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O that you would tear open the heavens and come down, so that the mountains would quake at your presence– as when fire kindles brushwood and the fire causes water to boil– to make your name known to your adversaries, so that the nations might tremble at your presence! When you did awesome deeds that we did not expect, you came down, the mountains quaked at your presence. From ages past no one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any God besides you, who works for those who wait for him. You meet those who gladly do right, those who remember you in your ways. But you were angry, and we sinned; because you hid yourself we transgressed. We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a filthy cloth. We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away. There is no one who calls on your name, or attempts to take hold of you; for you have hidden your face from us, and have delivered us into the hand of our iniquity. Yet, O LORD, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand. Do not be exceedingly angry, O LORD, and do not remember iniquity forever. Now consider, we are all your people. [NRSA: Isaiah 64:1-9]
We begin Advent as a spiritual Journey
Our starting point is our current condition. Looking around and within ourselves. Things are not perfect. We are not perfect, but we have hope. Our hope is in Christ!
• We have been blinded by enormous data,
• we have been swallowed up by conformity,
• we are already investing beyond our control,
• we have the demons that test, tease, and torment us.
• We feel grip of grief. We know the repetition of confinement.
• We think what is evil; we do what is evil.
• We welcome evil into our hearts, minds, and souls.
• We watch what is sinful round the world,
• we grow a custom to brokenness and violence in the news,
• we are desensitized in the entertainment we consume. It’s ok, it’s not real, it has no effect on me.
• And yet it does. It all make evil more normal and digestible
How do we break through?
We come at Advent and recognize we are but a lump of clay before God. But we are not just any lump of clay. We are the lump of clay that God loves, molds, and patiently reworks. God has unfinished business with each of us, as with all of us.
Advent begins a spiritual journey that starts our knowing or remembering that we are the clay and not the Potter.
Here is our prayer for this first week: . Yet, O LORD, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand. Do not be exceedingly angry, O LORD, and do not remember iniquity forever. Now consider, we are all your people.
• Knowing Christ in our hearts and out hearts in Gods is our destination,
• we need to acknowledge we have a way to go.
• But we have been given, The Way. Out, the Way through, and the Way home
Thankfully, while God has every right to be furious with us, God loves us more than we can imagine.
The journey is one of yielding to potters hand, vision, and will for us.
Packed for the journey
Every trip, even in unknown adventures needs resources. Has in the tank, snacks for nourishment, and. Map if we lose out way. The counterparts for our spiritual journey as the same. We find direction, energy, and nourishment from our Christian fellowship, worship, study, and service.
These are the tools, activities, and necessities for us to gather, trust and use.
Our first steps are
1. to confess,
2. repent, and
3. remember we ARE plagued with the struggle of sin and weariness.
4. And we are taking first steps back to the heart of worship, heart of faith, to the heart of God.
Step one: Remember “I am not the potter. I am the clay.”
Yet, O LORD, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand. Do not be exceedingly angry, O LORD, and do not remember iniquity forever. Now consider, we are all your people.
Prayers of confession: (portions from various UMBoW prayers)
Almighty and merciful God,
we know that when we offend another, we offend you.
[We choose other paths, we move away from you.]
We are aware that we have often allowed the shadow of hate
to cloud our souls, hiding the light from our [weary and disinterested] eyes.
We have said unpleasant and hurtful things to our brothers and sisters
when they failed to live up to our expectations.
[We have said things that are pleasant to ourselves and others, but in so doing we have said and done hurtful things to you]
Grant that we might find that spark of love that ever burns within us,
[Fan the flame of your Spirit]
[We long for the grace we know in Jesus Christ]
the love that you have shown to us even when we failed you.
Fan the embers of that love until it roars again
in flames of love, peace, and reconciliation.
Forgive us our sin and help us to forgive those who have sinned against us.
Lead us into new life through your Son Jesus Christ,
who died for the sins of all. Amen.
[Based on (MICHAEL J. O’DONNELL, U.S.A., 20TH CENT.) but with additions]
Again I ask: Did they stumble so as to fall beyond recovery? Not at all! Rather, because of their transgression, salvation has come to the Gentiles to make Israel envious. But if their transgression means riches for the world, and their loss means riches for the Gentiles, how much greater riches will their full inclusion bring! I am talking to you Gentiles. Inasmuch as I am the apostle to the Gentiles, I take pride in my ministry in the hope that I may somehow arouse my own people to envy and save some of them. For if their rejection brought reconciliation to the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead? If the part of the dough offered as firstfruits is holy, then the whole batch is holy; if the root is holy, so are the branches. If some of the branches have been broken off, and you, though a wild olive shoot, have been grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing sap from the olive root, do not consider yourself to be superior to those other branches. If you do, consider this: You do not support the root, but the root supports you. [Rom 11:11-18]
Wendy and I recently watch an old classic movie “Mrs Miniver”. If you have not seen it I encourage you to check it out. It’s filmed black and white, but reflects the grey life before World War One in England in a middle class family.
The name sake of the film has a common fellow willing the contest with his rose that he has name name for his friend, Mrs Miniver.
It reminds me of my maternal grandmother. She too was industrious, compassionate, and resourceful like Mrs. Miniver. See loved raising and tending to roses, and often grafts prize roses into existing rose bushes to experiment with many varieties in her very small back yard.
The passage today is about the church being grafted into Jewish roots, through Christ, for the world whole world.
In the lifecycle of church denominations, social perspectives, and upheaval in government, we need to remember BOTH or roots and our opportunities.
Our roots are in Christ, what was the messiah for the Jews and the witness of Grace for the Gentiles. As I child I thought the Gentiles were just another geography group that. Attlee led with Israel, who must have come from the land aNd tribe of “Gentle.”
But Gentiles were not a tribe or separate government, but the category of ‘other’ compared to being Jewish. This there were those who children of Israel, and everyone else.
The olive tree was pruned to the roots and the church became the new branch that was grafted into the witness of God.
Paul’s words in chapter 11 are to both groups. Jews were called to trust and believe Jesus was their Messiah and the small group who did believe were joined with those non-Jewish, none children of Israel, who would now receive the blessing and benefits of the promise of God to Abraham, because they too believed Jesus was not just Messiah, but believed with their hearts that Jesus, is God in the flesh, offering grace and salvation for a future of living in God.
13-15)I am talking to you Gentiles. Inasmuch as I am the apostle to the Gentiles, I take pride in my ministry 14 in the hope that I may somehow arouse my own people to envy and save some of them. 15 For if their rejection brought reconciliation to the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead?
A. The new branch, has its life connected through the roots of promise, covenant, and faithfulness.. with the purpose to 1) trust with their hearts, as a 2) witness to BOTH Israel and the world.
B. The pruning of Israel was to make room for where faithfulness would bear fruit.
The prophetic word is that God’s plans will continue, will we be ACTIVELY LIVING, BELIEVING, AND TRUSTING part of the blessing and trust, OR will we be blind to the voices of the world and words of the faith.
The thing I learned about roses from my grandmother is that they need a great deal of nature and pruning. The basic bush would serve as the foundation of most any variety, but without pruning the old root would show return and graft would fade without continual growth and maturing.
Long after she moved from that house I returned and looked in the back to see if the roses were still there. None of the prize roses, in the wild runner were twisted thick together along the fences.
The message for us has two parts. Are we serving as the old stump for what is God is doing and Are we pruning that which is not glorifying God?
Most directly: we have two tasks 1) are we staying connected to the foundation of our faith, are we still trusting Christ promises and expectations, and 2) are we growing toward God’s witness in the world or just taking up nutrients from those who are bearing fruit for the kingdom of God?
What does that look like in my life: 1) we can’t be part of Christ’s work and be separated from scripture. And 2) we neither can we stay the way things were NOR male things our way just be different.
Here is the test? How are we reconciling the holding in to Christ with the call of the Spirit to follow as the wind?
How are we both holding fast and living grounded in God AND responding to an ever changing world in need of salvation and redemption?
The basics: we hold one hand in the hand and heart of God through Christ, while we extend the other to show and live for the world that faith in world that seeks salvation, wholeness, and answers that it will only satisfy when they too are connected to God, through us.
The problems we will face:
1. No matter who wins the election the division, hatred, and condemnation of our neighbors is incompatible with our faith in Christ.
2. No matter how the general conference votes next year, we are called to stand firm in God, with a world that is running from God and from each other.
3. No matter what we hear that we consider to be “news” it is incomplete and empty without the Good News of God’s grace in Christ.
4. The unity’s that God seeks is not by worlds measure, but by being United in God’s promises, blessing, and salvation.
Anything less than these and we too risk being blinded, hateful, divided, excluded,and lost.
We are putting no obstacle in anyone’s way, so that no fault may be found with our ministry, but as servants of God we have commended ourselves in every way: through great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, hunger; by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, holiness of spirit, genuine love, truthful speech, and the power of God; with the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left; in honor and dishonor, in ill repute and good repute. We are treated as impostors, and yet are true; as unknown, and yet are well known; as dying, and see—we are alive; as punished, and yet not killed; as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing everything. We have spoken frankly to you Corinthians; our heart is wide open to you. There is no restriction in our affections, but only in yours. In return—I speak as to children—open wide your hearts also. [2 COR. 6:3-18 NRSV]
The context for these words are for a time that salvation is needed.
When we have a year of locus in Africa, fires in Austria, flooding in China, global rise of earth quakes, global economic and political unrest, AND a pandemic and all its effects, this would be a GREAT time for some salvation! Am I right?
Paul is describing a time when the church is facing:
• sleepless nights,
Is this verse meant for today?
Our challenge by Paul is to live and operate by:
• holiness of spirit,
• genuine love,
• truthful speech, and
• the power of God”
The tools we use are “weapons of righteousness for
• the right hand and for the left;
• in honor and dishonor,
• in ill repute and good repute.
When we are faithful in living, thinking and behaving in these ways in response to our faith we can expect:
• Thank you?
• Ease from problems?
• No! This is the list we think and the world expects
The reality of believing, thinking and acting this way:
• We are treated as impostors, and yet are true;
• as unknown, and yet are well known;
• as dying, and see—we are alive;
• as punished, and yet not killed;
• as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing;
• as poor, yet making many rich;
• as having nothing, and yet possessing everything.
This is why we don’t always operate from these:
• holiness of spirit,
• genuine love,
• truthful speech, and
• the power of God”
And yet we wonder why we feel that:
• don’t see God at work,
• Why the church is facing division,
• And is cast off as irrelevant to the worlds agenda
Where do we correct our mission and faith with God’s gifts as our hope and treasures?
Purity comes from God, not ourselves
Knowledge comes from God not our creation
Patience is God’s work
Kindness, holiness, love, truth… all come from God
The challenge is to be filling “in God”,
• As the chaos and disorder,
• the darkness and distraction,
• the division and injustice
• All these are not good things,
• these are not life giving,
• these are not truth
• These are the fruit of seeking meaning without God
- Do not be yokes with unbelievers
- What do righteousness and wickedness have in common
- What fellowship can light have with darkness
- what harmony is there between Christ and Belial
- Or what does a believer have in common with an unbeliever?
- What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols?
For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said: “I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people.” Therefore, “Come out from them and be separate, says the Lord. Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you.” And, “I will be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty.”
[2 Cor 6:14-18: NRSA]
A Koinonia fellowship is at its strongest for the world when not dependent on the world.
Citizenship has been a treasure through history. The only reason Paul was not executed for the many things he did that were disobeying the Roman laws was that his citizenship provided him some measure of due process under the law.
But Paul is discussing a dual citizenship that we balance. When we try to serve two master and they are in agreement everything appears to be good, but when our worldly citizenship conflicts with our heavenly citizenship, and we are not choosing God, we are ultimately choosing chaos and death.
Don’t hear my words as the freedom to be disobedient. Recall the list of choosing Gods ways over the worlds ways:
• purity, – without sin, how other than Christ?
• knowledge, – make a brain and order the universe first
• patience, – how many years has God been patience with us
• kindness, – mercy is being kind when not deserved
• holiness of spirit, – we are not holy without God
• genuine love, – unconditional, not self serving love
• truthful speech, and – truth threat comprehends the above
• the power of God”. Our only answer
It begins in the awareness that we out of bounds (in sin relation)
That following prayer and confession
That follow repentance and change of thinking and behaving
That follows aligning with God and not with the world when there is disagreement with God
We are an society of achievement, wealth, and power…
We are quick to give loyalty to whose who have the greatest
And we trade for God.
I have been surrounded by this pass for the past two weeks:
(Not just the familiar vs 14)
2 Chronicles 7: 14 if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, pray, seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land. 15 Now my eyes will be open and my ears attentive to the prayer that is made in this place. 16 For now I have chosen and consecrated this house so that my name may be there forever; my eyes and my heart will be there for all time. 17 As for you, if you walk before me, as your father David walked, doing according to all that I have commanded you and keeping my statutes and my ordinances, 18 then I will establish your royal throne, as I made covenant with your father David saying, “You shall never lack a successor to rule over Israel.’ 19 “But if you turn aside and forsake my statutes and my commandments that I have set before you, and go and serve other gods and worship them, 20 then I will pluck you up from the land that I have given you; and this house, which I have consecrated for my name, I will cast out of my sight, and will make it a proverb and a byword among all peoples. 21 And regarding this house, now exalted, everyone passing by will be astonished, and say, “Why has the Lord done such a thing to this land and to this house?’ 22 Then they will say, “Because they abandoned the Lord the God of their ancestors who brought them out of the land of Egypt, and they adopted other gods, and worshiped them and served them; therefore he has brought all this calamity upon them.’ “
We cannot say we have not been warned?
Do you want to show the world our only hope and salvation?
• holiness of spirit,
• genuine love,
• truthful speech, and
• the power of God”
Do you want to hand over our salvation to technology, governments, and the dreams of worldly leaders? Then count on even more
Who do we serve because they are holy, knowing, patient, merciful, genuine, love and filled with divine power over the universe?
Who will you serve?
Who will we serve come Sunday afternoon? And M-S?
The answer is too simple:
The prayer for every day – throughout the day and night.
This is our hope and strength
This is what God is wait for from the whole world:
“Lord have mercy on me a sinner.”
“Model and make my life your today, for your will.”
“You are my hope and salvation”
“I forsake, yield and give back to the world what is the worlds”
“Use my life today for your work and witness”
We must first be in Christ to focus on the world else we are blind to the worl
keep fighting, crying, dividing and dying.
It remains our choice… isn’t God patient? Good?
Hand over the reigns of your heart, and soul, and strength
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.
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.
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!