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’s Message; September 20, 2015; The Nature of the Church

The perfect church service,would be one we were almost unaware of. Our attention would have been on God.” ~~ C.S. Lewis

You can be committed to Church but not committed to Christ, but you cannot be committed to Christ and not committed to church.” ~~ Joel Osteen

Scriptures for this Sunday: 1 Corinthians 12: 12-31a

You can read these Scriptures here: {NIV2010 and ESV}

Hymns for This Sunday:

UMH 131 – We Gather Together

UMH 349 – Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus

UMH 327 – Crown Him With Many Crowns

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In the last ten (10) weeks we talked about the concepts of faith that most of us understand but have difficulty explaining in vernacular. We can use words like “Fallen World,” “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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Last week we talked about the Process of Discipleship.

Although I often hear that we need to make disciples because we need more people in the pews so that we have the money to fix leaky roofs and broken furnaces, I think this is stating the symptom, not the reality.

All I have to do is to see you hold hands and join your voices in singing “Blest Be the Tie That Binds” to know that the reason that we engage in the process of making disciples is because of our own personal relationship with Jesus, because we were entrusted with something meaningful and because we want to preserve that meaning for future generations.

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Today I want to talk about church (with a small “c”, as in local church, not Church Universal).

I understand a church (small “c”) to be a group of people that gathers together on a regular basis to express gratitude for God’s presence and guidance in our lives, to connect with God and 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 – “Blest Be the Tie that Binds.”

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“Church Building” VS. “Church”

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 run the Sunday School, someone needs to make sure that phones are answered, that the physical facilities are in good working order, someone has to play the organ and organize the choir, someone has to lead the liturgy, someone has to take out the trash and that list can go on and on and on…

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 with God, 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. These individual revelations are woven into the tapestry that we refer to as Kingswood United Methodist Church. These relationships make our assemblies holy and this sanctuary a consecrated place. Our 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 local church has different strengths and talents as a group. Kingswood UMC’s gifts, strengths and graces, the “how” of our living out our faith and devotion to God, are different from those of Newark UMC or of St. Andrew’s Presbyterian, just to give an example.

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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 (UMBOD). 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[1], synergistic[2] and pluralistic[3] with every conceivable belief system interacting with other beliefs and lifestyles. The exchange of ideas, ideologies, and cultures is prolific, complex, and mind boggling (Tippett).

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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 {1) how to respect and appreciate each other’s differences, {2} how to set our differences aside, {3} how to concentrate on our common roots and goals, and, in the spirit of cooperation, {4} submit ourselves to God’s guidance.

{Illustration from the personal practice of ministry}

By turning our eyes towards Jesus, individual church communities can witness and testify about 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. When we take our eyes from Jesus we perish.

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.

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.

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

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When was the last time that you saw Chip Kelly (the head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles) or John Harbaugh (the head coach of the Baltimore Ravens) play the game alongside their team? When was the last time that you saw Buck Showalter (the manager of the Baltimore Orioles) or Pete Mackanin (the manager of the Philadelphia Phillies) play ball on the field? The point is that coaches are intricately involved and are a major part of what their respective teams do; BUT they are not the ones scoring touchdowns or hitting home runs.

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As the 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. When I think ahead I am thinking 50 or 60 years ahead, not 5 or 10. 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 as the future of this church – Kingswood United Methodist Church. 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.

Kingswood United Methodist Church has been a jewel in the Crown that Jesus wears as the King of the Universe for over 60 years.

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 in your midst [or within you].”

What kind of jewel will Kingswood United Methodist Church be in the Crown of Jesus over the next 60 or 100 years? Today this church is different than it was when it was first established in 1954. In the next 60 years our church will have to change, just like it has changed in the last 60 years.

What do we need to do 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 us to build His Kingdom? How do we renew ourselves?

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

List of Works Cited:

Tippett, Krista. Speaking of Faith: Globalization and the Rise of Religion. 12 October 2006. 27 July 2009 <http://speakingoffaith.publicradio.org/programs/

globalization/transcript.shtml>.

[1] Dictionary.com defines term syncretism as “reconciliation or fusion of differing systems of belief, as in philosophy or religion.” The term syncretic is defined as “union of different or opposing principles, practices, or parties, as in philosophy or religion.”

[2] Dictionary.com defines term synergy as “the interaction of two or more agents or forces so that their combined effect is greater than the sum of their individual effects.” The term synergistic is defined as “producing or capable of producing synergy.”

[3] Dictionary.com defines term pluralism as “a condition in which numerous distinct ethnic, religious, or cultural groups are present and tolerated within a society.” The term pluralistic is defined as “a condition in which many cultures coexist within a society and maintain their cultural differences.”

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