Christ Among UsPosted: April 19, 2015
Christ Among Us
SLIDE 3: THESE DAYS
Today is only the second Sunday in Eastertide. In the church calendar we devote an entire season from Easter Sunday until Pentecost lifting up the great truth that Christ is alive among us. Like the first Christians we do not focus our attention on the empty tomb. Rather we look for where Jesus is going ahead of us into the world to new places of ministry and growth.
Bill Green who is one of the great spiritual elders of this congregation has shared with many of us his secret of beginning every day with several little devotional booklets. He allows those short devotions to lift his spirit and point him in the direction where God might leading him. Judy Cameron another spiritual elder of this congregation shared a devotion with the Diaconate from These Days. It is entitled “Alive with Christ” written by Irene Pak based on this scripture from Ephesians, “But God, who is rich in mercy. . . made us alive together with Christ – by grace you have been saved. Irene then writes:
SLIDE 4: ASK WHAT MAKES YOU COME ALIVE
We have been made alive through the risen Christ by the grace and mercy of God. But we become overwhelmed by the needs around us. Yet Ephesians reminds us that our job is not to save. Jesus has already done that. We are constantly to discover what makes us come alive and go and do that, believing the gifts and passions God has created in us to share are a natural extension of grace. So what makes you come alive?
SLIDE 5: DRUDGERY
So often in the life of the church we have jobs, slots that must be filled, chores that must be done, drudgery that snuffs out the life of the spirit. Often churches have more bylaws and procedures than we have members. Michael Piazza, a church consultant with the Center for Progressive Renewal wonders out loud, “How badly behaved can these people be that they need so many rules?” Sometimes we have to have the grace to leave some jobs undone for the moment some positions unfilled, until the spirit moves someone to do them. And if the spirit doesn’t move anyone to undertake those tasks maybe they don’t need doing, at least not right now.
SLIDE 6: VOCATION
As I struggle with the problem of doing my duty or following my bliss I am reminded of Frederick Buechner’s definition of vocation. “Vocation it comes from the Latin vocare, to call, and means the work a person is called to by God. There are all different kinds of voices calling you to all different kinds of work, and the problem is to find out which is the voice of God rather than of Society, say, or the Super-ego, or Self-interest. By and large a good rule for finding out is this. The kind of work God usually calls you to is the kind of work (a) that you need most to do and (b) that the world most needs to have done. If you really get a kick out of your work, you’ve presumably met requirement (a), but if your work is writing TV deodorant commercials, the chances are you’ve missed requirement (b). On the other hand, if your work is being a doctor in a leper colony, you have probably met requirement (b), but if most of the time you’re bored and depressed by it, the chances are you have not only bypassed (a) but probably aren’t helping your patients much either. Neither the hair shirt nor the soft berth will do. The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.”
SLIDE 7: WHERE CHRIST COMES ALIVE IN US
Where our own deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet. Where Christ comes alive in us is the place we are called to be. I think verse 41 is the key to our scripture from Luke this morning: “While they still disbelieved for joy, and wondered.” The phrase almost sounds like nonsense. But there is a deep truth expressed. The disciples really couldn’t believe what they were seeing and experiencing, but the joy they felt in the presence of the Christ overcame their doubts. Sort of like last Sunday’s message. What do you want to believe? Do we want to believe that Jesus is dead and buried and we are supposed to be depressed and defeated, or is Christ alive among us, and we are invited to live in joy. Friends, I will choose joy every time.
SLIDE 8: LIVE IN JOY
Now let’s be clear there is a difference between joy and happiness. God does not promise us happy, happy all the time. Rather God invites us to use our gifts and talents to make a difference in the world. And we should not prejudge what gifts and talents are needed. In her book Gifts of Grace, Mary Schramm writes about her experience in the Church of the Savior an inner-city mission church in Washington D.C. The small group who founded the church wanted to intentionally engage in mission with their neighborhood. So each member was asked to pray about what gift he or she possessed that he or she might share in ministry with the people of that desperately needy inner city neighborhood.
SLIDE 9: USING OUR GIFTS AND TALENTS TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE IN THE WORLD
One of the members, Paul, announced that God was leading him to share his gift for model airplane building. The rest of the members of the group were critical. “Get real Paul, how will your gift for model airplane building be helpful in this poverty stricken, crime ridden neighborhood.” But Paul stuck to his guns, he said he had prayed and model airplane building was the answer. We should all wait and see.
Well the very next week two other members of the church went to visit with the director of the local neighborhood community center to offer the resources, gifts and talents of the members of the congregation to help the neighborhood. “Well,” replied the director of the community center, “I’m not sure how you all can help out, but we sure could use somebody who knows how to build model airplanes. We have this group of young teenage boys who are interested in model airplane building and we haven’t been able to find anyone who knows anything about that.”
Bingo, Paul was the first member of the church who actually went to work helping people in the neighborhood. The Neighborhood Center gave Paul a dozen young teenage boys a room, and they went to work making model airplanes two evenings a week. Kids who otherwise would have been on the gang infested streets were spending time with Paul learning to make model airplanes. Paul even had an opportunity to teach a lesson about ethics, when a tool everyone needed for their project showed up missing one day. Paul pointed out that the missing tool undermined the whole community, because everyone needed to be able to share it. The missing tool mysteriously showed up.
SLIDE 10: DISCOVER THE GIFTS THAT GIVE YOU JOY
So do not make judgments ahead of time what gifts are really needed. Discover your God given gifts that give you joy, and share them. True there are chores that need to be done to maintain the community of faith. Garbage and recycle need to be taken out. If we are going to enjoy the hospitality of the Fellowship Hour, we all need to bring food to share. But these are jobs we can all share. When something doesn’t get done sooner or later people will notice, and rather than allowing a culture of complaining, we just need to gently remind one another we are all responsible. The next time you are tempted to say, “Somebody should. . . . whatever it is.” Remember, you are a somebody! The very fact that you have noticed something that needs doing may be God’s call to you to do it!
SLIDE 11: COMMUNITY OF FAITH NEEDS ENCOURAGERS
We need to encourage one another to share the God given gifts that give us joy, and also learn to withhold judgment. So often we discourage others by assuming that God has given us the gift of criticism. The community needs us to be critical of the work of others. Not so! Not so! Communities of faith desperately need encouragers. People who will withhold judgment about the efforts of others and instead give encouragement to everyone to use their gifts to the glory of God. Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive and go do it, because that is how the world will know that Christ is alive here among us.