6/28 Message “Faith in Action”

The church continues to be open at 11 am Sunday for a worship service. And here’s a recording and text of the message for those joining from home.

28 June Sunday Service “Faith in Action”

Call to Worship: Psalm 133

A song of ascents. Of David.

How good and pleasant it is
when God’s people live together in unity!

It is like precious oil poured on the head,
running down on the beard,
running down on Aaron’s beard,
down on the collar of his robe.
It is as if the dew of Hermon
were falling on Mount Zion.
For there the Lord bestows his blessing,
even life forevermore.

Tithe, Offering, and Prayer Concerns; Father of all formation, maker of Heaven and Earth. Today Lord we come to bring all we are and commit ourselves to you in our struggles to forgive and live in harmony with your creation. We pray that you bless and sanction our gifts of ourselves and use them to further your kingdom in this troubled world. In Jesus Christ Heavenly name. Amen!

Romans 12: 9-21 “Faith in Action”

Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. 10 Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. 11 Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. 12 Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. 13 Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.

14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.

17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. 18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19 Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. 20 On the contrary:

“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”

21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Message; “You in Action!”

I have to admit that lately I have been way too consumed with watching the TV. I have watched as I witnessed the country go through pandemic, and then the protesting of the Mr. Floyd mistreatment and killing. The protesting turned to violence and rioting throughout the country, and now the push to remove anything that offends others in the public square, simply by removing, erasing, or destroying, with hammer, paint, or fire.

It seems like at times it’s easy to feel like an emotional ping-pong ball. One moment I am out-right livid at the burning of the inner city, it’s businesses and infrastructure, and the next moment appalled at the mistreatment of fellow citizens to the point of causing their very deaths. And the death is coming from a multitude of directions, from pandemic and mismanagement, in the form of authoritarian abuse, liberation abuse, drug abuse, neglect abuse, coupled with heavy doses of passion and apathy.

All the while, it seems to me that regardless of where I try to inform myself of what is actually happening, I am being manipulated and lead in every direction possible. It appears that it really doesn’t matter where you go for information these days, regardless if you are relying on your social network of friends, the paper, radio, or the evening news on TV, you are going to be lambasted to the point that your sensory perception is on overload.

Regardless of conservative, liberal, libertarian, independent, local, state, national or international in composition, the news is ever more becoming an entry point into insanity. Bedlam is the call of the moment, and anarchy it’s ringmaster. Calling for ever more outrageous, uncalled-for, and mind-numbing brands of mayhem in our society. As our society searches itself, and wrestles with itself, fights itself, trying to determine just what kind of people we shall become in the future.

Well, I am making a concerted effort to not live in the news of the moment as I try to inform myself in a balanced way about how I may best contribute to the discussions at hand. Asking that age old question, people have been asking for time immemorial; what kind of community are we to be in the future?

Our country is famous for asking these kinds of questions and the Christian Church has placed (sometimes even without knowing) these big questions front and center as we have strived to come to terms with the big questions of community, both inside and outside the church. Here are five that come to mind:

  1. How should we treat others?
  2. Who is my brother, my neighbor, my friend?
  3. How many times should I forgive insult or trespass?
  4. What is self-control / self-governance?
  5. Who should be the judge of this stuff?

Today’s message, attempts to begin to answer these questions and more. Based more on what the Lord has instructed, and less on the passions of the moment. What this message is not is a political treatise on the future of any specific community. It is not intended to reach out beyond your own span of prayer, thought, and contemplation about what kind of a person in your faith community do you want to be and the kind of influence you are striving to. Like anyone dealing with information overload, the idea is to take things on, one piece at a time, and not to overwhelm an already overtaxed mind.

Our role is not to tell you how to vote, or who to follow politically. We feel the church’s job is to equip people to think and decide with the Lord and other believer’s the proper course ahead. That is why you will not find us attacking other faith walks, but sharing the joy in ours!

We are excited about not being a political church. Why? That is not what the Lord has called our family in this church to do in our common faith walk. We do not judge others who may take a different path, but we feel God has placed us here to heal, and our activism is directed in feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, and offering friendship to the abandoned. Regardless of where someone is coming from; we believe we are called to offer Christian love, and be more concerned about where that person is going to.

This is a hallmark in our quest for unity and harmony with other people. As our “Call to Worship” today suggest from David’s Psalm of assent in Psalm 133:1-2

How good and pleasant it is
when God’s people live together in unity!

2 It is like precious oil poured on the head,

    running down on the beard,

running down on Aaron’s beard,

    down on the collar of his robe.

This was a hymn believed to have been written by King David. It was sung by pilgrims walking up to the Temple in Jerusalem to worship God. The oil mentioned alludes to the children of God being anointed to serve one another in this life of ours, and the sweet aroma that servicing others provides. What a world we would have if we could as the peoples of the earth in unison go up on God’s mountain to praise, glorify, and magnify God’s holy and precious name! And that is what we are about as a Church.

Which that leads us to that first question;

1). How should we treat others?  Well, that takes us right back to our reading for today’s message in Romans 12: 9-21

Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. 10 Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. 11 Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. 12 Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. 13 Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.

14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.

17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. 18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19 Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. 20 On the contrary:

“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
if he is thirsty, give him something to drink

21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Perhaps, if we look at this scripture passage in reverse order, the end explains it all when Paul says: “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” So many times, the evil that I have encountered in this life originated from within me. My selfishness, my jealousies, and my very own fears spawned the seeds of malice, hate, and baseline behavior.

When I am overcoming evil, I am saying that I will not be a part of the things that I find so obscene. Instead of repaying evil with evil, the Lord through Paul is teaching us to break the cycle of malevolence. For example, by:

  1. Instead of hating the rioters we have seen on TV, praying for them and forgiving them when they atone for their misdeeds.
  2. In place of hating all authority, acknowledging that there is wrongdoing, praying for and then forgiving individuals as they atone for their misdeeds.
  3. Understanding that forgiveness from God or other people does not mean that there is not punishment due for atoning for misdeeds.
  4. That when I can bless even those who persecute me and mine and what I love, that I am breaking the cycle of hate at least in my own self.

1). That it doesn’t matter if someone hates me, if I love them. Not to be a Pollyanna or a whipping post, but I can only control my thoughts and that’s on a good day. But I am called to love.

2). Sometimes those we perceived that hate us are only misunderstood by us. Regardless, I am responsible for me, and my thoughts, and I am responsible for living in harmony with others. Not to be co-dependent, but to break the chains that bind…to include hate and the addiction of hate.

As Paul begins this instruction, he says volumes by teaching: Love must be sincere. This leads us to the next question;

2). Who is my brother, my neighbor, my friend? So, what do you think the Lord would answer? I don’t believe you need me to tell you what you already know. God places people in our lives to grow and bless us and the people we come in contact with.

For my love to be sincere, I need to get to know the people I am called to help in this life. If not, then perhaps I am only trying to buy them and God off instead of growing in and with others in the Lord.

OK, so if we are trying to reach out and understand others who are different and sincerely love others, what about those who mistreat themselves, us and others? (At first, I wrote those jerks showing how far I have to go.)

3).   How many times should I forgive insult or trespass?  Jesus teaches in Matt. 18: 21;

21 Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times? 22 Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.   (Meaning a lot!)

And Paul just instructed us today in versus 14-16 to;

14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.

In my own case, it’s easy to associate with people in low position, I hang around me all the time. I just need to keep in mind that God is everything and I am nothing in comparison, and yet He still loves me in spite of me, which makes me something. His example, opening the way for me to care for others regardless of where they are coming from, but where we hope they are going to.

All of today’s message should be providing plenty to think about as we contemplate the concept of;

4).   What is self-control / self-governance? This concept is a very American and a very Christian ideal. From the reformation with Martin Luther, and Calvin, and later theologians like Wesley and Edwards, the idea of self-restraint, and self-control through a faith walk in the Lord, bonded into the great American concept of self-governance. That’s the great American experiment, people being created equal and self-governance or dictation and tyranny. This is emphasized by Lincoln at his Gettysburg address in the second paragraph.

 “Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure.”

The idea being this. All of us are called to have self-control by governing our actions, and that civil debate must not lead to civil strife or worse.

But what does all of that mean? Here are a few ideas of what self-governance means to citizens and yes to Christians;

1). To pray for others and their best interest (not our own) knowing that prayer is our access to the greatest power in the universe, and through this huge responsibility, we are giving our utmost for His plan!

2). To pay our way through thought, action, and deed.

a). Meaning we are sincere in our care for others and we do not want to be an additional burden to others, if we can help it.

b). Being there to help those who need us.

c). Holding my tongue, when I want to let it rip.

3). To respect lawful authority and to work within the bounds of law to improve conditions.

c). To pay taxes and fees in good faith.

d). To obey lawful orders, rules, and laws.

e). To look out for and respect others.

4). To step up when another is being mistreated regardless by who.

5). To step up when property and livelihood is being stolen or destroyed regardless by who.

6). To be a voice of reason in the midst of anarchy through prayerful guidance and humility.

7). To be a force of illumination in the haziest of times.

a). AKA light in the darkness.

All of this is a description of a lifestyle that has been a centerpiece of not only American life but a hallmark of what an ideal Christian household perceives in itself.

By the way, it is not always possible to help, save, or protect, which is why we start each day in good faith to try again and do our best. But what about those who do not adhere to the ideas just presented. How shall we judge those who want to tear down the house?

  1. Who should be the judge of this stuff? As Paul states in verse 19-20;

19 Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. 20 On the contrary:

“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
if he is thirsty, give him something to drink…

Outside of the laws in our society that we respect, we trust that God who is our provider will see the end result through.

My friends in this time of troubles and challenges, we are reminded to trust in our Lord that much more, as we look to each other for hope, strength, and faith in the author of all that is good in this world.

Remembering that things are never as good as they seem, or as bad as they seem, unless we are talking about Jesus Christ. Who is as good and better than He seems, and without Him, life is as bad and worse as it could ever possibly seem.

I wish that I had all or even some of the answers to the questions that keep vexing our little congregation, our community, and our society as a whole today. What I do know is that the Lord holds the answers to all of our questions and more, and we will as a Faith Community learn His will through discernment of His Spirit together.

May you find your way in the one who has loved you from before time!

Amen!

Benediction; Philippians 4:4-7

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus