Thursday, March 12, 2015

Bridges...sermon given at Bethel AME Church

Sermon for Community Lenten service March 11, 2015

Psalm 133 King James Version (KJV)
133 Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!
2 It is like the precious ointment upon the head, that ran down upon the beard, even Aaron's beard: that went down to the skirts of his garments;
3 As the dew of Hermon, and as the dew that descended upon the mountains of Zion: for there the Lord commanded the blessing, even life for evermore.

Ephesians 4:11-16 KJV
11 And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;
12 For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:
13 Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ:
14 That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive;
15 But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ:
16 From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.

(Gospel lesson next page)


(a bit about me―lay pastor etc..merger church, Pres/Cong. So Brenda & I are an ecumenical gathering all by ourselves!)

How good and pleasant it is when brothers and sisters dwell together in unity!
Brenda & I began this worship with this passage very deliberately. We have been planning and dreaming of this moment for a while now...we only met just over a year ago at an MLK Day event.

Some months ago pastor Tina and I were talking about the problems in Beloit, about violence issues and what if anything our churches can do about it. And we developed the idea of community wide thanksgving service. I called Pastor Brenda and we had that 1st service together at United Chruch on a sunday evening in November. We had folks from 7 different churches there!

So when we began the planning for these lenten services we worked hard to get back to having more churches represented.
Years ago I heard a pastor here in town quote Dr King that '11 am on a Sunday morning is the most segregated time in our country” and that statement is still true today. That statement haunts part because I know that if I am not part of the solution, then I am part of the problem.

So I refuse to be a part of the problem any longer! We need some bridges across the gaps in this city and in this country.

our lesson from Ephesians reminds us that we all have different gifts and abilities. Apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds and teachers. Now some of us have a couple of those gifts. Some have gifts of hospitality, gifts of helps, the folks that work behind the scenes. Never EVER doubt that you are working for the kingdom if you are behind the scenes. Yours may be one of the greater gifts! And these gifts are given, our text says, to build up the body of Christ, until we attain UNITY. Unity!! unity of faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God. We are to grow in our faith together...then we will no longer be tossed about by waves...

our city feels as though we've been tossed about on waves. Waves of economic depression. Waves of unemployment, waves of there's nothing for me here attitudes....the bible story “can anything good come from Nazareth?” sounds familiar to those of us who’ve lived in Beloit for decades!

We, people of faith, struggle sometimes. We love our churches, but they may or may not be growing. Our faith may not be growing, we see trouble but we don;t know what we can do! We need a bridge! A bridge gets us from one point to another making it easier to get across something that is inconvenient, difficult or impossible. A bridge can help us form or preserve community. People are meant to be in community! A cord of 3 strands is not quickly broken!

Jesus is our Bridge to God!
Author Brennan Manning wrote that Jesus says to us, “Shalom, be at peace.. I understand your fears, your failures, your brokenness. I don't expect you to be perfect. I have been there. All is well. You have My love. You don't have to pay for it and you can't deserve it. ..You have only to open and receive it. You have only to say yes to my love-a love beyond anything you can intellectualize or imagine”

Prayer and the Bible are bridges to Jesus!
Our Gospel lesson for this evening is from Jesus' great prayer in John chapter 17.
Jesus has prayed for himself, and then for his disciples. And then he prays this:

John 17: 20-26
20 Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word;
21 That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.
22 And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one:
23 I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me.
24 Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory, which thou hast given me: for thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world.
25 O righteous Father, the world hath not known thee: but I have known thee, and these have known that thou hast sent me.
26 And I have declared unto them thy name, and will declare it: that the love wherewith thou hast loved me may be in them, and I in them.

Jesus prays that all believers...all who will proclaim the name of Jesus will be One. Just as He and the Father are One.. God in Jesus and Jesus in God. That we believers may also be One in the Father and the Son for the Glory of the Lord~!
And that we are to be United because and through the Love that God had before the foundation of the world! BEFORE the beginning of time, God loved....because God IS Love. Jesus made this known to his disciples and to all believers for 2000 years now and into this 21st century....that we may be One in Him to glorify God.....

so how's that working so far?
Not so hot? Do you think we can do better?
I do!
I absolutely do. I think we can do a lot better. I believe our churches, can be bridges that help get us across some of these gaps.

I believe that we can do this as individual churches, and especially in our groups that work together, our Church Women United groups, our members that work together to support Caritas, and other pantries and missions in the city, when we work together to get school supplies to needy kids, we are better together than separately! This is real community. And as we work together, we get to know what we have in common! Then we realize we are all connected. Then we can work together even more effectively and enjoy each other's company while we do!

Then we are modeling effective behaviors to our city, especially to young people. Now I am not so naïve that I think our churches coming together for a few worship services and working on a few missions together is going to solve all the problems of Beloit, never mind the world. BUT we can and we will make a difference in people's lives. And we never know how much of a difference we may make! At a talk recently, I heard that most of the crime problems are because of addictions. I have read that there is new research which shows that addiction treatment is most effective in community-in groups, and that good groups can be a strong deterrent to addictive behaviors! You see why I am so hopeful that our churches can make a difference?

This is the “Communion of the Holy Spirit” ..the spirit of God, given by Jesus so that we can be empowered to use those gifts of evangelism, apostleship, teaching, and other gifts.
This is how we can bridge some of the gaps in our churches and in our communities! This is how we stay focused on the BIG picture!!

When we are very intentional about working together and worshiping together and helping out together, we are helping others see Christ, see the Love of God and that we enjoy using our gifts and talents together for good! We are then modeling community and outreach, we will then help other people, even young people believe in God, believe in themselves and to make better choices and become leaders instead of following in the path of crime and violence.

Remembering that we have a lot in COMMON, instead of what's different. We all have stuff to deal with!! families some of whom drive us crazy. We all have things that we have to cope with, we all have losses at times, maybe health stuff, maybe financial, maybe that crazy family member, everyone has SOMETHING that gets us down, that might hold us back. We can listen to one another. Sometimes JUST listen...and say yes, I understand. I'm here for you, I'm praying for you.
finding that common ground is our key to understanding, and growing, and glorifying God.

A story about a bridge...a few years ago we were on vacation and hiking around a park with water falls. And we came to a bridge that went over a stream that was maybe 20 feet below. And that stream was kind of dried up and you could see big rocks. And we had to walk across that bridge. It was a railroad trestle -no hand rails! so there were gaps in between the wood planks so I could CLEARLY see the water and boulders way down below...and yeah I freaked. It took my son and my husband both hanging on to get me across that bridge. Because I couldn't stop looking down.....i couldn't make myself look AHEAD.

We do that in our churches. We keep looking down, at the trickling stream, at the boulders, boulders of our own inadequacies, our insecurity, our own bias. We need to remember to look UP at Jesus. At His Shalom! We forget to look up and ask for help. Ask for someone to help hang on to our hands, and say a prayer, to help us cross that bridge! Because across that bridge are great things, and the view is spectacular! Can we hold hands and walk together?

No comments:

Post a Comment