Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Go and Do Likewise

I do not get to preach very often ------- so I thought I would post this sermon that I preached a couple weeks back.  It was delivered at Grace United Methodist Church in downtown Wilmington.  Check them out here.  Here is the sermon:

Saturday, July 13, 2013

A Community on Mission

The nature and mission of a missional community is to get messy for Jesus Christ. We are to be recklessly excellent in living out our cruciform life in love with God and loving our neighbors.

During the summer of 2008 my wife and I visited London. If anyone visits London, they will notice that they end up visiting many churches. The thing is, when you visit these churches, you are not going to worship—instead, these churches are becoming more and more like museums—ornaments of the past. Just a small handful of people attend worship on Sundays—but they pay their staff and their bills because they are treated as a museum. They charge strangers [they like to call them tourists] money to go into their doors—and people want to go there to see where so and so murdered such and such at a certain place in the 11th century. The Churches in Europe are dwindling to such an extent that they are nothing but places that tell of what they used to do in ministry. They have become museums that used to be about the work of God—but now they are just playing Church. This is a terrible tragedy—houses of worship that used to do awesome things for God are now more concerned with making sure the cobwebs stay off their pews. From this dilapidated position, I want to ask what is the nature and mission of a missional community?

When we turn to scripture we find a particular God—the God of Israel. This God creates in God's self one new humanity and reconciles both groups in one body through the cross (Ephesians 2.15-16). When we turn to scripture we see that the God we serve is a God who sends, the God who acts, and the action is missional because it is the action of salvation for the world. As a result of this revelation we now know that the God we serve is a missionary God and that we are to be missionary people.

As the church we have forgotten who we are—much like the tiger who has been brought up around goats and thinks that he is a goat. In many ways we have turned our buildings into museums and funded our salaries by charging strangers [tourists] to come see the remains of our institution. The church is to be about mission—because the God that we serve is a missionary God. It would help a great deal if we were to stop calling our local churches, “churches”, and instead call them mission-outposts. Mission-outposts that look at themselves as constantly reaching out to the people that surround them—and transforming the world around them. The church is to be missional—and the church is to affect the cosmos by transforming the world for Jesus Christ.

The mission and nature of the missional community is to get messy for Jesus. We get messy by being disciples that make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. The church is missional and that is going to be messy—and from this dilapidated vantage point it is almost as if God is looking at the mess and calling it good.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Man of Steel

Last night I went and saw the Man of Steel movie.  I really enjoyed it and there was one quote that stuck out to me that I still am ruminating about.  Clark went into the local church in his hometown and the priest asked him what was on his mind.  As he started sharing the complexity of his problems and his befuddlement about what he was to do ------ you could tell the priest didn't know what to say.  So Clark just got up from the pew and was beginning to leave.  The priest then said: "Sometimes you have to take a leap of faith first.  The trust part comes later."

Isn't that so true with relationships in general.  As Christians we have to be the initiators of relationship ------ we have to take that leap of faith.  For we find ourselves in a world that is oftentimes skeptical of anyone that is gracious and merciful.  But when we are the initiators and allow ourselves to be vulnerable to the world ------- oftentimes the trust will come. 

But that notion of vulnerability is a tough word for us.  For we oftentimes want to build walls ------- so that we have proper "boundaries".  When we use that word "boundaries" ------- we mostly say things like that so that we will not be hurt any longer.  Thank goodness that Jesus did not focus on proper boundaries.  Instead, he offered himself to the world ------ by laying down his life for others. 

Now may we go and do likewise -------- as we lay down our lives for the benefit of the world.