Sunday, January 27, 2013

Disciple-Making in the Body of Christ

Third Sunday after the Epiphany
1 Corinthians 12:12-31
Nehemiah 8:1-10

• The church is a body, a unit, with a common goal. 
Our body’s common goal, our purpose is 
to reach out to all people with the love of Christ and to make growing, living disciples of Jesus Christ.

How? Disciple making is hard, and not accidental (but planned)
and not the work of one but the work of many (body)

• God has placed workers in the body… here as 1 Cor 12:18. There are always a few faithful ones ready to lead, ready to build the body.

It takes working together, as leaders and participants.

It takes risking self, getting uncomfortable. And it is worth it.

We owe a debt of gratitude to Nehemiah, b/c the public reading and interpreting of God’s word, which is central to so many worship services, has its roots in today’s passage from Nehemiah. Although somehow the reading and interpreting has gone down from the original six hours...

• An outline of what's been going on in the book of Nehemiah:

* People are returned to land from exile. Nehemiah is a governor under a foreign king. Neh finds out that the walls of his holy city are in ruins, and he weeps. Prays to God in confession and repentance and seeking favor. 

* And now chapter 8: they ask for the reading of the law.

* Receives leave from his boss to fix the walls.

* Gets there and people catch his vision and work day and night, giving of themselves and their resources, working with all their heart, praying with all their might to rebuild God’s city.

* Completed in 52 days. 

* God is glorified, enemies are frightened because of the display of God’s power. People return to the holy city. 

• They ask for the law and its reading causes them to weep. Scripture doesn’t specify why they weep, although mourning is mentioned.
(we weep at birth, wonderful. Death, powerful. Found if lost. God is like parent too, weeps for us in love and compassion and joy as well.

• God has placed workers in the body… There are always a few faithful ones ready to lead, a few Nehemiahs and Ezras, ready to build the body, for the glory of God.

It takes the community reading and interpreting the word of God, and worshiping and acting.

• Pray for people of surrounding area. May God move in us to move among community in ministry, not waiting for them to come here to hear word but to go there bearing word, buoyed by unity and discipline, ready to make disciples. With help of God.

• Hymn 52 O God Our Help in Ages Past

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Whaddya Say?

Second Sunday after the Epiphany
Isaiah 62:1-5

• Monday (1/14/13) there was an Amber Alert in Pennsylvania; a 5yo girl taken from school in Philly. Amber Alert went out on phones, email. The info went out. Prayers went up. Tuesday morning 5am the girl Nailla was found in a park by a passerby and taken into safe hands.

Two popular ways to share information these days are Facebook and Twitter. (200 million monthly users of Twitter, 340 million tweets per day. Facebook over a billion users)

Connection. What would you share right now? Status updates and tweets. Amber alerts. Weather, news, mundane, important. WWYP? 

• Isaiah 62:1 I won’t keep silent, I won’t sit still. Prophet has word of God, will not hide under a bushel, will not sit on it, will be obedient to God, will share word of God.

And today’s is word of hope, word of encouragement.

รจ    Use your resources and connections. Be connected. Communicate hope.
Listen for what God is speaking in your life, & don’t sit on it.

• Raise your hand if there are skeletons in your closet ;)  
Now, who wants to share? Who has something in their history makes you want to hide your face?

The priest who did Grandpa Joe’s funeral… near fifty but just became a priest about four years ago. Said he’d done about everything there was to do. When complimented that it was too bad he hadn’t been a priest longer, he responded he wouldn’t be the priest he is if he had… he had gone through some dark times and had been saved from those dark times.

We talk about forgiveness of sins, and salvation, about eternity with God, but we would do well to think on the fact that when God redeems us we are freed from our history, freed from our shame. Trading our sorrows, trading our shame, laying them down.

Everybody has some shame. Though it can feel like yours is worse or somehow more indelible, or that people will treat you differently, my experience is that sharing does not lead to shame or ostracism but renewal.

Porn, substance abuse, sexual history, teen rebellion. Leave that in the past. Even if (especially if) you’re active right now. Leave it.

• Isaiah 62:4a You will no longer be called Abandoned, Deserted. 
You will no longer be called (whatever it is you would hide).

• Isaiah 62:4b You will be called My Delight Is In Her. Married.
We talked about this last week. 
God delights in you (your picture is in God’s wallet). 
God delights in you, God renews you, restores you.

In Methodist lingo 
God justifies (sets you right) 
and sanctifies (nurtures growth in holiness in you).

• What’s my point? Take ’em in reverse order: 
God justifies & sanctifies you, 
cleans you & obliterates your shame, 
delights in you… 

so don’t hold back, 
hear and bear the word of God. 
Tell about it. 
Use your resources. 
We’ve a story to tell.

• Hymn 296 We've A Story to Tell to the Nations

Sunday, January 13, 2013

I Will Be With You

Baptism of the Lord Sunday
Luke 3:21-22, Acts 8:14-17, Isaiah 43:1-7

Dedication of Cody.
Baptism of Derrick.

• I read a statistic that said there are over two billion Christians in the world – that’s nearly a third of the world – and there are about a billion Catholics in the world,
and about a third of the world’s Christians live in the Americas.

Some folks will hear those statistics and be amazed (started with 12), some excited that there’s so many Christians, some will say we’ve got a lot of work to do.

          And as long as there have been people following Christ, there have been differences in belief and practice. People hear the same words and respond to them differently, people encounter God in different ways and come to different conclusions about how the Bible is to be interpreted and how the life of faith carried out.

          I want to talk a little bit about denominations.  I read one figure that said there were over 40,000 denominations. That’s 40K divisions in the body of Christ, and I think a good number of those divisions happen over one of two questions:

what is believed, and who has authority.

What happens in communion, who may partake, who may celebrate, what happens in baptism, who may receive, who may perform, those are some questions of belief.

Who can be a pastor, who can ordain a pastor, who can define exactly what it is the church believes and practices, who owns the church building, those are some questions of authority.

• One of the largest and earliest divisions in the church happened about a thousand years ago, and had to do with both belief and authority. Churches in east and southeast Europe held that the bishop of the church in Rome was “first among equals” – that is, the pope did not have authority over other regional bishops – and churches in central and west Europe believed the bishop of the church in Rome DID have authority over other bishops. This question of authority was a major contributor to the splitting of the church into the RCC and the EOC.

          Another major contributor to this split had to do with a question of belief, specifically the origin of the Holy Spirit. In the East, they said the HS comes from the Father, and in the West, from the Father AND the Son. And the church divided.

• You may think those are petty reasons for the church to be divided, but who has authority and what is believed have caused thousands of divisions.

          By the way, I’m not sure all church divisions are bad, or that denominations are upsetting, any more than there are different kinds of music and sports and food and you get the point. There is a kind of beauty in diversity, and there is certainly beauty when groups that differ on specifics can celebrate the things they have in common.

“In essentials, unity; 
   in non-essentials, liberty; 
   in all things, charity”

• Some unique things about The UMC, by the way: who has authority? In all official matters of doctrine and church law, the clergy and the laity have equal voice, and we have elected bishops who oversee the churches of a region; the bishops are co-equals. The property, by the way, though it is bought and paid for by the local congregation, belongs to the conference.

• And now baptism. One of the questions surrounding baptism is who should be baptized. Should baptism be reserved for individuals who can make a choice, or can infants be baptized. The UMC is one of many denominations that teach infant baptism… basically, it’s “allowed” as recognition that God’s redemptive work in Christ is available to all, including infants.

          AND there are people who hold that baptism is the individual’s profession of faith, and just as Mary and Joseph presented Jesus in the Temple as a baby, some parents choose to dedicate their children, allowing them to choose baptism when they’re old enough to make that decision on their own.

          The hope and prayer of “both kinds” is that the dedicated or baptized child will someday profess their own faith in God. Parents and congregations then work together to teach and disciple.

• In all of this, we as people seek to know God better, to discern God’s will while recognizing that God is bigger than any of our human understandings and that we are utterly unable to fully define or understand God. We cannot put God in a box, and when we try, we take away from the fullness of God.

• From today’s scripture lessons we take this:
   -              That God delights in people.
          The Shack: "I am especially fond of that one."
          If God had a refrigerator, your picture would be on it.
          God delights in his son, Jesus, and God delights in all his children.

   -              God works through people (Acts 8, the disciples, also parents and cong.)
          God works in people (bringing us to faith)

   -              God gives the HS to empower faithful living

   -              God chose and chooses, God promised and promises to be with us. Always.

• Maybe you’d like to make a commitment to God, to embrace the life that He has planned for you, maybe you’d like to know more about Jesus and how it is that he gives salvation, maybe you recognize the bad in your life and don’t know how but you want to leave it behind you. You can tell God you’re ready to take the next step, you want to receive forgiveness, you want to receive the Holy Spirit, you want to walk in newness of life… (pray) (if you prayed, talk to me or someone near you, or write a note… )

• praise team: Prince of Peace