Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Sunday 3 February 2013, Grander Vision Living, Isaiah 6:1-6, Luke 5:1-11, Bruce

Yesterday 2 February we celebrated the feast of the Presentation.  Forty days after Jesus was born, he was brought to the temple to make the prescribed ceremonial offering.  Fist an old man named Simeon took him and prayed a remarkable prayer over him:  my eyes have seen your salvation”, “a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of your people Israel.”  Then an ancient prophetess named Anna also prayed, and “spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.  We remember this at the end of the brief season of Epiphany, that time when we celebrate the shining forth of God’s glory, Jesus’ revelation to the world.

We return to the temple for our reading from Isaiah.  At a time of political and social turmoil, when the old, disgraced, leprous king has just died, Isaiah has this amazing vision as he worships in the temple.   He sees this host of angels, worshipping God, and he is terrified because he is suddenly aware of his sins and imperfections.

An angel touches his lips with a coal from the altar to purify him, and many take this as a picture of the work of the cross, cleansing and purifying us.  Isaiah hears a voice saying ‘Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?’ And Isaiah says ‘Here am I.  Send me!’

Both of these stories are about Christ being made known, his glory being allowed to shine forth.  But how?

This is the fourth week of our series Just Walk Across the Room.  We were reminded of the single greatest gift we can offer the people around us, which is an introduction to their creator and lover of their souls, God himself.

Then we thought about living in 3D.  We were encouraged to Develop friendships, Discover stories, prayerfully Discern next steps. These three things are what we can think about, pray about, and act on when we’re operating in the Zone of the Unknown. The 3D framework reminds us to take things slow with people, allowing the other person to be in the spotlight, allowing the Holy Spirit to lead the dance.

Last week we looked at the power of story.  How important it is to know God’ story and tell it well.  What is our story of before Christ became real in our lives, and what has happened after?

Today we look at Grander Vision living.  Sometimes there are wonderful things for us to see and experience, but we miss them because we are concentrating of the surface view, and don’t look with.  If you had been in the temple on the day that Simeon took Jesus in his arms, you might just have noticed an old man with a baby.  You might have missed the proclamation that here is the hope of all humans, the one who will bring healing and forgiveness to all who will turn to him.

If you had been in the temple with Isaiah, you might have seen only the prophet struck by remarkable vision of God, and missed the wonder and glory of it.  Or you might have seen the angels and been caught up in the eternal song of “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord!”   You might yet have missed the real thing that was happening, the point of the whole exercise, that God is looking for those who will go for him.

If you had been on the sea shore with Jesus, you might have heard him preach and seen the crowds; you might have seen the disciples going out (against their will) to try again to catch fish and having a miraculous result.  You might have seen Peter fall on his knees and confess his sinfulness.  But you might have missed the grander vision, the point of it all.

God’s priority is people.  All that Jesus did was about reaching out to seek and to save those who were lost.  The priority is people.  On a day when these three career fisher men had made the most significant and amazing catch of their professional lives, Jesus points them to a bigger catch, a higher priority, people.  He is asking them to completely reorder their lives, so that from now on they will seek to fish for people.

Prioritizing people. This is what so much of our four-week series has been about, as you’ll recall. Taking walks across rooms for people. Caring more about other people than about yourself.  Having a sort of “radical inclusiveness” for people, even if they look different, talk different, act different, vote different, and so on.
And so Jesus asks all of us who say we want to be walk-across-the-room people … Will you choose the Grander Vision in your situation?
It’s the big-fish opportunity that awaits us all:
You can catch fish … or become fishers of men and women.
You can be a successful businessperson … or excel at the business of redeeming lives.
You can be the top student … or focus your attention on studying people.
You can shine as a superstar salesman … or care more about letting your light shine in the lives of people all around you!

We are to reorder our lives, so that the way that we live speaks of God.  The way that we conduct ourselves at work, the way that we drive our car, the way that we treat our spouse, parents or children or friends.  All that we do and say, and the way that we do it and say it is a light shining so that others will see our good works and glorify our Father who is in heaven.

As we make people the priority, we focus on potential.  We see so many folk who seem to have no thought or concern to live God’s way.  Very often they seem to be far from living the sort of life that God is looking for.  But we look beyond that, seeking for what God can do in that person’s life.  We let God do what he wants to in a person’s life – we are not there to impose our judgements about how they should behave.  Instead we practice a kind of radical inclusiveness that shares God’s love with everyone.

We get a clue to this later in Luke chapter 5, where we read in verse 27 that Jesus encounters a tax collector called Levi or Matthew.  Here is someone obviously beyond the pale, but Jesus calls him to follow him.  This was a completely unlikely event to take place – this materialistic, money grabbing person sold out to the Romans, who obviously had no time for God.  But Jesus called him and he followed.  We can do the same.

We can also learn the next step.  Start small …. But start.

The first thing that Matthew does is to throw a party.  He invites his erstwhile colleagues and friends to meet Jesus.  Nothing fancy.  Just keep it simple, and do something.  Do what makes sense.  If you dog walk, invite a friend.  If you make cup cakes, have a tea party or coffee morning.  If you live near a park, have a picnic.  Do what seems natural.  Get the ratio right.  Try to have the Christians outnumbered by the non-churchgoers.  People do not like to feel ganged up on.

Do share this grander vision?  Will you join me in making people a priority?  Will you share your life with others?

Discussion pointers

1.     Have you ever thought that being a Christian meant you had to become a lifestyle referee to the world about you?  What did you think when Bill said Christ-followers are under no obligation to play such a role?

2.     What did you think about the Matthew Party concept – an event where you invite a few Christ followers, several seekers, and several people who want nothing to do with God?  What fears or concerns are raised by the idea of hosting one?

3.     Apart from the idea used in the video, what other ways could be used to invite meaningful conversation at a Matthew Party, or any other gathering?

4.     It is vital to make the most of God’s supernatural power that is available to every believer through the Holy Spirit at work in us.  Study the following verses to see what you can learn about the Holy Spirit’s involvement in the life of the Christ-follower:
5.     John 14:16-21;               Acts 1:8   Romans 8:26-27

6.     God’s timing and plans are often different from ours (see Isaiah 55:8).  How can we develop God’s patience when it doesn’t seem like any spiritual progress is being made in the lives of people we care deeply about?

7.     Based on that we have learned so far in this four week experience, what are some ways you can build trust with people who are far from God, so when things finally turn spiritual, they are convinced you have their best interests at heart?

Pray together asking God to help you to be his mouthpiece.  Pray that you would play the role you are supposed to play in people’s lives.  Pray that hearts would melt, people would be changed, and that their place in eternity would be secured. 

You might like to name some people who you would like God to open a door for your message. 

Commit to pray for an opportunity to share your faith with them, especially during the week of Camberley Connections, March 9-17th 2013.

Monday, 4 February 2013

Sermon for Sunday 27 January 2013 – Just walk across the Room, Three week – The Power of Story –1 Peter 3: 8, 13-22 and Luke 5:12-16

Two weeks ago Bruce introduced the idea of Just Walk Across the Room. Bruce talked about being willing to enter the Zone of the Unknown and listening to the prompting of the Holy Spirit and encouraged us to Just GO! How did you do? Like to hear! Last week Bruce suggested we become 3D people. And suggested we DEVELOP friendships. Why, just take a look at the world, our community, the road where we live, there is not enough friendship in the world. We were to move out of our comfort zones, our cocoons of comfortability and protectedness, and go on living in ‘search mode’. He encouraged us to DISCOVER other peoples stories and to value them for who they are. Bruce also suggested we should also to get in tune with the Holy Spirit so that we can DISCERN with God the next steps. Taking time to pray, looking for any promptings about the way forward in our friendships. So how is it going? I would really like to hear how you are doing.

This week we are talking about the Power of Story. So are you sitting comfortably, then I’ll begin……. God has a story to tell and as He is not here himself to tell it; He has entrusted us with that task and we need to learn to tell it well. We also have stories to tell about us, I have a number of stories to tell about my life, what I’ve been up to, how I can to faith, some will be interesting to you, and some won’t. Laurie will have a lot more stories to tell than me, because he is a little older than me, and Amelia won’t have as many to tell because she is a lot younger than me. But we here all have a faith story to tell. Of how we came to come to St. Michael’s and who/what brought us here. We all have our stories and we need to tell them well.

Today’s gospel tells us about one of the many healings that Jesus did in His ministry and I love this story because it encompasses all about God’s love for us, His mercy and His willingness to respond to sickness whether its emotional, physical, psychological and He did it in ways which meant everything to the person concerned. Take this story. Lepers were outcasts, they lived in the caverns or makeshift shelters outside the village or towns.  If you were fortunate enough to have family and friends you get fed. Food would be brought to you and left on the outskirts – the designated line/wall that should not be crossed. Lepers were not to be touched because you would get disease. If you were a leper you lost everything, job, family, home, friends, and status.  No one approached you, you were alone. And lepers were not supposed to approach people, but this man came into town and came to Jesus in desperation and asked Jesus to heal him.

Jesus did the unthinkable – he touched the Leper – a no-no and everyone who was there would have seen Jesus do this. Yikes! Jesus touched a Leper – medical alert! This could have immediately repelled other people from seeking him. But it didn’t.  Touch in this instance was the important part of the story – sometimes words do not have any meaning but a touch of the arm or a hand shake, a hug does more wonders than words. Jesus didn’t care about whether to touch or not He just did it.  When, was the last time any of us Walked Across a Room and touched or shook hands with a person with sever eczema or a lady or gentleman of the road, or a lonely person? And Jesus goes on to tell him not to tell anyone but go to the priest (doctor) to get it confirmed that you are healed and then make the appropriate offering.  But the news spread – became infectious. The salvation work of the Lord was being done – a BRIDGE – between God and this leper – and his people had been built. The people who saw what had happened obviously forgot that Jesus had touched a leper because the crowds sought Him. Jesus response to success was to withdraw and to pray and commune with His Father. He did not allow popularity to detour him from the Father’s will. From listening to his Father and finding out the next step.  Despite His success Jesus regularly communed with His Father, ignoring the phone, text, diary to spend time with God. To keep the communications open so that as He was always In-tune with his Father, so He could be more effective. Do we take the necessary time to listen to the will of God, to act on it promptings and then to draw back to Him for support and guidance? Or do we blunder on and then wonder why  when things go wrong.

Jesus said ‘I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes Him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has cross over from death to life.’ (John 5:24).

But how are people going to know about that eternal life, if we don’t Walk Across the Room and strike up a friendship with them? How are they going to hear about how life was for us before Jesus entered our lives if we don’t get to a point in the relationship where we can see that we are different or tell them that Jesus loves them for who they are! God, the Father has been given a wonderful role to play, to share in the spreading of the Good News.  He hasn’t told us to stand on the street corner or wear a sandwich board, He has asked us to be friends with other people, to show love and courtesy, to be a local church of peace, to share the love of God. And if this causes other people problems to the extent that we as Christians suffer for saying and doing what is right, we should follow in Jesus’ example, we witness not by making noise or fighting back but by showing meekness and fear. A gentle witness can make a big difference in a violent world.

Our goal is to learn to tell God’s story and our own faith story well. Regardless of whether you think or feel you are formally ‘gifted’ in evangelism or not, all Jesus-followers can engage in a spiritual conversation and do what they can to point people towards a faith in God. By learning God’s story and making friends and learning your own faith story you will have the opportunity to sow seeds and see other peoples’ lives change as they engage with God themselves.

How many of you realise that you have Walked Across the Room when you came along to the Jubilee Party or the Olympic event, or coffee morning or Youth BBQ.  Seriously, you engaged with the wonderful residents on the estate. You gave your time and willingness to get wet, to forge a bridge for Jesus. You made a difference to them and now we have been seeing them come into St. Michael’s on various occasions. So if you think you can’t do this, well sorry to late, you already have.

My faith story is a gradual one where at different times various people have Walked Across to Room, literally and metaphorically which has moved me on my journey with God.  (I tell you a story or two)…………

What was your life like before you came to faith? How is your life now? May I encourage you over the next week to write it down and think about your life before and now.  What difference has it made in knowing Jesus? By writing it down and learning it well you will become so familiar with it that when you are asked; and you will be, you will be ready to communicate like a Walk Across the Room Person. You will realise that stories and the words used to tell them are powerful and when used well they infect others…like a smile, laughter, love. Are we willing to be a Walk Across The Room Person? A God friend to others?

Let’s Pray.  Father, thank you for sending your Son Jesus to be the person who Walked Across The Room to us through others.  We ask for your help in writing our ‘faith’ stories. Give us wisdom and guidance in the coming week as we seek to befriend people we don’t already know and help us to be ready to share You with them in the ways you feel is appropriate for each person. In Jesus Name.  Amen.
Discussion pointers

1.       In this week’s video clip, there were several really bad stories! 

o   Long–winded – went on and on

o   Fuzzy – never got to the point

o   Religionese – full of Christian jargon

o   Superior – full of pious haughty language

Which one bothered you most and why?

2.  Discuss what features you noticed as common to the “good stories” that were told at the end of the video clip.

Ensure the following points are made: 

When a person is open to hearing your faith story, all they really want to know is

o   what you were like before you met Christ

o   how you came to know Christ

o   and what you have been like after submitting to him. 

In other words your ‘personal before and after’.  That is what makes a faith story good!

3.  Exercise: With a partner from within your small group work through the following:

Write down 5 adjectives that describe what you were like before you came to Christ.  If you came to faith at a young age, describe what you were like before you came to develop a more mature thriving relationship with Christ.

Choose one that best describes your ‘before’ state.

Now, describe the circumstances that caused you to give your life to Jesus. What was the most significant thing about your making the decision?

Your ‘after’:

Complete this sentence explaining the primary difference Christ has made in your life:

Since inviting Christ into my life, I’ve become ______________________________________

You are now ready to tell your ‘before and after’ story.  If you have time, practise telling it to your partner.  N.B. Be sure to mention one or two areas of your life that Christ is still refining.  No-one has ‘arrived’ – it is important to acknowledge this reality.