Tuesday, June 29, 2010

a new sermon

Sermon given June 27 at 2nd Cong.
Psalm 16
1 Protect me, O God, for in you I take refuge.
2 I say to the LORD, "You are my Lord; I have no good apart from you."
3 As for the holy ones in the land, they are the noble, in whom is all my delight.
4 Those who choose another god multiply their sorrows; their drink offerings of blood I will not pour out or take their names upon my lips.
5 The LORD is my chosen portion and my cup; you hold my lot.
6 The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; I have a goodly heritage. 7 I bless the LORD who gives me counsel; in the night also my heart instructs me. 8 I keep the LORD always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved. 9 Therefore my heart is glad, and my soul rejoices; my body also rests secure. 10 For you do not give me up to Sheol, or let your faithful one see the Pit. 11 You show me the path of life. In your presence there is fullness of joy; in your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

Obligatory joke to open the sermon....A Short Prayer…
Dear Lord,
So far today, I’ve done all right. I haven’t gossiped, haven’t lost my temper, haven’t been greedy, grumpy, nasty, selfish, or over indulgent. I’m very thankful for that.
But, in a few minutes, God, I’m going to get out of bed. And from then on, I’m probably going to need a lot more help. Amen!

Psalm 16- of David

talking about redemption, through not his own actions but by choosing to follow God,. Seeking guidance, avoiding the choices that others make by following other gods and their own actions. Choosing to listen through his prayers to the guidance of God. Recognizing the eternal qualities of God, the Presence that is always there, recognizing his own freedom to choose to recognize that Presence in his daily life.

Galatians 5:1, 13-25
5:1 For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.

Life by the Spirit

13 You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another humbly in love. 14 For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: "Love your neighbor as yourself." 15 If you keep on biting and devouring each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.
16 So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. 17 For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.
19 The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; 20 idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21 and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. 25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.

Ah the Fruits of the Spirit...a famous lesson. The gifts of the Holy Spirit of God. These are the qualities of God! The very qualities embodied by Christ in his time on earth, and the qualities to which we followers of Christ all aspire.

Quite a contrast with the list preceeding isn't it? “the acts of the sinful nature'”
these are actions that go against God,. That separate us from God.
They are qualities that we see a lot of, and may, occasionally exhibit ourselves, from time to time.. AND no, we are not here to say well this one does that and that one does this....No, today, let's look at the mirror, not at the neighbor!

There is a paradox at the heart of the Christian faith -- that we are most free when we are tied to Christ and surrendered to the Spirit. This is the essence of Congregationalism! “The Congregational Way is a way of following Christ. People of a Congregational Church do not seek to be led by a creed, but by the Spirit. Ours is the tradition of a free church, gathered under the headship of Christ and bound to others by love, not law.” this is very much like the early church that we read about in our Bibles, to whom Paul is writing in this and his other epistles.

We convenant together, we choose to be together, rather than being bound together by a set of prescribed statements of belief. This is VERY biblical! And yet, This can be challenging! Sometimes it is easier to have that set of 'rules” --a guidebook-- isn't it?

It is like the freedom we have here in the US. We are free to worship or not, free to work or not, free to live in ways that promote health and well being or not.
We as Christians are free to act in Godly ways, or not.
But we can and if we are true to our faith, we ought to! Our role is to be more like Christ, is it not? So how do we, like the person in the early morning prayer, once we are getting out of bed, refrain from the things that keep us separate from God? And let's be clear, this list of “No-no's” is more than just God saying, “I would like to see you do better...” the Scripture is very clear...that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. ...If we are living in these ways..we are NOT part of God!
Well, someone may say, why are we like that then? God must have made us this way...it is just human nature!! No, technically it is not. We were created in God's image. Whether you believe that the Garden of Eden story is the absolute literal way we were created, or if you believe it is a beautiful word picture of creation, we were created in the image of God! We were created to have all these gifts of the Spirit. But we blew it. We blow it every day. What we want to call “human nature' is actually the sinful nature. And as one character says in the movie the African Queen, “Nature, Mr Allnut, is what we were put on this earth to rise above”
We can, rise above, we can be closer to what God created us to be...we can have a Godly nature....By the power of the holy spirit. The power, that Paul wrote in ephesians is at work in us...a power that is accessed, by acts of faith....the word of God, prayer, time with other people of faith! Paying attention to those nudges of conscience that guide us during the day.
Stop and listen.. when you are stressed, can you stop and listen, say a quick prayer for guidance? Even God Help me! Is a great prayer! As david wrote in the psalm, keep the Lord ever before you,, reminding ourselves of the Presence of the Lord throughout the day can help keep us on task. Do you have a sense of God;s presence? Sure, here, when we have good worship, wondeful music. When else do you find a real sense of God? A lot of say out in nature, at the shore, in the northwoods, the mountains. There are other ways, you may have a sense of God.... Ask God to help you keep him in mind through your day. Keeping God in mind, thinking about those fruits of the spirit, the qualities of God, can help keep us on task.
Jesus, God's son, Chose to live on earth, chose to live as a human, to show us how God truly is and how to live in a Godly way. Jesus chose this! He ate, slept, prayed, wept, never sinned, but neither did He condemn sinners. He came to love and to show us to love God and love one another. Jesus lived by faith, freely given US the freedom to choose to do likewise. And he chose, out of his tremendous love, to go to the Cross, for you and for me. And then gave His Holy spirit to us to help guide and teach us how to be more like Him.
When describing the early Christians to the Emperor Hadrian, Greek writer Aristides wrote: "They love one another. They never fail to help widows; they save orphans from those who hurt them. If they have something, they give freely to the person who has nothing; if they see a stranger, they take him home as a brother or sister in the spirit, the Spirit of God."

Dallas Willard....The Spirit of the Disciplines: Understanding How God Changes Lives (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1988). Its thesis is very simple:

“There is a way of life that, if generally adopted, would eliminate all of the social and political problems from which we suffer. This way of life comes to whole-hearted disciples of Christ who live in the disciplines of the spiritual life and allow grace to bring their {actions} into alignment with their redeemed spirits”

Willard points out that the word disciple is used 269 times in the New Testament. The word Christian is found only three times - and the first time introduces the disciples (Acts 11:26). The New Testament is a book about disciples, by disciples and for disciples of Jesus Christ (258).

Here comes the clincher paragraph:

“For at least several decades the churches of the Western world have not made discipleship a condition of being a Christian. One is not required to be, or to intend to be, a disciple in order to become a Christian, and one may remain a Christian without any signs of progress toward or in discipleship. Contemporary American churches in particular do not require following Christ in his example, spirit and teachings as a condition of membership...discipleship clearly is optional.” (258)

Conclusion?: Most problems in contemporary churches can be explained by the fact that members have not yet decided to follow Christ. If we do not follow Christ, we do not have the guidance of the Holy Spirit. We are therefore not able to keep God with us, in our minds and in our hearts. We are unable to rise above,...to be true followers of The Lord Jesus.

Will you choose to make this commitment today- to truly follow our Loving Lord? Will you renew your life in Christ? Will you embrace the gifts of the spirit, turning your back on those things that keep us separate from God? Will you choose to help make this world a bit better place, one hour, one day at a time, right here, right now?

If so, Please pray with me...
You oh LORD are my chosen portion and my cup; you hold my lot. Therefore my heart is glad, and my soul rejoices; my body also rests secure.
You show me the path of life. In your presence there is joy; in your hand are pleasures forevermore. Help me, Lord God to use my freedom to not indulge the sinful nature; rather, to serve one another humbly in love. Help me to live the fruits of Your Spirit, and live out your love in all I do each day. We pray in the Name and Spirit of our Lord Jesus Christ, amen.

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