|Video introduction (1) “Memories” from sermonspice.com
(2) This is a day for many different types of memories and this morning we are going hear from several different persons directly and indirectly, about their mothers and what they mean to them.
But first here are some additional quotes, discovered in my research this week, which impressed me… (3)
(3A) There is an old English proverb which says, ‘He that would the daughter win must with the mother first begin.’
(3B) Then a couple of Jewish proverbs that say, ‘A mother understands what a child does not say.’
(3C) and, ‘God couldn’t be everywhere, so he created mothers.’
(3D) Finally, there is this Spanish proverb that really caught my attention, ‘An ounce of mother is worth a pound of clergy.’
(In light of this piece of wisdom, I will be bringing a recommendation to our annual business meeting to hire Susan and my mom as associate pastors of the church…)
In our main text this morning, we hear some very important things that give us perspective, and, I think, a suitable introduction to our guest speakers today…
(4) Charm is deceptive, and beauty does not last; but a woman who fears the Lord will be greatly praised. Reward her for all she has done. Let her deeds publicly declare her praise.
(4A) Charm is deceptive
I have been reading book on Abraham Lincoln and when Mary Todd Lincoln has been mentioned it has often been noted that the often believed view that she was distant, moody, and just plain snooty by some, was just as often proven wrong when one met Mrs. Lincoln in person. However, we are also reminded from the historical record that Mary became a very depressed and moody woman as time passed during Lincoln’s presidency especially after the tragic death of one of their sons.
Good manners and politeness are always in good taste yet one can be charming and deceptive at the same time. In Proverbs 11:16 we read, ‘Beautiful women obtain wealth, and violent men get rich.’
Character counts for something even in these days and we are going to hear in a moment just how much it does count in some women whose character and faith runs deep within them.
(4B) Beauty does not last
When I was in seminary I remember hearing one of my professors, in a discussion about love, commitment, and sexual intimacy remind teenagers and young adults of both sexes to visit a nursing or retirement home and realize that the beauty of youth will fade while real love lasts and is often seen in the love and care given by one spouse for another.
Keeping ourselves neat and clean is still good policy for living with others at home, at work, at school, and in our community. But, all of the botox and Clearasil and liposuction will not keep the inevitable sags and bags at bay forever. If you have gone to a High School class reunion you know what I am talking about.
Last Sunday I led a brief Bible study and discussion at one of the local nursing homes and we concluded our time together by singing Amazing Grace a cappella. As I looked around the table at those who had come (and we had a very good discussion) I saw beauty at its best in the concentration, the graying hair, and yes the wrinkles because of the next part of verse 30…
(4C) …but a woman who fears the Lord will be greatly praised.
In a recent survey done by the Barna Research Group out of California, it was noted that ‘women who are raising children are among the most faith-minded and spiritually active segments of the American population.’ It goes on to say, ‘the study shows that more than three-quarters of moms identify “family” to be their highest priority. At the same time, a majority of mothers strongly agree that their faith is very important in their life.’
Charm fades, beauty comes and goes, but when a woman develops a faith in God which nurtures and sustains her, there is honor in that and today we have some guest speakers who will share with us the honor they have for their mothers.
Now last week I indicated that I was going to honor moms today in a very sweet way… yes with sweets…now if you cannot have sweets I understand that… but share your sweet with sweetness today…
A recent article at Yahoo News on May 2nd, shared the results of a survey and research from salary.com a Waltham, Massachusetts-based compensation company compiled from the online responses of 26,000 stay-at-home mothers and 14,000 mothers who also work outside the home.’ Here is what it found.
‘If the typical stay-at-home mother in the United States were paid for her work as a housekeeper, cook and psychologist among other roles, she would earn $138,095 a year.
This reflected a 3 percent raise from last year’s $134,121.
The 10 jobs listed as comprising a mother’s work were housekeeper, cook, day care center teacher, laundry machine operator, van driver, facilities manager, janitor, computer operator, chief executive officer and psychologist, it said. The typical mother puts in a 92-hour work week, working 40 hours at base pay and 52 hours overtime.
A mother who holds full-time job outside the home would earn an additional $85,939 for the work she does at home. Last year she would have earned $85,876 for her at-home work, it said.’
(5) Now it was my intent to find some of the 100 grand candy bars and make sure that all moms left with two so that you, in a sense, had 200 hundred grand as a way of symbolizing the value of your work. But I could not find enough of them. So moms, as you leave this morning, I have several bags of candy and you are encouraged…
…no I take that back, you are required to take at least 2 pieces of your own choosing. It is for you… and as a simple thank you for your important role and work.
But I also want to pray for you this morning because your role in your family’s life is so very, very important no matter what your children’s ages are. I am going to ask all moms to come forward to conclude this portion of worship with a time of corporate prayer…
Yahoo story, is from the May 2, 2007 web posting, at http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20070502/us_nm/work_mothers_dc;_ylt=AoPqh9lxLkP9Yg78X91uS5sXIr0F as reported by Ellen Wulfhorst.
|2 Kings 22:8-22:11|
|(1) As we conclude our current series, ‘The Church that You and God Have Always Wanted,’ we are treated one last time to some classic bulletin bloopers. (2) Today’s focus is on preachers and guest speakers.
(2A) The Rev. Merriweather spoke briefly, much to the delight of the audience.
(2B) During the absence of our pastor, we enjoyed the rare privilege of hearing a good sermon when J. F. Stubbs supplied our pulpit.
(3A) Barbara C. remains in the hospital and needs blood donors for more transfusions. She is also having trouble sleeping and requests tapes of Pastor Jack’s sermons.
(3B) We have received word of sudden passing of Rev. Smith this morning during the worship service. Now let’s sing “Praise God from Whom All Blessings Flow.”
(4) Finally, this is my absolute favorite blooper and I will try to read through it…
(4A) Missionary from Africa speaking at Calvary Memorial Church in Racine. Name: Bertha Belch. Announcement: Come tonight and hear Bertha Belch all the way from Africa”.
The challenge now is ‘how we do transition out of that?’ Let’s try a brief history lesson! (5)
In 1963 President Kennedy took a trip to West Berlin during which he uttered the famous line, ‘I am a Berliner’ while standing in front of the infamous Berlin Wall that divided Berlin into two cities.
This was at a time Germany was a divided nation. The western part of Berlin, like the western part of Germany was democratic and held free elections. The eastern part of Germany (and the eastern part of Berlin) was occupied by the Soviet Union (now Russia) and was a Communist state with little freedoms. In 1987, 24 years after JFK’s trip, President Reagan likewise made a trip to West Berlin and uttered the famous line, ‘Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!’
That wall kept families apart and created two different Germanys. One prospered and grew while the other held its population in check through force and coercion. Today however, the wall has come down, Berlin was reunited and so was Germany.
This morning we conclude our series with an honest look at some walls and barriers that I believe causes churches to become less effective. The purpose in thinking about this issue is that God wants the church, our church, any church to grow and be alive in Him and through Him!
In our main text for this morning we read of a leader who realizes (6) that the past has an effect on the present and the future. The book of 2 Kings opens with the death of King Ahaz one of, if not the most, evil of Israel’s kings, and the division of Israel which takes place about 40 years after Solomon becomes king.
Two kingdoms, a Northern Kingdom called Israel, and a Southern Kingdom called Judah were created after Solomon’s death. Israel lasted 209 years after Solomon’s reign and Judah lasted 345 years after his reign before both were invaded and conquered by the ancient nation of Assyria.
As we read through the book of 2 Kings there are two repetitive phrases that we need to take note of. The first is actually two different phrases that describe the character of the King based on how he responded to the spiritual leadership his position required.
The first phrase is (6A) ‘he did what was evil in the sight of the Lord.’ The second phrase is (6B) ‘he did what was right in the sight of the Lord.’
It is interesting to note that one of the comments I read in an introduction to the book of 2 Kings indicated that only 20 percent of the kings of Israel and Judah’s followed the Lord and did was right in His sight. And the King that we are going to look at this morning was one of the 20 percent and one of only two kings in both kingdoms that were called good.
His name was Josiah and in the opening verses of 2 Kings 22 we read, ‘Josiah was eight years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem thirty-one years. His mother was Jedidah, the daughter of Adaiah from Bozkath. He did what was pleasing in the Lord’s sight and followed the example of his ancestor David. He did not turn aside from doing what was right.’
Now the episode that we heard read a few moments ago takes place about 18 years into Josiah’s reign when he is about 26 years of age and he orders that the funds collected from the people at the Temple be used for the rebuilding of the Temple.
When Josiah’s aides arrive, the chief priest or head pastor, Hilkiah, tells them, “I have found the Book of the Law in the Lord’s Temple!” He then hands the scroll to the aides who return with it to Josiah and one of them, Shaphan, reads it to him.
Now we don’t know what part was read to Josiah but do know its effect on him, ‘When the king heard what was written in the Book of the Law, he tore his clothes in despair.’ He then orders his aids and the chief priest to ‘Go to the Temple and speak to the Lord for me and for the people and for all Judah. Ask him about the words written in this scroll that has been found. The Lord’s anger is burning against us because our ancestors have not obeyed the words in this scroll. We have not been doing what this scroll says we must do.’
To tear one’s clothes was not a sign of fashion rejection. It was an act of mourning and sadness and act of repentance. I wonder what Josiah heard. Was it the First Commandment, ‘Do not worship any other gods beside me?’ I think that we have an idea as we go to verse 17 where the Lord says through the prophet Huldah, ‘For my people have abandoned me and worshiped pagan gods, and I am very angry with them for everything they have done. My anger is burning against this place, and it will not be quenched.’
But the Lord goes on to say through Huldah that because of Josiah’s humility and repentance that God would not bring the punishment to Judah until after Josiah’s death. It is very evident by his actions that Josiah was troubled to the bottom of his heart and soul by what he had read and realized that God needed to be brought into the picture again. And I believe that that what brought Josiah to a place of trembling fear and repentance is that he realized, through God’s spirit, that the nation needed more than a renovated house of worship it need a renovated people who would allow the Lord to break down the walls and barriers that brought them to the place where they were – in dire need of revival and renovation.
But there is more to the story in chapter 23 which we need to hear before I share some application. Josiah gathers all the leaders and the people of Judah and Jerusalem and leads them to the Temple.
There he reads the book of the law to the entire population of Judah and he publicly renews the Covenant in the presence of the Lord and all the people. He pledged ‘to keep all of the commands, regulations, and laws with all his heart and soul’ as we read in 2 Kings 23:3.
But there is more. Josiah ordered: (7)
• (7A) Removal of pagan worship items. Worship utterly against the commandments and covenant give to Moses and the people was taking place in the Temple.
• (7B) Removal of pagan priests.
• (7C) Return of the true priests to their assignment.
• (7D) He did it nationwide. With other kings, some took down the pagan worship sites in other parts of Judah but not like Josiah did.
What Josiah did, as well as what he did not do, is the other repetitive phrase in this book. (8)
• (8A) He removed the pagan shrines
• He did not remove the pagan shrines
The judgment that is being passed on the kings whose stories are being told in this book is centered on one thing – their relationship with God and their worship practices based on that relationship. The majority of them failed on this matter.
Some had a relationship with God but they did not get rid of the pagan worship shrines (or worship sites). Others had a relationship with God and they did get rid of some of the idols and shrines but not all of them like Josiah did. Most had no relationship with the Lord and did horrible things. Therefore a collective wall of guilt and alienation was being built over the centuries that finally results in the loss of their freedom, homeland, and their relationship with God. Their past was having an effect on their present and their future.
This leads me to my main point this morning. If we want to have the church that we and God have always wanted, then we need to ask ourselves, (9) ‘What are the walls that we have built which need to come down?
Let me share some that I have observed.
(10) The first is one that I must admit to having help build.
(10A) It is the wall of over commitment. I have been very active in our community and in our state and national ministries in my time here in Kendallville. That will continue. However, my commitments will be far less as many come to an end over the summer.
I see many of us running helter-skelter with our kids and even our own personal schedules. Being busy is one thing – but being over committed is something else. Where do we need to start saying ‘no’ in order to say ‘yes’ to God? And I would remind us of what Mike Yaconelli said, ‘What keeps many of us from growing is not sin but speed.’
(10B) The second wall is the opposite of the first wall. It is the wall of under commitment. I am very concerned about burnout in us and I believe that it is the Lord’s desire that all of us have a place of ministry for as I said last week we believe that being born again makes you a member of the church and that membership has a responsibility for serving in line with your gifts, talents, and, quite frankly, level of spiritual maturity. I know that there are other vital responsibilities to family and work that we must fulfill and I am not asking that those responsibilities be shirked. But I am concerned that a small group of people do the majority of ministry in this church.
(10C) I believe that this next wall is a wall that allows the wall of under commitment to be built as well. It is the wall of disablement. For reasons that I will share in a moment, I believe that there has been a spirit of disablement in this congregation over the years. And by disablement I mean a discouragement that causes one to give up and feel that ‘I can’t do anything for the Lord.’
Now I believe that there are Biblical standards for leaders that must be kept in place when asking people to serve in some very important roles in the church such as the ministry council. But, what I am getting at is a belief that says, ‘I am not good enough. I can’t.’ That is not true! This church is as just as capable of having a wonderful ministry in our community as the larger churches are. We have got to believe in ourselves and trust God to help us step out in faith to accomplish new ministries.
Please understand me this morning as I share this because I know that there are often factors beyond our control, health being one of them, that keep us from active participation. There are seasons of life when circumstances change and active participation is not as possible. But, if we have been born again, then we need to believe that because we are redeemed and forgiven child of God, there is a place of ministry that God has for us to fill. We do matter! We are not insignificant! We are significant.
Before I share the final wall, there is a story, a true story, about the Church of God that illustrates some of this.
90 years ago, blacks and whites worshipped together at Anderson Camp Meeting and elsewhere much to the anger of those who thought such things should not happen. In 1917 a group of white pastors (and I have this on very good authority) complained to the church leaders about having to accommodate the worship styles of our black brothers and sisters plus the comments they were getting from whites they knew in the area. The result, and from what I understand, it was a somewhat mutual decision, was that the blacks were encouraged to start their own camp meeting which they did in 1923 in Western Pennsylvania.
Fast forward 80 years to 1997. A new national organizational structure was voted in and with it came a need for some new leaders. A movement to include all aspects of the church, black, white, Hispanic, etc was launched to have representation of suitable candidates from all segments of the church. It stalled in large part, as I understand it, because of what happened in 1917. At a visioning conference in 1998 all of this came out and our newly elected General Director realized that there needed to be reconciliation and so he went to our brothers and sisters in Western PA during their camp meeting and apologized for the actions of 1917. The result was that racial reconciliation and healing began to take place in the church.
The wall that I speak of is (10D) the wall of the sins of the fathers’.
This morning I stand before you nearly 7 years since we first met and I came to be your pastor and I stand before you with an awareness and a belief that a confession of the sins of the primary spiritual leader of this church (the pastors) must be made.
As I make this confession, please understand that I do not point fingers at any one of those who have preceded me here. It is not my intent to judge but to confess those things that I know are true based on the history of this church as told to me by various people over the past 6 plus years.
The first thing that I confess, is our sin of verbal abuse. I know in things that I have read and heard that mean and hateful words have come from some of the lips of those who have stood in this pulpit. Words have the power to heal and the power to wound. I ask for your forgiveness for the verbal abuse you have endured in your history.
The second sin is our sin of rigidity and over control. A very prominent citizen in our community (who will remain nameless) told me several years ago that one of us came to his home and chewed out his father for not being at church and giving as he should. I ask for your forgiveness for our rigidity and over control that has wounded you and others.
The third sin that must be confessed is our sexual sin. I know that one of us had an affair with a church member many years ago. It was wrong and it fractured two families and this congregation. I ask for your forgiveness for our sexual sin that has caused great pain and sorrow.
We have not often been good shepherds. We have failed; to care, to love, to understand. I ask for your forgiveness.
For some of us the phrase ‘sins of the fathers’ means something else. It means the memory and the emotional scars that have come with an abusive father or the lack of spiritual interest or understanding that came with living with a spiritually disinterested father. Maybe it means the inability to understand and deal with the emotions because of an emotionally distant father. As a father, and even a husband, I stand before you today and confess these sins as well and I ask for your forgiveness.
Now some of you might be saying, ‘What is going on here, Jim?’ Is there a problem in the church that we need to know about?
Since the first of this year I have been very concerned about the health of our church. We did have a hard winter this year making travel and keeping good health difficult. Many of us have had longer hours at work or shorter or both within a short period of time.
In January I shared that I sensed that there was a great deal of pain in our hearts and lives and invited us to come to the altar for prayer. We packed the altar. I have not forgotten that Sunday.
As we moved into the season of Lent, I spent a great deal of time in prayer asking the Lord to show me what He wanted me to address in my life and what He wanted me to preach following Easter. I was led to give up some hobbies for Lent and as I did so, there was space for the Lord who began to speak to me about my own woundedness and sin and my spiritual health in general.
In my prayer and reading during that time I began to believe that I needed to address our heart because of the January service and as I began to read and prayer and think some more, I sensed that we needed to have our congregational heart healed of the wounds of the past. I also think that there maybe reasons that have yet to be revealed to us.
Now to bring closure to this series we need to believe that if we want the church that we and God have always wanted we need to answer the following question (11), ‘What is our assignment?’ with the following answer. It is… to fully follow and to faithfully function… so that… we come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature and full grown in the Lord, measuring up to the full stature of Christ.’
(12) It is to move from being a spectator to being a seeker to being a follower to being a kingdom builder in the words of Gordon MacDonald. Where are you at in your life journey right now as it relates to this area of your life?
To conclude this sermon I address the second question I asked a moment ago, ‘Is there a problem in the church that we need to know about?’ I don’t think so… but I do believe this… we need to ask ourselves, (13) ‘What do we as a church need to confess?’ Are there attitudes and actions toward one other, towards those outside this congregation, toward previous pastors, maybe previous pastor’s wives, that need to be confessed and perhaps made right in some way?
This is something that cannot be done right away or should be done without much prayer and preparation. But this morning I think that we can begin this process of repentance with a simple action that all of us can participate in.
In your bulletin is a blank sticky note. (At least I hope that it is still blank). For the next few moments, I am going to invite you, as a member of this congregation, to bring your blank sticky note and place it on this cross and then return to your seat.
There is a Biblical precedent for this and it is found in Leviticus 16 which describes the ceremony for the day of atonement. Two goats were used for the atonement of the people’s sins. One is slaughtered, sacrificed and the other is let go into the wilderness. Do you know what it is called? The scapegoat!
By pasting our sticky notes (you can write on them if you want to) on the cross we are say, ‘We are confessing our sins as a church. We are letting go of our right to keep holding others’ sins against them. We are letting go of our scapegoats.’
What is the Holy Spirit saying to us today? Let us hear Him and let us obey His direction. Amen.
Bulletin bloopers can be found at
Yaconelli quote is from his book, Messy Spirituality.
|(1) Yesterday, mom and I attended a second cousin’s wedding in Lafayette. During the ceremony they took communion but did so without the help of the pastor.
As they did so I was reminded of a wedding that I performed here a couple of years ago. The couple asked for communion as part of the ceremony and when it came time for communion, I turned to the communion table that was place behind me, and… no communion!
I was embarrassed by the situation and I ended up returning $20.00 of my fee to them for the mistake.
I was also recently sent a video clip of a baptismal service in which a child decided to cannonball himself into the baptistery. It was featured I believe on one of the national video TV shows.
He got the pastor soaked, the pastor’s Bible soaked, the side of the baptistery soaked, and I believe some of the platform furniture soaked as well! It took a while for the laughter to die down.
Then there are those well circulated bulletin bloopers that cause a good chuckle as well. (2) Food announcements can be re-written and cause quite a chuckle. This one appeared probably appeared in the weekly calendar section of the bulletin:
(2A) Thursday night: Potluck Supper – Prayer and medication will follow.
We had a good Easter breakfast a few weeks ago (thanks men!) but aren’t we glad that this request did not get printed in the bulletin: (2B) The Pastor would appreciate it if the ladies of the congregation would lend him their electric girdles for the pancake breakfast next Sunday morning.
One of the most important things that a church can do to reach out to the community is provide space for support groups. However, I don’t think that this next announcement is a good way to get the point across!
(2C) Low Self-Esteem Support Group will meet Thursday at 7 to 8:30 p.m. Please use the back door.
As we begin this series, I remind us that the Lord loves, as unique and important individuals and as a unique and important congregation.
This series comes of out a significant time of prayer, reading, and reflection over the past several months. It comes, I believe directly from God’s heart and desire for us as the First Church of God. It also comes out of the Easter season and my pastoral concern and desire that we need to live in the power of Christ’s resurrection each and everyday as both individual believers and as a local congregation.
This series is designed to help us prayerfully consider who God is calling us to be as the First Church of God in Kendallville, Indiana. To help us begin our prayerful consideration, here is a clip that I found quite helpful for us to consider who we are and who God wants us to be. As we view it this morning, please reflect on the ideas and questions presented in it. (3) (The clip ‘Who Are We’ from sermonspice.com was used here.)
Over the next three weeks, I want us to keep in mind the following questions raised in the clip:
(4) Who are we?
(4A) What is our assignment?
(4B) Where is God at work right now?
(4C) What are we good at?
(4D) What’s the next step?
Each of these questions are important ones to ask and we will answer them, directly and indirectly in the next three weeks. But the question we begin with this morning is question number 2. What is our assignment? (5)
I believe that the starting point in answering that question begins with our main text for this morning. (5A) ‘For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so that we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.’ Notice the underlined sentence, ‘He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so that we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.’
There are two key separate but equally important statements in this sentence. (6) The first is the basis for the second. ‘He has created us anew in Christ Jesus.’
This is a foundational statement upon which our identity as believers is built. Neil T. Anderson has clarified this ‘newness’ with three important declarations:
1. (6A) I am accepted In Christ
2. I am secure in Christ
3. I am significant in Christ
Three of the most important needs we have as human beings are in the three descriptive words of each statement – acceptance, security, and significance. All of need to feel accepted, to feel secure in the love and care of another, and to feel that we are significant. But beyond just feeling these things, we need to experience all of these things and we can, and do, when we are made anew, born again by the confession of our sin and the acceptance of God’s forgiveness through Christ. We are new people. Only Jesus can make us truly feel and believe that we are accepted, secure, and significant.
But He also has brought the church into existence to spread the Word of acceptance, security, and significance that comes through saving faith and trust in Christ. This is where the second phrase comes in to play. It is the operational statement in this verse. (7)
How do the two tie together? We have a cause and effect here. The new creation of us, our being born again, makes it possible for us to do the good things that God planned long ago for each one of us here and as part of this church.
I believe with all of my heart, that God knew what He was doing and still wants to do, when He allowed this church to start in 1943. (8) I recently found out that the starting pastor of our church, Rev. Cecil Asbury, started our sister churches in Stroh and Ashley before he came here to Kendallville. But what God wanted, and still wants, this church to be is what He decided long ago it should be. And what He has decided this church to be is a group of growing people and I say growing because becoming the masterpiece that God created both us individually and as a congregation to be is an on-going process.
Now, I want us to look at the cover of our bulletin this morning. There is a phrase on it that has been on our newsletter and letterhead. What does it say?
(9) ‘A fully following and faithfully functioning church’
This is the kind of church that I believe God wants to help us grow to become. What does this phrase mean? How does it fit in with our question, ‘What is our assignment?’ This phrase indicates our assignment which is two-fold: to ‘fully follow’ and to ‘faithfully function’ as God’s people.
To fully follow starts with (9A) being ‘created anew in Christ Jesus.’ Our initial need is a spiritual reorientation. We studied the basics of that reorientation during Lent when we spent time with Nicodemus and Jesus in John 3.
(10) However, Gordon MacDonald has provided a very clear set of descriptors in understanding what it means to fully follow the Lord.
(10A) The first descriptor is spectator. MacDonald notes that there many spectators around Jesus because they were curious about what He had to say and offer. They were part of the crowds that Jesus encountered. Some were vocal in their expressed interest but most of them probably were not.
(10B) The second descriptor is seeker. It is noted by MacDonald that seekers appear in places like John 6 where Jesus, as he puts it, ‘tightened the screws of commitment and the spectators bailed.’ Seekers remained and were very interested in everything about Jesus.
(10C) The third descriptor is follower. This is where a line is crossed. This is where, as MacDonald says, ‘the acquisition of saving faith’ takes place.
(10D) The fourth descriptor is kingdom builder. These are people who are more than just follow Jesus they become, as our guide tells us, ‘proactive.’ They make things, God things, happen.
As we read through John 6 we see that not everyone wants to become a follower or even a kingdom builder. In verses 26 through 29, Jesus says, “The truth is, you want to be with me because I fed you, not because you saw the miraculous sign. But you shouldn’t be so concerned about perishable things like food. Spend your energy seeking the eternal life that I, the Son of Man, can give you. For God the Father has sent me for that very purpose.” They replied, “What does God want us to do?” Jesus told them, “This is what God wants you to do: Believe in the one he has sent.”
The context of this statement comes as the crowds of John 6, we read, crissed-crossed the Sea of Galilee seeking Jesus the next day after He performed the feeding of the 5,000. They loved Jesus. He was something else. But, Jesus knew that many if not most of them were interested in what He could do for them instead of believing and experiencing what He had come to earth to provide them.
And His statement we have just read caused a prolonged discussion about what constitutes the true source of satisfaction in life and eventually, as we get to verse 66, ‘At this point many of his disciples turned away and deserted him.’ The spectators left, some of the seekers stayed, most probably left, even some of His followers decided that Jesus’ requirements were too high and too hard and they left.
But a few of them, who were kingdom builders in the making, stayed as we notice in the closing verses of the chapter. “Lord, to whom would we go? You alone have the words that give eternal life. We believe them, and we know you are the Holy One of God.”
I remind us this morning that Jesus loves us, all of us. But if we are going to become the church that we (and God) have always wanted to become, we need to embrace the goal, individually and congregationally, of becoming kingdom builders because that is what Jesus wants us all to become.
There are two decision points in this chart (really there are more than that) but two that are important when it comes to fulfilling God’s vision for this church. The first decision point comes when we make the choice (10E) to move from being a seeker to a follower. That is probably the most important choice point. To make that decision requires what we have traditionally called, ‘being saved.’ No longer do we merely have an interest in Jesus. We now, purposely and intentionally make a decision to become a follower of Jesus and that means we make Jesus’ agenda our agenda.
Yet the second choice point (10F) is equally important. That is when we make the decision to become a part of God’s solution by becoming actively involved in the life and ministry of the church as a kingdom builder rather than just a follower. In other words, God expects our church to become kingdom builders rather than merely following. Spectators and seekers are welcome, but God’s big goal and desire that we move toward being a kingdom building church.
Remember this chart? (11) This is the results of the survey that we took last summer as part of our church health process.
This is our assessment of eight important areas of church health. The two red bars represent the two weakest areas of health.
Our Ministry Council selected to work on developing holistic small groups and a survey will be coming our way next week so that our church health team can begin to develop plans for some small groups.
But I am also concerned about the other ‘weak link’ noted in this survey – gift-based ministry. One of the reasons that this can become a weak area is when a small circle of people end up doing the majority of the ministry.
This goes against our assignment of being ‘a fully following and faithfully functioning’ church. It is made clear in various New Testament passages that each follower and kingdom builder has a place of ministry in local church that God has selected for them based on His purposes and who we are.
What is our assignment? (12) It is to be made anew in Christ Jesus. (12A) It is to do the good works planned for us to do.
(13) It is also to move from being a spectator to a seeker to a follower to a kingdom builder. This is the way to fulfill the Great Commandment of loving God and neighbor and the Great Commission of helping others become disciples or kingdom builders.
(14) We also need to notice that there is always the reality that we can slide backwards if we are not intentional about our own spiritual growth which affects the spiritual health of our entire church. We can go either direction!
As we conclude today, I have two questions for us to reflect on this morning and seek the Lord about: (15) What is one step that I can make right now that will help me move toward being a kingdom builder? (15A) What is one step that we can make right now that will help us move toward being a congregation of kingdom builders?
No matter where you or we are on the continuum, we can and we must do one thing to move one step forward toward being kingdom builders?
What is our assignment? It is to be a fully following and faithfully functioning church. It is to be kingdom builders for Christ.
Let’s take the next step and move forward. Amen.
Anderson material is from his book, Living Free in Christ.
|2 Corinthians 59:26-26:59|
|Well, what is Jesus guilty of? In the five weeks of testimony we have heard that He has been accused of being (among other things) blasphemous or irreverent by claiming to be the Messiah, of breaking the rule of not working on the Sabbath because He healed someone who had been sick for quite awhile, of creating some cannibalistic cult because He speaks of the bread as His body and the wine as His blood of the New Covenant, and of hanging around with sinners or unacceptable people.
It has always interested me that in the gospel accounts we note that as Jesus was brought to the High Priest’s home,’ the leading priests and the entire high council were trying to find witnesses who would lie about Jesus, so they could put him to death,’ as we read in Matthew 26:59. Matthew goes on to say that ‘even though they found many who agreed to give false witness, there was no testimony they could use. Finally, two men were found who declared, “This man said, ‘I am able to destroy the Temple of God and rebuild it in three days.’”
So Jesus is accused of possible destruction of property. But then in response to a direct question by the High Priest in verse 63, “I demand in the name of the living God that you tell us whether you are the Messiah, the Son of God.” Jesus says, “Yes, it is as you say.’ He tells the truth.
But there’s more, for in Mark 15:8 and following we read, ‘The mob began to crowd in toward Pilate, asking him to release a prisoner as usual. “Should I give you the King of the Jews?” Pilate asked. (For he realized by now that the leading priests had arrested Jesus out of envy.) But at this point the leading priests stirred up the mob to demand the release of Barabbas instead of Jesus.’
Envy; jealousy, call it what you want… those who opposed Jesus were envious of Him. John records in his gospel account a scene that confirms Mark’s comment as we read in John 12:19, the Pharisee’s perspective of Jesus after His triumphal entry. “Then the Pharisees said to each other, “We’ve lost. Look, the whole world has gone after him!”
So Jesus was arrested because there were those who were jealous of His power and influence that they wanted and that also threatened their power and influence.
But, what was Jesus guilty of? Of doing His job, of completing the assignment that He was sent to earth to do – a complete and thorough act of forgiveness for all humankind?
That makes sense to me. He says as much in John 3 where Nicodemus, who we heard testify a few weeks ago, is told by Jesus ‘God did not send his Son into the world to condemn it, but to save it.’
Jesus is guilty of love. He is guilty of dying on a cross for our sins and being resurrected from the dead. He is guilty of healing, loving, caring, and forgiving.
We are the guilty ones! We are guilty of lying, cheating, stealing, gossiping, envy, lust, anger, hate, and a whole host of other things.
We are in need of forgiveness, of transformation. We are in need of a second chance. Only Jesus can make it happen. Only Jesus, who is guilty of being the Son of God, the Savior of the world, can bring us the peace, the joy, and the contentment that we so desperately need. He is the Messiah as we read in Matthew 26:
Be open to God this morning and allow Him into your life. Amen.
|2 Corinthians 2:14-2:17|
|(The introduction to this sermon was the copyrighted dramatic reading ‘Christ On Trial: Witness, Matthew.’ Written by Elsa L. Clark with Peter Mead, Arden Mead, and Mark Zimmermann. © 2007 by Creative Communication for the Parish)
(Slide 1) Ever felt that you were being looked down upon? Have you ever been looked down upon and you knew it?
Years ago in graduate school I had one of those experiences. It was a leadership theory course designed for the doctoral students in the department and I was a mere master’s degree student. But I wanted to take it.
I remember hearing the professor’s condescending tone of voice reminding me what kind of a class I was in and who it was designed for. After that first class I felt that it was a no-win situation for me and I dropped the class.
What about looking down on people? Have you ever done that? (OUCH PASTOR JIM!) I have always tried to be a fair minded person to everybody I meet but there have been times when an individual rubbed me the wrong way and I choose to ignore them as best I could and not attempt to build a better relationship with them.
Our initial witness, as we examine the evidence against Jesus that will mount as we go through this Lenten season 2007, was looked down upon. He was considered scum. Many ‘straight-laced’ religious persons did not consider Matthew to be worth Jesus’ time. But Jesus thought Matthew was worth His time and He also thinks that you and I are worth His time as well!
This morning we are going to briefly look at two parallel Old Testament passages, Hosea 6:1-6 and Jeremiah 31:32-34, and discover what these two Old Testament prophets said about what I call the ‘before’ and ‘after’ of Easter as it relates to our status in God’s eyes.
Then we will examine our main text in Mark and consider the kind of change in Matthew that took place when Jesus said to him, ‘follow me.’ Finally we will take a few moments to consider what Christ’s call means to us, individually and corporately, in light of this week.
Let’s now turn to Hosea 6:1-6 which says, “Come, let us return to the Lord! He has torn us in pieces; now he will heal us. He has injured us; now he will bandage our wounds. In just a short time, he will restore us so we can live in his presence. Oh, that we might know the Lord! Let us press on to know him! Then he will respond to us as surely as the arrival of dawn or the coming of rains in early spring.” “O Israel and Judah, what should I do with you?” asks the Lord. “For your love vanishes like the morning mist and disappears like dew in the sunlight. I sent my prophets to cut you to pieces. I have slaughtered you with my words, threatening you with death. My judgment will strike you as surely as day follows night. I want you to be merciful; I don’t want your sacrifices. I want you to know God; that’s more important than burnt offerings.”
Notice; please the phrases out of this passage as ‘before’ and ‘after’ phrases of God’s deliverance. First the before… (Slide 2)
He has torn us in pieces…
He has injured us…
I sent my prophets to cut you to pieces
I have slaughtered you with my words…
My judgment will strike you down…
Not a very pretty and loving picture of God is it? He is not happy with the children of Israel. He is displeased with their quickly vanishing love. He is upset over their lack of mercy. He is ready to destroy them. They have disobeyed Him though He says at the end of the chapter in verse 11, ‘I wanted so much to restore the fortunes of my people!’
In the ‘before’ of Good Friday and Easter, there is judgment and there is punishment and there is death and alienation from God. During this season of Lent one of our tasks is the very unpleasant, difficult and sometimes brutal, but essential task of looking at ourselves in the light of Christ’s death on our behalf and facing the truth about our own sinful and flawed human nature that is no different that it was in Hosea’s day.
But, there is an ‘after’ that we must pay attention to this morning. (Slide 3) There is a new movement of God afoot. Jesus makes that clear in various statements to those who were still locked in to the ‘before’ mindset that God wanted to get rid of.
Hosea prophesizes that it will take place…
now he will heal us.
Then, over in Jeremiah 31:32-34 we read:
|(Slide 1) A public reading of Isaiah 55:1-7 followed by a dramatic reading entitled ‘Christ on Trial: Witness: John’ written by Elsa L. Clark, Peter Mead, Arden Mead and Mark Zimmermann. © 2007 Creative Communications for the Parish.
Several weeks ago I got sick and spent a day and a half at home on the mend. I was frustrated by being home because there was a lot to do and I did not have time to be sick! But that time turned out to be a very valuable experience for me because I was able to do some serious reading that the Lord used to call my attention to some ‘cravings’ in my life that needed to be addressed. More about what I mean in a moment.
In one book of the books that I read, Soul Feast, by Marjorie Thompson, I was reminded of the importance of fasting during this season of Lent. (I would remind us that ‘fasting’ is a spiritual discipline of giving something up, like food or TV, for a certain period of time for, among other things, the purpose of growing closer to God.) She makes a case that in giving things up like ‘chocolate, popcorn, chewing gum, or other food frivolities’ what we have done is to participate in ‘the trivialization of a very profound discipline.’ ‘Lent,’ she says, ‘is not a six-week inconvenience in an otherwise abundant year, during which we have to somehow please God with voluntary if minor suffering.’
She goes on to note that in the early history of our faith Lent ‘was understood as an opportunity to return to normal human life… as we recognize that ‘the discipline of fasting has to do with the critical dynamic of accepting those limits which are life-restoring.’ By the time I finished that chapter, I felt God speak to me and say ‘you need to fast from such and such until Easter,’ because I was made aware that I needed to create more space for God in my life by fasting from things (other than food) which brings me to our main text for this morning that I want to re-read to you.
“Is anyone thirsty? Come and drink—even if you have no money! Come, take your choice of wine or milk—it’s all free! Why spend your money on food that does not give you strength? Why pay for food that does you no good? Listen, and I will tell you where to get food that is good for the soul!
“Come to me with your ears wide open. Listen, for the life of your soul is at stake. I am ready to make an everlasting covenant with you. I will give you all the mercies and unfailing love that I promised to David. He displayed my power by being my witness and a leader among the nations. You also will command the nations, and they will come running to obey, because I, the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, have made you glorious.”
Seek the Lord while you can find him. Call on him now while he is near. Let the people turn from their wicked deeds. Let them banish from their minds the very thought of doing wrong! Let them turn to the Lord that he may have mercy on them. Yes, turn to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.”
One of the challenges of fasting not just during Lent but anytime of the year is that we become aware of our cravings. And in my fasting I have become aware of my cravings which have often caused me to lose sight of God. During this period of fasting, I am very grateful however, that space has been created in my heart and mind for God to speak to me in several different areas of my life that need some attention.
(Slide 2) What are you craving this morning? We crave many things (2A) such as food, love, power, work, success, and money to name a few. But do these things truly satisfy us? The truly honest answer is ‘only for a time, if at all’ and then we want more.
Notice what God says through Isaiah…
(Slide 3) Come, take your choice of wine or milk—it’s all free!’
(Slide 4) “Listen! Why spend your money on food that does not give you strength?’
(Slide 5) ‘Listen! I will tell you where to get food that is good for the soul!’
(Slide 6) Seek the Lord while you can find him. Call on him now while he is near.
Come, listen, and seek… three very important actions in finding, believing, and walking with God! But how can we find, believe, and walk with God if we are not coming to Him, listening to/for Him, and seeking Him?
Furthermore how can we do this when we are preoccupied with our cravings for love, food, work, and other things that God has created us for, but we become so obsessed with them that we can’t experience the Lord? What God is saying through Isaiah is that you need to come to me, to listen to me, and to seek me because what I want to give you what truly satisfies.
(Slide 7) What are the cravings that cause you to ‘lose’ God?
In other words, (7a) what are the habits, the desires, the attitudes, even the substances, that you are irresistibly drawn to that cause you problems and affect your relationship with God?
What we read in these verses is the truth that we must come to, listen to/for, and find the Lord and nothing but the Lord! Our experience must be first hand, not second or third hand.
The only truly satisfying way to experience food for our soul is by experiencing the grace and truth of God in our lives. Nothing else will do.
Isaiah’s audience understood what God meant. They were familiar with, as we heard in our dramatic opening, the concept of bread because they knew it meant ‘the word of God.’ In their history then knew that when they had bread they had been saved from death.
The manna of their journey to Promised Land came when they needed it. They also knew what God meant when He spoke of needing bread because they would have heard what we now call Deuteronomy 8:3, “he humbled you by letting you go hungry and then feeding you with manna, a food previously unknown to you and your ancestors. He did it to teach you that people need more than bread for their life; real life comes by feeding on every word of the Lord.” So bread symbolized the active and living voice and presence of God in their lives.
So when Jesus says, as recorded in John 6:47, ‘Yes, I am the bread of life,’ they knew the history behind His words. But what He really meant, they were not prepared to hear or really understand. They were confused as they thought that He was literally going to become their next meal. But what Jesus meant was that He was going to become spiritual food that would satisfy our deepest and most profound human cravings well beyond the manna that had kept their ancestors physically alive.
Then, in identifying Himself as the ‘Bread of Life,’ Jesus added to His list of titles, notably the Son of God, that labeled Him ‘blasphemous’ or irreverent and offensive. But, as we get closer to Good Friday, we know what Jesus meant. We know that His body and His blood, in a hard to understand yet essential way, was to become food for our souls and our salvation.
This past Wednesday at our community Lenten Service, my colleague Sue Socha, shared a story that reminded me of the power of cravings to affect our relationship with the Lord.
She spoke of a book written by the late Henri Nouwen on the prodigal son. In it Nouwen wrote of an experience he had after a substantial cross country speaking trip that left him very tired and open to all sorts of temptations and cravings. He felt lost and in need of God’s care and embrace and found it, of all places, in a painting at a friend’s office.
(Slide 8) It was a copy of this painting, Rembrandt’s Prodigal Son. Sue noted that Nouwen realized, almost at once, that this is what He needed, to be embraced again by God just like the prodigal son was embraced.
Can you see the son? Unkempt and dirty. Much different than the father and the others gathered around him.
Is Jesus guilty of being irreverent or offensive? No, He is not guilty of being irreverent or offensive. Is He guilty of being the Son of God or the Bread of Life? Yes, He is guilty of being the Son of God and the Bread of Life.
What is the deepest craving of the human heart? To be loved.
Our experience with human love, if we are honest about it, has been mixed. But in the love of God, that Jesus is guilty of giving to us, there is a deep satisfaction that can help us satisfy all of our cravings.
Is there space for God in your life right now? Where is there space for God in your life right now? What do you need to either fast from or giving up to create space for God in your life?
I encourage you this morning to do the following: (Slide 8)
1. Admit your cravings. Everyone of us has a craving for love, food, and significance to name a few.
2. Turn them over to God. God created us to need these things and more, the desire for them is natural. But in our efforts to meet them we have made choices that have wounded us and others.
3. Ask God to start satisfying your cravings in His way. If God created us for our cravings, then He wants to help us experience them in the right way. He wants us to be our source of life and strength.
May you experience such satisfaction today through Christ. Amen.
A conversation that I have had with increasing frequency over the past year with ministerial colleagues has been about declining church attendance. It is a subject addressed from many quarters and is given many reasons why it is happens.
Because of my personal experiences in previous churches as an associate, one reason always comes to my mind, ‘they don’t like the pastor.’ Such a belief, I have come to learn, is not necessarily the reason.
So why are people “quitting” church? Why are long time members “quitting” church?
So, as I stood in the Family Christian Bookstore in Anderson, Indiana last week during the North American Convention of the Church of God, I prayed about which two books to buy as part of my travels and participation at that event for I treat it as not just church ‘business’ but as a continuing education event as well.
I had several in mind but one I decided on after reading a few pages was Julia Duin’s Quitting Church: Why the Faithful are Fleeing and What to Do about it.
It rattled my cage…
Duin, who is the Religion Editor at the Washington Times, told stories about people who for a wide variety of reasons, have ‘quit’ church; not the faith; but the church.
Her stories and her story gave me pause for serious reflection as I thought through the ministry views and values that I have held over the years and that perhaps they need some ‘adjustment.’
Two chapters have given me the most to think about. The first was chapter 5, “The Loneliest Number: Why Singles over Thirty-Five Are Saying Good-bye.” As I read it, I felt conviction about how I have approached those over 18 and single the past several years in a manner that has been harsh and uncaring. Duin honestly and caringly reminds us that those who are single are not the ‘sex crazed’ adults we often have been made to believe they are.
Instead, they honestly and deeply struggle with sexual purity and the desire to be married is one that has been framed by some quoted in her book, as not God’s will. Though I do not tell people that it may not be God’s will that they marry, names and faces came to my mind as well as a desire to make some things right with some that are a part of my congregation today.
The second chapter was chapter 6. “Not So Solid Teaching: Why Christians Cannot Exit the Obstetrics Ward.” In this chapter, Duin shares the honest desire for solid teaching that seems to be non-existent in the minds of some. As I read, I was reminded that I have been in “The Ministry” for so long that I have forgotten the struggles of those who live and work in very different environments and often have to make difficult decisions regarding values and priorities that I have all too easily dismissed as bad decisions. I need to “hear” more often from those in the pews about what is going on in their life.
I wish that I would have heard from some more diverse voices such as those in rural and small town America as most of her subjects reside in the D.C. and other urban areas and were, for the most part, well educated. But the book is valuable in that there are some very human reasons people have left and are leaving the church.
Slowing down and listening I think is a place to start.
(Note: I bought this book for personal and professional reasons and wrote my review simply to share my thoughts about it.)