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June 2017 Sermons

 

 

Want to read a sermon that you missed or was meaningful?  Check out the sermon texts below from June 2017.  June's sermons are listed below with reference to the dominate scripture used as inspiration.  Want to hear them, join us in worship.  (Audio coming soon...)

leadership-dictionary usualsuspects

Sacrifical Leadership

June 25, 2017 - Pastor Lindsey shared a reflection on the Word that shows just how much we are called to give of ourselves in our journey of following Christ.

The Unusual Suspects

June 18, 2017 - Pastor Lindsey shared a reflection on the unlikely nature of God's calling those most unlikely and unsual of suspects to be God's disciples.

Matthew 10:24-39 Matthew 9:35-10:8
likeachild  unitedasone

Like a Child

June 11, 2017 - Pastor Lindsey shared a reflection on joy of having faith like a child and how this special faith can move more than mountains.

United as One

June 4, 2017 - Pastor Lindsey shared a remind that as we celebrate Pentecost, the coming of the Holy Spirit, we are united together across time and place in the mission of sharing God's unending love.

 1 Corinthians 13:11-13  1 Corinthians 12:3-13

 

 

 

 

Sacrificial Leadership

 

 Matthew 10:24-39

 

“A disciple is not above the teacher, nor a slave above the master; it is enough for the disciple to be like the teacher, and the slave like the master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household! “So have no fear of them; for nothing is covered up that will not be uncovered, and nothing secret that will not become known. What I say to you in the dark, tell in the light; and what you hear whispered, proclaim from the housetops. Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. And even the hairs of your head are all counted. So do not be afraid; you are of more value than many sparrows. “Everyone therefore who acknowledges me before others, I also will acknowledge before my Father in heaven; but whoever denies me before others, I also will deny before my Father in heaven. “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and one’s foes will be members of one’s own household. Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever does not take up the cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Those who find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.

 

Interpretation of the Word 

 

You have survived.  You have made it through another “fun” filled church year.  We can all take a deep breath.  Right?  We have made it through all of the busy-ness that makes the church year fly by, the awaiting of the birth of Jesus, the celebration of birth, the arrival of the wise men, the baptism, the entire season of lent, Holy week with all of its celebration and mourning, Easter and the 50 days following that we celebrate our Risen Lord, Pentecost, and recognition and celebration of the trinity.  Whew.  It’s been busy.  We can rest now.  But you might be thinking, but we’re not finished.  And you’re right, the church year never really finishes, but all of the high holy events have passed for the foreseeable future.  We are now in “ordinary time”.  This is the longest season in the church year, and it focuses on growth, renewal and development within the church.  Which is a little comical as this season comes during a time in the church when we see average attendance in worship drop off a bit, as family and friends come to visit, as we take vacation, as we live our lives.   However, there are still lessons to unpack and formation to be had.

 

Since this is a season of growth and of renewal, let’s take a look at what Jesus is talking about this week.  Jesus is teaching about what it means to be a disciple, living and reflecting Jesus in our lives.  We will see throughout the summer the overarching theme that the Gospel calls us to a give of our selves completely to God, and God’s call, to spread the Good News of salvation.   

 

This morning we hear Jesus giving the disciples, and us, a timeless lesson, that there is a price for leadership and putting Christ at the center of our lives.   The words that Jesus shares with his disciples are not pretty, they are not cheery, and they sure do not sound like good news.  Disciples are going to be hated? Rejected?  Face death? Lose our lives?  After hearing these verses, those gathered with Jesus might be thinking “If this is discipleship, you can keep it, Jesus.”  

 

Jesus is preparing his disciples to carry on his ministry of proclaiming the Good News of salvation.  He is, here in Matthew, teaching the disciples about what that is going to look like and what he is really calling the disciples to.  You see, Jesus is ultimately about the work of remaking, renewing, remolding all of creation back into a holy and beautiful union with God.  Jesus was a radical.  He did the things that were not acceptable in his day.  He shocked the pants off of the Jewish leadership.  He spent time with the outcast, literally he spent time with the lepers who were sent out of the city so that they would not infect others.  He ate with the most despised people in the community: tax collectors.  He gave women an important place in ministry, which isn’t too shocking today, but then, in the 1st century was unheard of, it was radical.  

 

In order for the disciples to carry out this mission, they are going to have to make some sacrifices.  One such sacrifice was that if the disciples were going to completely follow Jesus, they were going to “risk being cut off from the networks on which their social positions depended” according to theological scholars Bruce Malina and Richard Rhorbaugh.  “In traditional societies this was taken with deadly seriousness.  Alienation from family or clam could literally be a matter of life or death, especially for the elite, who would risk everything by the wrong kind of association with the wrong kind of people.”  Jesus demanded that his disciples put their mission above all else, even their families, in a time when family connection was how one survived.  It was a radical sacrifice that Jesus was calling the disciples to, and there is a price for leadership and putting Christ at the center of our lives.  

 

What do I mean by this?  I mean that in order to live as a disciple of Jesus Christ, we have to set aside the things that are comfortable.  If we are going to be completely devoted and committed to following Christ, then there will have to be sacrifices.  Jesus talks about how unpopular he and his followers were.  He told them they would be like sheep heading out into the wolves.  That is a dangerous kind of life.  It is a life that means nearly certain of death for the sheep.  It is a sacrificial kind of life, but that is the price of leadership that is 110% devoted to God’s reign.  

 

“If we are not completely devoted to God’s Reign, loving it more than all else, we will be incapable of loving other as they need, or as God requires.  But, if we embrace the way of Jesus in this radical way, we will find ourselves in conflict with the power-that-be, and we will experience persecution.  But, is we try to avoid this, saving out lives through silence or compliance with human powers, we will ultimately lose the abundant life that God’s reign brings.”

 

So what?  How do we connect this to our everyday kind of lives?  Well, we all face moments of decision, each and every day, moments when we have to choose whether to preserve our own lives through silence and compliance with those who threaten us or others, or to endure ridicule, persecution and rejections for speaking out for what we believe is right.  These decisions are often MUCH smaller, but more significant, than we may realize.  I find myself in the midst of these decisions every single day of my life, maybe you do too.  You know when you refuse to laugh at a racist, homophobic or chauvinistic joke, you may find yourself at the butt of someone’s joke as well.  Or when we stand alongside those whom others judge and reject, you put yourself in line for rejection .  Or when we refuse to participate in acts of violence or retribution against our “enemies,” we run the very high and real risk of being seen as traitors or unpatriotic.  When we serve those who others call lazy, undeserving, and worthless, we will likely be seen as enablers or perpetrators of the cycle.  Leadership of this kind, it not popular, it is radical though, and it is exactly what Christ has called us to.

 

Who in our community, needs to be welcomed in?  Who needs to be embraced for who they are, not who the world says they “should be”?  Who needs to know that forgiveness is stronger than guilt and that love is greater than hate?  Who needs peace in their lives instead of the constant torture of failure?  Can you think of just one person you know or maybe don’t know but see on a regular basis who is wrestling with rejection?  Do you have them in your minds eye, can you see them?  Now, think about how you, yes you, with the radical, loving, leading Christ at your center is sending you out to that person.  Imagine for a minute if each and every one of you reached one person.  Shared the love of God that has been poured over you, with just one person.  I’m not talking about hitting them over the head with believe or be damned, but simply and honestly offering to stand with them through what they are going through.  

 

While it may hurt to live out the welcoming, forgiving, serving, peaceful and justice-seeking values of God’s reign, that Jesus is teaching about, to fail to do so hurts us and our world even more.  So while these words this week might not be bright and cheery or even the best parts of what Jesus has to teach, they are incredibly important for us.  They teach us about what Christ-centered, radical and sacrificial leadership looks like.


 

 
 
 

The Unusual Suspects

 

 

Matthew 9:35-10:8 

 
Then Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and curing every disease and every sickness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”
 
Then Jesus summoned his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to cure every disease and every sickness. These are the names of the twelve apostles: first, Simon, also known as Peter, and his brother Andrew; James son of Zebedee, and his brother John; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; Simon the Cananaean, and Judas Iscariot, the one who betrayed him.
These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: “Go nowhere among the Gentiles, and enter no town of the Samaritans, but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. As you go, proclaim the good news, ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons. You received without payment; give without payment.  Take no gold, or silver, or copper in your belts, no bag for your journey, or two tunics, or sandals, or a staff; for laborers deserve their food. Whatever town or village you enter, find out who in it is worthy, and stay there until you leave. As you enter the house, greet it. If the house is worthy, let your peace come upon it; but if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you. If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet as you leave that house or town. Truly I tell you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town.
“See, I am sending you out like sheep into the midst of wolves; so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. Beware of them, for they will hand you over to councils and flog you in their synagogues; and you will be dragged before governors and kings because of me, as a testimony to them and the Gentiles. When they hand you over, do not worry about how you are to speak or what you are to say; for what you are to say will be given to you at that time; for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death; and you will be hated by all because of my name. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next; for truly I tell you, you will not have gone through all the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes.

Interpretation of the Word
 
In the 1995 Film, “The Usual Suspects,” Kevin Spacey plays a character who is the only survivor of a horrific gun battle, which all began with five criminals meeting seemingly randomly in a lineup.  These five guys were brought in to stand in a police line-up because they were the usual suspects in that community to be tied up in criminal activity.  They have a pattern of behavior that leads the police to think they would be caught up in criminal events.  They were the usual suspects.
 
We know that the disciples that Jesus chose for his ministry were not necessarily the usual suspects.  They were not trained teachers, they were not leaders in the community, and they were not the one who spent the most time in the temple.  
 
Instead they were the most unlikely of folk.  They were fishermen, they were tax collectors, they were not well spoken or eloquent, and they were in a general sense: the unusual suspects.  These were not round one draft picks, heck they weren’t even sitting on the sidelines.  This is not the reserve list, or the minor leagues being called up to the big time.  No, these guys were complete unknowns.   They were the math club being called up to be starters in the big game.  
 
Can you imagine?  Jesus calls the most unlikely of folks to go out and to spread the good news.  Jesus gives these folks, this unusual cast of characters a mission, maybe the most important mission of their lives.   We learn several important things about this mission in this passage of unusual suspects sent out.
 
First, we see and are assured that Jesus did not see the world as his ALONE to evangelize to, but that he commissioned others to minister in his name and bear the authority he has.  Jesus knew that one man could only do so much.  Knowing this, he brought in reinforcements, but they were not the reinforcements of the A-team or even the B-team, instead he brought in people who would reach the people where they were.   Jesus needed a human touch, others who would read the field with him, and work beside him to spread the good news.  
 
The human element is important.  So important that it can make or break success.  A ministry colleague shared this story of moving into a new house.  When he and his family moved into the house, there was no grass in the front, just dirt.  The neighboring house had the same predicament, no grass just dirt.  So both went out and purchased Sod and had it set out in the yard.  The neighbor had an intricate system of sprinklers installed before the Sod was laid.  This ministry colleague of mine, had a wife and a hose.  After for years, the neighbor’s lawn had returned to dirt, while this colleague’s was lush and green.   
 
Why?  Because of a human touch.  His wife was able see and then attend to areas of the lawn that were looking a little worse for wear before the damage was done.  She was able to see a browning spot and water it before it died, while the intricate sprinkler system could turn on and off, and it could not expand coverage or change angles to catch missed areas or unclog sprinkler heads.
 
One of the most effective ways to minister to people is with people.  People are able to bridge the gap and able to understand exactly what the others are going through.  The human element is important.  Think about the Foosball table.  Those little figures on posts spinning in their designated spots, never able to move completely across the field of play, unable to ever fully cover the entire field.  Without humans the figures don’t even spin.  The figures are stationary and nothing happens.  The gospel is the same.  Without humans, the message isn’t spread without; the work could be done without them, sure.  But to return to our lawn example, there are bare spots left behind, areas that are not watered left to brown.  The human element is important and it cannot be done by one person alone.
 
Second, is that we see a commission to renewal.  These unusual suspects are given a mission to seek out the lost sheep of Israel.  They are sent out as disciples into their very own community to share and spread the message of the Gospel.  This isn’t about making new converts; instead it is about bringing people back, people who have lost their way.  People who have been hurt or are sick of the hypocrisy they see or turned off or have been cut off or have been dried out, like the lawn.  You see as humans, as people who have gone through similar experiences, we can see the need for water, for healing for renewal and we can address it.  The disciples are sent out to make a difference, a change, a healing of heart even.  As commissioned members, we, like the disciples, have the ability to water the dried out areas of the parched earth, those most in need of a drink of life giving water in this community.
 
We are like the ministry colleague’s wife, we can see and attend to the need.  When we attend to the needs of the community, we see renewal happen.  As we go forward, we need to think about what the needs of THIS community are.  Where is a little bit of watering needed?  Are there folks who have been turned off by the institution of church?  Are there people who don’t see it as relevant to their lives?  Are there patches of people who see this as a place that doesn’t meet their spiritual need, if they can even identify their spiritual need?  Where are the dry and parched areas of this community?  What would we need to do in order to water their spiritual needs and make them flourish?
 
If we have been called to join Jesus in the renewal of the lost sheep, then we have the promise that Jesus gives the disciples in this third part of the text, that whoever does not welcome the gospel will suffer consequences.  A word of warning, we should be very careful in how we attend to these words, as we, as humans, are not in a place to condemn or make judgement.  There are some extreme religious groups, including sects of Christianity, who use the sense of being chosen by God as a way to justify violence and terrorism against those who look, think, believe, and act differently from their beliefs, including other Christians.  Some nations even consider themselves as more important or more significant to the world and to God because they are somehow a “better” embodiment of God’s values and purposes.
 
So rather than a system of “us” vs “them,” we need to see with our hearts that God has this deep desire for ALL to hear and to be renewed by the good news.  No one is higher than another, more favored over another, instead we all share in this love that God offers.  Jesus is telling us JUST how important the spreading of the good news is, and that the rejuvenation of this parched earth is THAT imperative.  It is so imperative, that Jesus sends out unusual suspects in his name, to sacrifice ALL that they have in order to spread the good news of renewal and rejuvenation, and to water the parched land, scorched by the lies that have been told.
 
We might even consider ourselves unusual suspects.  You and I, we might not really feel that we’re all the well-equipped or even the most knowledgeable or even the most devout to be called into the discipleship of Jesus.   Many of us modern Christians do not feel equipped to talk about our faith with those who sit next to us in the pews, let alone with those we meet and interact with outside of the church.  
 
We have been chosen though.  We, too, have been called into this mission.
 
 
 

 
 

Like a Child

 

 

 

1 Corinthians 13:11-13 

 

 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.

  

Interpretation of the Word

 

This week we celebrate Trinity Sunday.  We celebrate that our God is one God, because we in fact are not polytheistic, but monotheists, meaning that we believe in One and only One God.  Our one God however works, acts, is comprised of three different and distinct and yet it not three different Gods, but one.  We are not going to go into the nitty gritty details of how this is because it’s not something I can explain in 10-15 minutes, and even the best Theologians throughout history have not been able to explain the trinity in a way that doesn’t leave people with glassy eyes.  

 

Plus I’m going to take a wild guess, that you didn’t come here to get a lecture on the inner workings of the Holy Trinity, but rather you came here for some life application.  How do these scriptures, written over 2 thousand years ago, apply to our lives today?  That is what we’re here for.  We want to know how these texts are relevant to us TODAY?   One of the questions we can always ask ourselves about a text when we’re reading it is “How do we experience God?”  Paul, in 1st Corinthians tells us that we are called to experience God like a child, and that our faith is to be that of a child.

 

Not too long ago, within the last two years even, it might have been difficult for us to imagine what that looks like, but NOW, now we have 5 shining examples of what it looks like to have faith like a child.  These five, precious, young people here show us how easy faith can be when we have faith like a child.  Their faith has not become cynical because of the things they have experienced in the world.  Instead, their faith trusts that God loves them, just as they are and that God has teaches them how to treat one another with love and kindness.  Their faith believes in the love that flows from God easy forgiveness offered.

 

This can be seen in when we observe children playing.  I’m sure many, if not most of you, have watched or at least overheard children playing.  They are cute, and in the grand scheme of life, it is simple play.  Everyone had roles to play and they share with each other.  If there is a disagreement, it is usually resolved quickly and simply, with an ‘I’m sorry,’ a round of hugs and some ‘I love you’s’ and all is resolved and play continues.  I like to believe that this is how God is with us, that our differences and disagreements are solved with simply saying ‘I’m sorry’ and ‘I love you’.  That nothing more is needed.  That is faith like a child.  And yet, we, adults, overcomplicate things.  We have come to think that life can’t exist that simply, that faith cannot be that simple, that the LOVE of God, that we care called to share, cannot be THAT simple.  But maybe it is, just that simple.

 

These last two verses in 1st Corinthians come from a larger, very familiar passage that we know as the Love passage.  “Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant5or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;6it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. 7It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.  8Love 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.”  Words many if not all of us have heard proclaimed at weddings, I remember them read at my own wedding ceremony.  

 

Why would Paul feel the need to remind us that when we Love, we are to love like a child does.  It might be because, as Pastor and Professor Karoline Lewis puts it, “We are also no strangers to the kind of division that the gospel provokes. And sometimes we forget just how divisive the gospel can be. Choosing regard over rejection, respect over diminution, love over hate, peace over conflict is not as easy as we hope it could be, as we wish it would be. It seems like it should be easy -- and that’s the problem. Why is it that we find it so difficult to make what appears to be a rather obvious choice? A choice for love? What stands in our way?”

 

I would suggest that what stands in our way is our adulthood.  As adults, we have a distinct need or at least desire for explanation and reason and facts.  Children do not tend to have this desire, at least not until they are taught to seek it.  Little children on a playground will play with any other child there, regardless to color, gender, religion, political background (they are children, they don’t have one!), socio-economic status, who they voted for or even physical ability.  Children are trusting in their faith, they believe that until they learn otherwise, everything and everyone is good, especially their parents.

 

However as adults, people are left out, for many of the reasons I’ve mentioned and more.  We have all experienced being left out, for one reason or another, and as we age, that experience even tends to increase.  Our differences separate us and divide us, rather than unite us.  Things are no longer simple, are they?

 

There is a grassroots organization, known as Parent’s Circle, for Palestinians and Israelis who have lost loved ones due to the conflict.  In a presentation, two members of the group, two fathers, a Palestinian and an Israeli, who had both lost daughters because of the ongoing conflict between Israel and Palestine shared about the conflict and about life before and after the Separation Wall. “No wall, not matter how high, can stop two kinds of people, one determined suicide bomber and the one determined peacemaker,” said one of the fathers. They each went through their own moments of wondering how life could possibly carry on given the death of their children due to such senseless, mindless fighting. They could have chosen revenge to ease their pain but instead realized that the only way forward was to talk to each other.

 

In each other, they found the way to carry on because, in their words, “our blood is the same color, our tears are just as bitter.” They found a way to carry on that chose peace instead of revenge, conversation instead of fear, life instead of death because “it is not our destiny to kill each other in this Holy Land.” At stake for both fathers was peace. Simple as that. This is the gospel. This is love.  

 

This is the Good news that we have been commissioned to share with the whole world, to the ends of the earth, near and far and everywhere in between, as we heard in Matthew 28.  You, sitting here have been called, ordained, and commissioned to go out into the world and share THIS good news with the world.  That God loves us, all of us, every single one of us.  Jesus didn’t put a limitation of who needs the Gospel.

 

Therefore, friends, it is with the faith of a child, that we go out into the world and share this Good News with ALL that we meet.  With every single person, even if they have heard the message already, let the it be reinforced by every interaction you have with them.  We are called to have a child-like faith.  Not childish, but child-like, open and willing to try new things, and willing to say I’m sorry and above all to admit that we more alike than we are different.  We have been given the mission of sharing this faith we have in a God, while complicated and confusing to describe, loves us beyond measure.  



 
 

 

 

 

United as One

 

 

1 Corinthians 12:3-13


 Therefore I want you to understand that no one speaking by the Spirit of God ever says ‘Let Jesus be cursed!’ and no one can say ‘Jesus is Lord’ except by the Holy Spirit.

 Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. To one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the discernment of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. All these are activated by one and the same Spirit, who allots to each one individually just as the Spirit chooses.

 

For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.

 

Interpretation of the Word

 

Often times we wonder what our role is, especially in church.  Where do we fit?  We think things such as: I’m too young, I’m too old, I’ve served my time, what do I even have to offer?   I’ve heard these things and many more.  Some of them even said by folks right here.  We wonder: where do I fit in the larger picture.  Or maybe you’ve even come to think that you don’t fit anymore.  That there isn’t a place for you anymore, that the church has changed so much that it isn’t your home anymore; that the church does not serve the needs of me or my family.  These are all things that people of all ages have wrestled with, and not just in 2017, but throughout the ages of the church; including the early, newly formed church.  

 

This morning as we celebrate Pentecost, the coming of the Holy Spirit, we are reminded that even though Jesus is gone, he is still very much with us, with us through the Holy Spirit which, like the disciples gathered in Jerusalem, we too have received.  The Spirit that we have received links us together, so that in all of our diversity we are united as one through the Spirit of God.  The Spirit that we have received harvests gifts within us that are used for the benefit of spreading the Good News, that God so loved the world that he sent Jesus Christ, his son, and did not leave us abandoned but instead sent the Spirit to bring us together.  


So let’s start with our diversity.  We are all different.  (gasp) Imagine that!  Each and every one of us is different.  There is only one you, there is no other.  Even if you have an identical twin, that twin is not exactly the same as you.  You may share nearly everything, but there are still slight differences.  No two of us are 100% the same.  We are not clones of the previous.  

 

We may attend the same church, we may worship the same way, but we are all experiencing this moment differently.  We each also come to believe, have our faith strengthened, and live out our faith in different ways.  For as many churches as there are, there is diversity.  I am not just talking about denominational differences and diversity, such as Methodist, Presbyterian, Baptist, and Roman Catholic, and so on, but there for as many churches as there are even within THIS presbytery of the James, there is diversity.  It is this very diversity that unites us as one through the Spirit.  

 

We can take this diversity into the individual church as well, even our Kirk, right here.    Each of us was born with our own sets of strengths and weaknesses, and there is no magic formula that works for all of us.  Until we recognize our own uniqueness, we cannot fully understand how our diversity actually unifies us.  For example, we can all sit here this morning and yet each of us will hear something different, will be affected in different ways, will be moved to think about our faith differently.  For as many of us as there are here, there will be that many different understandings of what the sermon meant and even what the scripture means for your life.  We are all different.  You may be hearing the same words, but you understand these words through your own personal lens, through the things that happen in your life, in the hours before you came to worship, the things that happened this past week, this past month, the years before and experiences that have shaped how you hear.  You are unique and yet that uniqueness unifies us together as one.    

Paul knows this!  

 

Paul knows that we are all different and that each and every one of us different with different gifts, and yet each is important and that, “there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit, and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; there are varieties of activities, but it is the SAME God who activates all of them in everyone.”

 

You see Paul is writing to a church and community in conflict.  They are struggling with a variety of issues.  One of which is who has the better, more useful, more spirit driven gifts.  They want to know: Who has been MOST blessed by God.  Whose baptism holds more weight in the Kingdom of God?  Who does God favor more: Those who speak wisdom? Maybe those who interpret?  Definitely, those who heal, like Jesus, right? Those who prophecy?  Those who speak in tongues? What about those who build up? Or those who feed the hungry? Or those who care for the homebound, bringing them a word of hope?  Which is gift does God look upon more favorably?

 

Paul reminds us that every single spiritual gift that we have been given is a gift from God and that they are to be used to build up the body of Christ.  NO gift is over and above another, so long as it unites us together.  Gifts should not cause division within the Body of Christ.  There is not a hierarchy of Gifts.  No one gift is over and above another.  They are all needed in order to have a well-balanced and unified community.  Just think, if we were all teachers at the same time, there would be no pupils, and if we were all followers at the same time, who would lead?  It is also good to have a team of teachers and leaders, so that our individual diversity that we have is shared with one another and benefits and builds up the community.   There has to be a balance.

 

You might still be wondering if you have a something to offer.  Thinking to yourself, “I don’t have any gifts” or “What if someone already has my gift and does it better” or “How do I even know if my gifts is a Spiritual Gift, it’s not listed in Paul’s list.”  Friends, I tell you this, and this is what Paul is getting at here: If you gift builds unity, then it is a mark of the spirit.  It might not be a flashy gift or a boisterous gift, it is something and someone who is building up the community.  You may not think that what you have to offer holds a candle to the other things that others do, but remember there is no gift great or small.  All gifts are equal when used to bring unity to the community of God.  

 

We see the manifestation of the Spirit in that every member of the community is upheld, as a vital member of the community.  No one is overlooked; no one’s gifts are lifted up over and above another’s.  The mark of the presence of the Spirit is that it is on each and every member of the community.

 

The question we should be asking ourselves is not “Which gift is better” but instead we should ask ourselves, “Who is going out of their way to build unity and community among us?”  Who uses their gifts to make others feel welcome, to bring unity to the church?  In order to recognize our diversity, our uniqueness that unifies us, we will need to employ the very important spiritual practice of listening.  In order to build community, especially across differences, the only way I know how to do that is to listen across differences, openly.  Openly, without our personal position hindering what we hear, sometimes it means listening when we disagree and being open to hear where the other is coming from.  It can be difficult, and we may not in the end agree.  However, by listening we are opening ourselves to the possibility of the Spirit working and bringing us together.  

 

One question we need to ask ourselves is: WHO is so different from me that maybe I need to hear what they have to say?  

August 19, 2017

 

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SUNDAY WORSHIP

 

Worship Service 11:00AM

Adult Bible Study   9:45AM

Children's Class  11:00AM 

 

   

SERMON ON SUNDAY: August 20, 2017  "Setting Our Intention"

 

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September 10th, 2017.

 

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