Monday, April 11, 2016

Sermon at United Church of Beloit April 10, 2016 Go Therefore and...

Go Therefore and...  

Ecclesiastes 4:12 

12  Though one may be overpowered,
        two can defend themselves.
A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.

Matthew 28:16-20

16  Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them.  17When they saw him, they worshipped him; but some doubted.  18And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  19Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,  20and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.’*

Ecclesiastes –note from Reformation Study Bible...
4:9–12  Cooperation, rather than strife rooted in envy, produces success and provides protection …

Two are better than one....I've said it before...we are created to be in community. We are created to be together with God and with each other! The cord of 3 strands is us and God! Two are better than one, when we have God in the equation as well :)

Gospel lesson...after Jesus' death...disciples maybe saying 'where do we go from here?” Jesus had told them 'go to Galilee” but they were shaken by his arrest and death! Maybe they forgot or thought that it all the plans had been disrupted, it was all over!

Then Jesus, the Risen Jesus!--reminded the women at the empty tomb..   “Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.”

So they went to Galilee...back to where it all began. And then encountered Jesus, risen from the dead! They worshiped him! But 'some doubted!” they still had trouble believing even after all they had been through!

In another bible, called the Message..which is a modern language paraphrase, Author Eugene Peterson tells it this way.

Matthew 28:16-20The Message (MSG)
16-17  Meanwhile, the eleven disciples were on their way to Galilee, headed for the mountain Jesus had set for their reunion. The moment they saw him they worshiped him. Some, though, held back, not sure about  worship, about risking themselves totally.
18-20  Jesus, undeterred, went right ahead and gave his charge: “God authorized and commanded me to commission you: Go out and train everyone you meet, far and near, in this way of life, marking them by baptism in the threefold name: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Then instruct them in the practice of all I have commanded you. I’ll be with you as you do this, day after day after day, right up to the end of the age.”

Peterson's phrasing here is powerful...'they held back, not sure about worship, about risking themselves totally...” The Disciples needed to be ALL IN! In the book of the Revelation, the letter to one church says that God will spit them out because they are lukewarm! Jesus was never lukewarm. He had times of frustration, and anger, but that was because of his passion and commitment!

“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations!.”

People prefer to be with folks who are like themselves. But Jesus tells us to reach out to all 'nations' all countries, but also to all different kinds of people. The word translated here “Nations” in the original Greek is the word Ethnos. From which we get the word 'ethnic' –it means races and peoples. In this context it also means peoples other than the Jews...the people to whom Jesus was speaking. He said go therefore to the people who aren't like you! Step out of your comfort zone.

Front of bulletin...'building a community in reach the community for Christ.” what does that mean to you? When you read this statement, or hear it, what part speaks to you, what part do you focus on? Building? Community? To reach? For Christ? Each component of this is important. And each of us has a role to play. Perhaps the part you focus on is the part you are to do! Do you build up? Are you an encourager? Everyone needs an encourager and everyone can be one! We need to pray for each other, we need to know someone is praying for us, we need to hear and to say, I am here for you!!

In black churches, saying “amen”, and “preach it” during the sermon, serves purpose...It encourages the pastor! It also keeps the parishioners listening and engaged!

Worship means to be engaged, to participate. Worship is how we braid that cord of 3 strands together! It means being engaged with God and with each other! If we are thinking too much about self..what I like, what I think about this, what I need to do later on...then we are not engaged. If we are not engaged, we are not worshiping God. We may be AT a worship service but we are not part of it, we are not IN it. We are not worshiping.

Worship is corporate, that is we do it as a's conversation with God, and adoration OF God. And hearing from God, through the Scriptures, and hearing and thinking about what God's word means to us today! Yes, we can have prayer, adoration and scripture alone! And we need to do so, that is part of how we maintain our roots in our faith. and participating in worship happens when we are together! When we are together in God, we worship God and are more at One with God!

A church is a lot like a family. We have a lot in common, but not absolutely everything! And we enjoy being together because we are connected.

Now our family members may not all be exactly like us! Most of the time there are a lot of similarities but even siblings can be wildly different from each other! But we are still family, so we look at what we have in common and maybe even learn to celebrate the differences!

The point is that we come together!

According to our Gospel lesson, the point is that we come together with others too! That we reach out to the community For Christ. We reach out beyond the four walls, beyond this church, into this neighborhood and beyond. That we work with other churches, with other organizations that are working to build up the city. That we worship with other churches. I have read a lot of material about the decline of the mainline churches, about how fewer and fewer people identify themselves as 'religious' whether or not they attend church! The culture has changed rapidly and churches have struggled, some not changing enough, some too much! One thing I do know, is we...this church and other churches can not just do the same old same old. We must reach out. Make disciples! For Jesus!

Jesus was One with God and the Holy Spirit. Yet he came to live with us :D
and he said to reach out and to Baptize in the name of the father, son, holy spirit.

We are to make disciples and teach what he taught! Share our stories, tell what Jesus means to us, and share what Jesus taught...but also to listen to others' stories. Even those of very different faiths, that is how we can find common ground.

Remember what Jesus said were the 'greatest commandments”? Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength; and love each other as yourself. We love God and love others, caring for them as Jesus did! Listening to others to learn what their needs are and their hopes and dreams! And sharing ours. Inviting people who may be quite different to be a part of our lives, our churches. Working with other churches to bring the loving care of God into our city. Working with organizations like Caritas―who help our neighbors in need.

At a meeting this week, we were working on prep for the book bag bash. And one member of our team who is a school teacher shared that kids learn young who really cares for them, and who is just doing stuff for them because they are obligated to do so. When kids learn someone is doing something just because they care...they respond. They KNOW that they are cared for and cared about in that moment! Thru our work in the community, they have some of the Love and Light of Christ in that moment, and that light can shine through a lot!

We all need to know that we are cared for and cared about. That is what churches can do for a community. A healthy church really can be very effective in reaching out to the community for Christ! How so? Because a healthy church puts Jesus first. And Jesus promised, “Surely I am with you always, even to the end of the age!” through the holy spirit, we have the love and power of Jesus, if we stay rooted in his love and word, through our private time with God and through our worshiping community!

Jesus, who was One with God and with the Holy Spirit,. Jesus, was ONE with God, yet chose to be One with us too!! He chose to be part of this glorious creation and to be one with our inglorious selves!! And he went to the cross...CHOSE to go to the cross...chose not because God is mean but because God is LOVE and we are mean...chose to go to the Cross. To himself endure complete separation from God so that We would NEVER endure complete separation from God. And then told his disciples―and US-- Go therefore and...share his teachings, share this amazing story, share that LOVE! with everyone! Even and especially the ones who are not just like us. So that we can all become more like Jesus!

Dearest Lord, thank You so much for choosing to live with us and die for us, and rising again to help US live in YOUR love. Show us how to better go out into the world for you. Amen. 

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