I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.--Philippians 4:13 (NIV)
"Coffee and Chocolate help too!"--Carol
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)
how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in
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
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
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;
speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which
is the head, even Christ:
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
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 me...in 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
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
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
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
pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me
through their word;
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
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.
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.
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
so how's that working so far?
Not so hot? Do you think we can 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
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