesus said to them, “The Sabbath was made for people, not people for the Sabbath.
Howard Thurman, a preacher, teacher, dean, and mystic, was an black preacher that knows the human condition and the path of a spiritual giant. He shared in sermon and later in in his many books and writings: he describes….
[The Coming to the end of one’s rope… we can’t go on. We just don’t have enough physical energy to move another step or do another chore or face another crisis,
And from some where we find what we call a “second wind” we are able to tap resources that were previously unaccessible. The body seems to know where the secret is and the energy flows. Researches can give descriptions of what happens, but what makes this possible, from where does this second surge come, just when it need to arrive to finish our work
[Though his ministry span from 1900 to 1980] He knew then as we know now: under In uncertain times, we too able to go beyond, the limits of our bodies, with the renewal of our minds, ..and so it must be true with our spirit, also.
It is in the moments of crisis we discover again and again there are resources of spirit, additional resources, other power, new life, That we ONLY discover in the very tests of life. It is here that we find the amount we CAN do, without destroying our joy,
And it is in these moments, in times just as we live now that, This is the gift of God, the gift of God’s work, not our strength, but the necessary resources, at the moment they are required, not before, and not with any extra.] (paraphrased from his own words)
We come to moments of exhaustion and see well trained athletes pedal one more hill in hills with thinking air. We see the fruit of preparing done long ago for this very moments in the battle of competition that the victors have anticipated but not yet realized.
It is with this very breath of God that we face the days in which we live.
I tell you truly that we much cherish the concept and invitation of Sabbath. Just as we push and push and find strength to complete the spiritual heavyweight lifting that surrounds us on every side…. we come to the sabbath and find out hunger and ghost for rest….
If we have arrived at the sabbath are not weary then we have not done the work before us. The weeks of bedrest in my recent recovery have been a powerful reminder of my limitations. The current confinement we all face and test the waters to overcome, we see that it is different, uncomfortable, tentative and uncertain, where we have come to find the very certainty that brings us peace and much find the power of sabbath rest.
In rest that is a different type of work. We rest from our labors and find ourselves spent, yet hungering to hear God, but to hear God, we must stop talking, planing, worrying, preparing, stop doing and be present for God and in God.
With the exception of the first five or six years and two years in college, I have been at work on the sabbath. As a child I tagged along fully dependent on my parents choices and blessings, and in college it was rare that I missed worship, but in al, the other years I have had some responsibility in worship that might at times look, sound and feel like work. I feel I have worked on the sabbath most of my life.
It was not until I met the words of Dr Thurman that I began to immerse myself in Sabbath rest. It is not always on a Sunday, but with out time to surrender ourselves in God we never grasp the fullness God has for us all.
If i am always in control, always responsible, always managing, always going and doing then I leave little to no room for trust, faith, devotions and thus Sabbath rest. We make take turns to assure that one another finds God refreshing and renewing rest.
No this is not a devotions to sleeping. This is not an excuse to be lazy or irresponsible, it is to place all that is of worth and value and ask God to hold the reins and give us the breath, the second wind, the extra resources that we need for the week ahead.
You and I need to ask one another in keeping that sabbath. Again is not about when to cut the grass or when to take a nap… it’s a spiritual part of being a spiritual being.
Let’s practice, join me a a meditation
Closer your eyes, find a comfortable as possible position and let’s everything else got for a few precious moments,
You are a work of art that God has thrown and spun with hope, purpose and love.
You are a child of the Gods breath and have value and meaning to god when we the whole world has other words and no words for you
You have come to find food and drink for your spirit
You have come to experience peace hope and belonging
You have carried much in your mind and with your body and with your emotions.
As you hear distractions give thanks that God has given you the ability to hear, and think and be responsible
In this moment focus toy hearing in the spirt ofGods blowing and moving
Be attentive to how God is reaching out to you personally
It may come in words and sounds, it may be feeling or something better
There may be many things that keep God distance, invite God unto your heart and give your rest.
Speak these words silently to god, OR JUST LOUD ENOUGH TO HEAR YOURSELF
“be my strength be my rest”
“Be in my breath and in be my peace”
“Show me your love, your grace”
“I release my control and trust you with my life”
“ be my strength and be make rest”
Being to open your eye to see, hear, touch, and taste the goodness god has for you and for us all.
Let us pray…. ah Holy Spirit, breath into us your life, your strength, your love. Amen
Luke 10:38-42 MARY AND MARTHA
Now as they went on their way, he entered a certain village, where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to what he was saying. But Martha was distracted by her many tasks; so she came to him and asked, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her then to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing.[a] Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.” [NRSV]
Once you have a regular rotation of prayer, study, fellowship and application in the areas outside your church, family and self, you have the experience to be a coach. Starting on third, you have three signals of encouragement.
1. Hands up — Stop You need to spend more time on Second
2. Hands down — Come to third and be ready to score.
3. Hands toward Home — Time to Bring it Home
Coaching is meeting folks in the third base part of life, community, work
and leading them in REVERSE
Imaging someone that is not already part of church, but it is someone you know, meet or work with in your life outside of church and family. It’s typically not easy start at home base with someone we don’t have an intimate relationship. So we meet at work, move toward invited them to join our family, then family to church, church to study or small group, to prayer and worship. This journey is leadership. We are coach and leading others in the journey where we have already been.
There are moments in history that transform our past into a new future. Some of these events we welcome and others we avoid. When mom and daddy are no longer with us.
When a child, grand parent, sibling or close friend dies… we are faced with a new reality in our understanding of life and death and our relationships with other family members as roles get changed up.
I remember having a black and white TV and how out lives changed watching the Vietnam war on the evening news changed our whole world.
I remember when I bought my first car, a green 69 impala named Lucy that got 8 miles per gallon and was my first expressions of freedom and exploration
I remember my pay check with taxes taken out and it changed by view of labor and government.
I remember the call just before walking in to preach at my first church, just a few months as a brand new pastor and received the news my grandfather had died
Or walking out for a Christmas Eve service to the test that mom had a major stroke
Or the news that we had a miscarriage.
I remember the first day waking up the a baby’s cry that we my own child
The church is under attack, not only our denomination but also the baptist, the catholic and The whole body of Christ.. by a growing majority that say we are backward, out of date and out of touch, saying we are just another passivity amount many that has no meaningful say.
And the trouble is we have grown accustomed to this new identity or we have ignored the slice of our perceived security is dwindling, critically.
Some would run away and leave us being interested in themselves about the rest of us.
Some would withdraw and want to ignore the whole responsibility and get by as best they can
None of this is Home Run living!
As a church family we are on the edge of one of those moments of transformation.
The world is steaming in one direction and the church is digging in to our hearts and heads trying remember that
1. Everything begins and ends in God
2. God’s purpose if my purpose, and Therefore I trust God to define my character
3. God places us in relationships of support, the church, family, friends…
4. Got is working through us when we are in the world, When we apply these gifts and skill in our responsibilities and opportunities we see God making Good on promises and using our lives for God’s glory.
So let me be clear where we stand.. it is not the world series, it is a crossroads of what is baseball? What does it mean to be the body of Jesus Christ in the world, What does the church stand, and breath and serve to become.
But here the good news, Jesus is not written us off! God is not down with us!
Now more than ever do we all need to be “HOME RUN” DISCIPLES.
WE DONT ACCOMPLISHING THIS BY:
Retreating to the past.
We don’t pass the buck to someone else
We step up and run the bases, gods way,
The hate, the emptiness, the clamoring for purpose and meaning we hear from then world round us is evidence that they do not have a better way,
They simply do not know, trust, share and grow in God as we know to do
BUT THE TRUTH IS The world is hungry for the Home Run life and it is up to us to live it and share it.
The truth is we have slacked off from going to bat for God.
Being honest with yourself as much as possible. Where are you in God’s game?
Are to at the plate just trying to get connected?
Are you at first looking for meaning and purpose?
Are you stuck sharing and caring for your family and friends, over helmed there?
Are you trying to make it though the day with your work, responsibility’s and money but are spinning your wheels?
You’ve made it through those bases but you are needed as third base coach?
I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect. For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of yourself more highly than you ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. For as in one body we have many members, and not all the members have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are members one of another. We have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us: prophecy, in proportion to faith; ministry, in ministering; the teacher, in teaching; the exhorter, in exhortation; the giver, in generosity; the leader, in diligence; the compassionate, in cheerfulness. Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor. Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are. Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God; for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” No, “if your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. [NRSA: Rom 12]
As a koinonia fellowship we are committed to being one in Christ as we live as a worship to God.
We are able because we live in the power of Gods grace and mercies. Without god we quickly serve ourselves and only those who are like minded.
1. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect.
2. Do not to think of yourself more highly than you ought to think, but to think with sober, logical, judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.
For as in one body we have many members, and not all the members have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are members one of another.
We have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us:
- Showing compassion
Instructions for all
• Let love be genuine; hate what is evil,
• hold fast to what is good; love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor.
• Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord.
• Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer.
• Contribute to the needs of the saints;
• Extend hospitality to strangers.
• Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them.
• Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.
• Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are.
• Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.
Busy ourselves with this list instead of worry fear and fighting
Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God; for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” Our task is to love!
“if your enemies are hungry, feed them;
if they are thirsty, give them something to drink;
for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads.”
Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good
Have nothing to do with profane myths and old wives’ tales. Train yourself in godliness, for, while physical training is of some value, godliness is valuable in every way, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come. The saying is sure and worthy of full acceptance. For to this end we toil and struggle because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe. These are the things you must insist on and teach. Let no one despise your youth but set the believers an example in speech and conduct, in love, in faith, in purity. Until I arrive, give attention to the public reading of scripture, to exhorting, to teaching. Do not neglect the gift that is in you, which was given to you through prophecy with the laying on of hands by the council of elders. Put these things into practice, devote yourself to them, so that all may see your progress. Pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching; continue in these things, for in doing this you will save both yourself and your hearers. [NRSA]
Being a church committed to Koinonia Fellowship calls on us to have a balance of commitment.
We have put on hold most of our hands-on ministry of feeding and clothing ministries that have been “bread and butter” of our ministry efforts. We need to find new ways to make sure those who are hungry and naked have what they need as we respond to the Great Commandment. These new and renewed restraints are calling us to rethink how we witness as the body of Christ.
1 Tim 4 also recognized that the physical ministry of the church is valuable, but it is not the primary work we are called to be about. It might be easier and more rewarding in the moment for us. One of the cautions is that we not do ministry so that we can be praised, or we can feel good, or look good to others — these things do come when we are genuine in our ministry to physical needs, but we are a spiritual body as well as a physical one.
This is why Jesus sends us the Holy Spirit when he leaves. We are Christ’s presences in the world, doing God’s work, empowered by God’s Spirit as spiritual people of God.
1Tim 4 [Physical Training and service is of some value, but the more important service is living out our trust in God.]
There are things that we work our spiritual self and the spirit of others, and not just the physical.
Paul is encouraging Timothy with some of his strongest language: “Insisting” that he teach the church.
As for the physical work we do: Let your service reflecting God’s presence, love, and sincerity.
As for the Spiritual work we are to do:
1. Give attention the public reading of scripture, preaching, and teaching
(Your prayers you may do in private, but when it comes to exhortation:
Be walking billboard for the scripture.
2. Develop and Use your spiritual Gifts.
a. What are your spiritual gifts. There are a number of online helps and books, but a good way to start is to ask five people what they believe your spiritual gifts are. Their feedback reflects what you are already likely been doing.. Now you may have other spiritual gifts and differing times of your life, so this is not a one-time check list.
b. The Part two of Spiritual Gifts calls for asking God, and others do I have other Spiritual gifts as well as praying for God to reveal these to you. We also need to be anticipating hearing and coming to understand what talents, opportunities and gifts God entrusts with us.
3. Put these two things into practice: Be fluent in the scripture so that others hear the word through you and be diligent to use the gifts and opportunities God opens to your life.
We are living in a time and season when being open, direct and bold about our faith is clearly risky.
We are hesitant because we don’t want to be labeled, rejected, attacked or negatively effected by letting the world know we are God’s People in living for Christ, powered by the Holy Spirit.
I’m guessing you have heard the saying, “the way you live you life maybe the only Gospel someone reads.” While part of this is true, it comes without any interpretation, explanation, context, and we risk great misunderstanding.
The instruction is not to beat people up with being right or wrong about scripture, it is a call for us to be devoted to what we think in our head and act in our service, but to also be clear in our reasons and lessons WHY we think and act as we do.
Our clearest example is Jesus’s relationship with his disciples. He was ever placing real life observations and even conflicts, in the context of scripture: And drawing on the Old Testament as such. And sometime Jesus would give an new understanding to an older text as well.
Jesus Sayings and Teachings Are strong and give explanation of why we think and act as disciples do
Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. John 14:6 NIV
But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Matthew 6:33 NIV
In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. Matthew 5:16 NIV
“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. Matthew 7:7-8 NIV
Jesus replied: “ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” Matthew 22:37-40 NIV
There are the “You have Heard, but I say”
Matthew 5:21 NIV 21 “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’
Matthew 5:27 NIV 27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’
Matthew 5:33 NIV 33 “Again, you have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not break your oath, but fulfill to the Lord the vows you have made.’
Matthew 5:38 NIV 38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’
Matthew 5:43 NIV 43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’
The Contextual Power is revealed when scripture is lived out as a witness for God
Luke 7:22 NIV So he replied to the messengers, “Go back and report to John what you have seen and heard: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor.
The world is transformed by God, THROUGH US, when we become those who speak God’s work to the hurting, broken, blind, suffering world.
The Conviction: Not always the popular thing for the world to hear, because God is often using us as prophets and teachers… but if you and I are not telling, teaching, preaching, and proclaiming, what will the world hear from us?
While he was still speaking to the crowds, his mother and his brothers were standing outside, wanting to speak to him. Someone told him, “Look, your mother and your brothers are standing outside, wanting to speak to you.” But to the one who had told him this, Jesus replied, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” And pointing to his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.” [NRSV]
THE FAMILY OF Jesus is the intentional group of those who do the will of the Father.
-Those who are listening to Jesus are those who are preparing to go when sent, not react when interrupted.
-Those who are choosing this relationship place it’s strength as the foundation of all other relationships. (Not that other relationships are not meaningful or valuable)
-Those who are in the house, the oikos, are those who gather around the family fire, the spirit, the word, the table, the conversation, those who are ready to study, listen, worship, and grow in fellowship.
-Those who remain focused on the presence of Jesus are not listening to the cries of temptation and distraction.
-Those in the fellowship will be sent by Christ, with all power and authority, but the first place to gather is in the presence of Christ and that family.
This IS the clearest picture of the church, community, fellowship that we have been discussing the past three weeks. Koi-no-nia.
We are the fellowship that the world hunger for, now and always.
There are countless studies that reveal that people who are looking to belong will join the worst of gang simple because they fulfill our need to be in, and be accepted.
EXAMPLE: The fight is in the church over gender is a battle over how to be in the community when we are divided about how to be inclusive and at the same time restrictive. The answer is found where Jesus says to people, be forgiving (and this included) but go and sin no more.
STORY: We watch most any show that touches on war: revolutionary, 1812, Civil, WWI, World War II, KOREA, VIETNAM, GULF.. and other nations as well can all be seen at our house.it may be a documentary, a drama, a romance, or editorials. Having a history major and having Wendy’s father live with us for a decade might explain the why, but there is a helpful message I’ve been trying to grasp in the context of the events we see and hear on the news.
I think of the fears that people had when the skies were filled shells, when armed warriors were evacuated and looting houses, when people would hide in shelters and found rationed foods and fuel. And I ask myself are we heading tot his place. The civil war of the 19th century had families divided, property burned and stolen, patches of unbelievable numbers dead and, hatred and fear guiding every step. I think of people hiding in the homes hope all the destruction would end… and I ask what have learned from our previous struggle in those moments in history where we believe we cannot live with peace, trust, and civility in our lives.
We long for Clarity and certainty
It is clear that the historical markers are not respected and educational reminders.
It’s clean that fewer people are taught history or make the effort to study it when it is not required.
It’s clear that people are quicker to blame and fear than be logical, rational, and passionate in trust and accountability.
Think back to the passage, Jesus is preparing followers for loving, serving, and witnesses to a world that is ready to take all we have and there is no time to be distracted from the task at hand. Even when and especially when it is family.
The passage is an object lesson for al, of our family. Don’t be leveraged out of being faithful. When families become divided of faith, the priority is settled in listening to Jesus.
When things go astray in our family and friend groups, Jesus is acknowledging that one priority is greater than the other.
Most people list their family has their greatest treasure. “Where your treasure is, so will be your heart” Jesus is most interesting in that heart priority. BECAUSE when our values, morals, trust, beliefs, are grounded in Christ, we have the resource to be the strongest of family and friends.
It is a mistake to say that Jesus doesn’t care about families, so silly. Just as when you hear people guilting you on social media, trying to use your words against you. Jesus want all our family and friends to be built up and shaped by our faith and trust in him.
Having around the church for many year does not assume we have listened and trusted what we have heard.
So how does this passage help us be better prepared in a world that is distracting and dividing us? We don’t let the voices of the news, the media, the fears, not even our families, or the division be what motivates our actions and thoughts.
We are the intentional fellowship listening, learning and following Christ lead.
What to do when those other voice interrupt out time set on Preparing?
1. Assess the interruption
2. Reaffirm the priority
3. Invite others to join the church, fellowship, faith family’s work
4. Get back to Jesus’s work.
Happy are those whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord their God, 6 who made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them; who keeps faith forever; 7 who executes justice for the oppressed; who gives food to the hungry. The Lord sets the prisoners free; 8 the Lord opens the eyes of the blind. The Lord lifts up those who are bowed down; the Lord loves the righteous. 9 The Lord watches over the strangers; he upholds the orphan and the widow, but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin. 10 The Lord will reign forever, your God, O Zion, for all generations. Praise the Lord!
At the core of celebrating Christmas is the telling God’s story
- It is not just you hearing Gods story.
- My job is remind you of your work telling a hurting world
What should be done then, my friends? When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Let all things be done for building up. [NRSA]
In chapter 14, 1st Corinthians, Paul is having a conversation with the church Corinth regarding worship for believers and unbelievers and about gifts of the spirit. He is addressing what has become a division in the church between believers and those outside of the community of faith. So in our context of the world today this is an appropriate passage for us to study and learn as the church.
I remind you in our series here on being a koinonia fellowship that we as the church or cold to be intentionally with purpose, working to be a community that brings unity in Christ. It is not just unity for the sake of unity and unity for the sake of of peace and quiet in and that it is unity in the heart of Christ.
And the kernel the core of our lesson today is that as a Quintanilla fellowship we are called to build up the body of Christ and we do that through a variety of ways the the one verse that we draw out of chapter 14 is when it comes to the point of what to do about the division Paul instructs the church: when you come together everybody has a different part of the service everyone has different gifts everyone has different needs and expectations the common purpose is to be worshipful of God to be drawn together seeking the heart of God.
We recognized in the world today and all the division in and fighting, tensions, and passions that are exploding around reflects that not everyone is driving or working toward God’s point much less having the heart of God at the center of what they’re doing.
In our effort to be ecumenical and to be appreciative of the faith of others outside of the church is not our primary calling. We live in a world where the ideology of coexistence of diversity is valued more than the heart of God. It’s centrally clear in the first two of the 10 Commandments to have to worship God and to have no other gone. If our goal is not to find our our joy and our fulfillment and our purpose and our connection in God then we will never find connection with one another.
So our church our kononia fellowship is committed to finding the heart of God even though there are different voices, different agendas, and different ideologies confronting what we do. Our task is to build up the body of Christ to build up the community of faith by drawing people to God through Christ.
Think about a particular conversation that you found yourself in with someone who looks at a given situation from a very different even opposing perspective. It’s very easy for us just to say I’m right you’re wrong unless you see it my way you will continue to be wrong. This response it does not work when there’s no trust and a relationship.
When you read more of this 14th chapter you find Paul is trying to help mediate and help the congregation discern about which things are helpful for believers and which things are helpful for nonbelievers. While we all have gifts and parts of the conversation summer more helpful for those who agree and those who disagree we use different methods in different talents and different parts of what God has given us to build up the community.
At one point in my ministry I had the opportunity to serve a church that had about 1/3 of the members were interracial couples and families. And in this context I recognize that I did not have enough experience in knowing their perspective of the world and the church. They share terrible stories of oppression from both black and white congregations. They shared stories of how children and relationships had been pressured to agree or disagree with Bible verses in a variety of doctrine and dogma from different churches. I found it necessary to go back to seminary to a historically black seminary in Atlanta to audit some classes to gain a better perspective.
After the first class was complete one of the professors introduced me to the admissions director and said if I would consider working on a doctor of ministry and attending as a full-time student that they would give me credit for the classes I had audited. I live 5 miles from the campus at the time and so it is a great opportunity.
One of the classes that I had the opportunity to take in that program was simply to learn to listen to peoples faith stories and in the process a class of 40 people took the entire semester to listen and learn from each other’s faith journeys and faith stories. This was just tremendous help to my ministry not just relating to how to better serve one part of my fold. This experience allowed me to hear passionate stories of of the struggle for faith in a very divided world with common stories that dealt with race but also at the heart of them was an ongoing quest for God reaching out to speak in peoples lives and people responding to that call from God.
That’s the conclusion of the class it became well evident why this was part of the core curriculum because learning to hear gods call through peoples questions and struggles and divisions is the heart of what we do as a koinonia fellowship as the church and it’s a task we need learn.
I admit that I forget and I get caught up and don’t use the same listening skills as often as I may need to but I am reminded of how important they are. One thing you should know about me is that I am a very deep and reflective person when I have time to think and reflect. If you ask me for something instantaneously I don’t give you my best answer. Not all of life forwards the opportunity for the time and patience of of practiced and intentional responses. But as we look around and listen to the world we can see the evidence of not listening. We can see the evidence and proof of not paying attention. We can see the and hear the cries for being heard and being trusted and being accountable in the community around us.
As I had mentioned last week just as looking for the person to blame continues the the power struggle our task as the church is to hear people struggle and find the ways that God has given us gifts and talents to draw each other to respond to that call that God has for all of us.
This draws us back to the first part of this verse 26. “Well what should be done?” This is where we use our fellowship we use the talents of those who are prophetic we use those who can teach we use those who can sing we use those who can teach we use those who can instruct we use those who can build we use all the talents that we have in a way that ultimately builds up the relationships in the world around us.
What do we do?
Listen to the stories of others, is the first step in building relationships. Prior to this that means you and I have to be willing to sit down and spend time with people who think differently without getting upset without reacting negatively without drawing lines in the sand. You know that’s what God does with us we may be sinful and broken and filled with shame and blame and fill in the blank. We see Jesus sitting down with men and women and children those who are healthy and those who are ill, physically, mentally and spiritually.
1. We have to make a commitment to God and others that we want to be in relationship with all persons.
2. We have to trust and use the gifts and resources that God has given us as the body of Christ to be that strength and presents for the world.
3. Vs. 40 “ but all things should be done decently and in order.”
As good Methodist we love those verses that call for order and decency. These two words might be better seen through as process and respect.
The change that needs to occur in our society calls for us to respect even when we are not respected; we are to love where we are not loved; we listen even when we are not listened to by others. This gives us the process of God to speak through us.
Make a commitment today to be an intentional listener to someone who disagrees.. best if this is with a person but even what to hear on the media you choose.
1. Listen for how God is using this person and myself to build up the work of God.
2. Listen for the gifts, talents, experiences you have had that help you identify with what the person is saying.
3. Finally, what can you appreciate, respect, or love about this person?
4. This is the intensity of intention and purpose that koinonia people will go to reach one in the building up In Christ.
It is not easy if it were, politicians would have done it.
The sin of racism will be healed through Christ and our fellowship with him and all Gods people. So get busy!
Parable of the Talents: To whom much is given, much is expected.
You are I have been given the absolute best gift, a life in Christ. God’s expectation of us is to lead by living this as a community of faith, the body of Christ, the church.
Far too many years the church has been working to please and be congruent in the world, yet we are called to be in the world and not of the world.
For too many weeks I have come before you acknowledging the reality of division in our denomination and world and the world has convinced the church that it too is to be guided by politics. This is not our calling.
Our calling is to be the moral voice, and backbone that informs and shapes the world. It is this higher goal, the greater gift, the largest sum of talents that God is calling us to be FOR the world.
So when we see the terrible injustice of racism in the world around us we need to see it as God sees it and not just a single politic talking or fighting point.
Racism is the abuse of power over another person or group of people based on the color of pigment in the skin, and/or the perceived value of a different culture.
The reality is that there is one race, the human race. God sees us all as children of God’s creation.
The world divides us for purposing of power and control with the goal of control and self-interests.
So, what are we to do?
Protest and Signaling, raise awareness. With great solidarity we want those who have no voice to be heard and held up. The origin of the BLM was not to say that lives black persons are the only lives that matter but call for black persons to be valued as others are also valued.
The difficult part is that the message has become a political fund raising, power brokering, leveraging organization that uses racism as its power source, which is nearly the same as the racism they are supposed to be fighting.
Here is the test about ending racism. If one group of people are using another group of people to gain power over them in the name of race, it is racism.
It’s would thing to be a noisy gong and clashing cymbals making waves, protesting and gaining attention. The more vital is what we do after the light is turn on and everyone see what is dark and light.
Have you experienced racism? I have and I am a white southern male.
As a pastor working with a near by black pastor who was starting a new church in the community. (a community that had doubled in size in three years to have 95% black citizenry.)
My white church was less than 200 members, had ample facilities for the small black congregation to meet on Sunday evenings at our building. The other congregation offered to rent and pay the entire year’s utilities for the opportunity to meet at a time the white congregation no longer used the building. It appeared to be a win-win.
My administrative council met to discuss and vote on this proposal for shared ministry. It was the first agenda item. The other pastor and I laid out the plan and the chair of the SPRC said, (and I quote) “There is no way those (n*word)are going to have the building over my dead body. Put that in the minutes.” He followed that with this: “Not only do I reject this proposal, I propose that we reduce the pastor’s salary by a 1/3 effectively immediately for suggesting this, all in favor?” They had a secret ballot and voted 15-1 not to accept the proposal and to indeed reduce the salary immediately. My DS did not offer support and said I should have known better. I moved to a smaller church. All of ordination piers to this day make more and have more contributed into their retirement, but none of them have make the same choices I have made.
(I share this not to make you feel a particular way about me, but show that DOING the right thing effects our live-in ways the world does not support)
It’s one thing to talk about racism it is another go with the consequences of making the stand. The answer is not making a louder voice, it is taking intension steps toward being the community of faith God has created, saved, calls and empowers us to be if we are will.
The frustrations that run so high come from what we are shown in the media. The media does not show us the hundred of black persons being killed in cities like Chicago every year.
The choice to see only certain example of injustice will never solve the problems of racism.
As every sincere research person in every discipline of study will affirm that any problem is simply one variable, not just one symptom, not only one factor. Racism is not only about skin color. It is about evil, misuse of power, corruption, deception, as well as economics, education, opportunity, and ideologies.
While having better laws, politicians and law enforcement in place does not guarantee the absence of evil, corruption and deception. And while we can promote better education, opportunities and economics, there is no certainty that evil, corruption and mis-use of power will be held accountable.
We are a globe community of sinners. At times we are all guilty, evil, prideful, power-hungry, selfish.. right? There many parts: Laws, leaders, enforcement, education, opportunities:
But there is something that need to be the foundation of all these and it is not something governments and civil organizations can solve.
It is singularly God who is needed. The core, root of racism is a failure of humanity to trust and follow God.
The answer is for God’s people to recognize God’s higher calling is not only entrusted to use through Jesus Christ, it si
But for better understanding, say that all the right people and rules are in place. The world, our society, our communities are expected to live at this higher standard… and here is how we get to the ACTION phase of dealing with Racism:
1. Take MLKjr at his dream and stop seeing each other as a white person or a black person. See each other as people.
2. To continue to use these words is a simple way to keep racism alive. (Green boy story)
a. So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up. Galatians 6:9
b. Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Philippians 4:6
c. And do everything with love. 1 Corinthians 16:14
d. For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. Jeremiah 29:11
e. Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you. 1 Peter 5:7
3. As a community we become KOINONIA – “drawn together by intimate participation in Christ.”
In the weeks ahead we will explore what it means to be KOINONIA as Rock Spring UMC.
I ask you to pray this prayer for yourself, the church and the world. “Holy Spirit, draw us together as we participate in fellowship and community in Jesus Christ.”
Where we meet and share Christ we will not find the racism has any power for we are one in Christ, one in fellowship, and one in life.