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; January 31, 2016; 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11
30 January 2016
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Scriptures for this Sunday: 1 Thes 5:1-11
You can read these Scriptures here: NIV and ESV
We will continue with the series of messages about how we can share Jesus with the world in which we live…
During the service our community will consecrate and commission a new set of paraments for the altar.
1 Thessalonians 5:1-11 The Day of the Lord NIV2010
NIV2010 1 Thessalonians 5: 1 Now, brothers and sisters, about times and dates we do not need to write to you, 2 for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. 3 While people are saying, “Peace and safety,” destruction will come on them suddenly, as labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape.
4 But you, brothers and sisters, are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you like a thief. 5 You are all children of the light and children of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness. 6 So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be awake and sober. 7 For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, get drunk at night. 8 But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet. 9 For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. 10 He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him. 11 Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.
We are in the middle of a series of sermons about how we can share with the world around us the wonderful relationship that all of us have with Jesus. Since we had to cancel worship services last Sunday, I would like to reiterate the gist of the sermon I had planned to preach last week.
We live in a world that is created by our thinking, our efforts and our interactions. That is what makes a community, and church is a community. Church communities are a microcosm of the thinking of their members. With the history of church decline that we have lived through in the last 70 years or so, that microcosm of thinking is becoming smaller and smaller every year. And, truth be told, we love it.
Look how wonderful the interactions in this community are; people love coming to church, to hang out with each other. Our lives are not a bed of roses but all of us have experienced some days that are magic, some days that are tragic and most of our days fall somewhere in between. I have only been here six months, but I have already observed that in this community people help each other to celebrate days that are magic, help each other through the days that are tragic, and help each other to find meaning in the days that are routine. We love the environment that we have built here.
Albert Einstein said once that, “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.” To me that quote comes close to describing what goes on in most of our churches. Allow me to explain.
When our neighbors feel the need to be with God they come to church. They come here looking for God.
If they think we are in a rut, if they see us doing the same thing we’ve done for the last 70 years without reflecting changes in the world around us, it is hard for them to see or understand how God moves among us today, how God rules Kingswood UMC in present time.
Clarification: I am not saying that God is not moving among us, the point I am trying to make is that it is not always easy for outsiders to recognize God’s presence in our midst.
While we all speak English, we speak different “cultural languages.” While we know God is in this place, what they may perceive is a spiritual drought, a spiritual desert, parched and thirsty for God. That is why many visit once and leave, never to be seen again. Because of that generation gap and cultural divide they do not find spiritual renewal and nourishment among us, and they perceive a spiritual drought. Nobody wants to go to a drought stricken area when they are looking for renewal and nourishment (whether spiritual or physical).
That is why the first thing that most churches need to do before they experience growth is to become a spiritual oasis that feels awesome not only to us, but also to those who come seeking God.
That brings us to this week’s message. In today’s reading, we heard Paul teaching the church in Thessalonica about the days of Jesus’ return. We read this Scripture today because, as I was planning this series of sermons, one verse from this reading came to mind and I feel that it holds one of the keys to what we are trying to do. In verse 1 Thes 5:11 Paul wrote, “encourage one another and build each other up” (NIV2010).
Dictionary.com defines word “encourage” as (1) to inspire with courage, spirit, or confidence, (2) to stimulate by assistance, approval, etc., and (3) to give support, confidence, or hope.
One of the many ways that we share with the world around us the wonderful relationship that we have with Jesus is by being encouragers. Everyone has heard the saying that says something about giving a man a fish and he will eat today, teach a man to fish and he will never go hungry. Encouragement is about teaching a man to fish.
We live in a troubled world. Who among us does not have their share of problems and frustrations? We see needs everywhere and it is not possible or even feasible for us, by ourselves, to address all of the needs that we encounter. We don’t have the physical resources or stamina for that matter.
What is practical is to bring Jesus to the needs that we see, and in a way that our neighbors can relate to. When we treat someone for what he or she is, they stay where they are, they remain unchanged. When we encourage someone to meet their potential, to be the best of what God created them to be, we give them vision, and hope. That is how we share Jesus; “silver and gold I have not, but what I have I give you. I give you Jesus” (Acts 3:6, paraphrase).
We share Jesus with our neighbors each time we reach out and demonstrate, in a way that they can relate to, that God is active in this community. Every one of these encounters is a seed planted. Some seeds will sprout, some seeds will not. Some seeds will grow here in this community; some other seeds will decide to go somewhere else.
Our job is to bring Jesus with us to every encounter and to plant seeds of hope in the lives of our neighbors. Many of them already know Jesus, or at least about Jesus. Our job is to find those who made a choice, for whatever reason, not to associate with any church. And we need to invite these men and women to make a home here, to grow in faith with us. The challenge is to make that “come and grow with us” meaningful.
To demonstrate the relationship that we have with God to our neighbors, we must understand the culture that shapes them and learn to recognize the ways in which God is active in that culture, outside the walls of our church.
St Francis of Assisi said once, “Preach the Gospel always; use words only if necessary.”
Our closing hymn today is “We Have a Story to Tell to the Nations.”
Verse 1: “We’ve a story to tell to the nations, that shall turn their hearts to the right…”
Verse 2: “We’ve a song to be sung to the nations, that shall lift their hearts to the Lord …”
Verse 3: “We’ve a message to give to the nations, that the Lord who reigneth above…”
Verse 4: “We’ve a Savior to show to the nations, who the path of sorrow hath trod…”
And we do that because we know that someday “the darkness shall turn to dawning, and the dawning to noonday bright; and Christ’s great kingdom shall come on earth, the kingdom of love and light.” Now is our opportunity and chance to be God’s presence in this world, and to create a community that can nourish our ministries and outreach for years to come. Now is our opportunity to create a community that is able to nurture and build not only each other, but also welcome our neighbors and help them to grow emotionally and spiritually.