Good morning – first things first – I want to thank you for your generosity over the past two months. This month in April we had about 85 percent of our budget for the month was given. Which is great. It means we were able to pay all our bills, and send money to our friend Jan Thompson Haiti and Global Partners for their work in Mali and Togo. And we had money left over to put toward the building project. Which is obviously important- as we work with a bank to borrow money to build – it’s important we show we could afford our mortgage payment.
Second – let’s talk about the future. As you know the Governor has said that churches may begin to meet again beginning next Sunday, May 10 – Mothers Day! . However – as you know – we meet in a school. And the school is still closed to community use – and to be honest – we don’t know when it will be open if at all this summer.
Therefore – we are pursuing options – and there is one that looks promising – but since we haven’t figured out if it will work out we have nothing to announce today. If we do – you can be sure we will flood facebook and our website with the information – we’ll do out best to let you know where and when we meet.
That said – we are of course going to take every reasonable measure to ensure safety. If we are able to meet – we will not have any food or drinks. Neither will we have any nursery or children’s ministry. It’ll be family service time.
We’d ask you not to come if you are feeling at all unwell. We’d ask you to stay home if you are at risk or live with people at risk in your family.
We are counting on you to ensure that you are taking every reasonable measure. Wear a mask if you’d like, though that is not being required. The state has issued guidelines for churches to follow and we will follow all of the guidelines – the biggest one being that family units stay at a six foot minimum physical distance from one another.
We will continue to broadcast the service on facebook – we are making every effort to make it a live broadcast – but if that doesn’t work we will at the very least record the first service and then put it up online as soon as possible.
We will do our best to keep you informed. We love you all and miss you terribly. And we look forward to being able to worship with you in reasonably safe environment.
Sermon: This morning we are in our third week of a series we are calling a beautiful mess. It’s a series about the Church. Two weeks ago we looked at the mission of the church – which was to go into all the world with the message of Jesus Christ. And I’ve heard from a few of you who said you all had good discussions about the idea of what your Samaria might be. Go into all the world – Jerusalem Judea Samaria and the ends of the earth. Samaritans were famous enemies of the Jewish people, and yet Jesus singles them out as people of great worth and dignity.
Last week Kyle talked about the Markers of the early church. What made them famous? And he did a wonderful job explaining that the markers of the early church were that they were filled with the Holy Spirit, they were united in their love, and they were devoted to one another and to God. Devotion, unity, love, and spirit filled.
Today we are talking about the Message of the church. The message.
Here’s an amazing verse out of Paul’s second letter he wrote to the church that met in Corinth in about the year 55. It’s an amazing statement about the dignity that you and I have been given by God – who trusts us to carry His message to the world.
2 Corinthians 5:20 So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, “Come back to God!”
This verse is stunning. Paul is telling us that you and I – and everyone who thinks highly enough of Jesus to trust Him with their life – has been given an incredibly dignified position.
We are his Ambassadors. We are spokespeople for Jesus. And that makes us the most important people in society. We are ambassadors of the living God. You and me.
You and I know something about reality that many people don’t know. And God has given us the responsibility and the dignity of being the people who share the good news. The message of life.
You who have placed your faith in Jesus – you know something that others don’t know. You have a knowledge about the world, and God about reality – that others don’t know.
God has enlisted you – are you a truck driver? You more than a truck driver – you are a Jesus’ ambassador who carries with you knowledge and a message that he wants you to bring to the world of truck drivers that you know.
If you are a teacher you are more than a teacher – you are also an ambassador of Jesus. A spokesperson for the living God. Who carries with you a message for other people who love to teach like you.
Whatever you do – you are more than that- you have a knowledge of something that many people in the world do not know. And that is what life looks like when it is lived “with God.”
See – sometimes people say things like – why doesn’t God – if he wants to build up his followers – he should write something in the sky – in English of course – Jesus saves!
And if God didn’t trust us – if he didn’t treat us with such dignity and respect – he might have. But God knows that what he is calling people to is a different kind of humanity – a different kind of person – he is inviting us to a transformed life – so doesn’t it make sense that he gives those of us who are being transformed the great honor of sharing with others the knowledge of how to live a different kind of life?
From the very beginning Jesus sent his friends out to minister to our world in His name. Luke 9 – tells us Jesus sent out his disciples – to proclaim the good news.
See – you guys – you who have placed your faith in Jesus – you have a knowledge that the rest of the world doesn’t have. You are an ambassador. You have been called to partner with God to bring knowledge to the world.
You haven’t been called by God to try to pester them into the Kingdom. You haven’t been called by God to convince people to do anything. To engage in verbal judo to get someone to see things your way.
I guess what I’m dancing around is – that I have been taught a lot of different ways to “share the Gospel” with people that ultimately left me feeling like I was manipulating people – forcing them to only two options. I learned a method – I memorized a script that – if I followed carefully was almost guaranteed to lead people to having to make a decision – either they can be smart and go to heaven when they died by praying this prayer – or they can refuse but – I hope you don’t get hit by a bus today!
Now God has used all of these techniques in many peoples lives – I will never go out and say that one particular method of sharing the good news of Jesus is bad or that one is the right way – what I am saying is that whatever manner that we use to share with other people the good news of Jesus has to be completely natural and free and it needs to treat people with dignity.
And it has to be that the massage we are bringing people truly is good news. I was reading Acts 5 this week – and we read about a time when the apostles were arrested for telling people the message of Jesus – and it says… in Acts 5:19-20
19 But an angel of the Lord came at night, opened the gates of the jail, and brought them out. Then he told them, 20 “Go to the Temple and give the people this message of life!”
The message we are bringing is a message of life. Not threat. Not fear. Not manipulation. The cults do these things. Cults are careful to follow the proven script to coerce decisions out of people.
The message that Jesus gives us is a message of life. And it’s far more – by the way – than “You get to go to heaven when you die.” That’s true. But that’s not the whole of the message.
So what is the good news? Well, here’s the good news that Jesus preached. Let me show you.
Matthew 4:17 From that time on Jesus began to preach, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.”
Now – very important – the word repent means – literally “Change the way your think.” Re-think what you think you know. The Kingdom of God is near.
Mark 1:14 After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. 15 “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!”
Luke 8:1 Soon afterward Jesus began a tour of the nearby towns and villages, preaching and announcing the Good News about the Kingdom of God.
The good news – the gospel – which is a fancy bible word for good news – the good news is that there is another kingdom than the one we were born into by default.
What knowledge do we have that the world needs? There is another way of living. There is a life that awaits us that can only be defined as the “With God” Life.
See – the good news is far more than the arrangement that God made to do away with our sin. That is very important – and Paul is sure not to leave that out – and you can read in 2 Cor 5 and many other places. The forgiveness of sins is utterly important because our sins were blocking the entrance into the very real right now Kingdom within which God reins – and we get to live as cherished daughters and beloved sons.
Our sins blocked the way to a ‘with God’ life. And this is the knowledge you bring to the world. Jesus has made to throw wide open the gates to a life lived “With God.”
Now – if we go all the way back to Genesis – we find that life – before the fall – was a life lived with God. Adam and Eve lived with God in the garden. Now – it’s interesting to note that God wasn’t hovering over everything they did – he gave them space – but it was a life characterized by being with God in the garden.
After the fall – we still read about individuals that God came to be with – we see God speaking with Cain and Enoch and Noah – And listen – I apologize for those of you who are newer to this faith thing – I’m going to have to list a bunch of things in the bible you might not be totally familiar with – but hang with me – you can go back and research them later
But a big development occurs in Genesis 12 when God ells Abaraham – I will be with your family into a ‘with God’ life.
Later – in Exodus we see God telling a nation – I’ll be with you. You are my people. There’s a special with God relationship going on with the nation if Israel.
And then Jesus comes along and further extends the offer of a life lived with God to all who would believe. Now it’s a new humanity – who are offered what? A special relationship – like Adam and Eve had – like Abraham – like Moses a life lived with God – partnering with us through thick and thin.
What is the knowledge that we possess? What is the message that we are bringing to the world?
That Jesus – through his work on the cross – has cancelled our sins – and removed any barrier that once existed that kept us from living life ‘with God.”
This week I texted back and forth between a friend who told me he was reading through Exodus 0 and I told him – my favorite interaction in maybe the entire old testament is in Exodus 33 – where Moses is having a very honest conversation with God.
And the people of Israel are really giving Moses the berries – they are just causing him all kinds of heart-ache. And Moses here in Exodus 33 pours his heart out to God and says…
12 One day Moses said to the Lord, “You have been telling me, ‘Take these people up to the Promised Land.’ But you haven’t told me whom you will send with me.
14 The Lord replied, “I will personally go with you, Moses, and I will give you rest—everything will be fine for you.”
This is the Gospel according to Moses. God kindly says – Moses – I’m going with you. And therefore – Moses – you lack nothing. And you need fear nothing. I’m going with you – and so -relax.
Everything will be fine for you. And I can hear someone who might be struggling to understand how God can say this and in what lifetime I can promise that the gospel is that this promise goes for you and me too.
And I can hear someone skeptical will say – sure- everything will be fine for you until everything is not fine for you.
And – here’s the message that I bring. Heres the knowledge we bring as followers of Jesus – this is what we know – the “with God” life means that everything will be fine for us – especially when everything is not fine.
Because what is the worst thing that can happen to us? Death? That’s a blip – we are already living an eternal life – with God.
Everything will be fine for you Moses – well – Moses died. No big deal. The ‘with God’ life means that nothing can separate us from the love of God.
Romans 8 – maybe the greatest chapter in the entire bible – so triumphant and brings such assurance – what can spate us from – what? The “With God” life? Nothing in heaven or earth. No pandemic. No ecomonic calamity. No stock market plunge – nothing nothing nothing in all creation can rob us of poise, peace, hope, joy.
Nothing. What does the good news bring to us who believe? It brings poise when life is rocky. It brings a life that can weather any storm with grace and dignity and poise.
The Lord is my shepherd. I lack nothing. I fear nothing.
Here’s the good news. That ‘with God” life is available to all who want it. Jesus has made it possible for all of us who want that life to find it – it’s readily accessible.