Are you able to see Jesus?

Sermon for 9/30/07

Luke 24: 13-43; John 20:11-18; Matthew 25: 34-43
In these three different stories, we see instances where people encountered Jesus without being aware, or able to see, that it was him. How often might we have similar experiences, where we encounter Jesus unawares. And what can we learn from these experiencs that will help us to be more open to experiencing and seeing Jesus when we do encounter Him?
In Luke 24, we see two disciples walking back home on Sunday, after the sabbath, after Jesus has died. They remained in Jerusalem for the sabbath as their home was too great a distance to walk on a holy day of rest. As they walk along they reflect on the past week’s events, and how close they came to having their hopes and dreams realized. And suddenly, all hope gone, a stranger appears on the way. This is the first lesson for us, that Jesus just appears on the way. While we are going about our lives, He just shows up. They do not recognize him, because they are too preocupied with their own pain to realize notice what God is doing in their lives. When they finally do recognize him in the ritual of Communion, then they reflect back and remember that their hearts burned as they heard Jesus explain the scriptures to them. Hearing the scriptures was important, but not until combined with an experience of Grace in the Eucharist did their eyes become open to see Christ in their midst – and as soon as they apprehended Him He was gone! They did not need Jesus to linger with them – they received all they needed from Him.
In the text from John, Mary Magdalene encounters Jesus at the empty tomb – again, she is lost in her grief and hopelessness, unable to recognize Christ right in front of her. And yet, even in her sorrow she desires to serve Jesus as best she knows how, willing to risk speaking with this man she suppose to be the gardener. She comes to know Him only when Jesus finally calls her by name. The seeing was not enough, nor hearing His voice – only when He called her by name could she see Jesus.
The Matthew 25 text is a story of judgement, where the righteous King will separate the nations one from another – sheep and goats – based on their history of serving people in need. Neither group realized that they had encountered Jesus in the other, when they had the opportunity to serve. The mundane experiences with people in need were really encounters with the Holy One. Showing love through physical care is revealed as a loving encounter with Jesus.
So, are you able to see Jesus? Here we have learned that Jesus comes to us particularly during times of struggle – both ours and others’. When we are too posessed by the physical reality of the moment, we risk missing the far greater spiritual reality of Christ’s presence. But when we serve, we see Christ. When we worship, having heard the word about Jesus, we see Jesus. Show humility and courage in living out our love, Jesus calls us by name, restoring our hope.
And in the stories from John and Luke, we see that an encounter with Jesus will lead directly to the ability and desire to tell others about Jesus and His revealed presence in our lives. We are here to encounter Jesus, and having seen him, to go and tell others, that they might see him as well.

The Life I Wish I Had

If you were able to script your life “perfectly”, what would you write? What values would guide you as you wrote? List them now. Write down 10 core values around which you would set your priorities. They may be religious values or things more commonly called ethics. If you find yourself writing something broad like “family” — be more specific. What kind of family, or what values within family. All sorts of horrible things occur within families – do you include those things in your valuing ‘family’?

Now, out beside or beneath each of those values, write something indicating why you hold that value. Did you learn it, and if so where? Do you consider it ‘natural’ or ‘hardwired’ into who you are?

Good. Now, write down what other thoughts or feelings go along with each of those values. Perhaps you have a story that illustrates the value (or its opposite/absence). Where is the value currently present in your life, and to what effect. Where is it absent, and to what effect?

If you are so inclined, now would be a great time to write a narrative, ‘a day in the life of YOU ‘. Think through how your life would go – script a day, even this day, or yesterday.

You can also write thoughts in different categories of your life: Family, Friendships; Work; Faith; Home; Recreation, etc.

Share your narrative with someone. Actually, this exercise is great for a group of friends or colleagues. Share at each point, or do the work and then come together to share it all at once. Listen (or ask your partners to listen) for what things seem to be missing from the narrative. Does anything stand out as absent from the script that is present today? Think deeply together about the distance between your actual life, and the life you would script – the life you wish you had.

What stands in the way of your having that life? Is it simply a dream world completely disconnected from reality and the laws of the universe? Are there things you wish you could go back and do differently? Will the current course of your life move you closer to or further from the life you wish you had? What is one thing you could do this day/week/month to move closer to the path that will lead you toward that desired narrative? Can you take some action, change a behavior, change an attitude? It needn’t be grand – one small thing is often enough to get some momentum.

What relationships are going to help you move toward your desired narrative? Which relationships need to change? Remember at this point to go back to your list of values. Often at this stage, we begin to think, “If I only got rid of this or that person in my life, everything would be better.” Unfortunately, that very thought process often violates one of our core values, such as “respecting the worth of other people”, or “loving others as I want to be loved.” Take care not to violate your core values out of expediency in your effort to move toward a desired goal. Perhaps the relationship can be transformed, rather than ended, to honor your values and pursue your desired narrative.

Finally, revisit how excited you felt as you dreamed your ‘perfect’ life. Recapture the positive emotions and thoughts that permeated your whole being. How can you pass that on to another person so that they can have a similar experience? What have you learned from this exercise that you can offer to someone else?

Invocation for AEDC Millennium Luncheon

The award is the highest honor the AEDC bestows on Allen companies that promote excellence in business and contributing back into the community. An individual who has contributed time and effort to the advancement of economic development in Allen is also recognized. (Website)

Would you please stand for our opening prayer, and remain standing for the reciting of the pledge.

The Prophet Jeremiah offers us wise words of counsel for this day:
‘Seek the prosperity and wellbeing of the city where I have sent you away to dwell, and pray to the LORD on its behalf; for in its wellbeing you will find your wellbeing.’ (Jer 29:7)
It is in this spirit that we come to honor outstanding individuals and organizations who model the prophet’s teaching. So in this spirit, I invite you to join me in prayer.

All powerful, all gracious God, who labored to create all that we see and know, who has made us marvelously in your own image, and who has given us the ability to earn a living by our hands and by our minds, we seek your ear today. As your spirit moved across the waters to bring order out of chaos, so move upon our hearts and minds to settle the troubled, ease the burdened, and uplift the discouraged. We come to you on behalf of our community, its citizens, businesses, governments, faith communities, schools and organizations. We pray for peace and prosperity for our neighbors. We pray for a healthy, vibrant and diverse economy where all people are able to comfortably provide for their families, and where abundant generosity overcomes any lack or difficulty. Help us to be leaders and innovators in our fields, finding creative solutions to the problems we face, and the bold will to meet those challenges. We thank you for the leaders we honor today and for others like them, who put service above self – both in their organizations and in the larger community. We ask you lastly to bless us, in the receiving of this food, in our fellowship and in our celebration today, that we remember all we have is by your hand and we are but stewards of life, relationships, and the resources of your glorious creation. May you bless the City of Allen, and us with it, we pray in your most holy Name. Amen.

Would you turn now to face the flag and join me in our Pledge of Allegiance.
I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.
Thank you. You may be seated.

Introduction of Leona Rupert and Rick Briscoe.

Worship in Spirit and in Truth

Seeking Deep Christian Spirituality ~ John 4
19 “Sir,” the woman said, “you must be a prophet. 20 So tell me, why is it that you Jews insist that Jerusalem is the only place of worship, while we Samaritans claim it is here at Mount Gerizim, where our ancestors worshiped?” 21 Jesus replied, “Believe me, the time is coming when it will no longer matter whether you worship the Father here or in Jerusalem. 22 You Samaritans know so little about the one you worship, while we Jews know all about him, for salvation comes through the Jews. 23 But the time is coming and is already here when true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth. The Father is looking for anyone who will worship him that way. 24 For God is Spirit, so those who worship him must worship in spirit and in truth.” 25 The woman said, “I know the Messiah will come ? the one who is called Christ. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.” 26 Then Jesus told her, “I am the Messiah!”

The ancients believed that worship was location specific. Even today, many people of various faiths make pilgrimage to one location or another that they hold sacred. This not the common experience of, “I love to go to St. Peter’s because its such a holy place and I feel closer to God there.” (or to the mountains, or ocean, or wherever.) The idea is not that you can go to various places to feel closer to God, but that you MUST. And conversely, that you can not truly worship God unless you are there. It is drawn from the notion that the gods actually dwelt in this or that location (typically a mountain top). So the point of the woman’s question was, “What’s the deal? Which, if either of us, is right?” Perhaps she even sees the problem with claiming that this or that place is the RIGHT place. She knows that Jesus is a prophet, so maybe he has some insights into this situation.
The disciples, later, are surprised that Jesus has spoken at all to this woman. Little do they know that Jesus engaged her in a sophisticated theological discussion – which men of her own community would not even have done.

Things are changing, radically! Worship will be freed from location – God will be liberated from our ideas, and we will be liberated with him. In the conversation itself Jesus demonstrates this liberation – old barriers will be broken down. Fences that once kept people away from God will be transformed into bridges that welcome and shelters that protect.

A Clear Vision for Forest Grove Christian Church

As the pastor of FGCC, this is what I currently discern to be God’s desire for this congregation over the coming two decades of ministry. I offer it to the congregation and community and invite prayerful engagement, conversation and even challenge, that we might together come to a clear understanding of God’s will and desire for us in this time and place.

Forest Grove Christian Church will be and become a congregation of increasingly faithful followers of Jesus. We embrace the three-fold Disciples vision: To be a faithful, growing church, that demonstrates true community, deep Christian spirituality and a passion for justice. (Micah 6:8)
We will be a congregation committed to:

Making space for those in whose midst God has placed us

  • Draw a 2 & 5 mile radius around the church (as our ‘target’ parish) and ask: “What does it mean to lead these people to a saving faith in Jesus Christ and a growing walk with Him empowered by the Holy Spirit?
  • Understand where and how our ‘spheres of influence’ extend beyond that 5 mile radius – and engage those areas in Jesus’ name.
  • Helping broken people experience wholeness in God through Christ
    Becoming and inviting others into a maturing Christian Community, the Body of Christ

Training people for ministry at every level of their spiritual development by:

  • Teaching people what it means to be a follower of Jesus
  • Encouraging and facilitating true spiritual growth
  • Providing regular training and practice in the various skills of ministry
    Seeking, Highlighting, and Funding external training experiences
  • Helping each participant understand and engage their own sphere of influence as their personal ‘parish’ and ministry setting.
  • Becoming a local & regional center for theological and ministry training

Supporting the development and growth of new ministries

  • As our participants are called by God into them

Supporting the initiation and growth of new congregations

  • As the most effective means of reaching adults with the saving message of the Gospel.

And this vision will impact our Worship, Fellowship, Education, Facilities, Ministry & Witness. What will we need to change in each of these areas in order to be faithful to God’s call on this church? AT LEAST Annually we will need to review and set goals to pursue this vision with passion.