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 @ Worton UMC; 3 May 2015; Matthew 16:13-20

Scripture this Sunday is Matthew 16:13-20

Hymns are:

UMH 131 – We Gather Together

UMH 465 – Holy Spirit, Truth Divine (vs 1 & 4) – At Worton UMC only

UMH 117 – O God, Our Help in Ages Past

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“Who do you say that I am?” (Matthew 16:15)

Today I want to take the time to look at this reading through the lens of a church community: “Who does Worton United Methodist Church say that Jesus is?”

When we talk about being in ministry, most of us get visions of lofty actions with far ranging implications. The reality, however, is that most of us do not engage in heroic actions to make disciples. None of us are able to diffuse tensions in the city of Baltimore by ourselves. None of us will broker peace in the Middle East or stop the war in Afghanistan. None of us will single-handedly defeat ISIS or win the war on drugs. None of us will stop worldwide hunger or reverse climate change by ourselves.

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On the other hand, small thoughtful acts of kindness multiplied by thousands (if not millions) of Christians can, and will, make this world a better place. And it starts with listening to our neighbors.

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I want to share with you a quote from Dietrich Bonhoeffer that had far reaching implications in my life:

The first service that one owes to others in the fellowship consists in listening to them. Just as love to God begins with listening to His Word, so the beginning of love for brethren [and our neighbors, aft] is learning to listen to them. It is God’s love for us that He not only gives us His Word but also lends us His ear. So it is His work that we do for our brother when we learn to listen to him. Christians, especially ministers, so often think they must always contribute something when they are in the company of others, that this is the one service they have to render. They forget that listening can be a greater service than speaking.

Many people are looking for an ear that will listen. They do not find it among Christians, because these Christians are talking when they should be listening. But he who can no longer listen to his brother will soon no longer be listening to God either; he will be doing nothing but prattle in the presence of God too. This is the beginning of the death of the spiritual life, and in the end there is nothing left but spiritual chatter and clerical condescension arrayed in pious words. One who cannot listen long and patiently will presently be talking beside the point and be never really speaking to others, albeit he be not conscious of it. Anyone who thinks that his time is too valuable to spend keeping quiet will eventually have no time for God and his brother, but only for himself and for his own follies. (Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together, 97-98).

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In Matthew 13:20 we hear, “Then he ordered his disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah.” I think that Jesus was challenging his disciples and followers to listen to people’s pains and problems and then offer them the peace that comes from knowing that someone cares and someone is walking by their side.

So how do we listen to our neighbors?

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1) Provide an environment where our neighbors feel invited and feel comfortable and not threatened. {Illustration}

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2) Provide an environment and place where our neighbors are validated and offered understanding. {Illustration} They need to feel they can contribute or they won’t come back.

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3) Provide an environment where our neighbors know that we care and will walk by their side helping them to figure out how to reinvent or rebuild themselves in their times of trouble.

Notice that all these steps depend on us listening instead of talking. Notice that all these steps have nothing to do with logic, or with persuasiveness. Making disciples and reaching out beyond the walls of this building has a lot to do with building relationships and being flexible, adaptable and patient as opposed to being right. Making disciples and reaching beyond the walls of this building has a lot to do with being kind and understanding as opposed to having all the answers.

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There is a quote that is attributed to Rick Warren, the pastor of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California that goes,

Our culture has accepted two huge lies. The first is that if you disagree with someone’s lifestyle [or beliefs], you must fear or hate them. The second is that to love someone means you agree with everything they believe or do.

Both are nonsense. You don’t have to compromise convictions to be compassionate.

We live in a world that is hungry for compassion, kindness and understanding. We don’t have to compromise our convictions or abandon our faith to exhibit compassion and to provide a welcoming environment.

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{John 10:5 – Illustration}

{Celebrating the Sacrament of the Holy Communion}

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