Zis-N-Zat From Pastor Asher

God is my conscience, Jesus lives in my heart… this blog is about what I see, what I think, what I do and how I serve God

Approximate Notes for Sunday Message; Face2Faith with Church; 25-August-2013

Scriptures:  1 Cor 12:12-26; Eph 2:19-22; John 10:11-16; Matthew 25: 31-46

You can read these Scriptures here:   NIV2010

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During the summer months we talked about the concepts of faith that most of us understand but have difficulty explaining in vernacular. We can use words like “Church,” “Soul,” “Grace,” “Evil,” and “Heaven” in a sentence, but most of us have a difficult time explaining what these words mean in such a way that our unchurched neighbors, or even recent Christian converts, can relate to or understand what we are talking about.

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Today I want to talk about church. The English word “church” is probably derived from the Greek word “kuriakon” which was used by ancient writers as “God’s House.” The Hebrew equivalent of “kuriakon” is “Ha Beth El” – “The House of the Lord.”

However, when we see the word “church” in the Early Christian Writings, it is usually a translation of the Greek word “ekklesia” which means “assembly of people.” The Aramaic equivalent of “ekklesia” is “kahal.”

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We find the word “ekklesia” used as “assembly of people” in Acts 19: 32, 39 and 41 (the story of the riot in the City of Ephesus). We also find the word “ekklesia” used as “assembly of believers” (Romans 16:5, Colossians 4:15 – House church, Acts 8:1 – Church in Jerusalem, 1 Cor 1:2 – Church in Corinth, Acts 13:1 – Church in Antioch).

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I understand a church (small “c”) to be a group of people, an assembly or “ekklesia,” that gathers together on a regular basis to express gratitude for God’s presence and guidance in our lives, to connect with each other so that we help each other put our faith and devotion to God into meaningful practice. A church is a fellowship of believers that is shaped, guided and connected to each other through the active work of the Holy Spirit in our lives.

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This is Church Building

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This is the Church.

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Ideally, individual members of a church act as network routers or wi-fi hot-spots broadcasting the good news of reconciliation, grace, love, fellowship, and discipleship. The word wi-fi is shorthand for “wireless fidelity.” If you look-up the word “fidelity” in a thesaurus you will discover that it has the connotation of faithfulness, devotion, reliability, and trustworthiness. We are called to be walking “hot-spots” or “transmitters” of faith and we are called to do that with devotion and trustworthiness.

To put our faith and devotion to God into meaningful practice as a community requires many talents. Someone needs to handle finances, someone needs to organize and to run the Sunday School, someone needs to make sure that phones are answered, someone needs to make sure that the physical facilities are in good working order, someone has to play the organ, someone has to lead the liturgy, someone has to take the trash out and that list can go on and on and on…

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Paul put it best in 1 Corinthians 12: 12-14.

12 Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body … and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. 14 Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many.

All of us are at different points in our life’s journeys, and at every bend and turn we learn new things about God and about who God is. These individual revelations make up the fabric of our community, our “ekklesia,” that is known as Christ United Methodist Church. These relationships make this sanctuary a holy and consecrated place and these relationships make our time together a holy time set aside to worship God.

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Just like there is a need for many talents among the individual members of each church, every “ekklesia” has different strengths and talents as a group. Christ UMC’s gifts, strengths and graces, the “how” of our living out our faith and devotion to God, is different from those of James UMC, or of First UMC or of Chestertown Presbyterian, just to give an example.

I understand the nature of the Church (big “C”) to be a worldwide connection of distinct, interrelated and interdependent faith communities that interact with the culture of the time and place in which they live.

As members of an organically evolving Church (big “C”), individual churches are called to be ambassadors / agents of reconciliation, emotional and spiritual growth, healing, and revitalization in the lives of individuals and communities.

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Jesus, himself, identified the primary task for the Church when he said: “… go and make disciples of all nations… teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19-20 NIV) ; we are called to do that for the transformation of the world (United Methodist Book Of Discipline). I understand this to be a directive to engage in a continual study of scriptures of the New and Old Testaments with the ultimate goal of sharing the love of Jesus and of intentional disciple making as physical, emotional, and spiritual needs of people are met.

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We live in a world driven by economic globalization, rapid communication, and easily available mass education. The global culture that we live in is syncretic, synergistic and pluralistic with every conceivable belief system interacting with other beliefs and lifestyles. The exchange of ideas, ideologies, and cultures is prolific, complex, and mind boggling.

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In order to be intentional and effective in making disciples in that environment, the Church (big “C”) and individual churches (small “c”) must be diligent in discerning what God is doing in the world where we live and at the time when we live. Such discernment requires all of us to actively listen to popular culture and be in a respectful, intentional, and purposeful dialogue within its membership and with the world outside its walls.

Most individuals do not share the same theological understandings of the fine points of God’s nature and mission; the same holds true for churches. For Church (big “C”) to be effective in renewing and regenerating itself through generations, it is imperative that we learn how to respect and appreciate each other’s differences, how to set our differences aside, how to concentrate on our common roots and, in the spirit of cooperation, submit ourselves to God’s guidance {“Turn Your Eyes Towards Jesus” UMH 349}. By doing this, individual church communities can witness and testify their faith to each other and to their neighbors, learn about aspects of God that they themselves might have overlooked, and demonstrate to outsiders what it means to be connected to God and to each other.

The Church must be intentional in staying current with culturally appropriate language and methods, thus making church accessible to those who do not have a long tradition of Christian upbringing. By doing this, the Church is involved in the process of bringing the presence of the Divine into the secular world.

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Ephesians 2:19-22 NIV2010

19 Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. 21 In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. 22 And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.

Christian churches are meant to be communities where individuals are parts of the body of Christ. Normally that body is aware of what happens to each of its parts and gives each part the loving care it needs.

We live at a time and in a place where most churches face difficult times. We live at a time when the Church Universal is struggling to redefine itself and to find the ways and means of connecting individuals to God and to communities of faith.

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Recently Larry W. shared with me a story from his professional life that I would like to use to illustrate my point.

{Illustration}

Of course we live in difficult times; how we respond to these times is up to us. And that brings me to my last point.

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When was the last time that you saw John Harbaugh (the head coach of the Baltimore Ravens) play the game alongside his team? When was the last time that you saw Buck Showalter (the manager of the Baltimore Orioles) play ball? The point is that both of them are intricately involved and are a major part of what their respective teams do; but they are not the ones scoring goals  touchdowns or hitting home runs.

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As a pastor of this church I will do what needs to be done to help this community to develop the vision and, while I am here, to help you to pursue that vision. I say this because I sincerely hope that the vision that we will develop will outlive my pastorate by decades. That vision should be a clear and compelling picture of where we want to go; that vision should be a clear and compelling picture of what we see the future of this church – Christ United Methodist Church – to be. It is time for us to start thinking about that vision. It is time for us to get purposeful and focused in our thinking about what God wants this community to become in the future.

Christ United Methodist Church in Chestertown, MD has been a jewel in the Crown that Jesus wears as the King of the Universe for over 160 years; 125 of those in this building.

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Luke 17:20-21 NIV2010

20 Once, on being asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, Jesus replied, “The coming of the kingdom of God is not something that can be observed, 21 nor will people say, ‘Here it is,’ or ‘There it is,’ because the kingdom of God is within you and in your midst.”

Few questions to ponder:

  • What kind of jewel will Christ United Methodist Church be in the Crown of Jesus over the next 150 years? In the next 150 years our church will have to change continually, just like it has changed continually in the last 150 years.

  • What do we need to do in the present to glorify Jesus not only in the past and present, but also in the future?

  • What do we need to do so that Jesus can continue to use our community to build His Kingdom? How do we “broadcast” the love and presence of God in our own lives?

  • What do we need to do so that the Light of Christ continues to burn in Chestertown?

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2 responses to “Approximate Notes for Sunday Message; Face2Faith with Church; 25-August-2013

  1. Pingback: Approximate Notes for Sunday Message; 22-September-2013 | Zis-N-Zat From Pastor Asher

  2. Pingback: Approximate Notes for Sunday Message; 22-September-2013 | Christ United Methodist Church in Chestertown, MD

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