Order, Words, & Voices

Order
Sunday, July 18, 2021

Video #1 (3:35)

  • Call to Worship

Fix My Eyes (The Main Serenade, MARK ADDISON MASSAR, ANDREW WILSON MASSAR, PANBORLANG TOI)
Live/OnLine

  • Prayer                    Rick
  • Music                     Abbie

    Mighty To Save            Ben Fielding | Reuben Morgan
    Change My Heart O God    Eddie Espinosa
    Open The Eyes of My Heart    Paul Baloche

  • Story                    Jaimie M, Martha & Paul
  • Message    ‘Uncompromising Appeasement’          Rick
  • Music

    Mighty To Save            Ben Fielding | Reuben Morgan

Video #2 Community (1:51)

  • Song – Everything I Could Want (Michael John Fatkin  |  Ben Tan  |  Melodie Mezieres-wagner)

    Community – Uncompromising Appeasement, Uncomfortable

Live

  • Benediction (inperson/online)  Jaimie M, Martha & Paul (Spotlight) (no slides)
  • Sharing the Peace           Rick

# 3 Audio (2:34)
Song – Less Of Me (Glen Campbell)

Voices & Words


Call To Worship

The Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling about Jesus and saying, “This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them.”
Luke 15:2

Welcome those who are weak in faith, but not for the purpose of quarreling over opinions. Some believe in eating anything, while the weak eat only vegetables. Those who eat must not despise those who abstain, and those who abstain must not pass judgment on those who eat; for God has welcomed them. Who are you to pass judgment on servants of another?
Romans 14:1-4a

In that renewal there is no longer Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and free; but Christ is all and in all!
Colossians 3:11

Welcome one another, therefore, just as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.
Romans 15:7


Prayer

God,
May we live with humility and not arrogance
May we live with acceptance and not judgement
May we live with empathy and not condemnation
May we welcome with embrace and not rejection
May we welcome with commonality and not fear
May we welcome with love and not hatred
For, you God, accepted us while we were still sinners
You God, embrace us while we are still filthy
You God, love us even while we are still unloveable
You God, are Love.
God, may we remember that we are all your beloved
God, may we never fail to recognize that you loved us first
Amen.

Music

Mighty To Save
CCLI Song # 4591782
Ben Fielding | Reuben Morgan

Ev’ryone needs compassion
Love that’s never failing
Let mercy fall on me
Ev’ryone needs forgiveness
The kindness of a Saviour
The hope of nations

Saviour He can move the mountains
My God is mighty to save
He is mighty to save
Forever Author of salvation
He rose and conquered the grave
Jesus conquered the grave

So take me as You find me
All my fears and failures
Fill my life again
I give my life to follow
Ev’rything I believe in
Now I surrender

Saviour He can move the mountains
My God is mighty to save
He is mighty to save
Forever Author of salvation
He rose and conquered the grave
Jesus conquered the grave

Change my heart oh God
Make it ever true
Change my heart oh God
May I be like You

Change My Heart Oh God
CCLI Song # 1565
Eddie Espinosa

Change my heart oh God
Make it ever true
Change my heart oh God
May I be like You

You are the potter
I am the clay
Mold me and make me
This is what I pray
Change my heart oh God
Make it ever true
Change my heart oh God
May I be like You

You are the potter
I am the clay
Mold me and make me
This is what I pray

Open The Eyes Of My Heart
CCLI Song # 2298355
Paul Baloche

Open the eyes of my heart Lord
Open the eyes of my heart
I want to see You
I want to see You

To see You high and lifted up
Shining in the light of Your glory
Pour out Your power and love
As we sing holy holy holy
Holy holy holy
Holy holy holy
Holy holy holy
I want to see You

Open the eyes of my heart Lord
Open the eyes of my heart
I want to see You
I want to see You
To see You high and lifted up
Shining in the light of Your glory
Pour out Your power and love
As we sing holy holy holy
Holy holy holy

That Story = My Story
The book of Acts is actually a geographical roadmap. It is Luke’s description of the places the apostles traveled to after the Holy Spirit arrived. It gives us a locational account of the places there the apostles, usually the apostle Paul, were when they wrote letters to the believers in the different cities.

After the letters were read, they were then forwarded to the believers in other cities. As Luke wrote the book, or the map, he pegged the different cities that Paul wrote to. Cities such as Rome, Galatia, Ephesus, Philippi, Colossus, and Thessalonica.

Don’t forget the letters to Timothy and Philemon which were written from places such as Macedonia and Rome.

But Acts is more than a roadmap of just physical locations. It is also a roadmap of the growth and transformation of the apostles, the believers,  and especially of Peter and Paul.

Again, don’t forget all the changes that happened with the leaders in Jerusalem!

Change of any kind is difficult. To find that some of our deepest held beliefs, our most passionate convictions, things we thought were the most important things – to find that they are not of major importance, that is tough to fully swallow. Letting God show us that life is not always as black and white as we have come to believe can be a challenging impossibility.
Paul told the believers in Corinth that, “When I am with those whose consciences bother them easily, I don’t act as though I know it all and I don’t say they are foolish; the result is that they are willing to let me help them. Yes, whatever a person is like, I try to find common ground with them so that they will let me tell them about Christ and let Christ save them.”

He said, “I have become all things to all people, that I might by all means save some.”

That IS hard to swallow. Sometimes I judge instead of Become.
He said to Become.

Sometimes I condemn instead of Become.

He Said … Become.
I’m going to have to think about that one.

Think away….
Martha, I understand the difficulty of understanding this encouragement to Become. It is a challenge that is tempting to ignore.
Definitely!

However, understanding the challenge of Becoming, we can better understand the dilemma that the apostle Paul felt when the church leaders in Jerusalem told him, “look at what’s been happening here—thousands upon thousands of God-fearing Jews have become believers in Jesus! But there’s also a problem because they are more zealous than ever in observing the laws of Moses. They’ve been told that you advise believing Jews who live surrounded by unbelieving outsiders to disregard Moses and the law, telling them that they don’t need to circumcise their children or keep up the old traditions. This isn’t sitting at all well with them.”

It must have been such a shock for Paul, his friends had just joyously greeted him and welcomed him with open arms. They had been so excited to hear what he told them about how the Holy Spirit had worked among the Gentiles. To then hear them express this concern must have hit him like a brick wall.

Like I said, Becoming is difficult.
The leaders were worried about Paul’s safety, just like all the other believers had been as Paul traveled to Jerusalem. However, the leaders had thought this through, they had a plan.

Oh no, humans plans.

They said to Paul, “There’s bound to be trouble. So here is what we want you to do: There are four men from our company who have taken a vow involving ritual purification, but have no money to pay the expenses. Join these men in their vows and pay their expenses. Then it will become obvious to everyone that there is nothing to the rumors going around about you and that you are in fact scrupulous in your reverence for the laws of Moses.”

Then they assured Paul saying,  “We’re not going back on our agreement regarding Gentiles who have become believers. We continue to hold fast to what we wrote to you about them.”

It still sounds fishy to me.
I agree Paul, but I guess that Becoming can sometimes seem a little fishy.

I wonder what went through Paul’s head when he heard the plan. Did his face get scrunched up in anger at this suggestion? Did his pride keep him from being silent and letting the Holy Spirit work in Him? After all, this was the same group that questioned his interaction with the Gentiles. But whatever he was thinking, in the end Paul did it—‘He took the men, joined them in their vows, and paid their way. The next day he went to the Temple to make it official and stayed there until the proper sacrifices had been offered and completed for each of them.’

Still sounds fishy to me.

[Acts 21:17-26]

MessageUncompromising Appeasement

Reformer Martin Luther summarized his objections to the religious institution of his day, as well as defining the reformation, on the latin words:

Sola scriptura, Sola fide, Sola gratia, Solus Christus, and Soli Deo gloria –

meaning, Scripture alone, faith alone, grace alone, Christ alone, and giving glory to God alone.

This was the rock of his protest, and the reformers of his day and the days ahead. Oddly, however, many of the reformers, including Luther, hit a brick wall with others in the reformation movement when it came to the subject of infant baptism. Luther and many of his contemporaries could not accept the removal of infant baptism from their practices. They called for discipline, sometimes harsh discipline for those church leaders who refused to practice, what they saw as a practice that violated all the ‘Solas’ of the reformed foundation.

We, as humans, are very vulnerable to allowing things to divide us that really are not divisive elements of faith and practice. Or, at they shouldn’t be considered important enough to have the weight to divide.

On September 17, 1978, a historic three-way hand shake took place at the White House. It was historic because two of the hands in this shake were considered vengeful enemies. Their two nations, Israel and Egypt, had fought against each other in four wars over the previous three decades.

The setting for this handshake was to celebrate the signing of a historical agreement brokered between leaders Anwar el-Sadat and Menachem Begin.  While little of the agreement came to fruition, we have seen, since the handshake no wars between their two countries.
The agreement was the product of a difficult thirteen days of negotiations, disagreements, and hesitant compromises. It was a formidable endeavor that almost fell apart on the third day due to the divisive issues, offenses, and fears of both men and their countries.  Up unto the actual handshake, President Carter and even the two men themselves did not know if they would shake hands.

Historian Dr. Martin Kramer believes it was the common parallels in the lives of the two men that enable them to move past the conflicts that were cemented into their psyche and history.

“The parallels in the lives of Sadat and Begin may have worked, in ways subtle but strong, in favor of an agreement. Here were two men forged by prison and violence into believers in their own destiny, but who had been written off politically for decades. By the time they came to power, they were in a hurry to achieve something that would transcend the legacies of their celebrated predecessors. Here were two men who believed their peoples were fated to struggle alone, but who were prepared to go to extraordinary lengths to cement relations with the US, in the interests of their peoples but also in order to shut the Soviet Union out of the Middle East. Here were two men who did not shy away from the bold gamble, and who actually saw a greater risk in inaction. And above all, here were two men possessed not only by a strong sense of peoplehood, but of its geography, which they conceived in ways that left no overlapping territorial claims.”
Dr. Martin Kramer

When God called Abraham to leave his extended family and home land it was a call to let go of the false idols he, and his family worshipped. The stone sculptures of false gods they worshipped were also a bedrock of their lives – building these idols was their vocation.  To accept God’s call, Abraham had to let go of a ‘deal breaker’ object, a literal false god, that could have been thought too important to release. When the idol maker Demetrius recognized the words of the apostle Paul were a direct threat to his vocation of building idols to false gods, Demetrius refused to release the idols. Instead, he used the grip others had on these idols, for various reasons, to stir up a violent crowd.

Letting go of those things that divide us from others, things that we hold as essential element, things which are actually of no value, letting go of those items, beliefs, agendas, opinions, interpretations, teachings, those things that been us apart are difficult to release. As a result their is much division in humanity and within Christianity that divide a people that are called to unity.

So, when Paul arrived in Jerusalem, the believers there were excited to see him but they also carried concerns of problems with folks that were still carrying false idols. The believers knew of Paul’s teachings on faith, they had heard of the miraculous work of the Spirit among the Gentiles, and they were not in opposition to any of that. However, there was a problem in Jerusalem. There were those who saw Paul’s ministry as rejecting all elements of his Jewish roots. There had been talk that he had even rejected the importance of Moses. These were true believers, who were on a journey of faith alone, however, the ritual practices of their faith were still meaningful and comforting to them. Their holding on to these practices was not, to them, a reliance on actions and works instead of faith. They were practices that that did not conflict with the teachings of Christ, practices that allowed them to better understand event he teaching of Jesus. The leaders were concerned that for Paul, his teachings on the law, would be a hammer, used to attack, to divide, to keep Paul from walking  alongside the believers in Jerusalem.

We have churches across our city and country that refuse to interact with each other due to differing views on women preachers, LGTBQ understandings, baptism, social justice, communion, practices, politics and a host of others things. The problem is that when we hold on to those beliefs that become stone idols which divide us, we fail to recognize the utter irrelevance they have to our call to love God and love others. Instead of pursuing to know truth, we grasp the idols even tighter and permit them to divide.

Paul, who had ceased to observe many of the practices his past religious understanding, recognized that these were not important enough to hold on to them. We appeased the church leaders, without compromise, and was present and supportive. He didn’t let this false issue be what kept him from being a light to the believers and non-believers in Jerusalem.

The key to letting go of false beliefs and incorrect Christian understanding, was that Paul did not see those of other faiths as his enemies or as enemies of Christianity. Paul had a parallel connection with the Jewish institution and the Jewish people, these were his people. The fact that they saw Christianity as another religion rather than the continued promise of their Abrahamic shared tradition was heart breaking to him. He didn’t love them in order to convince them, he loved them which caused him to passionately care about them. Paul didn’t have a need to ‘win’, he had a let his love flow. He never quit viewing this, or any others faiths, as beloved.  To Paul, they were not the enemy.

Of most all religions of this world, especially the three primary religions that share the ancestor Abraham, there is a shared emphasis of love, a common teaching of ‘do unto others as you want them to do unto you.’

“The principle of treating others the same way one wold like to be treated is echoed in at least twelve regions of the world. ‘Others’ transcend gender, race, class, sexual orientation or caste. Whoever and whatever the ‘other’ is, she has to be treated with dignity, kindness, love, and respect. In African communitarian spirituality, this is well expressed in the Ubuntu religious and ethical ideal of ‘I am because you are, and sincere are, therefore I am.’ – a mandate based on the reality of our being interconnected and interdependent as creation. Therefore, pain caused to one is pain shared by all.”
Fulata Moyo
It all comes back to the most important factor and motivator in, and of, our faith – Love. Love and Others. Others and Love. Love that allows us to embrace without compromise, love that enables us to appease others in the auspices of our faith.

“Is Christian faith primarily about being Christian or is it about becoming truly human?” and “How does loving Jesus equip me to love those who do not love him the way I do?”
Barbara Brown Taylor
Let’s Pray

Music

Mighty To Save
CCLI Song # 4591782
Ben Fielding | Reuben Morgan
Saviour you can move the mountains
You are mighty to save
You are mighty to save
Forever Author of salvation
You rose and conquered the grave
Conquered the grave

So take me as You find me
All my fears and failures
Fill my life again
I give my life to follow
Ev’rything I believe in
Now I surrender

Saviour you can move the mountains
You are mighty to save
You are mighty to save
Forever Author of salvation
You rose and conquered the grave
Conquered the grave
So take me as You find me
All my fears and failures
Fill my life again
I give my life to follow
Ev’rything I believe in
Now I surrender

Saviour you can move the mountains
You are mighty to save
You are mighty to save
Forever Author of salvation
You rose and conquered the grave
Conquered the grave
You have conquered the grave

Benediction

Once again, it is time to go.

Time to go out from here and into the marketplace.

Time to go into the city square.

Time to go.

Time to go to among believers of Jesus who look and act differently than us.

Believers who think differently than us.
And, some who are not believers at all.

In the midst of all of that, we don’t enter with judgment or condemnation, we enter to be uncompromisingly transformed, we enter as part of our journey to Become.

We remember to not, “act as though we know it all and we don’t say others are foolish”

We remember Paul’s words, “I have become all things to all people.”

We remember that we are all descendants of God, we go among friends, we go among family.
We go in grace.

We go in Peace.
We go in Love.

Closing Peace

May the love of the Father go with you.
And also with you.
Let’s go. Let’s go into the marketplace among all the other loved descendants of God. Let’s go, let’s go as loved children of God in the midst of the public square. Let’s go, let’s go, not amongst enemies with whom we battle, but in the midst of our created brothers and sisters as light that shines in the darkness. Let’s go, let’s go held by the embrace of grace, the comfort of peace, the confidence of joy, the proof of love, and confidence of hope. Let’s go!

Order, Words, & Voices

Order

Sunday, July 11, 2021 Order

#1 ONE Video #1 (5:13)

  • Call to Worship

          In the Garden (Matthew Foust)
Live/OnLine

  • Prayer/Speaker Introduction        Petty
  • Music                     Kristen M 

    Holy Holy Holy            John Bacchus Dykes | Reginald Heber
    Fairest Lord Jesus            Fallersleben | Joseph August Seiss
    For the Beauty of the Earth    Conrad Kocher | Folliott Sandford Pierpoint

  • That Story = My Story            Kristen J, Dave, Nikki 
  • Message    ‘Dependence Day’          Kristen M 

#2 TWO Video (3:40)

  • Song – Abide In Me (Andrew Marcus)

         Community – Next Sunday – Uncompromising Appeasement
Live

  • Benediction   Kristen J, Dave, Nikki 
  • Sharing the Peace           Petty

# 3 Three Audio (3:17)
      Song – Thankful (Verses)

Voices & Words

Call To Worship

Then God said, “Let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their various kinds.” And it was so. The land produced vegetation: plants bearing seed according to their kinds and trees bearing fruit with seed in it according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good.
Genesis 1:11-12

So I gave you a land on which you did not toil and cities you did not build; and you live in them and eat from vineyards and olive groves that you did not plant “Now fear the Lord and serve him with all faithfulness.
Joshua 24:13-14a

For as the soil makes the sprout come up and a garden causes seeds to grow, so the Sovereign Lord will make righteousness and praise spring up before all nations.
Isaiah 61:11

“Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce.”
Jeremiah 29:12

“In that day each of you will invite your neighbor to sit under your vine and fig tree,’ declares the Lord Almighty.”
Zechariah 3:10

 “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field. Though it is the smallest of all seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds come and perch in its branches.”
Matthew 13:31

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener.”
John 15:1

Prayer
God,
Today we gather as Your descendant, and as your Children
We come together from different backgrounds and have different opinions
We strive for unity in the midst of diversity and sometimes in disagreement
We are bound together around you, not ourselves and not our agendas
God, you are the gardener, you till the soil which you nourish and enrich
God, your Son is the Vine that provides us the center onto which we hold
God, we are the branches which you prune to permit the fruit to come forth
It is in the garden we see your love
It is in the garden we experience the strength of the Son
It is in the garden that we participate in your strategic biology of unity
It is in the garden that we see life
Thank you God
Amen.

Speaker Introduction 
This morning Kristen McAtee will be leading us in music as well as sharing the message. Kristen preached to us almost 2 years ago exactly as she was at the beginning of serving as the Associate CBF Director where she worked to establish a new vision for young adult ministry in Oklahoma and beyond. She has also served at the Development Director at the OKC Good Shepherd Clinic and as the Minister for Children and Administration at FBC, OKC. During much of that time she was also the President of the Board of Global Women. Kristen received a bachelors of Children and Family Development from California State University Long Beach and a Masters in Church Music from Golden Gate Seminary. Welcome Kristen.

Music
Holy Holy Holy
CCLI Song # 1156
John Bacchus Dykes | Reginald Heber

Holy holy holy
Lord God Almighty
Early in the morning
Our song shall rise to Thee

Holy holy holy
Merciful and mighty
God in three persons
Blessed Trinity

Holy holy holy
All the saints adore Thee
Casting down their golden crowns
Around the glassy sea

Cherubim and seraphim
Falling down before Thee
Which wert and art
And evermore shalt be

Holy holy holy
Though the darkness hide Thee
Though the eye of sinful man
Thy glory may not see

Only Thou art holy
There is none beside Thee
Perfect in power
In love and purity

Holy holy holy
Lord God Almighty
All Thy works shall praise Thy name
In earth and sky and sea

Holy holy holy
Merciful and mighty
God in three persons
Blessed Trinity

Fairest Lord Jesus
CCLI Song # 27800
August Heinrich Hoffmann von Fallersleben | Joseph August Seiss

Fairest Lord Jesus Ruler of all nature
O Thou of God and man the Son
Thee will I cherish Thee will I honor
Thou my soul’s glory joy and crown

Fair are the meadows fairer still the woodlands
Robed in the blooming garb of spring
Jesus is fairer Jesus is purer
Who makes the woeful heart to sing

Fair is the sunshine fairer still the moonlight
And all the twinkling starry host
Jesus shines brighter Jesus shines purer
Than all the angels heav’n can boast

Beautiful Saviour Lord of all the nations
Son of God and Son of Man
Glory and honor praise adoration
Now and forevermore be Thine

For The Beauty Of The Earth
CCLI Song # 43200
Conrad Kocher | Folliott Sandford Pierpoint

For the beauty of the earth
For the glory of the skies
For the love which from our birth
Over and around us lies

Lord of all to Thee we raise
This our hymn of grateful praise

For the beauty of each hour
Of the day and of the night
Hill and vale and tree and flower
Sun and moon and stars of light

Lord of all to Thee we raise
This our hymn of grateful praise

For the joy of ear and eye
For the heart and mind’s delight
For the mystic harmony
Linking sense to sound and sight

Lord of all to Thee we raise
This our hymn of grateful praise

For the joy of human love
Brother sister parent child
Friends on earth and friends above
For all gentle thoughts and mild

Lord of all to Thee we raise
This our hymn of grateful praise

For Thy church that evermore
Lifteth holy hands above
Offering up on every shore
Her pure sacrifice of love

Lord of all to Thee we raise
This our hymn of grateful praise

For Thyself best gift divine
To the world so freely given
For that great great love of Thine
Peace on earth and joy in heaven

Lord of all to Thee we raise
This our hymn of grateful praise

For the martyrs’ crown of light
For Thy prophets’ eagle eye
For Thy bold confessors’ might
For the lips of infancy

Lord of all to Thee we raise
This our hymn of grateful praise

For Thy virgins’ robes of snow
For Thy maiden mother mild
For Thyself with hearts aglow
Jesus victim undefiled

Lord of all to Thee we raise
This our hymn of grateful praise

That Story = My Story 

Last week we saw the apostle Paul on a 600 mile journey from Militeus to Ceasarea on his farewell tour. Stopping at six different communities where he met with the believers and said ‘goodbye’.

And in all six communities the believers begged him to not go to Jerusalem.

Their attempts to dissuade him failed, however, even though they disagreed with him, they still were unified around him. They still went to the beach and  they still prayed for him. They still embraced him. They still teared up at his departure.

This week we go to a similar scenario with Jesus and his disciples. They are all gathered for the Passover Supper. Judas has already left, Jesus has said some very heavy stuff for them to process, and Peter has been cautioned about what is specifically awaiting him the next 24 hours. Jesus is preparing them for his death and ascension. And Jesus begins talking about gardening.

I love gardening!

I love gardening as well!

Oh no, here we go…

My favorite thing to grow is succulents, they grow great here in California.

I love daisies. They are simple and beautiful.

I also love the peach trees and strawberries.

During the hot summer months I love to grow Indian Blanket which is native to Oklahoma.

 We grow mustard seed out here, it was originally planted by the California missions. People looking for the missions would just look for mustard seed to find the mission.

also love the critters I find in may garden – toads, butterflies, birds and squirrels.

Don’t get her started on squirrels.

Their mischief creates problems.

We have bunnies. They also like to create problems in the garden. Sometimes they make a feast of my garden.

Back to today’s story…..

The squirrels don’t just feast on the garden, they steal bulbs and eat through wires.

Okay, squirrels are bad.

Actually I like them.

Maybe we should get back to the passage for today.

Jesus did refer to the Father as the gardener and himself as the true vine.

Yes, Jesus says that the gardener, the Father, cuts off every branch that bears no fruit, and that he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will bear even more fruit.

Jesus tells the disciples that they are already clean because of the words that Jesus has spoken to them. He tells them to remain in him just as he remains in them.

No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can the disciples, neither can we bear fruit unless we remain in Jesus.

Jesus says, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.”

Jesus also says, “This is to my Father, the gardener’s, glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.” Acts 15:1-8

Message        Dependence Day

I’m glad to be with you today – to be with anyone! I am grateful to be getting out again. I will say that pandemic lockdown allowed me to take time to pick up some new habits, like baking sourdough. Yes, I did make my own starter! I also rediscovered knitting and gardening. I have enjoyed some gardening through the years, growing tomatoes and watermelon and a few herbs. But during this pandemic, I had time to really get serious. It didn’t hurt to have several master gardeners in my social circle. It has been quite fun to share cuttings and baby  plants, to celebrate growth, to worry over the plants that are struggling.

One plant in particular has been amazing to watch. My aunt convinced me to plant a passion flower vine. You may know it better as a maypop. We had seen one on a  trip, covered in bees and butterflies, and we were so impressed by it. Last year she gave me a nice cutting. Now, the passion vine has been called “rambunctious,” and all that means is, it grows like crazy. When it started to grow, it grew tall and thick. Multiple branches grew up the trellis I bought for it. All summer it was covered in beautiful purple flowers. The bees and butterflies flocked to it. The fritillary butterflies laid so many little eggs and their caterpillars kept the vine from growing up over the house. The wasps kept the caterpillar population under control. Those that survived became new fritillary butterflies and took more passion vine pollen off to other places. The vine was so thick that I didn’t realize until I was trying to take out the dead vine at the end of summer that the vine actually snapped the metal trellis. The vine lays roots that are wide, spreading just underneath the ground, allowing vines to pop up in the most unexpected places. So after the dead of winter, passion vines began to pop up all over my garden. I found a new vine in the backyard this spring, far from the original, proof that the bees and butterflies did their part. It was a small picture of the circle of life – growth, death, regrowth.

It’s this passion vine that comes to mind when I read John 15. While passion vines don’t grow in the Middle East, I’m sure it was a vine very similar to mine which makes it into Jesus’ story. His disciples were listed as fishermen and tax collectors, but surely they too knew enough of farming to imagine a similar vine. Perhaps they too kept backyard gardens. No doubt the image of a wildly growing vine spreading life into unexpected places seemed just right for Jesus. And it was a good image for them on that night.

It is on this night, just before his arrest at dawn, that Jesus is preparing the disciples for his death and departure. He predicts, yet again, how we will be  betrayed and die. He predicts the betrayal of Peter. It’s a moment that seems like an ending, of closure, as he lets the disciples know what is to come. Jesus says, 14:28-31, “You heard me say, ‘I am going away and I am coming back to you.’ If you loved me, you would be glad that I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I.  I have told you now before it happens, so that when it does happen you will believe. I will not say much more to you, for the prince of this world is coming. He has no hold over me, but he comes so that the world may learn that I love the Father and do exactly what my Father has commanded me.”

Several things are clear from Jesus’ words. First, he is going to the Father. This prediction of his departure should not confuse or upset them. Instead, they should be glad that Jesus is going to the Father. This death is not the devil’s decision. It is the movement of God. Jesus is not influenced or moved by evil, but only by the Father. And the Father is greater than Jesus, a point of fact we sometimes miss. Time and again, Jesus points us to God. God the Father, God the Creator, God the Sustainer, God the Healer. It is God who runs the show.
Jesus is also letting them know that this is not the end. It feels like the end. Death is surely the end! And yet, Jesus talks as though life continues after he leaves. This community of believers will remain. It will be strengthened by the Helper. And Jesus is not done and gone. He has simply gone on to prepare for the disciples arrival. He will show them the Father, the Father they have already seen in him. It is a radical presumption of ongoing life in the midst of a night of death and evil. It is the image of the garden in winter, gone away from our sight, but not truly gone as life goes on under the soil.

After these words, Jesus calls on them to leave. I believe they stepped outside and encountered their own rambunctious vine. Jesus points it out, touches it, and declares, “I am the vine and my Father is the Gardener.” Jesus is the vine, an image well known in biblical texts. There are many parables and pictures of vines representing Israel or the people of God, the wild vines that do as they wish. The vineyards that don’t produce. Jesus takes that image and declares that He is the true vine. And this vine will not run wild or fail to reproduce. This vine is under the control of the Gardener, the Father who is greater than Jesus. God is the source and the guiding hand in all that happens to Jesus.

Have you ever experienced an untended garden? At first it produces well, taking advantage of growing without any constraints. It seems so healthy and natural. But almost overnight, it becomes wild and overgrown. Dead undergrowth prevents sun and water from reaching the roots. Weeds begin to overtake the garden, choking it and stealing the light and water and soil. Insects take over. The garden produces less fruit as the leaves and branches take all the health the vine needs and use it just to grow themselves. A garden must be tended and cut back. It must be trained where to go. I promise you, I spend more time weeding my vine and cutting it back than I do anything else. I have to pull it back from climbing into other plants or climbing wires it should not. The Gardener is an essential, powerful guiding hand.

Jesus has clearly identified that He is the vine and the Father is the Gardener. But there is a third member of this story: the branches. In verse 5, he says, “I am the vine, you are the branches.” So now we have the three parties to this parable. The Father, the Son, and the community of believers. Three is an important number in Scripture. Think of the Trinity. Just like the Trinity, the father, son, and holy spirit, these three parties – vine, gardener, and branches – are involved in a mutually dependent relationship. A branch on its own has no use, no value. It cannot bear fruit or grow. Jesus, the Vine, stands as the rooted connector between the branches and the gardener. As we are rooted and related to Jesus who gives us life, we are cared for by the Gardener.

It is the Gardener’s job to decide which branches of the vine need to be pruned. Perhaps at the base of the vine it is easy to discern branches from one another, but most of the vine is an intertwined jumble. It is a mess of leaves and flowers and fruit. As I think of this wild mess of branches, I think of the confusion of our human lives. I cannot always discern who is right, who is wrong, who is following God and who isn’t. The branches cannot decide which of them should stay and which should go and neither can we. Only the Gardener can do that.

All three of these elements are essential to the production of fruit. The branches rely on the vine. The vine draws up water and nutrients from the soil, sending them out to the branches. The leaves take in sun and moisture, sending it back through the branches to the vine. The Gardener tends the branches and the vine, bringing water and keeping the vine clear of dead and non-producing branches. The roots of the vine run strong and deep, holding up the mass of branches as they intertwine and hold each other up. They cling to each other, protect one another, and what happens to one, happens to all. The many elements of this system become one beautiful, glorious picture of life. This is no English garden laid out in strict rows. This is not a series of individual plants  showing off their individual glory. This is a living, breathing community.

Recently I’ve been reading a book called “Braiding Sweetgrass” by Robin Wall Kimmerer. She is a scientist by training, but she is also Pottawatomie. In this book she interweaves Native knowledge and scientific knowledge. She shares the science of the Three Sisters – corns, beans, and squash. The First Nations grew them together. The corn would shoot up first, gathering sun. Their leaves are carefully placed, no one leaf on top of another so that all have enough sun. The beans would stretch out roots underground long before they would reach out of the dirt. They gathered up essential nutrients from the soil deep underground. In fact, beans are essential to the garden. Only beans can take nitrogen from the soil and make is useful, thus giving the corn and squash better growing conditions. Finally the squash leaves would come up. Their prickly leaves keep the insects away from the other plants. They share the resources. The corn with its shallow roots takes water from the top of the soil. The deep rooted beans draw up water from further below. The squash stretches out far away from the corn and beans to find water they can’t reach. Each one contributes in different ways to the system, each one is more healthy because of their relationship to one another. They would not grow as well individually in perfect rows, ever. They needed one another and what each one could give.

These interdependent vines and gardens are lessons to us from God. Jesus would not share these lessons if it weren’t so. But these lessons are a challenge to contemporary Western models of just about everything. In a culture where we celebrate billionaires who make it all on their own and demand that each individual have the autonomy to decide everything on their own, this model of dependence and interdependence is radical.

It is clear that we branches do not bear fruit if we are not living in dependence on the vine. What is our fruit? The fruit is acts of love. Just before the disciples and Jesus came to this vine, Jesus was telling them this very thing. He says, if you love me, keep my commands. Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. Our acts of love are to follow Jesus’ commands to love and to care for others. Our root is Jesus. Jesus is molded and shaped by the Father, the Gardener. If we are true branches, we too will be in the shape given by the Father. We show we are a part of the vine by how we act. When we act in accordance with the community of love, we are one with the Father and with Jesus.

For the writer of John, there is only one measure of membership in the faith community. It is to love as Jesus loved. All are welcome. Old, young, all ethnicities, genders, sexualities, socio-economic levels, education levels, disabilities – none of that matters. You can’t be cut off the vine for that. You are only cut out of the faith community for not committing to the community of love and acts of love. If our churches shaped ourselves like this, we would send a radical and life-changing message to the world. You might want to remind me of Paul’s image of the church as individual body parts, but Paul said they all work together and to what end? Faith, hope, and love, but the greatest is love.

If we truly lived like this, the church would be known as a community in which members are known for acts of love done in common with other members. We would not be known for famous individuals. We would not be known for our individual choices or rights. Our community would be built around accountability to the abiding presence of Christ. Our community would be healthier and more productive. This is the lesson of the vine.

This week our nation celebrated Independence Day. That holiday is fraught with too many emotions and feelings for me to judge or comment upon. I would suggest that instead we who are citizens of a more eternal and powerful Kingdom should celebrate Dependence Day. We ought to celebrate that we are able to be dependent on a God of great grace, mercy, and love, who is strong enough to protect and provide for us. We ought to celebrate and recognize the glory we have living as branches in a vine rooted in love, care, and self-sacrifice. All our needs are met by the Gardener. Our food and sustenance spring from the vines deep roots. What we produce together is glorious! Love, community, and food for all who come. Let’s celebrate today, and every day, our Dependence Day.

Benediction

After Jesus spoke with his disciples, he told them it was time to leave, it was time to leave. As they all stepped out they probably encountered a rambunctious vine.

Jesus pointed the vine out to the disciples, he touched it and probably invited them to take a closer look at it as well.

Then he proclaimed “I am the vine and my Father is the Gardener.”

It must have been an odd statement but I think that possibly they were beginning to understand.

I think so to, being in a garden, even with a wild rambunctious vine, you can understand a little bit more about God and life.

So, now it is our time to leave, to get out of here and step into the garden. To touch the wild vine and to notice the vine and the gardener.

It is time to step out into the Marketplace, the public square, in our homes, with our friends, our families, our enemies, and even those that we are scared of – there are all kinds of gardens for us to step into.

But there is only one vine that is strong enough to endure and to support us.

And there is only one gardener that cares for and understands the garden and recognizes the needs.

So, it is time to leave, time to go. To go in peace, to go in mercy and compassion, it is time to step out into the garden.

As we step into all different kinds of gardens, all with the same vine to cling to and the same gardener to trust, we go. As we do may our feet get muddy, may we have dirt under our nails, may we quickly wipe the sweat from our brow, may we consistently know the gardener more intimately, and may our grasp on the vine become increasingly confident and secure. Let’s go.

Closing Peace 

May the love of the Father go with you.

And also with you.

Let’s go. Let’s go into the marketplace among all the other loved descendants of God. Let’s go, let’s go as loved children of God in the midst of the public square filled with those unknowingly yearning to be a child of God. Let’s go, let’s go held by the embrace of grace, the comfort of peace, the confidence of joy, the proof of love, and confidence of hope. Let’s go!

Order, Words, & Voices

Order

​Sunday, July 04, 2021

#1 ONE Video #1 (4:57)

  • Opening  – Holy Holy Here With Me (Housefires feat. Kirby Kaple)

Live/OnLine

  • Prayer                    Rick
  • Music                     Abbie
    • In The Garden (Charles Austin Miles)
    • They’ll Know We Are Christians By Our Love (Peter Scholtes)
  • That Story = My Story            Kelly, Lily, & Isaiah
  • Music                    Abbie
    • In Christ Alone (Keith Getty & Stuart Townsend)
  • Message    ‘Not Be Dissuaded’         Rick

#2 TWO Video (3:26)

  • Song – Just A Closer Walk With Thee (Paul Zach feat. Page CSVI)

    Community – Next Sunday – Dependence
Live
Benediction                 Kelly, Lily, Isaiah
Closing Peace                Rick


# 3 Three Audio (7:17)
Song – Holy Spirit (Austin Sebek)

Voices & Words

Opening
‘Blessed are the pure in heart for they will be see God.’ Matthew 5:8
‘He wakens my ear to listen as those who are taught. The Lord God has opened my ear.’  Isaiah 50:4b-5a
‘Give me a spirit of wisdom and revelation as I come to know you.’ Ephesians 1:17b

Prayer
God,
May our unity be deeper than individual agreement
May our faithfullness have nothing to do with our compatibility
May diversity of thought bind us together
May those things that divide us instead make us strong
May there be strength for the weak in our differences
May there be hope for the hopeless in our faith
May we join in prayer when words are no longer spoken
May we go to our knees when common ground cannot be found
May we love unconditionally in the marketplace
May we love irrationally in the public square
May the world see you in our lives together and apart
Amen.

Music

In The Garden
CCLI Song # 62858
Charles Austin Miles

I come to the garden alone
While the dew is still on the roses
And the voice I hear falling on my ear
The Son of God discloses

And He walks with me
And He talks with me
And He tells me I am His own
And the joy we share as we tarry there
None other has ever known

He speaks and the sound of His voice
Is so sweet the birds hush their singing
And the melody that He gave to me
Within my heart is ringing

And He walks with me
And He talks with me
And He tells me I am His own
And the joy we share as we tarry there
None other has ever known

I’d stay in the garden with Him
Tho’ the night around me be falling
But He bids me go thro’ the voice of woe
His voice to me is calling

And He walks with me
And He talks with me
And He tells me I am His own
And the joy we share as we tarry there
None other has ever known

And the joy we share as we tarry there
None other has ever known

They’ll Know We Are Christians By Our Love
CCLI Song # 26997
Peter Scholtes

We are one in the Spirit
We are one in the Lord
We are one in the Spirit
We are one in the Lord
And we pray that all unity
May one day be restored

And they’ll know we are Christians
By our love by our love
Yes they’ll know we are Christians
By our love

We will walk with each other
We will walk hand in hand
We will walk with each other
We will walk hand in hand
And together we’ll spread the news
That God is in our land

And they’ll know we are Christians
By our love by our love
Yes they’ll know we are Christians
By our love

We will work with each other
We will work side by side
We will work with each other
We will work side by side
And we’ll guard each man’s dignity
And save each man’s pride

And they’ll know we are Christians
By our love by our love
Yes they’ll know we are Christians
By our love

All praise to the Father
From whom all things come
And all praise to Christ Jesus
His only Son
And all praise to the Spirit
Who makes us one

And they’ll know we are Christians
By our love by our love
Yes they’ll know we are Christians
By our love

In Christ Alone
CCLI Song # 3350395
Keith Getty | Stuart Townsend

In Christ alone my hope is found
He is my light my strength my song
This Cornerstone this solid Ground
Firm through the fiercest drought and storm
What heights of love what depths of peace
When fears are stilled when strivings cease
My Comforter my All in All
Here in the love of Christ I stand

In Christ alone who took on flesh
Fullness of God in helpless babe
This gift of love and righteousness
Scorned by the ones He came to save
Till on that cross as Jesus died
The wrath of God was satisfied
For every sin on Him was laid
Here in the death of Christ I live

There in the ground His body lay
Light of the world by darkness slain
Then bursting forth in glorious Day
Up from the grave He rose again
And as He stands in victory
Sin’s curse has lost its grip on me
For I am His and He is mine
Bought with the precious blood of Christ

No guilt in life no fear in death
This is the power of Christ in me
From life’s first cry to final breath
Jesus commands my destiny
No power of hell no scheme of man
Can ever pluck me from His hand
Till He returns or calls me home
Here in the power of Christ I’ll stand

That Story = My Story

The story of the apostle Paul is beyond interesting.  When we first met him he was on his way to the city of Damascus to find the Christians.

A religious zeal led him to do this, to weed out the Christians and to stop the Jesus movement.

Paul was on the way to Damascus in pursuit of the followers of Jesus. This was a common and very consistent theme of Paul’s adult life.

A lifetime of seeking God always, one way or the other, led him to those who followed Christ.

It is an interesting story. When we first meet Paul he was on his way to Damascus to persecute and jail the Christians, to shut down their movement, to tear down every door that hid and protected the Jesus followers.

Now, as see the beginning of the end of Paul’s story, we still see him seeking out the Christians only now he is passionately seeking them out to encourage and strengthen them.

And, he is still pursuing God, he still has a hunger to know God more.

Seeking God and seeking Christians. A never-ending theme of Paul’s life, a never ending passion of his mission.

Of course, Paul’s passion took on a very different focus. He no longer wanted to stop a movement instead he had become an integral part of the movement.

He was still driven by his passion, a passion that was refined and redirected when he met Jesus on that original trip to Damascus. Everything after that was about Jesus.

Even in the end, he was sharing God’s love, encouraging God’s children, strengthening the weak and reminding the believers of God’s compassion and mercy.

When Paul said his final goodby to the Ephesians ‘there was much weeping among them all; they embraced Paul and kissed him, grieving especially because of what he had said, that they would not see him again.’

Paul set sail to Cos

And then to Rhodes

and from there to Patara

The island of Cyprus

To Tyre

And finally to his last stop before Jerusalem, he landed at Ceasarea

In all, Militeus to Ceasarea was about 600 miles mostly by water, with six stops, for a trip that took close to two weeks.

A lot of places to stop, a lot of hours spent on tearful goodbyes.

Everywhere Paul went Christians were waiting to see him, excited to embrace him.

Everywhere Paul went was because there were Christians there needing to see him one last time.

This was Paul’s farewell tour.

Everywhere Paul went the believers there would try to dissuade him from going to Jerusalem. The Spirit had enlightened them all the dangers of Paul’s entrance into Jerusalem.

A lot of moments spent attempting to turn Paul back.

Most specifically was the prophet Agabus who vividly attempted to stop Paul from going to Jerusalem. Agabus said few words, he bound Paul’s hands and feet in his sincere effort to dissuade Paul.

’”This is the way the Jews in Jerusalem will bind you and will hand you over to the Gentiles.” Agabus spoke to Paul.’ When Paul’s friends heard this, they urged him not to go up to Jerusalem. Just like all the other friends in all the other places had labored to do.

They all knew Agabus was correct, that Paul would be bound by the Jews and turned over to the Gentiles.  Paul was aware of this fact as well. Paul knew this was God’s path for him.

Paul also felt the love that was propelling the believers to dissuade him from heading on to Jerusalem.

They loved Paul and did not want him to go through this.

It was a lot of pressure on Paul, pressure to turn back from the Holy Spirit leading him to Jerusalem.

The prophesies were correct The efforts to save Paul were sincere. The agony of watching a friend walk to the gallos is very real.

An emotional Paul said, ‘”“What are you doing, weeping and breaking my heart? For I am ready not only to be bound but even to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.”’

Everyone was quiet, everyone realized that the Spirit was leading Paul and he could do no less than God’s will.

’“The Lord’s will be done.”’ Paul’s friends said.

Still, they disagreed with Paul. Still, they were afraid for Paul.

Still, they accompanied him to the beach as he boarded the boat to Jerusalem.

Still, as they watched him head south, they trusted God.

[Acts 21:1-16]

Message        Not Be Dissuaded

Monday, as a began my walk close to dusk, – a couple of blocks from our house a policeman got out of his car and yelled the question to me “Did you hear a gun shot?’ I wanted to be able to say ‘yes’, how cool would it be to be able to identify the location and even the shooter, and quite possibly even the type of firearm used. However, I had not heard it, and I could not identify the location, the shooter, or any specifics about the weapon. I really wanted to say yes, but instead I walked away after saying an insecure “I Don’t Think So.” It wasn’t until a few blocks later that I began to consider if it was wise to continue my walk as I was approaching darkness with a ‘kind of confirmed’ shooter on the loose. The officer’s 6 simple words began to dissuade me from moving on. Eventually I continued the walk, determined that I would not be dissuaded from my original plan.

I love this word ‘Dissuade’. I conveys certain unusual confidence of a person who has others trying to turn determined steps back. A couple of weeks ago when I first read the passage for today I was overjoyed when I saw ‘Dissuade’ was the word used to describe the believers failed attempts to convince Paul to not go to Jerusalem. I was then disheartened to find that most Bible interpretations use ‘Persuade’ rather than ‘Dissuade.’

Persuade and Dissuade are complementary antonyms, which are contradictory words. Persuade means to talk someone into doing or believing something, to convince someone to believe or do something through reason or inducement. Dissuade means to talk someone out of doing or believing something, to convince someone to disbelieve or not do something through reason or inducement.
https://grammarist.com/antonyms/persuade-vs-dissuade/

The greek word used ispeithó, a word that is often translated as ‘dissuade,’ ‘persuade’, however, there is a deeper underlying strength in the word. That being a word ‘confident’.

With this understanding we find a people who are confidently and passionately trying to persuade/dissuade another from going in a direction that will, without a doubt, be dangerous, risky, and ultimately doomed.

The reason I focus on this word, and the English translation of it, is because it is central in understanding the central truth of the story of Acts 21:1-16 – a story of conflict that does not involve a antagonist, only a protagonist and a group of protagonist that confidently and strongly disagree.

A story without an antagonist is anathema to our way of story telling, it is anathema to our humanness. We need there to be a bad guy, a person who comes around to realize the error of their ways. We need the bad guy to be able to identify the good guy. Someone needs to be 100% right, and it is an even better story if that 100% right good guy is always the obvious ‘right and good’ guy.  In this story, as Paul makes the final left out of Militeus to Jerusalem, the story takes on a ‘no bad guys’ thread.

It is important to note, the idea of ‘no bad guy’ is still a difficult pill for preacher, commentarians, and biblical experts, to swallow. “How can there not be a bad guy?’ Or probably more accurate, ‘How can the apostle Paul not always be the 100% good guy?’ This conundrum still plagues all believers. How do we interpret passages like Acts 21:1-16, how do we navigate the conflicts between Paul and Barnabas, Paul and John Mark, Paul and Peter? Now, almost 2 thousands years after, we still are uncomfortable with it. Argument and disagreement still exists.

The Apostle Paul is headed to Jerusalem. On the way he makes many stops to encourage and to say goodbye to the different communities of believers along the journey. At each stop, the believers beg Paul to not go to Jerusalem. They passionately attempt to dissuade him from doing what he is confident about doing – going to Jerusalem. They, in their efforts to turn Paul back, are equally confident. And, quite frankly, stand on a solid foundation. They have heard the prophecy, they have been told by the Holy Spirit what is to happen to Paul in Jerusalem. Paul knew all of this as well, and he still left them and went to Jerusalem.

How could Paul be so passionate about going and the believers be so passionate about stopping him from going?

Let’s consider a few different possible understandings.

  1. Paul made a mistake or the believers did not trust God enough. There are many credible experts that feel that Paul was going to Jerusalem on a martyrs mission. It was his agenda to get the offerings taken by the gentiles for the suffering believers in Judea, especially in Jerusalem. He went determined to get the offerings there and, at the same time, to merely make a point. He knew what his fate was but he went anyway Or, the believers, who also knew what would happen, didn’t trust God and God’s path for Paul. They did not believe they could continue on without his guidance, they loved him too much to let him go. Summary – Paul was Stubborn and the Believers were Selfish.
  2. Paul understood the next phase of his journey, the believers did not.  Paul was willingly going and giving up his freedom, even his life, confident this was where and how God needed him. The Believers did not have this insight, they were unaware of this time for a turn in the life of the new testament church and believers. Summary, Paul Knew and the Believers did not know (they were not ready to know).
  3. Nobody knew anything and everyone had allowed their own speculation to become personal. They all heard from the Holy Spirit but were not given the reaction they were take so they were all operating out of ignorance.

There is a reason we cannot answer this in a definitive manner, even now with hindsight. It is because the story is not about right or wrong, the story is not about knowing or not knowing, the story is not even about Jerusalem. They story is about how the church avoids collapsing even when they cannot identify and agree on a confident right and wrong. It is a story about a person who got on a boat even when his passionate friends made him feel sad about his next step – even as they lovingly and passionately attempted to dissuade him from going, as they told him he was wrong. It is a story of a people who didn’t agree with their friend, nor did they understand his path, but still they went down to the beach as he prepared to leave and prayed with him leaving him with the memories and assurance of their embrace.

Unity is a consistent thread throughout Paul’s writings to the church. Even in this story, the collection by the gentiles. Usually, matters of hunger were tended to by the rich in a community – however when the church in Antioch heard about the coming famine, they banded together and shared the sacrifice to provide, regardless of their economic status.

Or, unity is even more visible in the council at Jerusalem. They were confronted with things they could not understand. This group of religious leaders, many were formerly leaders in the Jewish religious institution, were faced with what surely seemed like anarchy, Jewish believers mixing with Gentiles, Gentiles receiving the Spirit. It all had to be too much, too overwhelming. But, instead of lashing out, leaving the room, leaving the faith, they were silent, they considered, they recognized they didn’t understand. They took the time to let God calm them and hold on to them even in the midst of their confusion and conflict.

This story is all the more significant when we remember that Paul had just met with the Ephesus leaders and warning them that their biggest conflict ahead would come from within. And now we see the believers, even in intense disagreement, still unified at the water’s edge.

“My reading of scripture leaves me convinced that God is more interested in the pattern of life we live than in divining some elusive specific ‘plan’ for our individual lives. Likewise, we should be more interested in praying together with our neighbors on beached than prevailing over them in every disagreement.”
Matt Skinner, Acts – Catching Up With The Spirit

The stories, our stories, that we see in the book of Acts, are stories of a people who decide to still trust God even when trusting seems impossible – when letting go of self seems to conflict with their views and understanding. It is a story of a people who learned to love in the midst of conflicting diverse opinions, convictions, and decisions. It is a people whose connection to each other was Jesus.

Let’s pray.

Benediction

Today, we leave to celebrate freedom.

We leave to celebrate liberty.

We go to express our gratitude.

We recognize our freedom does not mean we will always agree.

We know that it will frequently be abused.

 We recognize that our liberty will always be fragile.

We know that it will frequently be dismissed.

We also go knowing that we are descendants of God.

And we go as children of God.

Trusting God.

Our trust is not in our own plans or strategies.

We go separately together because our trust is not in ourself but in God.

We go immersed in God’s love for us all.

Closing Peace

May the love of the Father go with you.

And also with you.

Let’s go. Let’s go into the marketplace among all the other loved descendants of God. Let’s go, let’s go as loved children of God in the midst of the public square filled with those yearning to be children of God. Let’s go, let’s go held by grace, comforted by peace, joy, love, and hope.

Let’s go!

Order, Voices, & Words

Order
Sunday, June 27, 2021 Order

#1 ONE Video #1 (3:20)

  • Call to Worship

    Come What May (Jeff Pardo)

Live/OnLine

  • Prayer                    Rick (In Person) (Slides)
  • Music                     Abbie (In Person) (Slides)
    • Tis So Sweet (Louisa M. R. Stead, William James Kirkpatrick)
    • Give Me Jesus (Jeremy Camp)
    • Oh How I Love Jesus (Frederick Whitfield)
  • That Story = My Story            Peyton, Steve, Do a (No Slides)
  • Music                    Abbie (Slides)
    • Jesus Name Above All Name (Nadia Hearns)
  • Message    ‘Captive to Purpose’         Rick (slides)

#2 TWO Video (5:52)

  • Song – God Really Loves Us (Ben Glover, Dante Bowe, David Crowder, Jeff Sojka)

    Community – Next Sunday – Not Be Dissuaded, Vaccinations, Story
Live

  • Benediction (inperson/online)  ? (Spotlight) (no slides)
  • Sharing the Peace           Rick

# 3 Three Audio (4:22)
Song – Redeeming The Years (Anthony Brown, Phil Thompson)

Voices & Words

Prayer

God, may we be captive to our pursuit of you
May we be captive to your calling
May we be captive to your purpose
God, may we be captivated by your presence
May we be captivated by your grace
May we be captivated by your love
God, may we know that you have given us all that we need
May we know that you will not disappear in times of trouble
May we rest in your arms
Amen.

Music I 

‘Tis So Sweet To Trust In Jesus (Trust In Jesus)
CCLI Song # 22609
Louisa M. R. Stead | William James Kirkpatrick

‘Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus
Just to take Him at His word
Just to rest upon His promise
Just to know thus saith the Lord

Jesus Jesus how I trust Him
How I’ve proved Him o’er and o’er
Jesus Jesus precious Jesus
O for grace to trust Him more

O how sweet to trust in Jesus
Just to trust His cleansing blood
Just in simple faith to plunge me
‘Neath the healing cleansing flood

Jesus Jesus how I trust Him
How I’ve proved Him o’er and o’er
Jesus Jesus precious Jesus
O for grace to trust Him more

Yes ’tis sweet to trust in Jesus
Just from sin and self to cease
Just from Jesus simply taking
Life and rest and joy and peace

Jesus Jesus how I trust Him
How I’ve proved Him o’er and o’er
Jesus Jesus precious Jesus
O for grace to trust Him more

I’m so glad I learned to trust Thee
Precious Jesus Savior Friend
And I know that Thou art with me
Wilt be with me to the end

Jesus Jesus how I trust Him
How I’ve proved Him o’er and o’er
Jesus Jesus precious Jesus
O for grace to trust Him more

Give Me Jesus
CCLI Song # 4874344
Jeremy Camp

Give me Jesus
Give me Jesus
You can have all this world
Just give me Jesus

In the morning when I rise
In the morning when I rise
In the morning when I rise
Give me Jesus

Give me Jesus
Give me Jesus
You can have all this world
Just give me Jesus

When I am alone
When I am alone
Oh when I am alone
Give me Jesus

Give me Jesus
Give me Jesus
You can have all this world
Just give me Jesus

When I come to die
When I come to die
Oh when I come to die
Give me Jesus

Give me Jesus
Give me Jesus
You can have all this world
Just give me Jesus

Oh How I Love Jesus
CCLI Song # 28696
Frederick Whitfield

There is a name I love to hear
I love to sing its worth
It sounds like music in my ear
The sweetest name on earth

Oh how I love Jesus
Oh how I love Jesus
Oh how I love Jesus
Because He first loved me

It tells me of a Savior’s love
Who died to set me free
It tells me of His precious blood
The sinner’s perfect plea

Because He first loved me
Because He first loved me

That Story = My Story

The journey of the new testament church is an odd tale. A story of an imperfect group, feeling their way in the dark, to become something that has actually never before been.

The key protagonists change, Peter to Paul. The locations are constantly different, Ephesus, Athens, Jerusalem, Caesarea, Achaia, Phrygia,…

(Interrupts) Yes Dear, we get it….

What about all the different groups? – Jews, Gentiles, Greeks, Hebrews, Slaves, Rulers, Leaders, Religious leaders of all types, Politicians, Witches and Warlocks, just to name a few.

(Interrupts again) Witches and Warlocks AND, Politicians and Religious leaders?!?

And what about the individuals who pop in and are rarely seen again. People like Jason, Sosthenes, Crispus, Titius, Eutychus, Gaius, and Aristarchus…
It is utter chaos I tell you! They have no playbook, no map set out before them.

And then a guy falls three stories and God leads Paul to bring him back to life! A one time event for Paul, I’m sure he never forgot that!

They are not given instructions on how, or what, or where, or anything that a well planned out endeavor requires. Yet it works because the Spirit is working.

They are just told to be eyewitnesses of Jesus, to be together but apart and all over the place. To follow God as God leads, to trust when everything is confusing, to know God when God is unseen, and, in doing so, to let their faith grow.

 For many of those that are in this part of that story, this part of our story, their appearance is small and seemingly insignificant.

However, the story wouldn’t be the story without them. They are essential even if they seem to be extras. They are willingly held captive to God’s call on their life, especially at specific times and for a specific purpose. Even though it may seem insignificant, it is life changing.

And it all kicks off when they say ‘yes’, when they follow, when they trust, when they let their faith prompt rather than their Me, My, or Myself human protective response.

Today, we see a pivot point in the story. Our Story. Paul is beginning to say his goodbyes. He is leaving this part of the journey to the next leaders. He is surrendering to the next part of the journey. He is willingly accepting the next captivity to purpose.

“There is an urgency before me now.” Paul says, “I am heading to Jerusalem. I am led by the Spirit. I am captive to God’s purpose. I’m completely in the dark about what will happen when I get there. I do know that it won’t be any picnic, there are hard times and imprisonment ahead. What matters most to me is to finish what God started: the job the Master Jesus gave me of letting everyone I meet know all about this incredibly extravagant generosity of God.”

I imagine it saddened the church leaders in Ephesus when Paul continued saying, “And so this is good-bye. You’re not going to see me again, nor I you, you whom I have been with for so long proclaiming the news of God’s kingdom. I’ve done my best for you, given you my all, held back nothing of God’s will for you.”

And it was surely a bit disconcerting to the leaders as Paul continued, “Now it’s up to you. Be on your toes—both for yourselves and your congregation of sheep. The Holy Spirit has put you in charge of these people— they are God’s people entrusted to you to guard and protect. God himself thought they were worth dying for.”

And it that wasn’t overwhelming enough he probably overwhelmed them when he said, “I know that as soon as I’m gone, vicious wolves are going to show up and rip into this flock, men from your very own ranks twisting words so as to seduce disciples into following them instead of Jesus. So stay awake and keep up your guard. Remember those three years I kept at it with you, never letting up, pouring my heart out with you, one after another.”

The Spirt was prepping them for the next phase of their journey, insight into their own captivity to God’s purpose. Paul was also very reassuring to them, He said this because it was what he had discovered in his own path.

Paul wanted them to know that even though they would not see him again, they were not left alone to do the humanly impossible.

Steve: Paul said, “Now I’m turning you over to God, our marvelous God whose gracious Word can make you into what he wants you to be and give you everything you could possibly need in this community of holy friends.”

That story, our story, only in a later time.  We also are called on a pursuit of purpose. A calling that leads us to surrender to the best path, the best pursuit, God’s intentional purpose.

[Acts 20]

Music II

Jesus Name Above All Names
CCLI Song # 21291
Naida Hearn

Jesus name above all names
Beautiful Savior glorious Lord
Emmanuel God is with us
Blessed Redeemer living Word

Jesus loving Shepherd
Vine of the branches Son of God
Prince of Peace Wonderful Counselor
Lord of the universe Light of the world

Praise him Lord above all lords
King above all kings God’s only Son
The Prince of Peace who by his Spirit
Comes to live in us Master and Friend

Message        Captive to Purpose

This past Wednesday everything stopped at the Anthony household. We were captivated by four little birds leaving the nest. Slowly, one bird after another would step to the edge nervously and stand there until apprehensive courage pushed them out.  During this process nervous parents waited and directed these young ones to the next phase of their lives.

Later in the day I saw the mom back on the ground under the now abandoned nest. There seemed to been a sadness as she checked out everything around the ground. Checking before moving on, making sure that they had not left anything behind that they would need later. This phase of her life was over, this exhausting time of constantly hungry children was complete. Now they were off to another phase that would capture their total being, it would be different but the same.

As the apostle Paul left Ephesus, he made a slight right turn toward Macedonia, then a slight left to Troas, and then a sharp left to Jerusalem. Seldom did Paul’s journeys involve a straight line, because Paul was seldom led solely by Paul. A perfect example of an imperson on a mission, not a mission of his planning, but a mission led by the Spirit. Acts is the story of Christians going to wherever, and whatever, the Spirit led.

On the way to Jerusalem Paul made a quick, sharp left to Militeus, to meet with the Ephesus church leaders. He would never see them again face to face, devastating news to the leaders and to Paul. Not just because they were losing a dear friend, but also because they had to release him.  They doubted themselves but not his forward calling.

I’m sure that Paul’s final words were mixed with sentiment and instruction. It was a message of freedom. Paul was ‘loosing’ the believers to be led by the Spirit. To spread their wings and fly. Paul was releasing them of his control and trusting them to be led by the Spirit. It was also a ‘loosing’ by the leaders – they were releasing Paul for the next phase of his journey.

When Paul called for the Ephesus leaders to meet him in Miletius it wasn’t because he did not have the time to stop there, he just knew that a stop there could not be brief, and his time was now limited. He was attached to the people, he had spent a lot of time and investment in them. They had been an essential element of his life for the past two plus years.

I often picture Paul as being stone cold. A look of ‘all business’ on his face and an accompanying intolerance of sentiment and frivolity. But as I read of his devastation of his own people, the Jews, rejection of Jesus. His pain over the probable felt rejection of John Mark. I think he was a very disciplined, smart yet very sensitive guy. Now letting go and leaving his Ephesus’ family was difficult. It took a ‘leave the nest’ blessing from the Ephesus’ leaders for him to move on.

Paul lamented his own exit, he defined it as not a choice but instead that he was ‘captive to the Spirit’. He wasn’t sure where the Spirit would leave, nor was he sure how it would end, but he knew that the Spirit who he had been following, was now in more control than ever. So, the leaders at Ephesus ‘loosed’ him.

Before Paul got back on his boat he left the leaders with four points of essential reminders, wisdom and insight – Paul makes his own ‘Change the oil’ reminders.

  1. You’ve Got What You Need to Survive, to Inspire, and to Lead. Paul’s time with the believers in Ephesus, and their leadership, had been very intentional and purposeful. Even if Paul, nor the Ephesians, fully grasped what had been taking place over the past couple of years. The Spirit had been, through he apostle Paul, pouring in truth and strength. At the same time, the Spirit had been, through, the Ephesians, pouring the same into Paul. This two way empowering had been taking place, largely unknown to these recepients,  during this holy time together.
  2. You Have Tough Times are Ahead, Be constantly Aware, Keep Alert, Constantly Pay Attention. A young man with a huge grin shouting tome over the a crowd. He was pressed up against the wall and I was unable to get over to him, so we spoke for all the crowd to hear. Once I realized that he had been in my youth group over a decade before, he told me that my words had carried him through the tough times in life up to this point.  I was very curious what those words were and he said, for all to hea. He said that I had repeatedly said that life would ‘get worse then it would get better.’ My first thought was ‘Well, that was a cliche!’But God had used my forgotten words to strengthen another person. As Paul tells the Ephesians these words of warning, it served to ready them for the human difficulties of life that lay ahead. The subtle efforts to undermine and destroy the work of God in Ephesus and in the life and leadership of the believers there. That the Spirit  had been at work even when they did not realize it.
  3. You Are in the Hands of God, and God’s Grace.  Paul reminded them that they are not in the hands of the evil that may surround and engulf them. That the situations and happenings around them are not what holds their destiny, nor are they what determine the ultimate defining their lives. The grace they have experienced, the grace they have known, the God of grace that they have trusted in, the hope and promise of their future had not disappeared nor had any of it been taken way. Things may look different, things may feel different, devastating and destruction may seem in control,  but God is still there, God’s grace is still in power.
  4. You Remain Captive to A Purpose. Paul reminds the leaders and believers that their purpose is not to fight a battle, their pursuit is not the foe of God – that fight has already be completed, that foe has already been defeated. Instead, Paul  says to the church,

“Support the weak, remembering the words of the Lord Jesus, for he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”
Acts 20:35

Over a thousand years earlier, after Samuel had anointed, and God had fully  prepared, a hesitant Saul to be new, and first, King – God said,

“Do whatever your hand finds to do, for God is with you.”
I Samuel 10:7

It is a profound and curious statement from God, especially from our viewpoint of knowing what King Saul finds for his hands to do. But, it is actually a promise that resonates in Paul’s final face to face words to the Ephesians, and it resonates with us. God has prepared us, God has warned us, God has empowered us, God has reminded us – we are ready for all that God has ahead. We are ready to be Captive to God’s Purpose.

Anne Lamott tells the story of a pastor friend who, as a child, was once asked what her grandfather, who was also a pastor, did for a job, to which she responded,

“Every Sunday he stands in front of everyone and tells them that they are beautiful, and God loves them exactly the way they are, and they really don’t worry, because they all have each other.

But then by Tuesday they forget this, so on Sunday he goes back to the church and theirs them that they are beautiful, and God loves them just the way they are, and they don’t have to worry because they all have each other.”

Ann Lamott

Dusk, Night, Dawn

This little girl had a mighty grasp on what her our purpose is and what message we are captive to. In our evangelical fervor, we have forgotten this is the task of us all.

What is your purpose, what is your pursuit, what are you captive to?

Let’s pray.

Benediction

So, now we go.
We go by ourselves but never alone.
We go separated but always together.
We walk into an unknown week knowing that it the shepherd we trust.
We surrender to the path ahead even we we cannot see past the next curve.
We recognized that we are free as long as we are captive to God’s purpose.
We go because the father has assured us.
We go because the son had gone before us.
 We go because the spirit leads us.
We go, not alone, but in God’s presence.
We go, not destitute but in God’s riches.
We go, not hated, but in God’s love.
We go because because our faith propels us to follow.
We walk, we run in God’s forgiveness and mercy.
We enter the marketplace to be God’s grace to to our world.
We exist in faith, for this moment, for this purpose.

Closing Peace

As we go out from here, we go as a people captive to a purpose. A purpose of life, peace, compassion, grace, and truth. A people living immersed in the love of the Father, a people committed to meet the world with the embrace of Jesus, a people on a life long pursuit of knowing, understanding, and applying truth, real truth. We go feeling inadequate but with the right measure of faith. We go feeling frustrated, defeated, and powerless but we carry a promise of enough  faith. We go with God’s love, enough love. While we are unsure of what turn lies ahead, we go with an overflowing love.

We go, starting with love. So, as we go, may the love of the Father go with you.
 
And also with you.

Let’s go. Let’s go into the marketplace among all the other loved descendants of God. Let’s go, let’s go as loved children of God in the midst of the public square filled with those yearning to be children of God. Let’s go, let’s go held by grace, comforted by peace, joy, love, and hope.

Let’s go!

Order, Words, & Voices

Order
Sunday, June 20, 2021 

#1 ONE Video #1 (4:28)

  • Call to Worship

    No Longer Slaves (Jonathan David Helser, Joel Case, rian Mark Johnson
    & Melissa Helser)

Live/OnLine

  • Prayer                    Rick (In Person) (Slides)
  • Music                     Rick (In Person) (Slides)
    • This Is My Father’s World (Purdy, Sheppard , Riddle , Babcock)
    • Because He Lives (Gloria Gaither, William J. Gaither)
    • There Is A Redeemer (Melody Green)
  • That Story = My Story            Peyton, Renee, Billy (No Slides)
  • Music                    Rick (Slides)
    • Father I Adore Thee (Terrye Coelho)
  • Message    ‘Me, My, Mine’         Rick (slides)

#2 TWO Video (5:41)

  • Song – The Truth (Lauren Strahm & Andrew Holt)

    Community – Next Sunday – Captive to Purpose (Acts 20)
            Vaccination Month & Story

Live

  • Benediction (inperson/online)  Peyton, Billy, Renee (Spotlight) (no slides)
  • Sharing the Peace           Rick

# 3 Three Audio (5:52)
Song -Heart of a Father (Ryan Ellis)

Voices & Words

#1 ONE Video #1

  • Call to Worship

    No Longer Slaves (Jonathan David Helser, Joel Case, Mark Johnson
    & Melissa Helser)

But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God
John 1:12

For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.
Galatians 5:1

For you have delivered my soul from death, and my feet from falling, so that I may walk before God in the light of life.
Psalm 56:13

For you were called to freedom; only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for self-indulgence, but through love become slaves to one another.
Galatians 5:13

As servants of God, live as free people, yet do not use your freedom as a pretext for evil.
I Peter 2:16

Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.
II Corinthians 3:17

and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.
John 8:21

But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God
John 1:12

Live/OnLine

  • Prayer

God, we pray today for a passionate curiosity to know you

Put us on the path of constant pursuit of understanding you

May we never just settle for what we have been told

May we never stop our journey because we caught a glimpse of you
May we never cease to look even in those times when you seem absent

God may we stand on your promise that you want to be found

May we be confident in our ability to seek and search

May we be determined to find, and then to find more

God, in our seeking, searching, and finding may we discern lies

May we discern deceit
May we discern truth

May we never settle for anything less than truth

May we never be satisfied unless that truth is evident in love

God, remind us of all that is to be found

God, renew our curiosity, refresh our hope, remind us that you are God.  Amen.

  • Music

This Is My Father’s World
CCLI Song # 6167640
Aaron Purdy | Franklin Lawrence Sheppard | Jennie Lee Riddle | Maltbie Davenport Babcock

This is my Father’s world
And to my list’ning ears
All nature sings and ’round me rings
Music of the spheres

This is my Father’s world
I rest me in the thought
Of rocks and trees of skies and seas
His hand the wonders wrought

This is my Father’s world
O let me ne’er forget
And though the wrong seems oft so strong
God is the Ruler yet

This is my Father’s world
Why should my heart be sad
The Lord is King let the heavens ring
God reigns let the earth be glad

This is my Father’s world
He shines in all that’s fair
In the rust’ling grass I hear Him pass
He speaks to me ev’rywhere

This is my Father’s world
O let me ne’er forget
And though the wrong seems oft so strong
God is the Ruler yet

Because He Lives
CCLI Song # 16880
Gloria Gaither | William J. Gaither

God sent His Son they called Him Jesus
He came to love heal and forgive
He bled and died to buy my pardon
An empty grave is there to prove
My Savior lives

Because He lives I can face tomorrow
Because He lives all fear is gone
Because I know He holds the future
And life is worth the living
Just because He lives

There Is A Redeemer
CCLI Song # 11483
Melody Green

There is a Redeemer Jesus God’s own Son
Precious Lamb of God Messiah Holy One

Thank You O my Father
For giving us Your Son
And leaving Your Spirit
Till the work on earth is done

Jesus my Redeemer name above all names
Precious Lamb of God Messiah
O for sinners slain

Thank You O my Father
For giving us Your Son
And leaving Your Spirit
Till the work on earth is done

And then one day I’ll cross that river
I’ll fight life’s final war with pain
And then as death gives way to vict’ry
I’ll see the lights of glory
And I’ll know He reigns

Because He lives I can face tomorrow
Because He lives all fear is gone
Because I know He holds the future
And life is worth the living
Just because He lives

Thank You O my Father
For giving us Your Son
And leaving Your Spirit
Till the work on earth is done

When I stand in glory I will see His face
There I’ll serve my King forever
In that holy place

  • That Story = My Story  Billy, Renee, Peyton (Live/On Line) (no slides except title slide)

Change is a challenge; we eagerly embrace it or we don’t even try…. Often it is a life long struggle.

Have you ever contemplated changing your hair, your route to work, or sitting at a different lunch table?

What about walking into the grocery store only to find that they have moved the cereal aisle?!

Or, at episode five on Netflix you discover that the bad guy is actually the good guy. You already hate the wrong bad guy! You can’t change who you hate at episode 5!

Change has always been a problem.

The prophet Isaiah told the Israelites that change was coming. They didn’t like change either, they saw no need, so they didn’t really pay attention.

It was still a long time away so they figured someone else could deal with it.

Yeah, let the next generation deal with that.

Isaiah told the people that the change was already happening, still they didn’t care.  They didn’t listen, they didn’t even look.

It was just a matter of turning back to God but change sometimes comes with a risk. They were settled in. No one wants to be unsettled.
If you think about it there was also lot of change in the way Jesus lived and taught. He went to the home of a Gentile politician.

Which was Outrageous.

He listened to the reasoning of a Gentile woman.

Which was Dangerous.

He drank from the cup that had been used by a Samaritan.
Unsanitary, Unhygienic, and just Wrong.
Jesus’ actions were radical, probably labeled ‘liberal’.  He also ate with sinners and actually went to the home of a tax collector.

That was true almost since his birth. Gentile magicians in his house before he was two, an unclean chronically ill woman pushing through a crowd to touch him, and saving the life of an adulteress.

They never knew, we never know, what’s next on God’s path.

God told the Apostle Peter to go to the house of a Gentile. God empowered the Apostle Paul to enter the marketplace crowded with Gentiles.

Today, we see the dangerous power of three small words – ‘Me, My, and Mine.’

Paul is in Ephesus where ‘The word of the Lord grew mightily and prevailed.’
For three months Paul continually went into the synagogue and spoke about the kingdom of God. Some flat out refused to believe and started spreading lies about Christians.

So, instead of going to the synagogue, for the next two years, Paul returned to the marketplace and the public square. Soon, all the Jews, and Greeks, had heard about the resurrected Jesus and that statues are not really God.

Extraordinary things were happening.  New believers turned to God and changed their evil practices – even though it would doom their incomes. Those who practiced magic burned about one million dollars worth of books. They believed about Jesus enough to risk their livelihood.

When Paul was about to leave Ephesus a disturbance arose regarding Christianity. A silversmith named Demetrius, who made idols of the god Artemis, recognized the threat to his business. He gathered all the idol makers together.

Demetrius explained that their income was at risk because Paul was saying ‘gods made with hands are not gods’.
Demetirus sought to take the selfish ‘Me, My, & Mine’ aspect out of his argument, he added religiosity. Demetirus said, ’The temple of the great goddess Artemis will be scorned, and she will be deprived of her majesty.”

Demetrius’ plan worked- he made his selfishness sound holy. ‘Me, My, and Mine’ is always more acceptable when it sounds holy.

Demetrius manipulated the crowd masterfully. Soon, the workers were enraged and shouted, “Great is Artemis!”

Soon, the entire city was filled with the confusion; the crowd dragged Paul’s travel companions out. 

Paul’s disciples and even the city leaders begged Paul not to go into the crowd.

Next we see the unpredictable consequences of ‘Me, My, and Mine.”  Actually we still see this happening in in our day, and we still have to deal with the unexpected consequences.

As the crowd grew, most of them didn’t even know why they were so angry, but nevertheless, they grabbed ahold of the rage.

When a Jewish leader tried to calm the crowd the Gentiles got mad – it turned into a Jews against Gentiles uprising. 

Eventually, the town clerk, was able to calm the crowd. He corrected the false conspiracies that had gone viral in the crowd and the crowd went home.

’Me, My, and Mine’ is very human but also a dangerously powerful tool.

[Acts 19]

  • Music

Father I Adore You
CCLI Song # 26557
Terrye Coelho

Father I adore You
Lay my life before You
How I love You

Jesus I adore You
Lay my life before You
How I love You

Spirit I adore You
Lay my life before You
How I love You

  • Message        Me, My, & Mine

All public schools in the state of Oklahoma are required to conduct a minimum of ten safety drills.  At least four of the drills must be ‘threat’ security types of actions.  This includes and active shooter situation or other scenarios.  Two of the drills must be tornado drills and two must fire drills.  The remaining two drills are for local school administrations to determine based on their greatest perceived need. There is no question that these drills are essential, however, they can be rather traumatic, especially for younger children who do not understand.  And, while teachers and school staffs totally agree with the need, they also recognize that often the reality of scheduling along with all the other procedural requirements can sometimes create an administrative nightmare.  A frequent result of those nightmares is that principals will find that they are up against a deadline for the required drills.

This was the case one day when Andrea was a middle school teacher. She arrived to find that a new student had been assigned to her classroom. The family of the 12 year old boy had just moved to Norman from a different country, and, he spoke absolutely no English.  The actually happens frequently, and it is usually maneuvered with Google Translate or assigning another student who speaks the language. Andrea did all of this but as the day proceeded she found that none of those were going to fully help this situation. This just happened to be one of those drills deadline days where the school had to do a fire drill, a tornado drill, and an active shooter drill.  The boy managed to follow the crowd for the tornado and fire drill, mirroring the actions of the other students and teachers who attempted to explain.  He made if successfully through these first two, but the ‘Active Shooter’ drill was more challenging. Once he discovered the purpose of the drill this one was a bit more terrifying. He found Andrea and began frantically asking her something. She could not find any other students to help translate so she pulled out her phone and finally realized that he was asking, ‘Is this real?’ She used the international language of ‘no’ by shaking her head and a offering a reassuring look.  He was then fine

Following others is an automatic act of self preservation.  This little guy could not communicate, he had no way of analyzing the situation and making his own decision, he was stuck with no choice but to follow others.  Until….even in his situations, he recognized he could no long just blindly follow…so he deliberately found the one person who he trusted.

Marketing experts, politicians, and religious leaders all understand this aspect of our humanity. Knowing how to use, and abuse, following makes those who know how to use this reality very rich.

In Siox City Iowa, on January 23, 2016, our former president shared his understanding of humans and following as he talked about his followers, “I have the most loyal people, did you ever see that? I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot people and I wouldn’t lose voters,”
Donald Trump
Kamisar, Ben. “Trump: I could shoot people in streets and not lose support.” The Hill. 01.23.16

I use this as an example, not to slam Mr. Trump, truth is, I am somewhat impressed that, days away from the first presidential political test, the Iowa causes, he already knew his followers well enough to say something this risky.

Truth is, following is not always a bad thing, nor is it always good. Jesus chose to compare his followers to sheep for that very reason, the act of faithfully following. The issue of following, however, is not the aspect of following, it is actually about the who of following, the leader. Jesus knew this and pointed it out as he called his followers sheep. He provided the credibility of Jesus as the leader, as the sheppherd.

“My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one will snatch them out of my hand. What my Father has given me is greater than all else, and no one can snatch it out of the Father’s hand. The Father and I are one.”
John 10:27-30

This brings us to our story for today, the apostle Paul in Ephesus. Paul had been rejected by the Jewish religious leaders so he returned to the Marketplace. It was there that he found interest, people began to listen to what he was saying.  He quickly listened to their questions, they were free to debate and argue, some accepted and followed, some didn’t. At the end of each day they all went home, then, the next morning they returned to the marketplace and resumed the dialogue. This carried on for two years.

It was all rather civil, until a local businessman named Demitrius began to notice the intricacies of Paul’s message. Demitrius was not concerned about the religious aspect of Paul’s message, it was something else that concerned him. See, Demitrius did not care if people listened to Paul and became Christians.  The faith choices of the people was really not of concern to him.  It wasn’t until Demitrius figured out that there was a conflict between Paul’s message and and his own need for self preservation.  Demitrius was a artisan that made idol statues, this was his income, this made him wealthy.  Demitrius didn’t really care what statues he bought, as long as they would sell he was totally supportive. However, Paul was saying something that was problematic. Paul was saying, that the statues that adorned the city of Ephesus, statues of all their gods, as well as of the gods they did not know, that these statues were not really gods – they were just statues.

When the leader that we follow is ‘Me, My, & Mine’ we are looking for a human leader who is going to secure the things that we hold most valuable, most precious. For Demitrius it was his income, he was also aware that for others it may be their religion. So we became a shepherd, he called out to others who also had a ‘Me, My’ & Mine’ god. Then Demitrius knew he had to increase his base so he suddenly became religious. Eventually he threw in some cultural economics, nationalism, and politics and he had a crowd that quickly adopted his rage and as a result outrage erupted.  Most in the crowd quickly followed without any investigation or questions.  Soon the crowd was an avanlanche that had no idea of why they had joined the others. Demitrius was now their shepherd, accepted because he met their ‘Me, My, & Mine’ god.

The rioting did not quit until a very wise city leader recognized that the indignities expressed by the mob was multifold, he stopped forward and calmed their religious, their political, their income, their city, and everything else the people assumed they were mad about. The crowd dissipated.

This event brings us to many comparisons.

  1. If we go back to the beginning to God’s promise to the Hebrews, it all began with a man named Abraham. A man who came from the profession of idol making. A man who was called to give up everything, his income, extended family, nationality, his politics, to, instead, follow God. A man who had to release his ‘Me, My, & Mine.’
  2. Remember also the Jewish leaders at the times Peter, and then Paul, came before them to talk about God’s inclusion of the gentiles. Instead of creating a mob to protect their ‘Me, My, & Mine’, they became silent. They recognized the surrender of their religion the they were now called to release and they let go.
  3. Or even the story that happens just before the mob story in Ephesus. Those who made their income in darkness, the magicians. They let go of everything in order to grab ahold of Jesus.

Our truth for today is not a caution of regarding our leaders, it is a warning regarding the gods we allow to lead us to those leaders. The gods of Me, the gods of My, the gods of Mine. Our call from this story is to look at what we follow and ask ourselves, ‘Does this line up with the message of our true God, or are we too, following god statues.

Jesus said to those who had made the decision to follow him, Then Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, “If you continue in the truth I have taught you through my life and through my words, you are truly my disciples; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.”
John 8:31-32

Who is leading you?

Let’s pray.

#2 TWO Video Post Message

  • The Truth (Lauren Strahm & Andrew Holt)
  • Community – Next Sunday – Captive to Purpose (Acts 20),

        Vaccination Month, & Story

Live & Online

BenedictionToday, we go out from here as a people. A people who are children of God. A people who share the experience of the same Father.

Today, we go out from here as a microcosm of the universe. We go out from here as children of God into the marketplace filled with the descendants of God.

Today, we, children of God and descendants of God, go out amongst the offspring, the created, of God the Father.

We go not to yell ‘This is who WE are!’

We go not to scream ‘Move aside, WE are coming through!’

We go out to be.

We go out to love.

We go out to care.

We go out to be a humble light.

We go out to reveal the Father who calls all his descendants to be his children.

We go out to let God’s offspring know that everyday is the cosmic Father’s day.

So, as we go out today, we go out in gratitude for the grace of the path sacrificially paved by the Father.

We go out allowing the love of the Father to overflow from our lives.

We go out, into the Marketplace, to love like God.

  • Closing Peace

As we go, we leave recognizing the truth of humanity – the truth that we go out into a world of lies, conspiracies, half truths, manipulative truths, selfish truths, and hateful hurtful truths.  We go out into a world where even truth can used to manipulate and deceive. A world where truth is often a tool not to free us but to control and enslave us.

We also go from here gifted by God.  We have been given the ability to differentiate what is truth in its complete context – full truth in purpose and in details. Not only have we, along with all descendants of God, been gifted to discern, we have also been given a mandate – a calling to look for truth constantly and consistently. To seek and search with a goal of finding.

Truth brings us to a life lived in love. So, as you go out from here, may the love of the Father go with you

And also with you.

Go out into the marketplace as loved descendants of God and loved children of God. Go with the power of discernment to live in and to live out the love of the Father, the Love of God.

#3 THREE – Post Worship Music
Song – Heart of a Father (Ryan Ellis)

Order, Words, & Voices

Order

Sunday, June 13, 2021

#1 ONE Video #1 (2:13)

  • Call to Worship

Child of God (Phil Wickham)

Live/OnLine

  • Prayer                    Rick (In Person) (Slides)
  • Music                     Abbie (In Person) (Slides)

    Tell Me The Story Of (Fanny Crosby and John Sweney)

    Blessed Assurance (Fanny Crosby, Phoebe Knapp)

    I Love To Tell The Story (Arabella Hankey, William Fischer)

  • That Story = My Story Intro        Rick (Slide)
  • That Story = My Story            Sherri, Beth, Linda (No Slides)
  • Music                    Abbie (Slides)

    Blessed Assurance (Fanny Crosby, Phoebe Knapp)

  • Message    ‘Descendants in the Marketplace’         Rick (slides)

#2 TWO Video (4:39)

  • Song – Belong to You (Dustin Smith, Jaye Thomas & Stephen Mcwhirter)

    Community – Next Sunday – The Power of Me, My, & Mine (Acts 19:21-41)

Live

  • Benediction (inperson/online)  Sherri, Beth, Linda (Spotlight) (no slides)
  • Sharing the Peace           Rick

# 3 Three Audio (3:32)

Song – Love Anyway (Drew & Elli Holcomb)

Voices & Words

Call to Worship

‘We too are his offspring.’ Acts 17:28b

See what great love the Father has lavished upon us that we should be called the children of God. I John 3:1

for in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith. Galatians 3:26

See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and that is what we are. I John 3:1a

By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. I John 5:2

Prayer

God, you are my creator and my sustainer

You are our ruler and our savior

You are the father and the king

You alone are the judge of this world

You alone are my redeemer

God, it is in you that I live

It is in you that I move

It is in you that I have my being

God, I am your offspring

We are your offspring

We walk in the midst of your offspring

We exist among your offspring

We live with your offspring

God, I know that you are always present

I have glimpses of you in Christ

I feel close to you in holy moments

I know you are light even in the darkness

I know that there is hope even in desolation

I desire to see you even when you are unseen

I search to constantly know you more

God, may we see you

Not in gold or silver or stone

Not in objects made by our devising

Nor in the false perceptions that come from our human minds

God, may we witness you in your gifts

In your grace

In your promise

In your sacrifice

In your mercy

In your compassion

In your love

Amen

Music

Tell Me The Story Of (Fanny Jane Crosby & John Robson Sweney)

Jesus CCLI Song # 33399

Tell me the story of Jesus
Write on my heart every word
Tell me the story most precious
Sweetest that ever was heard
Tell how the angels in chorus
Sang as they welcomed His birth
Glory to God in the highest
Peace and good tidings to earth

Blessed Assurance (Fanny Jane Crosby, Phoebe Palmer Knapp)

CCLI Song # 22324

Blessed assurance Jesus is mine
O what a foretaste of glory divine
Heir of salvation purchase of God
Born of His Spirit washed in His blood

This is my story this is my song
Praising my Savior all the day long
This is my story this is my song
Praising my Savior all the day long

Perfect submission perfect delight
Visions of rapture now burst on my sight
Angels descending bring from above
Echoes of mercy whispers of love

This is my story this is my song
Praising my Savior all the day long
This is my story this is my song
Praising my Savior all the day long

Tell Me The Story Of Jesus (Fanny Jane Crosby | John Robson Sweney)

CCLI Song # 33399

Fasting alone in the desert
Tell of the days that are past
How for our sins He was tempted
Yet was triumphant at last
Tell of the years of His labour
Tell of the sorrow He bore
He was despised and afflicted
Homeless rejected and poor

Tell of the cross where they nailed Him
Writhing in anguish and pain
Tell of the grave where they laid Him
Tell how He liveth again
Love in that story so tender
Clearer than ever I see
Stay let me weep while you whisper
Love paid the ransom for me

I Love To Tell The Story (Arabella Catherine Hankey William Gustavus Fischer)

CCLI Song # 29413

I love to tell the story
Of unseen things above
Of Jesus and His glory
Of Jesus and His love

I love to tell the story
‘Twill be my theme in glory
To tell the old old story
Of Jesus and His love

I love to tell the story
More wonderful it seems
Than all the golden fancies
Of all our golden dreams

I love to tell the story
‘Twill be my theme in glory
To tell the old old story
Of Jesus and His love

Blessed Assurance (Fanny Jane Crosby, Phoebe Palmer Knapp)

CCLI Song # 22324

Perfect submission all is at rest
I in my Savior am happy and blest
Watching and waiting looking above
Filled with His goodness lost in His love

Filled with His goodness lost in His love

That Story = My Story

We have seen so much as we as we have traveled alongside the new testament church.

We have seen so much because they have seen so much. We seen people become A People.

It must have felt similar to what the Israelites experienced coming out of slavery in Egypt and also becoming A People.

We have primarily seen it through the work of the Apostle Peter, it has been a mighty work.

Accepting previously unacceptable people.

Letting go of obligatory expectations.

It had to be a lot to take in, sometimes it must have seemed overwhelmingly impossible to take in, process, and apply.

As we continue today, we will be seeing these next phases of the journey through the Apostle Paul.

Talk about accepting previously unacceptable people and letting go of obligatory expectations. As we meet begin to follow Paul we see a man who has had a distinctly unique path to Jesus.

God placed amazing co-laborers along Paul’s path who have provided sacrificial support and assistance.

Co-laborers with names such as Silas, Timothy, Lydia, Jason, Aquila and Priscilla,

Dionysius, Damaris, Titius, Crispus, Apollos,

Amphipolis, Apollonia, Thessalonica, Beroea, and in Acts 17 we find Paul waiting for Silas and Timothy in Athens.

In Athens, Paul was extremely bothered that the city was full of idols. He argued with the Jews and the devout persons in the synagogue then he argued with everyone in the marketplace.

They  brought Paul to the Areopagus and asked him, “What this new teaching is that you are presenting? It sounds rather strange to us, so we would like to know what it means.” 

Remember, these are the philosophers who spent their time in endless discussions.

I’ve been in some of those

Me too

So, Paul excitedly said, “I see how extremely religious you are in every way. I walked through your city and looked carefully at the objects of your worship I even found an altar with the inscription, ‘To an unknown god.’

This God you worship but do not know – this is the God who I am about. This is the God who made the world and everything in it, the God who is Lord of heaven and earth.”

Paul also said, “From one ancestor God made all nations to inhabit the whole earth, and God allotted the times of their existence and the boundaries of the places where they would live, so that they would search, seek, and even find God.

Here’s the truth, God is not far from each ant of us. For ‘In God we live and move and have our being’; even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we too are God’s offspring.’

God has overlooked our times of human ignorance, but now, God commands all people everywhere to repent. God has fixed a day on which the the world judged in righteousness by a man whom God has appointed, and of this, God has given assurance to us all by raising that man from the dead.”

When they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some scoffed; but others said, “We will hear you again about this.”

Music

Blessed Assurance (Fanny Jane Crosby, Phoebe Palmer Knapp)

CCLI Song # 22324

This is my story this is my song
Praising my Savior all the day long
This is my story this is my song
Praising my Savior all the day long

Blessed assurance Jesus is mine
O what a foretaste of glory divine
Heir of salvation purchase of God
Born of His Spirit washed in His blood

This is my story this is my song
Praising my Savior all the day long
This is my story this is my song
Praising my Savior all the day long

Praising my Savior all the day long

Message        Descendants in the Marketplace

Standing on stage awaiting the entry of my bride was the opposite of the emotional stories I often hear. In the moments leading up to our wedding ceremony my anxiety increased with every second and I worried that sweat would forfeit my tux deposit.  Then my bride, Andrea, entered the auditorium on the arm of her father.  My response was not gooey emotion but frustration and outrage.  Here, in this most significant moment  Andrea entered cool and calm as was humanly possible.  She walked down the aisle greeting the guests like she was calmly working the room at a fundraiser.  I was incensed that she was having such a different moment than me.

With this in mind, it was surprising this week as I witnessed her visibly nervous on our way to a book signing with one of her favorite contemporary authors. It was a bit annoying that this woman who could gracefully and calmly navigate our marriage ceremony was now anxious about a 1 minute signature and selfie.

There are major moments in life, moments like marriage, the birth of a child, the death of a loved one, a new job, a new home, and apparently a selfie – moments that are a pivotal point in our path. Eventually these moments land us at a new normal, but in the midst of the moment, it is enthralling, intimidating, joyful, and terrifying.

Today’s passage brings us to a pivotal moment for the apostle Paul and the church.  A moment greater than addressing a U.S. subcommittee, an appearance before the Supreme Court, a pressured visit to the Oval Office, a joint interview on Fox CNN & MSNBC, and a note to go see the principal – all at the same time. It was Christianity’s first real validation from the Gentile world. It was huge for all Christians – a moment when Christians crossed over from ‘just a radical fringe wing of Judaism’ to a people of interest with a message of significance.

This moment began as the Apostle Paul waited for Silas and Timothy in Athens. While waiting, he ventured into the marketplace, into the public square, places where everyday life naturally brought people together.  There, among largely Gentile crowds, Paul shared, discussed, argued, debated, and even explained to those he encountered.  Among these crowds were the intelligent, respected, and undoubtedly annoying, Epicurean and Stoic philosophers. While this group loved to discuss and debate, they seldom found any topic or information interesting enough to go beyond endless debate. But these moments listening and debating with Paul were different.  Eventually these scholars ‘took Paul and brought him to the Areopagus’ (Acts 7:19).

These words ‘Took’ and ‘Brought’ are probably better interpreted as ‘enthusiastically seized’, and ‘excitedly escorted Paul as a mob’. Not an angry mob – they excitedly wanted everyone to hear what Paul had to say, everyone including the governing authorities. In their enthusiastic state, they gave Paul no choice but to go with them to the Areopagus.

The Areopagus in Athens is a geographical location, a people, and structure that, in the minds of the Greeks, stood as a testimony to the superiority of Geek intelligence and accomplishments.

New Testament scholar, Matt Skinner, describes the significance of this place and this moment:

‘When the local intellectuals made it possible for Paul to present his teachings to the Areopagus, the council of the city’s governing authorities, Paul give them a speech tailored made for people familiar with certain Greek philosophical traditions. His audience is probably entirely Gentile, so he does not discuss Jewish scriptures. Rather, he speaks about humanity’s search for the Divine and about shared conviction that deities are not contained within temples, statues, or altars. The God Paul proclaims is close by. Nothing Paul says in his speech would have been terribly controversial to his Greek peers until he gets to the end and declares that this nearby God has made a statement to the world by raising a man from the dead. That claim about Jesus’ resurrection is too much for some in the audience; they ridicule him. Others want to hear more, and still others embrace the good news.” Skinner continues, “I don’t think anyone can prove that Jesus was raised from the dead, That piece of Christian faith depends … on the witness of the entire church. That testimony began in the experiences of people like Mary Magdalene, Peter, and Paul, and it is affirmed in our own encounters with the resurrected Christ through sacraments, personal experiences, serving others, and the word of God that we encounter in congregational life and out in the [marketplace]….Yet, [the Resurrection] is Paul’s message for the Athenians. As we know all too well, death is very good at its job. A huge leap of faith is required for a person to declare that death is not the end…Paul insists that by resurrecting Jesus, God has done more than merely reverse death.  God has opened up a whole new future. God has promised to change us. God has vowed to judge the world so the result will be righteousness, which is a restored relationship between humanity and God – the Divine Being that humanity expends so much effort to find.  According to Paul, God has said through Jesus, ‘I’M HERE!’”

Matt Skinner, ACTS Catching Up With the Spirit

The most significant aspect of this moment was how and where it all started – in the Marketplace. For is was there that Paul walked among, rubbed elbows with, and engaged with his fellow descendants. He didn’t see them as labels, they were not ‘greeks’ ‘gentiles’ ‘unclean’ or ‘unacceptable’ – they were the created offspring, the co-descendants of God. They were those that Jesus called to be Children of God. There, in the marketplace Paul found a people, much like himself, who were seeking and searching for God. Paul could identify with this, he had spent his life seeking and searching, ultimately finding that he had to step aside from the institution of his own faith in order to see the God that very institution had proclaimed. Paul did not enter the Marketplace as a judge but instead as a fellow descendant, he did not walk among the Gentiles to condemn but to point to the God they searched for, he did not engage to belittle but to point them forward, he did not stand before their leaders to commandeer power but to serve. He did not enter the marketplace with an agenda but but he entered propelled by God’s love.

In March of this year, Gallup Polling reported on the continuing eight decade decline of Americans’ affiliation with houses of worship.  Not only has the decline continued but this year it reached an all time high since records began being tracked in 1937. Now, less than half of American citizens attend a house of worship. In less than 22 years, since 1999,  religious participation has sunk from over 70% to under 50%.

Rev. Kelli Taylor and Dr. Stacye Bount have been considering the drop in young adult participations in houses of worship in the Fayetteville, Ark area.  They identify that the generations are moving toward spirituality rather than religiosity.

Rev. Taylor, chaplain and vice president of religious life and community at Methodist University, says, “The move is from being religious to being spiritual, when religion is defined as adhering to a specific set of organized beliefs and practices, while spirituality suggests a more individual approach to faith and practice.”

Stacye Blount, associate professor of sociology at Fayetteville State University, identifies the difference between religiosity and spirituality. 

“When we talk about religiosity, or what may also be termed religiousness, we are talking about how the measurement of one’s religiousness or religiosity connects to beliefs, practices, rituals in which people participate. With spirituality, people are searching for the sacred to try to find meaning in life and they are trusting in some higher power.” 

Both of these, and the Gallup findings, bring us back to the Marketplace where Paul ventured. There he also found a people searching for a higher, divine power.  A search that had been stalled in the religious practices of their society and culture – a search that led them on a search of the God they did not know. Interestingly, Paul had been on this same search, an endeavor to find the next step of faith that had stalled at the judgement and condemnation in his own faith institutions. Paul, was bringing the next season of God’s leading to a people, like him, who had been searching for God’s Presence.

Again we hear the words of the prophet Isaiah,

I’m going to do a brand-new thing. See, I have already begun! Don’t you see it?

Isaiah 43:19a (TLB)

We who have the answer, we who know of God’s new thing, are now tasked, not with convincing a people, but with showing a people.

God called the Apostle Paul to the Marketplace and then took him to the Areopagus to be a living eye witness of his story – what is your Marketplace? What is your Areopagus? What is your living eye witness story?

Let’s pray.

Benediction

As you go, you go as descendants. Brothers and Sisters.  You go as God’s offspring.

As we go out together we go as family.

As we go to together we enter the marketplace, the public square, apart, separate.

However, as we go separately, apart, we do not go without family.

For in the Marketplace, and in the Public Square, there we also join with descendants. Brothers and Sisters.  There we continue to mingle and engage with God’s offspring.

As we leave here we leave the offspring joined as the faith community recall the Church.

As we enter the marketplace and public square we enter into the others that God has created, the others that Jesus sacrificially loved, the others that are the offspring of God.

So we leave here only momentarily, we will return to each other for renewal and refreshment.

We will return to seek, to search, to find, to support, and to embrace.

But now we go.  We go to be the church.  In the Marketplace, in the Public square.

We go to embrace those created by God.

We go to love as God loves.

Closing Peace

As we leave this place, may you go remembering that we first came together in the reality that we are descendants of The God. Now, as we leave, we leave knowing that an even tighter bond holds us together, the bond of being Children of God.

As we go out into the world, the public square, the marketplace, we go as Children of God through Jesus’ sacrifice walking among, rubbing elbows with, fellow descendants by our physical creation.

As we go, may you go in the love that first made us descendants of God and the love that now makes us children of God. As you go may that Love go with you.

And also with you.

Go as Children of God into the marketplace where you live with your fellow descendants. May God’s Love  be ever evident in your presence

Order, Words, & Voices

Sunday, June 6, 2021

Order

#1 ONE Video #1 (5:28)

  • Song – Good God Almighty (Crowder)
  • Call to Worship

Live/OnLine

  • Prayer                Rick (In Person)
  • Music                 Rick (In Person)

    Heaven Came Down (Andy Harsant)
    Guide Me O Thou Great Jehovah (Johathan Hughes)
    Nothing But The Blood (Plainfield)

  • Reading                Hannah, Andrew, Dave, Nikki (In Person/On Line)
  • Message    ‘The Unseen’         Rick

#2 TWO Video (3:12)

  • Song – It’s Always Been You (Phil Wickham)
  • Community – Next Sunday – Descendants in the Marketplace (Acts 17)

Live

  • Benediction (inperson/online)   Hannah, Andrew, Dave, Nikki (Spotlight) (slides)
  • Sharing the Peace           Rick

# 3 Three Audio (3:08)
Song – Good God Almighty (Crowder)

Words & Voices

Call to Worship
By entering through faith into what God has always wanted to do for us—set us right with him—we have it all together with God because of Jesus.

And that’s not all: We throw open our doors to God and discover at the same moment that he has already thrown open his door to us.

We find ourselves standing where we always hoped we might stand—in the wide open spaces of God’s grace and glory, standing tall and shouting our praise.

And it is not finished: We continue to shout our praise even when we’re hemmed in with troubles, because we know how troubles can develop passionate patience in us, and how that patience in turn forges the tempered steel of virtue, keeping us alert for whatever God will do next.

And even more amazing, even though our expectations are now very high, we’re never left feeling shortchanged. Quite the contrary—we can’t round up enough containers to hold everything God generously pours into our lives through the Holy Spirit!

Christ arrives right on time to make this happen. He didn’t, and doesn’t, wait for us to get ready.

He presented himself for this sacrificial death when we were far too weak and rebellious to do anything to get ourselves ready. And even if we hadn’t been so weak, we wouldn’t have known what to do anyway.

In our minds we might understand someone dying for a person worth dying for, and we can maybe understand how someone good and noble could inspire us to selfless sacrifice. But God put his love on the line for us by offering his Son in sacrificial death while we were far far from worthy.

Now that we are set right with God by means of Jesus sacrificial death, the consummate sacrifice, there is no longer a question of being at odds with God in any way.

If, when we were at our worst, we were made right with God by the sacrificial death of his Son, now that we’re at Jesus’ best, just think of how our lives will expand and deepen by means of his resurrection life!

Now that we have actually received this amazing relationship with God, we are no longer content to simply say it in plodding through fancy words. Now, we sing and shout our praises to God through Jesus, the Messiah!

Romans 5:1-11

Prayer

Lord of all, In Jesus you have made us all sisters and brothers in Christ.
There is no distinction between Gentile and Jew.  There is no separation that can remove any from fellowship in Christ’s community.  Blind us to our differences so that in unity we may proclaim your truth to all,  for the sake of Jesus Christ in whom there is harmony and peace.
Amen.

Songs

Heaven Came Down (Andy Harsant)
CCLI Song # 19605

O what a wonderful wonderful day
Day I will never forget
After I’d wandered in darkness away
Jesus my Savior I met

O what a tender compassionate friend
He met the need of my heart
Shadows dispelling with joy I am telling
He made all the darkness depart

Heaven came down and glory filled my soul
When at the cross the Savior made me whole
My sins were washed away
And my night was turned to day
Heaven came down and glory filled my soul

Guide Me O Thou Great Jehovah (Johathan Hughes)
CCLI Song # 1448

Guide me O Thou great Jehovah
Pilgrim through this barren land
I am weak but Thou art mighty
Hold me with Thy pow’rful hand
Bread of heaven Bread of heaven
Feed me now and ever more
Feed me now and ever more

Open now the crystal fountain
Whence the healing stream doth flow
Let the fiery cloudy pillar
Lead me all my journey through
Strong Deliverer strong Deliverer
Be Thou still my strength and shield
Be Thou still my strength and shield

Nothing But The Blood (Plainfield)
CCLI Song # 21332

O precious is the flow
That makes me white as snow
No other fount I know
Nothing but the blood of Jesus

What can wash away my sin
Nothing but the blood of Jesus
What can make me whole again
Nothing but the blood of Jesus

For my pardon this I see
Nothing but the blood of Jesus
For my cleansing this my plea
Nothing but the blood of Jesus

O precious is the flow
That makes me white as snow
No other fount I know
Nothing but the blood of Jesus

Nothing can for sin atone
Nothing but the blood of Jesus
Naught of good that I have done
Nothing but the blood of Jesus

O precious is the flow
That makes me white as snow
No other fount I know
Nothing but the blood of Jesus
This is all my hope and peace
Nothing but the blood of Jesus
This is all my righteousness
Nothing but the blood of Jesus

Heaven came down and glory filled my soul
When at the cross the Savior made me whole
My sins were washed away
And my night was turned to day
Heaven came down and glory filled my soul

Now I’ve a hope that will surely endure
After the passing of time
I have a future in heaven for sure
There in those mansions sublime
And it’s because of that wonderful day
When at the cross I believed
Riches eternal and blessings supernal
From His precious hand I received

Heaven came down and glory filled my soul
When at the cross the Savior made me whole
My sins were washed away
And my night was turned to day
Heaven came down and glory filled my soul

Songs of praises songs of praises
I will ever give to Thee
I will ever give to Thee

Reading

Then certain individuals came down from Judea and were teaching the men that they had to be circumcised to be saved. Paul and Barnabas had a lengthy debate with them.
Eventually, Paul and Barnabas and some of the others were appointed to go up to Jerusalem to discuss this question with the apostles and the elders. 

Ironically, on their way, they reported the conversion of more Gentiles which brought great joy to all the believers. They were welcomed by the church and the apostles and the elders when they arrived at Jerusalem, and, especially as they reported all that God had done on their way. 

There were some believers though who belonged to the sect of the Pharisees that insisted, “It is necessary for gentile to be circumcised and ordered to keep the law of Moses.”

The apostles and the elders met together to consider the matter, and after  much debate, Peter stood up and said, “My brothers, you know that in the early days God made a choice that I should be the one through whom the Gentiles would hear the message of the good news and become believers. 

And God, who knows the human heart, testified to them by giving them the Holy Spirit, just as he did to us; and in cleansing their hearts by faith he has made no distinction between them and us. 

Now therefore why are you questioning God by placing on the neck of the disciples a yoke that none of us have been able to bear? On the contrary, we believe that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will.”

The whole assembly became silent.
Then, they listened to Barnabas and Paul as they told of all the signs and wonders that God had done through them among the Gentiles.  

After they finished speaking, James replied, “My brothers, listen to me. Simeon has related how God first looked favorably on the Gentiles, to take from among them a people for his name. This agrees with the prophet Amos,

“After this I will return, and I will rebuild the dwelling of David, which has fallen; from its ruins I will rebuild it, and I will set it up, so that all other peoples may seek the Lord—even all the Gentiles over whom my name has been called.’ Thus says the Lord, who has been making these things known from long ago.’”

James finished by saying, “Therefore I have reached the decision that we should not trouble those Gentiles who are turning to God, but we should instruct them to abstain only from things polluted by idols and from fornication and from whatever has been strangled and from blood.

Acts 15:1-20 (Message)

  • Message        The Unseen

This past week there was news that a piece of space junk, or space debris, hit and tore a 3/16 inch hole on one of the arms of the International Space Station.  Last year, the station had to redirect three times to avoid debris. NASA now says that the low-earth orbit is basically a junk yard filled with all the discarded items, significant size satellites to small pieces of other items from space journeys.  Currently, above our heads, there are 23,000 objects floating around in space that are of a large enough size that they have to be monitored constantly to keep further damage happening to the space station and crew.  Imagine, above our head, unseen, but things that create a significant dangerous hazard.

Last Sunday morning, before I headed over to the Fellowship Center, I sat on my back patio and watched the birds and squirrels while I drank my coffee.  As I sat there, a cardinal walked up surprisingly close and began pecking at the grass for food.  Soon, I saw, in the mouth of the cardinal a worm – now I’ve seen birds find worms but I have never watched a bird attempt to pull a worm out of the ground while the worm attempts to resist.  Actually, I have seen this scenario in cartoons but never in real life. In watching this, however, I learned that I have been lied to by the animators all my life.  In cartoons the worm wins, however, last Sunday I learned that the worm doesn’t always win….I suspect that possibly that the worm seldom actually wins.

We live in a creation, in a world, where things are constantly happening that go unseen to us.  Some we will never know, some that we may be blessed, or cursed, when we get to see.  Often times, however, when we finally do witness something that has been, up to this point unseen, we find out that they do not match up with our expectations. Sometimes we find out that space is as messy as our house and that most of the time, the bird does get the worm regardless of the time of day.

And, sometimes that epiphany forces us to accept a new perspective, adapt our held perspective, or to try to force this reality back into the little box that holds our thoughts and beliefs. This is often very difficult, sometimes it can seem impossible. In faith terms, it can present a dilemma   that threatens our obedience to ‘To your neighbor.’

This collision of seeing reality and held faith beliefs is the core of the story of Charles Darwin. A man, who saw the brutality evident in nature leading to his struggle with the religious picturesque teachings of God’s creation. As he experienced the death of his father and then his ten year old daughter death from tuberculous, on top of the misery, oppression, hatred, and death that is a part of the reality of living on earth, he found he could not reconcile that with religious teachings about God and love. Most historians claim that Darwin never quit believing in God, only that he found no way to fit the realities he saw on earth with the religious teachings he held.

The story of the reality of God and the reality of Humans, and the juncture where the two meet, is a story of seeing unseen realities and how we humans deal, or don’t deal with them.  Think about a few examples:

Adam and Eve found the understanding of one simple restriction, to not eat of one particular tree, was no match against the human need to grab what is not ours to grab.

Noah found that the reality of dry land that had never been flooded presented an impossible hurdle to a people were given a chance to be saved from an oncoming flood.
Abraham and Sarah knew the impossibility of bearing a child so God’s promise of a child was a faith challenge beyond imagination.

Moses was told to deliver God’s people but his reality was a Pharaoh who was not about to let go of the slaves.  Joseph received a promise from God that his brothers would bow down to him then they threw him in a well and sold him into slavery. Jesus told his followers that he came to give them life abundantly then they witnessed his death on a cross.  Mary saw Jesus’ lifeless body put in a tomb and a stone rolled in front of the opening, then, he stood in front of her and said, ‘Do not fear, it is me.’

When God told the apostle Peter to go to a gentile’s house, he faced the dilemma –  his reality was that his religious teaching that he could do no such thing, but God said to Go.  Peter entered Cornelius house and ate and shared with gentiles – religious teaching said that against God’s law, God said, ‘not true.’ As Peter shared God’s truth with the gentiles, he shared with a people who were unclean, unacceptable, unredeemable, but, Peter witnessed just the opposite. The leaders in Jerusalem where shocked and appalled when they were confronted with this conflicting reality but, as Peter explained, they were forced to take a second look at truth and their interpretations – they were forced to be silent and think, consider, adapt, reconsider, and accept the Fresh Wind and Refreshing Work that they had not seen up to this moment.

This reconsideration and this adaption was not, and is not, an immediate and automatic process, it takes a while.  Even though we may accept the truth that we have now seen the unseen, our reality takes a bit longer to adjust.  As our human perspectives present themself we have to apply the truth of this which was have seen, and we are forced to consider how truth, this truth, fits into our faith, or if our faith needs refinement.

When Peter spoke to the Christian leaders, he pointed out the discrepancy in their faith practice and their faith truth.

“I remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said, ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ If then God gave them the same gift that he gave us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could hinder God?” When the leaders heard this, they were silenced. And they praised God, saying, “Then God has given even to the Gentiles the repentance that leads to life.”
Acts 11:16-18

Three significant steps took place, three steps that still apply today.

  • Peter saw a previously unseen reality and shared this with the leaders – Jesus died for the gentiles in the same way he died for the Jews.
  • The leaders quit talking and listened and considered, just as Peter had done during his experience with the Gentiles. Then, the leaders adapted their perspective.
  • The leaders began their journey of application with this new perspective allowing it to immerse their faith completely.

This was not a once and for all perspective change, this was just the foundation, it would soon be further revealed and understood in very concrete reality ways.  Possibly their first challenge came when the question was asked, ‘Do Gentiles have to be circumcised?’ Circumcision had been a religious practice all the way to Abraham when this identifier was established by God. This was actually a belief that the Gentiles were under the law in the same was the Jews had been – it was actually a continued misunderstanding of Grace. The leaders had accepted the truth that the cross was not just for the Jews, but how was this new perspective going to be applied to this question?  Peter said,

“God, who knows the human heart, testified to the Gentiles by giving them the Holy Spirit, just as he did to us; and in cleansing their hearts by faith he has made no distinction between them and us. Now therefore why are you putting God to the test [why are you doubting truth and faith] by placing on the neck of the disciples a yoke that neither our ancestors nor we have been able to bear? On the contrary, we believe that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will.”
Acts 15:8-11

The leadership responds to this in the same way they responded to the original news from Peter regarding the Gentile.

‘The whole assembly kept silence, and listened’
Acts 15:12a

Then one of the leaders, James (not the executed apostle, another James) said,

“My brothers, listen to me. Peter has related how God first looked favorably on the Gentiles, to take from among them a people for his name. This agrees with the words of the prophets, as it is written, ‘After this I will return, and I will rebuild the dwelling of David, which has fallen; from its ruins I will rebuild it, and I will set it up, so that all other peoples may seek the Lord—even all the Gentiles over whom my name has been called. Thus says the Lord, who has been making these things known from long ago.’ Therefore I have reached the decision that we should not trouble those Gentiles who are turning to God,
Acts 15:13b-19

James and the leaders reconsidered and adapted their religious perspective.  This was not the end of the story, there was still refinement and revision of their understanding to come, in fact, after James said this, and in doing so he swayed the leadership – then he added on some Jewish Levitical restrictions on the Gentiles.
God calls us to consider, to be silent, to be open, to allow the Spirit to refine, and sometimes, change our perspective.  We are challenged to consider what is truly truth of our faith. We are called to a genuine faith that does not conflict with the truth of God’s love and his call to us to love.
How open are your eyes, how available is your perspective?
Let’s pray.

Benediction

Paul closed his final letter to the believers in Corinth by  saying,
“That about it Friends, my dear brothers and  sisters
This is my farewell, be cheerful and be happy
Put things in order and keep them in good repair
Keep your spirits up as you strive to grow in Jesus

Remember what I have taught you, never cease to think on it
Think in harmony, live in harmony
Be agreeable, live with each other in peace
Remember that sometimes silence is your most powerful tool
Do all that, and the God of love and peace will be with you
Greet each other warmly, with a holy embrace, or holy elbows
May we go into our week apart while together.

Closing Peace

As we leave today, our closing peace comes from the final words of Paul to the believers in Corinth.

As you go, go in the amazing grace of the Master, Jesus Christ, and may the extravagant love of God, the intimate friendship of the Holy Spirit, be with all of you.

And also with you.

May you go in Peace and may you permit the Love of the Lord to Go With You.

Go And May Love Be Consistently Seen In Your Presence.

Order, Words, & Voices

Order

Sunday, May 30, 2021

#1 ONE Video #1 (11:47)

  • Song – Bridge Over Troubled Waters (Paul Simon, Steven Stanley)
  • Call to Worship – Joyful (Dante Bowe)
  • Song – I Will Trust (Keathly, Miller, Red Rocks Worship)

Live/OnLine

  • Reading Randy (Live/On Line)
  • Prayer Rick (In Person)
  • Music Abbie (In Person)

He Walks With Me

In The Garden

Victory In Jesus

  • Message ‘Intense’                      Rick

#2 TWO Video (5:30)

  • Song – Praise You In The Storm (Natalie Grant)
  • Community – Next Sunday – The Unseen

Live

  • Benediction (inperson/online)   Randy, Dona & Steve (Spotlight) (slides)
  • Sharing the Peace   Rick

# 3 Three Audio (2:22)

Song – Joyful (Dante Bowe)Words and Voices

Sunday, May 30, 2021

Call to Worship

Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my thoughts.

Psalm 139:23

Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me.

Psalm 51:10

Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.

Psalm 119:105

“You will call upon me and come and pray to me, I will hear you. When you search for me, you will find me; if you seek me with all your heart, I will let you find me,” says the Lord

Jeremiah 29:12-14a

I waited patiently for the Lord; he inclined to me and heard my cry. He drew me up from the desolate pit, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure. He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God.

Psalm 40:1-2

Reading

King Herod saw how much it raised his popularity ratings with the Jews when he persecuted the Christians so he arrested Peter—all this during Passover Week. Peter was put in prison with four squads of four soldiers each to guard him. Herod was planning a public execution of Peter after Passover.

All the time that Peter was under heavy guard in the jailhouse, the church prayed for him most strenuously.

The night before Peter was to be executed, he was shackled between two soldiers, and there were guards at the door keeping watch. Herod was taking no chances!

Suddenly there was an angel at Peter’s side and light flooded the room. 

An angel shook Peter and got him up: “Hurry!” The angel said. The handcuffs fell off Peter’s wrists. “Get dressed. Put on your shoes.” Peter did as the angel instructed. Then the angel said, “Grab your coat and let’s get out of here.” 

Peter followed the angel, thinking that he was dreaming. Peter and the angel went past the first guard and then the second, they came to the iron gate and it swung open before them. They ran out on the street freed. 

Peter realized it was no dream when the angel left him. “I can’t believe this really happened! God rescued me.”

Still shaking his head, amazed at what had taken place, Peter went to Mary’s house, the Mary who was John Mark’s mother. The house was packed with praying believers. 

Peter knocked on the door to the courtyard, a young woman named Rhoda came to see who it was. But when she recognized Peter’s voice she was so excited and eager to tell everyone that she forgot to open the door and left Peter standing in the street.

No one believed her. “You’re crazy,” they said. She stuck by her story, insisting. All this time Peter was standing out in the street, knocking away.

When the believers finally looked for themselves they went wild! Peter put his hands up and calmed them down. He described how God had gotten him out of jail, then he said, “Tell James and the brothers what’s happened.” Then Peter left and went to another place.

Acts 12:1-17 (Message)

  • Prayer

Dear God,

You call us to not be taken captive 

Captive through philosophy and empty deceit, 

Captive to human tradition 

Captive to the elemental spirits of the universe

Captive to anything that is not Christ.

You call us to seek you

For you, God, are truth

We have seen the truth through Jesus

In the actions and words, your words, of the Messiah

God, give us a willingness to listen for truth

An eagerness to discern what is truth

To follow you, the God who is truth.

Amen.

Music

He Walks With Me

Though now we have trials, we wait for salvation
Though tested by fire, we suffer with joy
By his great mercy, our hope has been born again
Faithful as the morning, we are raised up with Christ


And I cannot see him, but oh how I love him
I cannot see him, but I believe I know he walks with me
I believe, that he walks with me

Raised up with the priesthood, to witness his wondrous works
Called out from the darkness to shimmering light

And I cannot see him, but oh how I love him
I cannot see him, but I believe, I know he walks with me
I believe, that he walks with me
I believe, I know he walks with me
I believe, that he walks with me
I believe, that he walks with me

In The Garden

I come to the garden alone, while the dew is still on the roses
And the voice I hear falling on my ear, the Son of God discloses

And He walks with me and He talks with me
And He tells me I am His own
And the joy we share as we tarry there
None other has ever known

He speaks and the sound of His voice
Is so sweet the birds hush their singing
And the melody that He gave to me, within my heart is ringing

And He walks with me and He talks with me
And He tells me I am His own
And the joy we share as we tarry there
None other has ever known

I’d stay in the garden with Him, tho’ the night around me be falling
But He bids me go thro’ the voice of woe, His voice to me is calling

And He walks with me and He talks with me
And He tells me I am His own
And the joy we share as we tarry there
None other has ever known

Victory In Jesus

I heard an old old story how a Savior came from glory
How He gave His life on Calvary to save a wretch like me
I heard about His groaning of His precious blood’s atoning
Then I repented of my sins and won the victory

O victory in Jesus my Savior forever
He sought me and bought me with His redeeming blood
He loved me ere I knew Him and all my love is due Him
He plunged me to victory beneath the cleansing flood

I heard about His healing, of His cleansing pow’r revealing
How He made the lame to walk again and caused the blind to see
And then I cried dear Jesus, come and heal my broken spirit
And somehow Jesus came and brought to me the victory

O victory in Jesus my Savior forever
He sought me and bought me with His redeeming blood
He loved me ere I knew Him and all my love is due Him
He plunged me to victory beneath the cleansing flood

I heard about a mansion He has built for me in glory
And I heard about the streets of gold beyond the crystal sea
About the angels singing and the old redemption story
And some sweet day I’ll sing up there the song of victory

O victory in Jesus my Savior forever
He sought me and bought me with His redeeming blood
He loved me ere I knew Him and all my love is due Him
He plunged me to victory beneath the cleansing flood

  • Message Intense

Five stories, four of individuals and one of a group. Stories with a common thread.  Intertwined and interdependent. Stories that give us a glimpse of the early believers and the early church.  Stories that teach us about ourselves.

The stories take place about 15 years after the arrival of the Holy Spirit. Four years after Cornelius and the gentiles accepted Jesus and a couple of years since believers were sarcastically given the name ‘Christian’.

Our stories today take place as the backdrop of persecution of Christians was rapidly intensifying.

Four Individuals

A King

A Slave

A Slave Owner

A Prisoner Awaiting Execution

Let’s start with A King.

A King named Herod, specifically, Herod Agrippa I. His grandfather was the Herod that killed all the newborn males at the birth of Jesus.  Fear induced brutality was in the DNA of this family. Whenever they were angry, mad, paranoid, or just wanting to flex their muscles – they would kill someone, or someones. Only seen in chapter 12, Agrippa recognizes that his polling numbers go up considerably when he executes Christians.  James was killed and now the apostle Peter is next.

Next we look at A Slave

A slave named Rhoda. Rhoda was probably a younger teen taken as a slave following a battle or possibly sold as a slave by her own family.  Rhoda did not own her own life, her own path, her own decisions, or her own destiny. She was not free, equality was not even a consideration or aspiration, this would forever be her story.

Our third individual is A Slave Owner

This particular Mary is new to us, she is the mother of a young man named John Mark, who will become a significant person in the church, – mentored by the apostle Paul then rejected by Paul, accepted by the Barnabas, and eventually re-embraced by Paul. Mary, is one of the followers of Christ and a member of the church in Jerusalem which she hospitably welcomes into her home.  She is also a slave owner. Her story is our story, a story of imperfection.

Our fourth individual is A Prisoner Awaiting Execution

Peter, a former disciple of Jesus, now an apostle.  Peter was an eye witness to the teachings and life of Jesus and his leadership of the church was critical and essential.  Peter’s story is seemingly hopeless, he is in prison, chained and guarded in a fashion that makes escape impossible. Much like his fellow apostle James, Peter’s life was a lost cause. The next day, Peter would die.

And, finally, a Group

This is the story of a group of people new to Christianity.  A group of people following a person who had been executed, a person who had been the target of the religious institution brutally executed by the politicians.  These believers knew theirs could be the next death after Peter.  This was a group, that was a fledgling who had just recently prayed for their leader James only to see him killed. Now they were aimlessly at it again, praying for their leader Peter. Their prayers had no expectations, only desperation. As they knelt in Mary’s living room there was no hope, only fear.  They didn’t know or understand the purpose of this moment, of this prayer, they didn’t have a teacher guiding them through this crisis –  their teacher, Peter, was currently in an impenetrable dungeon and about to be executed. On their knees, shaking with fear, they could only do one thing, they could only cry out to God, and so, in their fear, in their hopelessness, they prayed. No expectations, no plan, no promises, only timid voices calling out to the mighty God.

This was an imperfect group made up of imperfect individuals all of who had just the needed measure of faith to trust the perfect deliverer.  

As this group prayed, Peter, in his miry pit, laid down to sleep, chained and expecting death to come in hours. He had watched this same scenario play out for his friend James, a scenario that ended in death. In Peter’s mind, and for the group at Mary’s house, death was inevitable.

In Acts 12 we have the intersection of these five stories. An antagonist who is not only powerful and paranoid, but also willing to throw anyone under the bus in order to save himself. A group of scared and confused followers of Jesus, praying cluelessly, a prisoner laying on the stone ground awaiting his death, a Christian yet to be aware of her own glaring sin, and a slave girl whose, ironically, very limitations allow her to witness God’s answer to hopeless prayers.

There are countless revelations at the intersection of these stories.  Revelations of our boundless God, revelations of our own failed humanity, revelations of problems in the seen and the glory of the unseen, the unavoidable human imperfections ingrained in our faith, and the revelation of our never ending need for God.  

Acts 12 boils down to a lesson about an imperfect people called to live like Jesus. A people who are far from knowing everything, who have yet to connect all the dots of what they did know, it is a group on a lifetime journey…..it  is group of believers who think all they have in common is this room. It is a picture of an imperfect group following a perfect God – people who were becoming the church, learning, growing, falling, failing, hoping, grieving, rejoicing, fearing, and now, praying, together.

Their desperation and confusion gave them many things to focus on. They may have storming the jail attempting the impossible by their own force, maybe they were considering packing their bags and running in the opposite direction knowing that they could be the next victim, the thought may have crossed their mind to out their friends to provide security for themselves, their attention probably even landed, just for a moment, on the fact that this Christianity thing had caused them nothing but grief and heartache and maybe it was best to quit it all, they could have sat and complained, whined, cried, speculate, conspire, their attention could have been on many things, but instead they focused on what they knew and who they trusted  – they got on their knees, expecting nothing.

This was surely not their first moment in desperate prayers for one of their own.  Chapter 12 begins with the execution of the apostle James, they had prayed and still he died, a truth that had to be on their minds as they prayed.

This is where the story of Rhoda and the story of this group collide.  As the group hopelessly prayed, there was a knock at the door.  For the group, it was not their job to answer the door, it was the slave girl’s job.  They continued to pray, they chose to direct their attention to the practice of prayer. Rhoda heard the knock, she always heard the knock, it was her job.  It was the reason she was there, to serve the host and the guests.  Rhoda did what she was trained to do, she had been trained to pay attention to the door, she opened the door as she always did. As she recognized Peter at the door her excitement overwhelmed her, she slammed the door in Peter’s face and ran to proclaim the answer to their prayers.  In the living room, the attention of the group was diverted, in prayer they could not be bothered with the gibberish of a slave girl, they firmly did not allow this slave girl to divert their attention.

In the late 1800s and early 1900s, doctor, philosopher, and psychologist William James said, “My experience is what I agree to attend to.” Later, in a variation of this he said, “Ultimately we will be remembered for what we pay attention to.” Doctor James noticed how what we focus on, becomes, in the end, what we see and even what we are. If I spend my life attentive primarily to my worries, then that is what identifies me, if cannot move my attention for my own hurts and pain, that will be my identifier.  You probably know someone who was so hurt by someone else that all they can think about is that hurt, that pain.  They miss everything else in life, they miss the knock at the door  The praying group was focused on their hopelessness, Rhoda, was attentive to the door, the slave girl noticed the knock at the door.  Even after Rhoda proclaimed that Peter was at the door, the group continued to keep their attention to the impossibilities that kept Peter from the door instead of the God who can unlock chains, open gates, and even knock on a door.  For that moment, only one person saw God’s response to their prayers, a slave girl whose attention led her to open the door.

We all have much to distract our attention, the past year and a half have increased our distractions multifold. In our faith walk, we much like that group praying in Mary’s living room, have many things that distract us in our faith, in our pursuit of knowing God. Even misinterpretations of God’s word and forgotten teachings from Jesus’ life keep us from hearing the knock at our door.  We hesitate to pray because we are distracted by God’s disappointing response from our last prayers, disappointments that we cannot understand, we are unable to process.  We even let our frustration with truth keep us from following, keep us from accepting.  Today is the day, the day to refocus our attention, to seek truth and to hear the knock at the door.

Benediction

Dona: As we go, we go into an intense world.

Steve: Intense disease.

Randy: Intense division.

Dona: Intense wars.

Steve: Intense hatred.

Randy: We also go into a world led by the God our Healing.

Dona: God our Unity.

Steve: God our Peace.

Randy: God our Love.

Dona: We also go into a world where we have a choice.

Steve: A choice to respond with healing.

Randy: A choice to respond with unity.

Dona: A choice to respond with peace.

Steve: A choice to respond with love.

Randy: May we always choose to go with healing, unity, peace, and love.

Closing Peace

May the Peace, the Grace, the Joy, and the Love of the Lord Go With You.

And Also With You.

Go And Live Out The Name Christian.

Order, Words, and Voices

Order

Sunday, May 23, 2021

#1 ONE Video #1 (9:25)

  • Song – At The Cross (Watts, McPherson)
  • Call to Worship
  • Song – I Speak Jesus (Here Be Lions)

Live/OnLine

  • Reading Kristen Y (Live/On Line)
  • Prayer Rick (In Person)
  • Music Abbie (In Person)

Come Thou Fount Of Every Blessing

How Deep The Father’s Love For Us

  • Message ‘Named’                      Rick

#2 TWO Video (5:31)

  • Song – You Know My Name (Terrain)
  • Community – Next Sunday – ‘Intense’

Live

  • Benediction (inperson/online)   Paul, Martha & Kristen Y
  • Sharing the Peace   Rick

# 3 Three Audio (3:24)

Song –  Look What You’ve Done (Tasha Layton)

Words and Voices

Call to Worship

The Lord who created you, says: Don’t be afraid, for I have ransomed you; I have called you by name; you are mine. When you go through deep waters and great trouble, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown! When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up—the flames will not consume you. For I am the Lord your God, your Savior, the Holy One of Israel 

Isaiah 43:1-3

Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. I will gather you from east and west, from north and south. I will bring my sons and daughters back to from the farthest corners of the earth. All who claim me as their God will come, for I have made them for my glory; I created them. Bring them back to me—blind as they are and deaf when I call (although they see and hear!).

Isaiah 43:5-8

You are my witnesses and my servants, chosen to know and to believe me and to understand that I alone am God. There is no other God; there never was and never will be. I am the Lord, and there is no other Savior. Whenever you have thrown away your idols, I have shown you my power. With one word I have saved you. You have seen me do it; you are my witnesses that it is true. From eternity to eternity I am God. No one can oppose what I do.

Isaiah 43:10-13

Reading

Now those who were scattered because of the persecution that took place over Stephen traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus, and Antioch, and they spoke the word to no one except Jews. 

But among them were some men of Cyprus and Cyrene who, on coming to Antioch, spoke to the Hellenists also, proclaiming the Lord Jesus. The hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number became believers and turned to the Lord. 

News of this came to the ears of the church in Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch. When he came and saw the grace of God, he rejoiced, and he exhorted them all to remain faithful to the Lord with steadfast devotion; for he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. And a great many people were brought to the Lord. 

Then Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul, and when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. So it was that for an entire year they met with the church and taught a great many people, and it was in Antioch that the disciples were first called “Christians.”

At that time prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch. One of them named Agabus stood up and predicted by the Spirit that there would be a severe famine over all the world; and this took place during the reign of Claudius. 

The disciples determined that according to their ability, each would send relief to the believers living in Judea; this they did, sending it to the elders by Barnabas and Saul.

Acts 11:19-30

  • Prayer

Dear God,

We live in a world of division but you call us to unity.

We live in a world of hatred but you call us to love.

We live in a world of chaos but you call us to peace.

We live in a world of hostility but you call us to mercy.

We live in a world centered on self but you call us to compassion.

We live in a world of bondage but you have given us deliverance.

We live in a world of fear but you have given us hope.

We live in a world of barriers but you have shown us the way.

We live in a world of darkness but you have shown us the light.

We live in this world, the world you created, the world we have messed up, the world you love regardless.

Amen.

Music

Come Thou Fount Of Every Blessing

Come Thou fount of ev’ry blessing tune my heart to sing Thy grace
Streams of mercy never ceasing call for songs of loudest praise
Teach me some melodious sonnet sung by flaming tongues above
Praise the mount I’m fixed upon it mount of Thy redeeming love

Here I raise mine Ebenezer hither by Thy help I’m come
And I hope by Thy good pleasure safely to arrive at home
Jesus sought me when a stranger wand’ring from the fold of God
He to rescue me from danger interposed His precious blood

O to grace how great a debtor daily I’m constrained to be
Let Thy grace Lord like a fetter bind my wand’ring heart to Thee
Prone to wander Lord I feel it prone to leave the God I love
Here’s my heart Lord take and seal it seal it for Thy courts above

How Deep The Father’s Love For Us

How deep the Father’s love for us how vast beyond all measure
That He should give His only Son to make a wretch His treasure
How great the pain of searing loss the Father turns His face away
As wounds which mar the Chosen One bring many sons to glory

Behold the Man upon a cross my sin upon His shoulders
Ashamed I hear my mocking voice call out among the scoffers
It was my sin that held Him there until it was accomplished
His dying breath has brought me life I know that it is finished

I will not boast in anything no gifts no pow’r no wisdom
But I will boast in Jesus Christ His death and resurrection
Why should I gain from His reward I cannot give an answer
But this I know with all my heart His wounds have paid my ransom

  • Message Named

Singer Johnny Cash made famous, the words of Shel Silverstein,

“Well, my daddy left home when I was three and he didn’t leave very much to my ma and me except this ole guitar and an empty bottle of booze. Now I don’t blame him ’cause he run and hid but the meanest thing that my daddy ever did was before he left he went and named me Sue.”

Names are an interesting beast, they can be inspirational or they can be a burden. We can let a name doom us or use it can be the power that successfully propels us onto our path.

Marion Robert Morrison, is, among other things, famous for quotes such as, “Courage is being scared to death… and saddling up anyway. All battles are fought by scared men who’d rather be some place else.” Nicknamed ‘Duke’ as a child by a local fireman who never saw the boy without his dog ‘Duke’. Marion was grateful that the name stuck  His first credited movie role, listed him as ‘Duke Morrison’ and then the studio  changed the name to ‘John Wayne.’  While this new name was a good fit, the name ‘The Duke’ nickname stuck with Wayne throughout his life.

Frank and Gail Zappa named their four offspring Moon Unit, Dweezil, Ahmet and Diva. Gwyneth Paltrow and musician Chris Marten named their child Apple.  Names such as Rocket, Busy, Cricket, Racer, Gravity, and Rumor, leave most of us scratching our heads. As personalities form, names can be redefined by the named.  Nick names are frequently assigned when the name never adequately fits a persona.And, often, names are given out of hatefulness. 

When my dad got his first job he had to go to the local Social Security office.  When he told the clerk his name was Bobby Gene Anthony, she sternly corrected him saying, ‘You mean Robert!’.  To which he said, ‘Okay’.

Groups of people are given names as well, these unofficial names are usually formed from some identifying mark of this group – and, these names are often offensive and hateful. Sometimes, these unflattering or mocking names, meant to be and insult, become a badge of honor to the recipients This was the story in the city of Antioch where the believers were given the condescending name ‘Christian.’

A little history – The Greek Emperor on the throne 300 years before Jesus was named Seleucus I.  Selecus built 15 cities and named them all after his dad – ‘Antioch.’ The city of Antioch in Acts 11 was designated the ‘Syrian Antioch,’ and it was located about 300 miles north of Jerusalem.  It was here, in this Antioch, that the name Antioch, became synonymous with successful business ventures but carrying a strong taint of immorality.  

A couple of weeks ago we looked at the Holy Spirit descending upon a gentile leader named Cornelius, as well as his gentile community. This was a man, and community, who had been diligently seeking God. There was an intense desire in their pursuit of God. However, when the Spirit came to the gentiles in Antioch it was descending on a truly Pagan, immoral, and evil city.

This group of new believers in Antioch began to grow and the pagan community began to notice. There is a familiar thread between the community of believers in in the Holy city of Jerusalem and this new community of faith in Antioch, a city in which even the actual religious practices to worship the false gods was immersed in the identical immorality found elsewhere in the city. In both places believers were not considered ‘acceptable’ so thy kept a low profile, working not to bring attention to themselves individually or as a group.  Secondly, in both faith communities there was an underlying love for each other that consistently presented in acts of personal sacrifice and through their attention to the needs present within their faith community. There was also, in both churches, a fervent personal drive to know, understand, and apply truth to their lives, their opinions, and their beliefs.

The differences between the two groups is significant as well.  The believers in Jerusalem had a religious foundation that was instrumental in bringing them to an acceptance of Jesus as the Messiah. They had absorbed the historical teachings about God from the books of Moses, and, they had the historical and prophetic words from the prophets about the coming Jesus.  Basically, they possessed the understanding of the road map that brought them from Creation to Promise to Deliverance to Hope to Redemption to Life. The gentiles, however, had been brought up with the ever changing and constantly evolving worship of false gods, rulers who saw themselves as divine, and religious practices which ranged from fleshly lasciviousness to fearful sacrifices to egotistical mandates to brutal practices. While their religious foundations were very different, both groups had to sort through past traditions, ungodly beliefs, and ingrained institutional manipulation and political agendas in order to find truth.

There was one major difference however that must be said.  The gentiles knew the names of all their gods and would learn the names of the new gods as soon as needed.  The Jewish believers had no real name for God, there were many references to God usually based on attributes, there were names that were not fully spoken out of reverence, but, when God was asked, ‘What is your name?’ God could only say ‘I Am.’ He was, he is, he has always been, he will forever be – GOD.

Up to this moment in Antioch there had been the Jews and there had been the Gentiles. Now there was the third group, a people who had no name.  The religious institution gave them the name ‘annoying and dangerous’, the gentiles saw them as a conundrum. Those that joined the group called them family, the gentile leaders called them suspicious.

Eventually, in Antioch, this pagan city known best for its immorality, the followers of Jesus were given the name Christian.  It was a name meant to be derogatory and shameful but to these newly named Christians it was perfect.

In latin, the ‘ian’ ending means ‘the party of…’, adding ‘Ian’ to ‘Christ’ you end up at the word meaning ‘the party of Christ.’  This was meant to be a name intended to be condescending and hateful, but to believers it was the opposite.  To have this city – Antioch, recognize this group in reference to Jesus, their Savior, was not only not taken as a slight or insult, but ironically it was seen by the followers as a badge of honor. This title of ‘Jesus People’ was not only accepted by the newly names Christians, it became a self identifier, ‘we are Christians – the party of Christ, Jesus people.’ It was the defining moment, in the defining place, where this people first became a ‘people.’

This people, these followers of the God who had no name because no name could define or fit, this people, now had a perfectly fitting name – ‘Christian.’

A name that…

· Fit the words of the prophets.

· Set the bar for their goals and aspirations.

· Rested on the perfection of their deliverer even in their imperfect state.

· Laid out the nature and character of God.

· Constantly placed mercy, compassion, peace, and hope within their reach.

· Voiced the expectations of a world toward a people immersed in grace.

· It affirmed the work of the Spirit in their lives.

So, what became of this group of people named Christians in a city most in need of the man named Christ? They sought out the former persecutor of Christians and trusted God’s transformation change to work in him.  These believers, in this pagan city, heard of a coming famine for the Holy City Jerusalem, and began strategizing how they could help. In the midst of ridicule and dismissal they pursued peace, love, mercy, grace, and hope. This people who were incorrectly defined by this name ‘Antioch’ were correctly labeled – ‘Christian.’ A name that set the bar for their lives in their world, the way they interacted with all, the way they walked the way that responded, the way they cared.  A name that defined their mercy, compassion, their hope, their peace, their Savior.

The famous early church historian Eusebius, described a believer named Sanctus from Lyons, France, who was tortured for Jesus. As they tortured him cruelly, they hoped to get him to say something evil or blasphemous. They asked his name, and he only replied, “I am a Christian.” “What nation do you belong to?” He answered, “I am a Christian.” “What city do you live in?” “I am a Christian.” His questioners began to get angry: “Are you a slave or a free man?” “I am a Christian” was his only reply. No matter what they asked about him, he only answered, “I am a Christian.” This made his torturers all the more determined to break him, but they could not, and he died with the words “I am a Christian” on his lips.

Eusebius

Those that were the first to receive the label ‘Christian’ probably embraced the name with a certain honor, humility, fear, and concern.  To be labeled is to be identified which was still dangerous.  To officially be recognized also usually led to the creation of an institution, the adoption of symbols and icons, and ultimately the corruption of the leaders and people. They were not wrong.  Within less than half a century the name of Christianity was used to attack enemies, to manipulate and control minds, and even to force interpretations of God’s word on believers. 

But, for that moment in Antioch, this unnamed and unbranded group, was named by those who had watched the ways the members of this group lived.  Their single minded focus on the crucified man named Jesus could not be ignored.  Their peace in the midst of fear, their unity in the midst of chaos, their mercy in the midst of subjugation, their compassion in the midst of attack, their love in the midst of hatred all revealed their God, the God of grace, the God of love, the God who does not have a name because no name can define or fully describe.

We however have a name, a name given not chosen, a name that carries a huge weight, a weight that Jesus says, in the end, is light and not heavy.

How are you living out your name ‘Christian’?

Benediction

Paul: As we leave today we go with a name.

Martha: We leave with the name Jesus people.

Kristen: We go with the name Christian.

Paul: It is a name meant to mock.

Martha: It is a name we wear with honor.

Kristen: It is a name we ascribe to.

Paul: It is a name we are given.

Martha: It is a name we have chosen.

Kristen: It is a name that proclaims that we are loved.

Paul: It is a name that proclaims that we love.

Marta: It is a name that binds us together.

Kristen: Peace.

Paul: Grace.

Martha: Joy.

Kristen: Love.

Closing Peace

May the Peace, the Grace, the Joy, and the Love of the Lord Go With You.

And Also With You.

Go And Live Out The Name Christian.

Worship Order, Words, & Voices 05.16.21

Order

Sunday, May 16, 2021

#1 ONE Video #1 (7:24)

  • Song – Loves Changes Everything (Jake Espy)
  • Call to Worship
  • Song – Thank You Again (Billy McPherson & Dane Tate)

Live/OnLine

  • Reading                        Peyton (Live/On Line)
  • Prayer                        Rick (In Person)
  • Music                         Abbie (In Person)

    Just As I Am
    At the cross

  • Message    ‘Silenced’                              Rick

#2 TWO Video (4:58)

  • Song – Holiness Is What I Long For (Donnie McClurkin)
  • Community – Next Sunday – Named

Live

  • Benediction (inperson/online)   Isaiah & Peyton
  • Sharing the Peace           Rick

# 3 Three Audio (4:43)
Song – God of the Impossible (Lincoln Brewster)

Words and Voices
Call to Worship

‘As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.  This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.’ 
John 15:9-12

We are called to Love – To love as the Father loves Jesus and as Jesus loves us.

We Are called to Abide – To Abide in Loves as Jesus Abides in the Father’s Love

We are called to Keep – To Keep Jesus’ Commandment to Abide in His Love.

We are called to Joy – to Have Jesus’ Joy, Joy that is Complete.

We are to Love – To Love One Another as Jesus Loved Us.

Reading

Now the apostles and the believers who were in Judea heard that the Gentiles had also accepted the word of God. So when Peter went up to Jerusalem, the circumcised believers criticized him, saying, “Why did you go to uncircumcised men and eat with them?” 

Then Peter began to explain it to them, step by step, saying,  “I was in the city of Joppa praying, and in a trance I saw a vision. There was something like a large sheet coming down from heaven, being lowered by its four corners; and it came close to me. 

As I looked at it closely I saw four-footed animals, beasts of prey, reptiles, and birds of the air. I also heard a voice saying to me, ‘Get up, Peter; kill and eat.’ But I replied, ‘By no means, Lord; for nothing profane or unclean has ever entered my mouth.’ 

But a second time the voice answered from heaven, ‘What God has made clean, you must not call profane.’ This happened three times; then everything was pulled up again to heaven. 

At that very moment three men, sent to me from Caesarea, arrived at the house where we were. The Spirit told me to go with them and not to make a distinction between them and us. These six brothers also accompanied me, and we entered the man’s house. 

The Man, Cornelius, told us how he had seen the angel standing in his house and saying, ‘Send to Joppa and bring Simon, who is called Peter; he will give you a message by which you and your entire household will be saved.’ 

And as I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell upon them just as it had upon us at the beginning. And I remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said, ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ 

If then God gave them the same gift that he gave us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could hinder God?” 

When they heard this, they were silenced. And they praised God, saying, “Then God has given even to the Gentiles the repentance that leads to life.”

Acts 11:1-18

PrayerDear God,
We thank you again, and again, that you are Love.

May we not selfishly hoard that love for ourselves, but instead, may we give it freely, may we experience it fully, may we reveal it continuously, may we permit it to shine consistently from our lives.

May we seek to permit your love to permeate every corner and crevice of our being.

May your love temper our outrage, comfort our concerns, sooth our lack of understanding, and confront the realities of our human nature.

May your love be the fuel for our paths.

Amen.

Music

Just As I Am
Just as I am, without one plea but that Thy blood was shed for me
And that Thou bid’st me come to thee, O Lamb of God, I come, I come

Just as I am, though tossed about with many a conflict, many a doubt
Fightings and fears within without, O Lamb of God, I come, I come

Just as I am, poor, wretched, blind – sight, riches, healing of the mind
Yea, all I need, in Thee to find, O Lamb of God, I come, I come

Just as I am, Thou wilt receive, wilt welcome, pardon, cleanse, relieve
Because Thy promise I believe, O Lamb of God, I come, I come

Jesus Paid It All
I hear the Savior say thy strength indeed is small
Child of weakness watch and pray, find in Me thine all in all

Jesus paid it all, all to Him I owe
Sin had left a crimson stain, he washed it white as snow

Lord now indeed I find thy pow’r and thine alone
Can change the leper’s spots and melt the heart of stone

Jesus paid it all, all to Him I owe
Sin had left a crimson stain, he washed it white as snow

And when before the throne I stand in Him complete
Jesus died my soul to save, my lips shall still repeat

Jesus paid it all, all to Him I owe
Sin had left a crimson stain, he washed it white as snow

Message        Silenced

‘We change the world not by what we say or do, but as a consequence of what we have become.’
Dr. David Hawkins

Acts is the story of the apostles, and followers of Jesus, attempting to catch up with the work of the Spirit.  It is a whirlwind of new experiences, mysterious instructions from God, forbidden places, unexpected interactions, and the constant question of boundaries.  Acts is a story of Becoming, the apostles becoming the credible first hand witnesses of the life/death/life message of Christ, the Church becoming the avenue of God, the Spirit becoming the power of God, and consistently throughout, God remains the same while revealing his multi-dimensional nature, a nature that is manifest Love. Their story is a journey, not so much about a group of humans weathered and ready to save the world from itself, it is the real life documentation of humans ‘Becoming’ in order to be the hands and feet of God.

A journey that no one in their right mind would have signed up for.  An experience that would have been overwhelming if they had known the itinerary before accepting. An endeavor that required moment to moment focus with open eyes and ears as well as willing hearts and minds. A journey which required those involved to plant their feet firmly and commit to this life for the rest of their lives. It was a journey that never ceased to challenge how they perceived the world, how they recognized God, how they interpreted truth – a call to constantly reexamine their most deeply held convictions, opinions, beliefs, and even faith.

It is a journey that is worthy of time, for their journey of Becoming is our journey of Becoming.

In recent weeks we have seen the apostles engaging with people from the remotest ends of the earth.  People known only by their labels. Labels that identified skin color, country of origin, gender identification, practices, sin, and religion. Humans from these remote locations filled with untouchable people collided with the ingrained hatred and fear embedded in the minds and hearts of the followers of Christ.

Our Acts passage today is one such collision moment, a moment that changed everything.

Three statements from this passage are essential to our understanding.

“Why did you go to uncircumcised men and eat with them?”
Acts 11:3

‘When they heard this, they were silenced.’
Acts 11:18a

“God has given even to the Gentiles the repentance that leads to life.”
Acts 11:18b

It all began with…
“Why did you go to uncircumcised men and eat with them?”
Acts 11:3

After the experience with Cornelius and the other gentiles Peter and his companions traveled back to Jerusalem where they were confronted by the Jewish, the circumcised, believers.  Their first question was not a faith issue, they actually did not seem to have an issue with the gentiles believing in Jesus and receiving the Spirit.  Their first and most powerful concern and outrage was that Peter had gone into the home of a gentle and eaten a meal with him and other gentiles.

As we saw last week, it was against the law for Jews to step foot into the homes of gentiles, nor were they to share a meal.  This, for the Jewish believers, was a major offense, a horrific violation of their faith.  However, this was not a faith issue, it was actually not even a religious issue, it was a manmade issue.  No where in God’s Law was there a restriction against such interaction between Jews and Gentiles. Somewhere along the line it had become a thing, and, without really thinking about it, it continued to be a thing even for these who walked with Jesus. This bigotry and prejudice had been instilled within them which they probably did not even recognize. It was actually the opposite of Jesus’ words. This fervent dismissal of an entire people group who were a majority of the world population, had been intertwined with their faith and now the two had become inseparable.  It was the first thing that came to their mind when they heard the news of the Holy Spirit and the Gentiles. The unnoticed contradiction with Jesus words, had not yet been confronted.

“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.”
John 3:16

When something that is not a true faith issue is permitted to become a key issue of our faith, there must be a moment of Holy confrontation – without the moment of seeing truth our Becoming is stunted and stuck. These hateful attitudes regarding others who are also ‘so loved by God’ can often be instilled from birth, falsely affirmed in our faith, and then perpetuated from our faith contemporaries usually remains as an unnoticed and unchallenged reality of our life witness. Sometimes a traumatic event can create these unholy feelings. Here we see our first truth.

Faith is Seldom the True Core of our Offense.

This confusion of non-faith and non-faith, our failure to fully recognize those things that are cultural more than spiritual, is not a thing of the past, it is alive and strong even our time.  Painful divisions exist, they are even instilled in our faith communities, faith communities built on the truth of God’s boundless love.  If anything, we see them emboldened in our present reality.

In Matthew 7 we find a very uncomfortable story of a gentle woman and Jesus. The woman comes to Jesus begging that he heal her daughter. Jesus’ response is quite shocking. Ppreachers and commentators have spent a great deal of effort in covering up the offensive response of Jesus….

“Let the children be fed first, for it is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.”
Mark 7:27

It is a very uncomfortable story of Jesus referring to a gentile woman, and all gentile, as a small dog.  Of the many explanations given by commentators, preachers, and experts, it remains offensive. However, we see Christ respond to the woman’s confrontation not with a theological treats or condensation, instead he is silent, he listens, he considers, and he responds to the request of the woman.

What if racism itself is a human reality and not a sin, however, it becomes sin when we are confronted with our bigotry but refuse to be silent and listen?

The Jewish believers had been indoctrinated in the belief that they were truly superior and that all others were inferior.  It was a wall of isolation between the Jews and anyone, and everyone, who was no Jewish.

Our second statement is

‘When they heard this, they were silenced.’
Acts 11:18a

After the believers in Jerusalem heard the words of Peter they are silent. Now, let me assure you that for the room full of religious men, who have just been confronted with the own offense, silence is a momentous work of the Spirit.  Nothing was said, no defense given, their mouths were shut.

Silence may the be the biggest challenge in Becoming.

It is very human for us to defend oneself.  When our human nature reacts with words, voices, excuses, and denials – God calls us to respond with silence. A year ago the Spirit confronted us with our own prejudices as we watched the Black Lives Matter protests and riots going on around our country. We were given an opportunity to be silent, to consider, to attempt to understand the pain of these who were using their usually muted voices, we had a chance to accept their struggle and their pain.  Instead, we responded with statements like ‘If they just wouldn’t protest,’, ‘Well, I’m not racist, I don’t see color,’ and, ‘The racism they are claiming doesn’t really exist.’ State lawmakers have reacted with laws prohibiting such protests and even denying the pervasive reality of supremacy and racism.

We were given an opportunity to be silent.  As we watched these protests in American streets, as we saw the hoards of immigrants at our borders, as we heard the stories of harassment from women, the cries from the LGBTQ communities.  We have been given opportunity after opportunity to see our own deep seated, and often invisible even to us, prejudice and instead of being silent we usually come to our own defense.  God calls us to be silent, to recognize and consider that these are loved by God also, to accept, to ask the ‘why’ instead of verbalizing the ‘they shouldn’t.’ We may not ever understand, but we are never promised understanding here on earth.  I’m sure that many of those believers in Jerusalem were still scratching their heads in confusion at the time of their death – but still they were silent.

This brings us to our third dynamic.

‘Peter began to explain it to them, step by step’
Acts 11:4

Peter everything with the Jewish Jesus believers.  He detailed for them how God led him to recognize that their prejudice towards others was not God’s law, how God led him to go to Cornelius and how Cornelius affirmed this through his own experience before God, and then how the Spirit moved among the gentiles the same as it had in him.

The response of the Jewish believers is very interesting, they praised God for this movement of the Spirit at the same time they express surprise.

“Then God has given even to the Gentiles the repentance that leads to life.”
Acts 11:18b

Your Bible may use the word ‘also’ instead of ‘even’, and there are other interpretation choices.  The actual wording is a very tepid response to a new reality they were not expecting.  They do not doubt the story of Peter, nor do they refute the experience of the Gentiles receiving the Spirit – however, it is still uncomfortable and they still do not fully understand it.  This does not hinder their acceptance, they still are committing this change in their mindset and will be altering their reality going forward.

Understanding Others is not a first step to Accepting Others. We do not have to understand to accept. The idea that we first have to understand is a damaging misconception on our part. Our first act of acceptance and embrace is the choice to love as Jesus loved us.

God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us.
Romans 5:8

This miracle in Jerusalem may have been a mighty work of the spirit comparable only to Pentecost.  For this group of followers of Christ, entrenched in the religious practices and prejudices of their heritage to recognize the Spirit’s involvement.  We too, must be aware and ready to see the Spirit’s work in our own lives and willing to be silent and allow the Spirit to do the transforming work of Becoming.

Let us pray

Benediction    

We now go into a world that needs love and not scorn.
We go into a world that need silence instead of denials.
We go into a world that needs consideration, not rejection.
We go into a world that needs Jesus.
We go into a world accepted and embraced in God’s Love.
We go into a world desperate for release and deliverance.
So, now we go.
Now we go in Grace.
Now, now we go in Peace.
Now, now we go in Love.

Closing Peace

May the Grace and Peace of the Lord Go With You.
And Also With You
Go In Grace And Peace Living Out Love