Open Door Policy 08.29.21

Order
Sunday, August 29, 2021

Opening Audio (10:15am)
Calm Jazz

#1 ONE Video #1 (4:12)

  • Call to Worship

            Living Hope (Phil Wickham)

Live/OnLine

  • Prayer                                                Rick
  • Music 1                                              Abbie

                    Great is they Faithfulness     Thomas Chisholm | William Runyan

  • Story                                                Online-Sherri, In Person- Peyton
  • Music 2                                            Abbie

                    How Great Thou Art             Stuart Wesley Keene Hine

  • Message    ‘Open Door Policy’      Rick
  • Music 3                                            Abbie

                  Oh How I Love Jesus              Bob Singleton

  • Community                                     Rick
  • Benediction                                     Online-Sherri, In Person-Peyton
  • Sharing the Peace                           Rick

Closing Audio
Spotify – Calm Jazz


Voices & Words
Sunday, August 29, 2021

Prayer
God,
You are our hope.
You are our peace.
You are our source.
You are our rescue.
You are our life.
God,
May we seek you in the midst of uncertainty.
May we look for you in the depths of misery.
May we listen for you when we are deceived by lies.
May we hear you over the noise and false voices.
God,
You are patient even when we focus on evil.
You are empathetic when we are afraid to open our hearts.
You are understanding when our minds fail to discern truth.
You are love when we get caught up in hate.
God,
Let us see you as light so our lives will reflect light.
Let us see you as hope so our lives will reflect hope.
Let us see you as mercy so our lives will reflect mercy.
Let us see you as love so our lives will reflect love.
Amen.

Music 1
Great is Thy Faithfulness
CCLI Song # 18723
Thomas Obediah Chisholm | William Marion Runyan

Verse 1
Great is Thy faithfulness
O God my Father
There is no shadow
Of turning with Thee

Thou changest not
Thy compassions they fail not
As Thou hast been
Thou forever wilt be

Chorus
Great is Thy faithfulness
Great is Thy faithfulness
Morning by morning
New mercies I see

All I have needed
Thy hand hath provided
Great is Thy faithfulness
Lord unto me

Verse 2
Summer and winter
And springtime and harvest
Sun moon and stars
In their courses above

Join with all nature
In manifold witness
To Thy great faithfulness
Mercy and love

Chorus
Great is Thy faithfulness
Great is Thy faithfulness
Morning by morning
New mercies I see

All I have needed
Thy hand hath provided
Great is Thy faithfulness
Lord unto me

Verse 3
Pardon for sin
And a peace that endureth
Thy own dear presence
To cheer and to guide

Strength for today
And bright hope for tomorrow
Blessings all mine
With ten thousand beside

Chorus
Great is Thy faithfulness
Great is Thy faithfulness
Morning by morning
New mercies I see

All I have needed
Thy hand hath provided
Great is Thy faithfulness
Lord unto me

Our Story 
These past weeks we have been horrified watching women, men, children, even babies, risking their lives to get to the airport in Kabul, Afghanistan.

 Their choice to ‘Stay and Hide’, knowing they may spend the rest of your life being hunted, or ‘Go and Trust’ the unknown agendas and doubtful hospitality in distant lands.

At every destination, there were no guarantees, no assurances, no protections – always facing the same decision  – ‘Do I stay put here, or do I go out there?’ They know the risk, around every corner, at every destination.

They commit to their choice, they hold their breath and step out their front door, or they close their eyes and hide behind that door. Either way, the journey has begun.

The apostle Paul constantly faced this same dilemma, ‘Do I stay here or do I go there? Sometimes even his closest friends and allies were quick to disagree with his choice. Pushing him to stay behind the closed door. Paul began to have a clearer view of God after he met Jesus on the way to Damascus.

One thing is certain, a lot happened between destinations, while he was on his way. He should have had a shirt that said ‘I Am Not There Yet.’

The apostle stepped out the door of his life onto an unknown path. Sometimes to get to the next place he had to convince a ship captain to take him aboard, or to convince a crew to not jump off a sinking ship, he had to watch out for fanatics who were dedicated to killing him, and he had to discern the words of politicians who wanted to use him. And, he had to shake snakes off when they attached themself to him. With each arrival, there would be another departure. There would be risk, disappointment, joy, grief, but there was always hope. Hope even when it felt hopeless, cheer even when it was miserable.

Luke closes out the details of Paul’s journey with his arrival in Rome. There, Paul ‘was allowed to live by himself, with the soldier who was guarding him.”

Three days after Paul’s arrival he called together the local Jewish leaders. He proclaimed his innocence, saying  “I was arrested in Jerusalem and handed over to the Romans. When they had examined me, the Romans wanted to release me, because there was no reason for the death penalty in my case. But then the Jewish leaders objected, so I had to appeal to the emperor. This is why I am speaking with you, our common hope of Israel.” 

The leaders replied, “This is the first we have heard of this. But we would like to hear from you what you think about this Christianity movement that is upsetting to so many.”

Many religious leaders continued to join Paul at his lodging. From morning until evening he told his story, testifying to the kingdom of God and trying to convince them about Jesus usage the words of Moses and the prophets. Some were convinced by what he had said, while others refused to believe.” There was a significant division among the Jewish religious leaders.’

However, those discussions reached a point where Paul recognized that it was fruitless to continue. He knew that those who had rejected the message of Jesus had hardened themself past the point of no return. So he put an end to this group gatherings, and instead, kept his door open to those in the group who believed, or were interested, and wanted to continue to learn.

As the large group left, Paul quoted the words of the prophet Isaiah, words familiar to all the religious leaders  “‘Go to this people and say, ‘You will indeed listen, but never understand, and you will indeed look, but never perceive. For this people’s heart has grown dull, and their ears are hard of hearing, and they have shut their eyes; so that they might not look with their eyes, and listen with their ears, and understand with their heart and turn — and I would heal them.’”

final words were even more shocking, “ Let it be known to you then that this salvation of God has been sent to the Gentiles; they will listen.”

Those were surely shocking words!

Paul stuck around Rome for 2 more years of house confinement along with his constant guard companion.

There he continued to have an ‘Open Door Policy” allowing entry to anyone who wanted to hear truth.

Music 2
How Great Thou Art
CCLI Song # 14181
Stuart Wesley Keene Hine

Verse 1
O Lord my God
When I in awesome wonder
Consider all the worlds
Thy hands have made

I see the stars
I hear the rolling thunder
Thy pow’r thru’out
The universe displayed

Chorus
Then sings my soul
My Savior God to Thee
How great Thou art
How great Thou art

Then sings my soul
My Savior God to Thee
How great Thou art
How great Thou art

Verse 2
When through the woods
And forest glades I wander
And hear the birds
Sing sweetly in the trees

When I look down
From lofty mountain grandeur
And hear the brook
And feel the gentle breeze

Verse 3
And when I think
That God His Son not sparing
Sent Him to die
I scarce can take it in

That on the cross
My burden gladly bearing
He bled and died
To take away my sin

Chorus
Then sings my soul
My Savior God to Thee
How great Thou art
How great Thou art

Then sings my soul
My Savior God to Thee
How great Thou art
How great Thou art

Verse 4
When Christ shall come
With shout of acclamation
And take me home
What joy shall fill my heart

Then I shall bow
In humble adoration
And there proclaim
My God how great Thou art

Message        ‘Open Door Policy’ 

The Roman Martyrology is a document used in the Catholic Church as documentation of the various matrys that have been recognized by the Church. This documentation is an interesting record of the many ‘nobodies’ who have been used by God to do something miraculous for other nobodies. While we do not have the same veneration of these individuals as the Catholic Church does, we cannot help but be intrigued by these persons who have opened their lives to God to do something extraordinary.

In that documentation, listed for July 25 (around the year 35 AD), is a man from Damascus named Ananias. Tradition says that Ananias was eventually martyred, however, it is the known events of Ananias like that catch our attention. Anaias was a respected member of his community, even though he was Christian in a majority Jewish community, his consideration for the Law was noticed by the Jews in that knew him. He was also very aware of the events outside of the community of Damascus. He surely was aware of persecution of Christians taking place in Jerusalem as many had escaped persecution and were now living as refugees in Damascus. Ananias also was well aware of the Pharisee Saul of Tarsus who was feared by Christians who knew of his efforts to eliminate Christianity and Christians.

It was assuredly a conundrum for Ananias when God said to him to open his door to this feared Saul of Tarsus.
Ananias responded to God, “Lord, I have heard from  many about this man, how much evil he has done to your saints in Jerusalem; and here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who invoke your name.” (Acts 9:13-14).

I cannot imagine the thoughts that must have been going through Ananias’ mind upon receiving this instruction. Being a committed follower of Christ while being respected by those who are suspicious, at best, of Christianity had been like walking on egg shells. Ananias had surely become an expert at being subtle without, at the same time, compromising his faith. He was fully dedicated to a full commitment of his faith, while also being fully dedicated to protecting his own life as well as the lives of his fellow believers.

And now, he was to open his door to this terrifying man, even worse he was to go find this man named Saul.

For Ananias, it all began with a call from God to open his door, to open it to risk, discomfort, the unknown, and to the scary. It is most familiar to us if we paint it in a more contemporary thinking, image that God was to call us to  permit those who disagree, those who believe differently, those who live different lives, those who face different hurdles, those who face struggles we cannot understand, those who may be offensive, those who may make us think, to enter the threshold of our lives. While the similarity of danger may be different the personal hesitation and discomfort is the same.

It is apples and oranges, love and hatred, acceptance and condemnation, arrogance and humility, hope and despair, it is different. It is not the what and who that we usually open our door for. It goes against the bias, prejudices, and teachings of our tradition, it is counter to the teachings of our respected leaders, it is sometimes a swim against the flow of our own community.

Ananias followed God’s command and was the human factor in the transformation of Saul the Terror to Paul the Apostle. Ananias explained and welcomed Saul who had just met the resurrected Jesus on the road to Damascus. Saul the seeker of truth, on this day, was transformed into Saul/ Paul  the proclaimer of truth, and eyewitness to the life and resurrection of Jesus.  It was a renewal of his search, a renewal of his quest, it was a transformation…
”Renewal by the spirit is not modification but total transformation.” (Pastors Daniel Martino and Antonio Vargas)

For Saul, the transformation from religious zeal to personal passion, a desire not to stop something but to continue something, to move from hate and fear to proclamations of resurrection and hope was a work of the Spirit, accepted by a blind and confused zealot.

So Saul, who had achieved the position of Pharisee about 5 years earlier, now was an eye witness of the resurrected Messiah, he had opened his door to that which would destroy his position, his career achievement, but now was witness to the fulfillment of expectancy in the arrival of the deliverer. And, now, 14 years after crossing the threshold of the open door at the house of Ananias, Paul was in Rome.

It is while he is under house arrest in Rome that the shattered boundaries of his transformation begin to be fully evident. 3 years earlier he had written to the churches in Rome, and now he was there in the flesh, among them, encouraging, teaching, confronting, engaging, and enlightening them. It was in the pages of that letter that Paul expressed his disillusionment in the reality that Jesus had been rejected by most of his own people, his own friends, his own contemporaries, his own faith family – he came to a conclusion that this rejection was a mystery that he did not understand but also, it was a test of his own faith in a just and faithful God, a God who would not abandon his own people.

This all explains why, once in Rome, his door was first open to the Jewish leaders in Rome. Many, if not all, of these shared Paul’s conviction in regard to resurrection. Since this was a connection point for his own Jewish faith and his Christian faith this was the best place to begin. Interestingly, these leaders had not heard of the accusations against Paul in Jerusalem, they only knew that Paul was either hated or beloved. So, they listened, they asked questions, they agreed and they disagreed, at the end of the day they left, divided amongst themselves.

Finally, as the many that did not believe, continued in their unbelief, it became obvious to Paul that this group was stuck, they were glued to their past, to the teachings and observances that had been a part of their past, they could not make a change, they could not accept that this Jesus was the deliver they had been waiting for.
So Paul quoted the prophet Isaiah,  “You will indeed listen, but never understand, and you will indeed look, but never perceive. For this your heart has grown dull, and your ears are hard of hearing, and you have shut your eyes; so that you might not look with your eyes, and listen with your ears, and understand with your heart and turn to God for deliverance.’”

Then, as his contemporaries walked away, Paul added, “ Let it be known to you then that this salvation of God has been sent to the Gentiles; they will listen.”

It was then that Paul adopted an ‘Open Door Policy’ a policy he had first witnessed in the acts of the ‘nobody’ Ananias. He began a practice of opening his door to all. He no longer focused on ‘a people’ or even ‘his people’ to tell his story, now his door was open to ‘all peoples’. His investment shifted from an institution to people of all kinds of institutions. He focused on other words of God from the prophet Isaiah, “I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?” (Isaiah 43:19)

These 2 years in Rome under house arrest brought the apostle to an understanding that ‘Disagreement does not call for Division,” that ‘Differences does not call for Fear.’ This understanding led him to leave his door open, open to everyone and anyone. Those things that had previously been justifiable factors for exclusion now held no sway. Compassion, Mercy, Hope, and Love had replace those elements of condemnation.

When we open our doors we see

  • Our fears of those who believe differently diminishes into a respect for a seeker/believer.
  • Our fears of those of different background and cultures diminishes into an appreciation for the diversity of God’s created.
  • Our fear of the uncomfortable diminishes into an interest in all others.
  • Our fear of those who look or live differently than us diminishes into the unity God desires among his descendants.
  • Our fear of evil diminishes into an understand of what is good and lovely.
  • Our fear of letting go of false beliefs and strongholds diminishes in the relief found in the freedom of a fingers no longer grasping to keep a grasp on the nonsensical.
  • Our fear of letting go of Pride diminishes into Truth.

For centuries the church has focused on evangelism as the practice of converting others to our belief. But look at the nobody Ananias. Lived a respectable life, even in the eyes of those who disagreed and possibly despised him. He, unknowingly was an evangelist in his community, not because of his words but because of his life. Part of that was a relationship with God that listened to and for God, even when God spoke the uncomfortable words, ‘Open your door, Ananias.’ It was then that he spoke words that were already verified in his life, it was then that he, along with Paul, experienced transformation.

We each have the challenge and the responsibility to open the doors of our hearts and our minds. To look around and see who is missing that belongs amongst us. To see out, into the marketplace and public square of our world.

Who will we see there, for whom does God desire we open the door to? Will be those who you do not understand? Will it be those who have hurt you in the past? Will it be those that your religious and faith institutions  have warned you against? Will it be those you have hated, rejected, feared, and judged? Will it be those you have dismissed or ignored. Will it be those who have dismissed and ignored you?

The apostle Paul went from keeping his own door closed while kicking down the doors of those he hated, he went from keeping condemning an entire people to leading that very people, he want from looking for and rejecting the Messiah to accepting and proclaiming that Messiah. It went from a closed door on his heart and mind, to opening his own door to all who wanted to hear and see. It all began with a little nobody opening his door and led to this charismatic leader opening his door every where he went. Are the doors of your heart and mind open to God, are they open to those God sends your way?

Let us pray.

Music 3 
Oh How I Love Jesus
CCLI Song # 4596756
Bob Singleton

Verse 1
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

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

Verse 2
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

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

Because He first loved me

Community 

  • Community
  • Dirty Hands Day
  • hin·nê·nî  (Here I Am) – Bible Studies resume in October (survey before to see options and preferences)
  • Uncomfortable beginning September 19 – solicit uncomfortable passages/stories
  • Next Sunday – ‘Incarnate Response’, Mark 1:14-20 & Luke 10:1-11
  • Free Stuff in entryway
  • Covid Update
  • Offering Basket at doors

Benediction

It is time to open the doors and exit this place.

Time to open the doors to see.

It it time to open the doors to hear.

Time to step out and into the world of our journey

Time to walk with our fellow descendants.

Time to tell our story.

Our story of God’s love, hope, deliverance, and rescue.

It’s Time.

 It’s Time.

Closing Peace 

May God’s grace, peace, joy, love, and hope go with you.

And also with you.

Let’s take God’s instruction to open the doors of our hearts and minds into the marketplace and the public square. Let’s open our doors as fellow created humans, let’s open our doors to be the love of God in a world desiring love.

Let our open doors be evident in our actions and words. Let’s open our doors to experience God’s great grace, God’s great peace, God’s great love, and God’s great hope. Let’s go!

Your Party Invitation 08.22.21

Order

Opening Audio (10:15am)
Spotify – Calm Jazz

#1 ONE Video #1 (4:12)

  • Call to Worship

Come to the Table  (Sidewalk Prophets, Glover, McDonald, Frey)

Live/OnLine

  • Prayer                       Rick
  • Music 1                     Abbie

        Savior Like A Shepherd Lead Us     (Thrupp, William Bradbury)

  • Story                                               Online-Isaiah, In Person- Dona
  • Music 2

        Wherever He Leads I’ll Go              (B. B. McKinney)

  • Speaker Introduction – Kyle          Rick
  • Message    ‘Your Invitation’’           Kyle Tubbs
  • Music 3                    Abbie

        I Have Decided To Follow Jesus    (Thomas, Davis)

  • Community                                   Rick
  • Benediction                                  Online-Isaiah, In Person-Dona
  • Sharing the Peace                         Rick

Closing Audio
Spotify – Calm Jazz

Voices & Words

Prayer

God,
Thank you for your invitation to us to come to the table
Thank you for inviting us to participate in your feast
Thank you for your invitation to come to your table
God, we recognize that it is only at your table we will find healing
It is only at your table we will find hope
Is is only at your table we will find joy
It is only at your table we will find love
God, we recognize that your table was made by you
The craftsmanship is apparent, the stability is everlasting
The table was built with your sacrifice, love, and truth
The table is designed by your mercy and compassion
God, it is at your table that we are fully relieved of our burdens
Our baggage, our regret, our pain, our despair
It is at your table we receive hope and grace
God, thank you for our invitation to come to your table
May we pull out a seat for others to join us at your table.
Amen.

Savior Like A Shepherd Lead Us

Verse 1
Saviour like a shepherd lead us
Much we need thy tender care
In thy pleasant pastures feed us
For our use thy folds prepare
Blessed Jesus blessed Jesus
Thou hast bought us thine we are
Blessed Jesus blessed Jesus
Thou hast bought us thine we are

Verse 2
Thou hast promised to receive us
Poor and sinful though we be
Thou hast mercy to relieve us
Grace to cleanse and pow’r to free

Blessed Jesus blessed Jesus
Early let us turn to thee
Blessed Jesus blessed Jesus
Early let us turn to thee

Verse 3
Early let us seek thy favour
Early let us do thy will
Blessed Lord and only Saviour
With thy love our beings fill

Blessed Jesus blessed Jesus
Thou hast loved us love us still
Blessed Jesus blessed Jesus
Thou hast loved us love us still

Our Story
Have you ever been invited to something that you didn’t really want to go to?
I hate that, you have to think of a credible excuse for declining and then you have to say it in a way that sounds genuine. You convincingly decline and then all you can think about is what you are going to eat instead.
You worry that maybe the food at the dinner party will be better than anything you can cook or get at a drive through.
To make matters worse, you obsess, wondering if you should go just to make an appearance and then leave if the food doesn’t look all that bad.
Or, if you should go peak in the windows to see if you like any of the people that are at the dinner party…and… if the food looks good.
What about being invited to a birthday party, or a funeral? There are so many issues you have to consider before deciding if you want to go!
Will it be boring? Will it be awkward? Will it last too long? Will someone talk who should never be allowed to talk in public? Will you have to bring a gift, or hug anyone? How long do you have to stay? Will you have to dress up?
We get it..
Will anyone good be there? Will anyone bad be there? Will anyone disgusting be there? Should you wear a mask? Do you do handshakes, knuckles, or elbows? Do you….
Yes, we get it Dona…. You know, Jesus was invited to the home of a fellow Pharisee where was a man with Dropsy, basically Edema, a frequent sign of congestive heart failure. The man probably had a very swollen and uncomfortable look, his coloring was probably odd, and no one really knew if he was contagious or not. FYI, social distancing probably did not have to be a mandate.
The religious leaders were intensely watching, they wanted to see if Jesus would reach out to the man, if he would heal the ailing man. It was the Sabbath and healing is work. Work was forbidden on this day of rest.
The man looked unclean, he assuredly solicited a response of disgusted dismissal – so, using a religious law would be an excuse to not go near him. Such callousness would be justified, it was an appropriate religious response. It would be more ‘holy’.
Jesus knew what the leaders were thinking and confronted their hypocrisy. As expected though, Jesus did engage with this untouchable man and he did heal him on the Sabbath.
After this nail biting moment, Jesus began talking about our self centered attitudes that are the primary factor in our own arrogance. Sadly, ultimately, they result in a self centered illusion that causes us to miss the miraculous work of God around us, work that even happens on Holy and Restful days.
As Jesus approached the Pharisee’s table he commented on choices of the guest in their choices of seats. It was a very applicable message about self centeredness and arrogance. One of the guests, then responded with the comment,  “Blessed is anyone who will eat bread in the kingdom of God!” 
Oh, that had to be cringe worthy for everyone already seated.
Maybe, or, possibly, it was a welcome attempt to distract from their own seat choices.
Jesus calmly responded, “Someone gave a great dinner and invited many. When the dinner was ready to eat, the master sent his servant to say, ‘Come; dinner is ready.’” 
But the invitees made excuses. They said, ‘I have bought a piece of land which I must go see.’ Another said, ‘I need to try out my new oxen.’ Another said, ‘I am a newlywed, I’d rather just eat with my new spouse.’ So the servant returned and reported this to his master.
Let’s just say that the Master was not happy, “Go out immediately, go into the streets and all over the town, bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind, and the lame.’ The master instructed, the servant ran out with the new invitations and then returned to report to the master, ‘I’ve done what you ordered me to do, and there is still room at the table.’ 
The master sent the servant back out with more invitations, ‘Go out into the roads and lanes, and compel people to come in, so that my house may be filled. Let me tell you this,” the master said, “none of those who were originally invited will taste my dinner.’”
May we be grateful for an invitation to the table. May we express our gratitude for Truth, and for God, who is truth, though our willingness and determination to allow truth to transform our lives and to change how we see and live in God’s creation and amongst God’s created.
May we reflect the gift of God’s sacrifice through our lives and our engagements. May God’s compassion and mercy be seen in us. May truth be at our core as we are immersed in God’s grace, and may it be vividly witnessed just as it was seen in the person of Jesus and the work of his Spirit.

Wherever He Leads I’ll Go

Chorus
Wherever He leads I’ll go
Wherever He leads I’ll go
I’ll follow my Christ who loves me so
Wherever He leads I’ll go

Verse 1
Take up thy cross and follow Me
I heard my Master say
I gave My life to ransom thee
Surrender your all today

Chorus
Wherever He leads I’ll go
Wherever He leads I’ll go
I’ll follow my Christ who loves me so
Wherever He leads I’ll go

Verse 2
He drew me closer to His side
I sought His will to know
And in that will I now abide
Wherever He leads I’ll go

Chorus
Wherever He leads I’ll go
Wherever He leads I’ll go
I’ll follow my Christ who loves me so
Wherever He leads I’ll go

Verse 3
It may be through the shadows dim
Or o’er the stormy sea
I take my cross and follow Him
Wherever He leadeth me

Chorus
Wherever He leads I’ll go
Wherever He leads I’ll go
I’ll follow my Christ who loves me so
Wherever He leads I’ll go

Verse 4
My heart my life my all I bring
To Christ who loves me so
He is my Master Lord and King
Wherever He leads I’ll go

Speaker Introduction

Rev. Kyle Tubbs serves as the coordinator of CBF Oklahoma and as a  church starting consultant for CBF Global. Before coming to Oklahoma, Kyle led CBF’s nationwide church starting initiative in Decatur, Georgia. Prior to those ministries, he served as the founding pastor of Peace of Christ Church in Round Rock, Texas and on the staffs of Trinity Baptist Church in Sweetwater, Texas, and First Baptist Church of Eula, Texas.

Kyle earned a bachelor of arts degree from the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor and a master of divinity degree from Hardin-Simmons University’s Logsdon Seminary. He is a candidate for the doctor of philosophy degree, focusing his dissertation on contextual leadership, from Dallas Baptist University. Kyle is also a trained and certified executive leadership coach.

Kyle and his wife, Kaily, live in Norman with their sons, Emmett and Henry, and dog, Kennedy. They enjoy playing and laughing together as a family at public parks and recreation centers.

Message        ‘Your Party Invitation’ 

• Story: I was a youth minister running a VBS type program during a mission trip. Energy and involvement was low so we threw a party. The joy and energy reminded us that the Kingdom of God is like a party where all are welcome.
• Today, I want us to think about the Kingdom of God. Who gets an invite to be part of it?
• In context, we meet Jesus in the house of a Pharisee, but it was a trap. Remember that Jesus did not just
identify himself with one group, but with anyone who invited him.

Luke 14:15-24
One of the dinner guests, on hearing this, said to him, “Blessed is anyone who will eat bread in the kingdom of God!” Then Jesus said to him, “Someone gave a great dinner and invited many. At the time for the dinner he sent his servant to say to those who had been invited, ‘Come; for everything is ready now.’

But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said to him, ‘I have bought a piece of land, and I must go out and see it; please accept my regrets.’ Another said, ‘I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I am going to try them out; please accept my regrets.’ Another said, ‘I have just been married, and therefore  I cannot come.’

So the servant returned and reported this to his master. Then the owner of the house became angry and said to his servant, ‘Go out at once into the streets and lanes of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind, and the lame.’ And the servant said, ‘Sir, what you ordered has been done, and there is still room.’

Then the master said to the servant, ‘Go out into the roads and lanes, and compel people to come in, so that my house may be filled. For I tell you, none of those who were invited will taste my dinner.’”

• Think from the Jesus’ perspective for a moment. Have you ever been somewhere where you know that someone doesn’t like you?
• One of the guys tries to break the awkward silence. He says, “Blessed is anyone who will eat bread in the Kingdom of God.”
• The Pharisees at thought that they would be the ones in the Kingdom, and did not think about others getting an invitation too.
• Jesus retorts by telling a story about a great dinner.
• Invitations go out, and the responses are questionable. They are excuses.
• The first comes from one who says they need to check out some land I just bought. Wouldn’t you look at land before buying it?
• The second says they need check out some oxen. Who would buy these things before seeing them first?
• The third gives an excuse about just being married, but shouldn’t they be with their spouse?
• These excuses all have in common that they are too busy to go to the party
• When the servant returns to tell the host that the invitations had been rejected, the host then tells him to go back out.
• This time when the servant comes back, the invitations have seen…ACCEPTED. And the servant tell the host that there is still room.
• The host is thrilled and says go back out into the roads and invite everybody.

  • Every person in this story has a chance to come to the party, but it is up to both the wealthy and poor, healthy and sick to accept or decline the invitation. The invitation is for EVERYB

• The host is able to feed and take care of everybody.
• The invitation is based solely on the loving graciousness of the host.
• Jesus shows us that everyone is given the opportunity to be at the party! The invitation is directly from God to you. You are invited!

  • In the kingdom there are roads and bridges to a party, and everyone is welcome and invited.
  • • In the kingdom of God, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, and self control permeate throughout.

• In the kingdom of God, God loves you because God is good.
• In the kingdom of God, shame is replaced with acceptance.
• In the kingdom of God, who is your neighbor? Everyone!
• But…if everyone is invited to this kingdom, does everyone know they are invited?
• Who are the folks today who need to know they have an invitation to the party?
• Who are folks that may not be thought of first but need to experience the joyous love of God?
• In God’s kingdom, everyone is welcome. You are welcome. The invitation is for you. The invitation is also for everyone else too.
• In God’s kingdom, grace means that God never runs out of what we need.
• The miracles show us that God provides.
• Wine is almost out? More wine!
• Food is almost out? More food!
• And in faith we can rest knowing that God will provide all the grace we need!
• You are welcome into the presence of Christ through the ever expanding Kingdom of God.
• How can we celebrate the kingdom of God together? We come together in humility, service, and love.
We look like Christ.
• Let’s think about the disciples for just a minute. They were extremely diverse. Their education,
backgrounds, ethnicities, and vocations varied.
• You don’t have to worry about being in or out. Whether you check off the right boxes, or if you are in
the right category to be a child of God.
• Galatians 3:28 “There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.”
• The beautiful good news from our Gospel story today is a reminder that you are invited to the party, the
Kingdom of God.
• This story also encourages us to think about those not in this room.
• Who needs an invitation to the Kingdom of God?
• Who needs to hear that they are also invited to rest in the grace of God?
• What will it take for you to accept the invitation to the party?
• Who do you need to invite to the party?
• Benediction: May you hear the invitation loud and clear this morning. You are invited. The Kingdom of God is within you and waiting for you all around. You just have to say yes. And may you invite others to join you in the love of God this week. Amen.

I Have Decided

Verse 1
I have decided to follow Jesus
I have decided to follow Jesus
I have decided to follow Jesus
No turning back no turning back

Verse 2
The world behind me the cross before me
The world behind me the cross before me
The world behind me the cross before me
No turning back no turning back

Verse 3
Though none go with me still I will follow
Though none go with me still I will follow
Though none go with me still I will follow
No turning back no turning back

Ending
No turning back
No turning back
No turning back
No turning back

Community

  • Community
  • Dirty Hands Day
  • hin·nê·nî  (Here I Am) – Bible Studies resume in October (survey before to see options and preferences)
  • Uncomfortable beginning September 19 – solicit uncomfortable passages/stories
  • Next Sunday – Open Door, Acts 28: 16-31
  • Summer Breeze
  • Free Stuff in entryway
  • Covid Update
  • Offering Details

Benediction

Dona: Once again, it is time to go.

Isaiah: Time to go into the marketplace, time to go onto the public square.

Dona: Time to look for the invitations from God, time to share the invitations in the marketplace and the public square.

Isaiah: Time to listen to the plans of God.

Dona: It is time to go amongst all who are created and loved by God.

Isaiah: In other words, it is time to recognize that all of those in the marketplace and the public square are endearingly noticed by their creator, by our God – they are all invited to the feast.

Dona: It is time to go.

Isaiah: Time to lay down our own selfishness and instead see God’s sacrifice.

Dona: It is time to go.

Isaiah: It is time to respond with God’s grace

Dona: With God’s peace

Isaiah: With God’s joy

Dona: With God’s love

Isaiah: With God’s hope

Dona: It is time.

Closing Peace

May God’s grace, peace, joy, love, and hope go with you.

And also with you.

Let’s take God’s invitation into the marketplace and the public square. Let’s take our that invitation not as enemies of others, but as fellow created humans to which we have the opportunity to be the avenue of delivery of those invitations.

Let us go letting that invitation be visible in our life actions and words. Let’s show that invitation to God’s great grace, God’s great peace, God’s great love, and God’s great hope. Let’s go deliver those invitations!

Soggy Bread 08.15.21

Order

Sunday, August 15, 2021

Opening Audio (10:15am)

#1 ONE Video #1 (3:48)

  • Call to Worship

           None Like You  (Dante Bowe)

Live/OnLine

  • Prayer                                           Rick
  • Music 1                                         Abbie

          Love Lifted Me

  • Story                                            Online-Randy/In Person-Beth
  • Music 2

          My Jesus I Love Thee

  • Message    ‘Soggy Bread’           Rick
  • Music 3/Lord’s Supper              Abbie

          Jesus Paid It All

  • Community                                Rick
  • Benediction                                Online-Randy/In Person-Beth
  • Closing Peace                             Rick

Closing Audio

Voices & Words

Prayer

God,

We thank you for our story
The good and the bad
The hopeful and the hopeless
The healing and the pain
The blindness and the sight
God, it is in our story that we remember the story of you
The story of your faithfulness
The story of your mercy
The story of your compassion
The story of your sacrifice
The story of your redemption
The story of your love
The story of you as love
Lead us to remember that story
Our story, your story…
As we navigate pain, struggle, despair, and hopelessness
As we are reminded of you, our God,

Amen.

Music 1
Love Lifted Me
CCLI Song # 66926
Howard E. Smith | James Rowe

Verse 1
I was sinking deep in sin
Far from the peaceful shore
Very deeply stained within
Sinking to rise no more
But the Master of the sea
Heard my despairing cry
From the waters lifted me
Now safe am I

Chorus
Love lifted me
Love lifted me
When nothing else could help
Love lifted me
(REPEAT)

Verse 2
All my heart to Him I give
Ever to Him I’ll cling
In His blessed presence live
Ever His praises sing
Love so mighty and so true
Merits my soul’s best songs
Faithful loving service too
To Him belongs

Chorus
Love lifted me
Love lifted me
When nothing else could help
Love lifted me
(REPEAT)

Verse 3
Souls in danger look above
Jesus completely saves
He will lift you by His love
Out of the angry waves
He’s the Master of the sea
Billows His will obey
He your Savior wants to be
Be saved today

Chorus
Love lifted me
Love lifted me
When nothing else could help
Love lifted me
(REPEAT)

Our Story
After spending over two years sitting in a guarded jail cell in Ceasarea, during which time he had told his story to 2 governors, a King and a Queen, Paul, finally, was on his way to Rome.

A huge part of Paul’s story was that he was a Roman citizen by birth which meant he had more rights and more protections than most of his contemporaries. His fate was not left to politicians or religious leaders who wanted him gone, or saw a way to use and abuse him to their own advantage. Paul had requested an opportunity to appear before the emperor, that was a benefit of Roman citizenship.

The trip to Rome by boat was over 2,200 miles. A trip by boat and land would have been bit more efficient but since this journey involved a Roman Centurion managing a group of prisoners, including Paul, it was better to go by boat. Normally, if all conditions were right, this trip would take 2 week to a month, but this was not an ordinary trip nor were the conditions right, they weren’t anywhere near right.

It was a lot like Gilligan’s Island, only instead of a Mary Ann, a movie star, and Mr. and Mrs. Howell, it was a much burlier and more obstinate captain, a crew that were not bumbling loveable fools, but instead, very unloveable, burlier and even more smellier crew, plus an array of shady prisoners along with the prisoner Paul. Basically 276 smelly, burly, bad mood, men crammed onto a small boat out on the rough and unforgiving sea.

Well, that sounds pleasant.

That’s what I was thinking as well.

On this elongated trip, Paul and the others fought the winds, they fought the waves, they barely kept the boat together, then they lost the boat all together. They ended up in a boat with the figured heads, the carved wooden figures on the front of the boat, depicted the twin sons of the mythical gods Zeus and the Spartan Queen Leda

They stopped in at least 12 ports, in most he was permitted to spend time with the Christians there, which was about the same number of stops as his farewell journey from Corinth to Jerusalem.

Along the way he was shipwrecked, spent 14 days on an island where he healed and had more opportunities to share his story. He had to convince an entire community that he was not a god, and continually tried to convince the  captain that he (Paul) knew better how to navigate the boat because God had told him.

It was a trip where he continuously looked back to remember the faithfulness of God, and, at the same time, a trip where he was constantly given the opportunity to share his story with others – all kinds of others.

It was a miserable, yet essential, part of his path. Just like the miserable yet essential parts of our paths.

Music 2
My Jesus I Love Thee (4 slides)
CCLI Song # 27817
Adoniram Judson Gordon | William Ralph Featherstone

Verse 1
My Jesus I love Thee I know Thou art mine
For Thee all the follies of sin I resign
My gracious Redeemer my Savior art Thou
If ever I loved Thee my Jesus ’tis now

Verse 2
I love Thee because Thou hast first loved me
And purchased my pardon on Calvary’s tree
I love Thee for wearing the thorns on Thy brow
If ever I loved Thee my Jesus ’tis now

Verse 3
I’ll love Thee in life I will love Thee in death
And praise Thee as long as Thou lendest me breath
And say when the death dew lies cold on my brow
If ever I loved Thee my Jesus ’tis now

Verse 4
In mansions of glory and endless delight
I’ll ever adore Thee in heaven so bright
I’ll sing with the glittering crown on my brow
If ever I loved Thee my Jesus ’tis now

Message        ‘Soggy Bread’
An emaciated chained young man stands at the entrance of the La MACA (E marse e all), a brutal inmate run prison on the Ivory Coast.  He is so defenseless he surely will not survive as much as 3 days in the prison. However, he is given a chance, he is to tell a story; The prisoners gather with the hope of entertainment or at least an act of brutality. As the terrified young man stands he is informed that his story must not only entertain but it must also not end until the sun rises if he fails we will die. This is the premise of the movie ‘Night of the Kings, which entertainment writer Karen Han describes as a, “Tribute to the power of stories…celebrating oral traditions and the rituals we create for ourselves in order to make life just a little more bearable. [The storyteller’s] skills underline the potential of a good story to not only inspire more art, but to create hope as well.”

Writer Ed Chinn says,
“A story is a like a seed. It carries a power which is mysterious, potent and continuing. When it falls into the ground of a human mind, it takes on a life of its own…

When it comes to stories, we have the choice to become either a producer or a curator. Producers clean the story up, polish it and shape it into something which will satisfy a market or a need, they turn it into a product. They extract or emphasize what will serve their purpose.

On the other hand, curators have a much greater depth of respect for the story and knowledge of its true value. They know the story is not a product. They also know that we have a responsibility to the story!

Curators want to preserve it exactly as they found it.  And, they care about its safety and survival. So, for them, the challenge is to just find the right setting to display it. They are focused on passing it on intact to future generations.”

Telling the story, his own story, is the work of the apostle Paul, especially as we have traveled with him from Corinth to Jerusalem, and all the cities in between, and now, from Caesarea to Rome, and all the places between. In a time when experts speculate that the literacy rate was anywhere from 1% to 20% of the entire population, storytelling was not only powerful but story tellers were vital. The apostles life was all about telling the story, his story, a story of truth, a story as eyewitness. It was a story that told of his own experiences seeking God and his path defining experience with Jesus. For Paul, telling his story was either a natural instinct or, it could be that Paul was a master as seeing ways of telling his story in any and all situations. He told his story to his fellow Jews, to the despised Gentiles, to Religious Leaders, to Governors, to Kings and Queens, and now, as we near the end of Lukes details of Paul’s journey in the book of Acts, we see Paul heading to Rome to tell his story to the emperor Caesar.  Even at every turn of the physical journey to Rome gave Paul an opportunity to tell his story of truth and transformation, a story of his path given by God.

The call to not only tell his story, but also to show Jesus through his own actions and life, in addition to the realities of reality, caused Paul’s journey from Caesarea to Rome to be much longer and miserable than it needed to be. On the other hand, this journey was unto itself another part of Paul’s story that stood as a testament to God’s faithfulness, mercy, and compassion. Plus it paints a picture of how story brings us to a remembrance of God and a strength in that recollection.
Journey to Rome
During one pivotal moment on the journey to Rome, the author of the book of Acts, Luke (who was on this part of the journey with Paul), describes the situation from a first hand point of view.

“the weather changed abruptly, and a heavy wind of typhoon strength caught the ship and blew it out to sea. The crew tried at first to face back to shore but couldn’t, so they gave up and let the ship run before the gale. We finally sailed behind a small island named Clauda,  where with great difficulty we hoisted aboard the lifeboat that was being towed behind us, and then  banded the ship with ropes to strengthen the hull.

The sailors were afraid of being driven across to the quicksands of the African coast, so they lowered the topsails and were thus driven before the wind. The next day as the seas grew higher, the crew began throwing  the cargo overboard. 

The following day they threw out the tackle and anything else they could lay their hands on. The terrible storm raged unabated many days, until at last all hope was gone.

No one had eaten for a long time, but finally Paul called the crew together and said, ‘Men, cheer up! Not one of us will lose our lives, even though the ship will go down.’”
Acts 27:14-22 (TLB)

Here it is again, Thar-Say, the greek word that God said to Paul in Paul’s moment of deepest despair, only now it is human form, yoo-thoo-meh’-o. Paul is beginning to tell the 266 men on the boat to cheer up, to take courage. While, Thar-Say, is not a human word – impossible for a human to credibly say, Paul is using the human form, yoo-thoo-meh’-o, he cannot internally do the work of leading them to the place where they can legitimately ‘cheer up’, however, Paul does have human power of story, his story can ‘Cheer Up’ 

“last night an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I serve stood beside me and said, ‘Don’t be afraid, Paul—for you will surely stand trial before Caesar!
What’s more, God has granted your request and will  save the lives of all those sailing with you.’ So take courage! For I believe God! It will be just as he said! But we will be shipwrecked on an island.”
Acts 27:23-26 (TLB)

Author N. Scott Momady says, “A word has power in and of itself. It comes from nothing into sound and meaning; it gives origin to all things.”

Many native American Storytellers have taken a scientific trek to explain the power of story telling by focusing on two elements, Oxytocin and Cortisol. Oxytocin, a hormone released from the brain during and after birthing a child, is credited as en essential element of the bonding process between mother and child. Cortisol is a steroid hormone your body releases when you are stressed. These Native American storytellers attribute these two natural elements of our created natural physical processes as taking place in the minds of the listeners as well told stories are taking place. As a believer, I have no difficulty saying this may be God’s built in process of the Spirit bringing us to a place of hope. It could very well be a key part of the ‘Cheer Up’ process.

Maybe this work of the Spirit triggered these elements, God gifted to these men way back at creation, in the brains of the burly, smelly, men on the ship as Paul told this story. Maybe this is what was at work to prepare all 276 men for 11 days later when everything got worse, much worse.

‘At midnight on the fourteenth night of the storm, as we were being driven to and fro on the Adriatic Sea,.  As the darkness gave way to the early morning light, Paul begged everyone to eat. “You haven’t touched food for two weeks. Please eat something now for your own good!  Otherwise, you shall perish!”  Then he took some bread and gave thanks to God before them all, and broke off a piece and ate it. Suddenly everyone felt better and began eating, all 276 of us that were on aboard.’
Acts 27:27-37 (TLB)
Ill: Isaiah Fainting Scare

Words of truth, seeds of hope, soggy bread, remembrance,

Hopelessness to happiness, doom to survival,

A story told over time, a truth instilled for the moments of despair, all pouring out in remembrance,

Remembrance of our faithful God, merciful, and compassionate.

Inspiration, even to those unacquainted with this God.

This brings us back to another moment of soggy bread. This bread was not soaked by the spray of threatening waves, but soaked in tears and blood. A bread passed by Jesus to his disciples one last time before the arrest and the cross. A cup, also shared, filled with a simple wine, but nourishing a seed in the men sitting at the table that would later provide an epiphany as they watch the blood flow as nails pierced Jesus hands and feet. A call to remember, to remember the story they had witnessed thought their lives, throughout their journey following Jesus. A story of their God who became man to be broken and pierced for them. A story to bring them to cheer, to courage, to hope, to life.

Let us remember, as we too remember through the bread and the juice. May we too take this moment to be reminded of the God who has not forgotten us, the God who is our strength, the God who is our courage, the God who is our Cheer.

Tell Yourself Your Story.
[Lord’s Supper]

Music 3
Song/Lord’s Supper
Jesus Paid It All
CCLI Song # 22331
Elvina Mabel Hall | John Thomas Grape

Verse 1
I hear the Saviour say
Thy strength indeed is small
Child of weakness watch and pray
Find in Me thine all in all

Chorus
Jesus paid it all
All to Him I owe
Sin had left a crimson stain
He washed it white as snow

Verse 2
Lord now indeed I find
Thy power and Thine alone
Can change the leper’s spots
And melt the heart of stone

Chorus
Jesus paid it all
All to Him I owe
Sin had left a crimson stain
He washed it white as snow

Verse 4
And when before the throne
I stand in Him complete
Jesus died my soul to save
My lips shall still repeat

Chorus
Jesus paid it all
All to Him I owe
Sin had left a crimson stain
He washed it white as snow
(REPEAT)

Sin had left a crimson stain
He washed it white as snow

Community

  • Next Sunday – Kyle Tubbs
  • Dirty Hands Day
  • Hin·nê·nî – Bible Studies resume in October (survey before to see options and preferences)
  • Uncomfortable beginning September 19 – solicit uncomfortable passages/stories
  • Covid Update

Benediction

After 2 years in a prison cell, a cell that allowed him to share his story with governors, Kings, and Queens, it was time for Paul to go. Time to leave his homeland, his people, his past, and head to Rome.

It was time for Paul to reach an unreachable audience. There would be more time of confinement, additional moments of isolation and rejection. In all of it, this would also be the time for more living proof of the existence and faithfulness of God.

It was time to continue to strengthen his own faith as he continued to remembered how God’s power and dependability even when Paul was weak and hopeless.

In the same way it is time for us to go.

Time to go into the marketplace, to the city square, among God’s dependents and his children. It is time.

Time to go looking back to see God’s faithfulness.

Looking ahead to see God’s presence.

It is time to go and time to grow.

Sure, sometimes we will eat soggy bread.

Sometimes our grain will be thrown overboard.

But, nevertheless, it is time.

Closing Peace
May our story of God’s grace, peace, joy, love, and hope go with you.

And also with you.

Let’s take our story into the marketplace and the public square. Let’s take our story not as enemies of others, but as fellow created humans to which we have the opportunity to be light shining in the darkness. Let us go telling our stories through our life actions and words. Let’s go held by the embrace of grace, the comfort of peace, the grounding of joy, the proof of love, and confidence of hope. Let’s go!

Order, Words, & Voices 08.08.21

Order

Sunday, August 8, 2021

Opening Audio (10:15am)

#1 ONE Video #1 (4:16)

  • Call to Worship 

I Choose to Worship  (Rend Collective)

Live/OnLine

  • Prayer
  • Music

Wherever He Leads I’ll Go (B. B. McKinney)

  • Story  (No Slides except title)
  • Music

You’re Worthy Of My Praise (David Ruis)

Message ‘Appointed to Tell’  

  • Music

All The Way My Savior Leads Me (Fanny Jane Crosby | Robert Lowry)

#2 TWO Video Community (1:45)

  • Song – Tenderness (Bensound)

Community

Live

  • Benediction        
  • Sharing the Peace      

Closing Audio

Words & Voices

#1 ONE Video #1

Song – I Choose To Worship (Rend Collective)

Live/OnLine

  • Prayer

God, 

Today we thank you for the story you have given us.

A story that explains how you have guided and protected.

A story that describes the manner in which you use even our poor judgements to move us on our path.

A story that reveals your victory even in the darkness of evil.

A story that reminds us of your faithfulness.

A story that points our trust towards you.

God, may be see your story of our life when we look back.

May we trust you as the author of our story even when we cannot see.

May we know you hold our story even before it takes place.

God, thank you for the life, thank you for the story, you give to us all.

Amen.

Music 1

Wherever He Leads I’ll Go (after prayer) (8 slides)

CCLI Song # 25194

B. B. McKinney

Verse 1

Take up thy cross and follow Me
I heard my Master say
I gave My life to ransom thee
Surrender your all today

Chorus

Wherever He leads I’ll go
Wherever He leads I’ll go
I’ll follow my Christ who loves me so
Wherever He leads I’ll go

Verse 2

He drew me closer to His side
I sought His will to know
And in that will I now abide
Wherever He leads I’ll go

Chorus

Wherever He leads I’ll go
Wherever He leads I’ll go
I’ll follow my Christ who loves me so
Wherever He leads I’ll go

Verse 3

It may be through the shadows dim
Or o’er the stormy sea
I take my cross and follow Him
Wherever He leadeth me

Chorus

Wherever He leads I’ll go
Wherever He leads I’ll go
I’ll follow my Christ who loves me so
Wherever He leads I’ll go

Verse 4

My heart my life my all I bring
To Christ who loves me so
He is my Master Lord and King
Wherever He leads I’ll go

Chorus

Wherever He leads I’ll go
Wherever He leads I’ll go
I’ll follow my Christ who loves me so
Wherever He leads I’ll go

Our Story

Paul continues to be held prisoner by governor Festus, who heard the accusations by the Tertullius and the defense by the apostle. Festus has been backed into a corner and clueless about what to do. The accusations are not really valid and Paul’s defense was very valid. He would love to rid himself of this ‘Paul’ problem but punishing Paul would violate his authority, releasing Paul would enrage the High Priest.

On top of all of that, Paul has now requested to be sent to Rome, he has requested that his case be heard before the emperor. You don’t want to send someone, or something, to the emperor that is petty and a waste of the powerful ruler’s time. It was never good to waste a powerful person’s time.

Festus asks a contemporary, King Agrippa, to help him figure out the exactly what the charges against Paul are. They need to be valid but also worthy of the Emporer’s time and attention.

King Agrippa wanted to hear Paul’s story from Paul himself before he made a recommendation to Festus.  Paul’s first words, when he began to speak before the King, were in the form of a question. “Why to you, and my fellow Jews, think that it is so outrageous that I believe God raises from the dead?”

The King surely thought this was a rhetorical question, which is probably why he did not answer.

Kristen Y: Or, he did not respond because he did not know the answer.

That is true.

Then Paul proceeded to introduce himself to Agrippa, especially focusing on his own passion and dedication in his role as a Pharisee. He told of his own faithfulness, a fact that could not be denied by the High Priest.

Next, Paul told of his story about his encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus, “I saw a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, shining around me and my companions. When we had all fallen to the ground, I heard a voice saying to me in the Hebrew language, ‘Why are you persecuting me?’ I asked, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ The Lord answered, ‘I am Jesus whom you are persecuting. Now, get up and stand on your feet; for I have appeared to you to appoint you to serve and testify to the things in which you have seen me and to those in which I will appear to you. I will rescue you from your people and from the Gentiles—to whom I am sending you to open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.’

That’s not all, then Paul said, “After that I was not disobedient,  I declared first to those in Damascus, then in Jerusalem and throughout the countryside of Judea, and also to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God and do deeds consistent with repentance. To this day I have said nothing but what the prophets and Moses said would take place: that the Messiah must suffer, and that, by being the first to rise from the dead, he would proclaim light both to our people and to the Gentiles.”

Then the governor proclaimed that Paul was out of his mind.

And Paul said that he was not out of his mind.

And the King asked if Paul was trying to convince him to become a Christian.

Kristen Y: And, finally the King told Festus that there was nothing he could charge Paul with, there was no crime that had been committed.

The King said to Festus, “This man is doing nothing to deserve death or imprisonment. He could have been set free if he had not appealed to the emperor.”

So Paul would soon set sail for an interesting trip to Rome.

Another opened door which God placed on Paul’s path.

Music 2

You’re Worthy Of My Praise (5 Slides)

CCLI Song # 487976

David Ruis

Verse 1

I will worship (I will worship)
With all of my heart (with all of my heart)
I will praise You (I will praise You)
With all of my strength (all my strength)

I will seek You (I will seek You)
All of my days (all of my days)
I will follow (I will follow)
All of Your ways (all Your ways)

Chorus

I will give You all my worship
I will give You all my praise
You alone I long to worship
You alone are worthy of my praise

Verse 2

I will bow down (I will bow down)
And hail You as King (and hail You as King)
I will serve You (I will serve You)
Give You everything (everything)

I will lift up (I will lift up)
My eyes to Your throne (my eyes to Your throne)
I will trust You (I will trust You)
Trust You alone (You alone)

Message ‘Appointed to Tell’

The past couple of weeks we have had two, very different and unique stories. The first is one that should outrage all of us. A prominent governor. I the United States had a 165 page document released that details investigated accusations actions of sexual harassment and abuse. He is already following the standard line of denial, slander, & justification. I am sure he will soon use the latest defense, one that is fairly new but pretty successful, that is to convince the American public that what he did is really not that bad. He will attempt to rewrite his story, while erasing the story of the abused. He will attempt to remain untouchable and clean. 

The other story has been about a U.S. gymnast who has been hearalded the Gymnast of all Time, and expectations on her were high for this olympic games. Leading up to the games the pressure mounted, the emotional and mental stress built up, and she realized that she had to take a step back. She had to step away from the applause and medals to, instead, be honest, to be real, to be vulnerable. For her, this was part of her story that she was not going to cover up or ignore. She refused to edit her story in order to keep her reputation and image of success.

Rewrite your story or Embrace your story. Attempt to Erase the negative or  Accept that is just another essential element of your story. To be vulnerable.

Brene Brown, author of several books including ‘The Gifts of Imperfection’, and also known for her top 10 TED talk ‘The Power of Vulnerability,’  speaking about herself says, 

“My inability to lean into the discomfort of vulnerability limited the fullness of those important experiences that are wrought with uncertainty: Love, belonging, trust, joy, and creativity to name a few. Learning how to be vulnerable has been a street fight for me, but it’s been worth it…When you shut down vulnerability, you shut down opportunity…”

Brene Brown

Schawbel, Dan. “Brene Brown: How Vulnerability Can Make Our Lives Better.” Forbes, April 21, 2013, https://www.forbes.com › danschawbel › 2013/04/21. 

Perfectionism is the enemy of Vulnerability, the two fight against each other. When Perfectionism wins we carry the baggage of having to be perfect, or at least to become master of editing our imperfections out of our story. When Vulnerabily wins, our story becomes our proof, we can see what God has done, how he has forgiven, the faithfulness of his trustworthiness, and his constant love. 

This was what Paul recognized as he sat the in prison cell the week between God’s instruction to ‘Cheer Up,’ and his moment before the then governor Felix when Paul himself proclaimed, ‘I Cheerfully give my defense.” Paul recognized as he looked back at God through out his story he recognized that it wasn’t about his successes, it was all about God’s hand all along the way.

King Saul. I have an odd affinity for the story of King Saul. Annointed King for a people who had never been King, a people who’s God did not want them to have a King. He was a man who fit the ideal of the Israelites for the King, good looking, tall and great stature, everything that would look good on a coin. He was also a very humble man. When it came time for him to be presented to the people, he was found hiding. Once in office he didn’t even quit his day job, demand fancy housing, or even an office with a desk. On top of this God, which is why this is such an interesting story, God, who chose this perfect person, also gave him the mind, emotions, skills, everything he needed to be a great and awesome first King. In the beginning he carried his own willingness to be vulnerable with him, soon, however, he succumbed to the temptation of perfection, he watched the polls and wanted the people to love and worship him. Soon, instead of being willing to be vulnerable before the people and God, he became paranoid, vengeful, and had a multitude of story edits to keep himself ‘perfect and without flaw.”

So, as Paul now stands before the new governor, Festus, along with King Agrippa and the Queen Bernice, he stands as a man telling his story in a surprisingly vulnerable way – because vulnerability was at the very core of his story.

Possibly because he knows that Agrippa and Bernice have Jewish blood in them, or he just knew that his story, in this moment, had to be real in order to be heard, , he vulnerably said, 

 “So I thought that I had to act in strong opposition to the followers of Jesus of Nazareth. In Jerusalem; not only did I lock up many of the saints in prisons, by the power given to me by the chief priests, but I also voted for them to be put to death. And as I punished them, often in all the synagogues, I tried to force them to blaspheme; and since I was extremely enraged at them, I kept pursuing them even to foreign cities.

Acts 26:9-11

Paul, as a part of his story, a part that he did not edit out, detailed his own mistakes and horrible failures. 

  1. He admits that he allowed his position and power to take over. This was unheard of for a person of his reputation and intellect,  nevertheless, it was true.
  2. He shamefully admits that he permitted himself to become possessed with this agenda of wiping out and punishing Christians. He allowed himself to be overtaken by this obsession, he failed to stop and permit truth to rule.

And then, his story continues, detailing his obsession that led him to travel to Damascus in order to weed out the followers of Jesus. It was on that road that Paul met Jesus. It was on that road he returned to the vulnerability of a seeker of truth. This vulnerability was not a choice, it was a gift given to him by God. It was a course correction for his story.

‘I am Jesus whom you are persecuting.” Jesus said to Paul. “Get up and stand on your feet; for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to appoint you to serve and testify to the things in which you have seen me and to  those in which I will appear to you. I will rescue you from your people and from the Gentiles—to whom I am sending you to open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.’

Acts 26:15b-18 (NRSV)

Notice Paul was not asked to follow Jesus, he was not led to say a certain prayer, instead, Paul was given his purpose. He was appointed to tell his story. The story of his life in all the vulnerable glory. Admitting to his failures so he could grow from them, move on because of them.

Next we hear the place of Jesus in the Story of Paul. To rescue Paul from his own people as well as the gentiles – rejection will be a part of his story as he tells his story, vulnerability will be a constant element of his story.  

His story will be his avenue of sharing light to those still in the darkness.  His unedited, un-enhanced, unperfected, his will be the un-story. A story of truth, even when the truth is messy. A story of glory even when the glory is uncomfortable. A story of sacrifice of pride, self promotion, unholy agendas, a story of comfort. A story that demands vulnerability.

In the history of Christianity, especially evangelistic Christianity, we hold firmly to the internal and external act of repentance. For some, this turns into an obsession – leading us, in our relationships with others, to forget the greatest commandment to love. That firm grip often becomes our primary focus, which leads us to become judgemental, condemning, and hateful – subtly, that leads us to reject others that do not meet our standard of perfection. A false standard that even we often have problems meeting. It is time in Christianity that we meet Jesus on our road to Damascus. It is our moment to realize that repentance, that turning to God, is actually much deeper than the mere decision to quit doing or even thinking something.  Repentance is about Vulnerability, turning from our thoughts of perfection, or a perfect presentation. Vulnerabily allows to see Jesus honestly, it leads us to move our focus from editing and rewriting our story to letting Jesus come into our story, inviting Jesus to become the core of our story. 

Paul’s story involves blindness, physical blindness. It was the only way he could then see. It was the only way he could cease deepening on what he could see. His vulnerability in that moment allowed him to hear Jesus’ calling on Paul  – that he was ‘Appointed to tell His story.’

What injection of blindness does your story need for you to, once again, see Jesus?

Let’s Pray

Music 3

All The Way My Saviour Leads Me (after Message) (7 Slides)

CCLI Song # 85093

Fanny Jane Crosby | Robert Lowry

Verse 1

All the way my Savior leads me
What have I to ask beside
Can I doubt His tender mercy
Who through life has been my Guide

Heav’nly peace divinest comfort
Here by faith in Him to dwell

For I know whate’er befall me
Jesus doeth all things well
For I know whate’er befall me
Jesus doeth all things well

Verse 2 

All the way my Savior leads me
O the fullness of His love
Perfect rest to me is promised
In my Father’s house above


When my spirit clothed immortal
Wings its flight to realms of day


This my song through endless ages
Jesus led me all the way
This my song through endless ages
Jesus led me all the way 

Chorus

Wherever You lead I’ll go
Wherever You lead I’ll go
I’ll follow you Christ who love me so
Wherever You lead I’ll go

#2 TWO Video Community

Song – Tenderness (Bensound)

Community 

Live & Online

Benediction

It was time again for the apostle Paul to go.

It is time again for us to go.

Time to go to Rome, time to go to the emperor, time to tell his tale, time to tell of the encounter on his path.

Time for us to go, time for us to go on our path, to look for those moments, those times of seeing God.

As always, Paul will go alone but he will not be separated, he will travel away but he will never be isolated.

We may also leave yet stay together, we will leave this place but not this people.

We leave with Peace.

We leave with Joy.

We take different paths.

We always go together.

It is time to go.

Closing Peace

May the grace, peace, joy, love, and hope of the Father go with you.

And also with you.

Let’s go into the marketplace among all the other loved descendants of God. Let’s go as loved children of God in the midst of the public square. 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 held by the embrace of grace, the comfort of peace, the grounding of joy, the proof of love, and confidence of hope. Let’s go!

Closing Audio

Order, Words, & Voices 08.01.21

Order

Sunday, August 1, 2021

Opening Audio (10:15am)

Spotify – Calm Jazz

#1 ONE Video #1 (4:15)

  • Call to Worship 

It’s Time To Worship (Chris McClarney | Mitch Wong | Jessie Early)

Live/OnLine

  • Prayer Rick
  • Music Abbie

He Walks With Me Daniel Towner | John Henry Sammis

  • Story  (No Slides except title) Peyton & Cricklins
  • Music

He Lives Alfred Henry Ackley

  • Message ‘Paths and Protocols’   Rick
  • Music

Thy Word Michael W Smith | Amy Grant

#2 TWO Video Community (1:49)

  • Song – Tenderness (Bensound)

Community:

Live

  • Benediction         Peyton & Cricklins
  • Sharing the Peace       Rick

Closing Audio

Spotify Calm Jazz

Voices & Words

#1 ONE Video #1

Song – It’s Time To Worship (Chris McClarney | Mitch Wong | Jessie Early)

Live/OnLine

  • Prayer

God, 

We were created by you for your purposes.

Remind us of that truth as we slip back into our own selfish purposes.

As we interpret the events of life in regard to ourselves instead of to you.

Lord, confront us when we interpret you in light of our agenda and plans. 

Confront us when we interject our selfishness into your grace.

May we cheerfully walk in your joy as we lay aside self and instead defer to your path for us.

God, may you remind us of the compassion, mercy, and love, you breathed into us at our creation.

Amen.

Music

When We Walk With The Lord (Trust And Obey)

CCLI Song # 22094

Daniel Brink Towner | John Henry Sammis

When we walk with the Lord
In the light of His Word
What a glory He sheds on our way
While we do His good will
He abides with us still
And with all who will trust and obey

Trust and obey
For there’s no other way
To be happy in Jesus
But to trust and obey

Not a shadow can rise
Not a cloud in the skies
But His smile quickly drives it away
Not a doubt nor a fear
Not a sigh nor a tear
Can abide while we trust and obey

Trust and obey
For there’s no other way
To be happy in Jesus
But to trust and obey

Then in fellowship sweet
We will sit at His feet
Or we’ll walk by His side in the way
What He says we will do
Where He sends we will go
Never fear only trust and obey

Trust and obey
For there’s no other way
To be happy in Jesus
But to trust and obey

Our Story

The apostle Paul was rescued from a small group of hostile Jews, Paul considered all Jews to be his people. A small extremist group of Jews was resolute on stopping Paul from continuing on God’s path from telling his story. His rescue placed him in a jail cell where God told him to ‘Cheer Up.’ 

I think if I was sitting in a jail cell after being attacked by my own people and then someone told me to ‘Cheer Up’ I would be tempted to slap them.

But this was God, God can say that.

True.

In fact, if God says ‘Cheer Up’ there must be something more to those simple words than we think.

It almost seems like God is telling Paul to pretend, to do something that is not true. Paul had to be depressed and despondent, how could he then pretend to be cheerful?

Oddly, only 7 days after God gave the ‘Be Cheerful’ talk, Paul says that he actually is cheerful.

Paul said this after he had heard the accusations the lawyer Tertullus presented to the governor Felix. This was on behalf of the High Priest and a small group of Jewish leaders, Tertullus accused Paul of trying to stir up a rebellion, of being part of an illegal religious sect, and of defiling the temple.

It just takes a small group to make false accusations for unfounded conspiracies to become viral, to defame the Holy, and to destroy something good for others. Those small groups are on the fringes of all groups, including religious groups, including Christians.

Yes, so while many Jews were interested in what Paul was saying and teaching, this small group sought to keep everyone from the choice of listening to Paul. The objections were not from all Jews but an extreme fringe element of Jews that had forgotten the basic elements of their faith – like, do not murder and to love. Of course, the real danger with these extreme groups, is when others listen to them without evaluation or investigation. Like the crowds ultimate response to Jesus during Holy Week.

Paul’s journey was not to end in Jerusalem, or Caesarea. Paul’s path continued on to Rome. After all, his mission was to speak to the Gentiles. Rome was the perfect place for such a mission.

It kind of all began while Paul was jailed in Ceasarea, it was there that he had his first official speaking opportunity before a Roman official, the brutal Gentile, former slave, and determined Antisemite governor named Felix.

Paul opened with the words, “I cheerfully make my defense.”

That was a great way to start. I bet that got the attention of everyone in the room.

Then Paul began his defense. “You can quickly discover that it was no more than twelve days ago that I arrived in Jerusalem to worship at the Temple, and you will discover that I have never incited a riot in any synagogue or on the streets of any city; and my accusers certainly cannot prove the things they say I did.

Pretty bold so far.

He not only sounds Cheery, Courageous, and Comfortable, he sounds very Confident.

The he added, “But one thing I do confess is that I believe in the way of salvation, which they refer to as a sect; I follow that system of serving the God of our ancestors; I firmly believe in the Jewish law and everything written in the books of prophecy; and I believe, just as these men do, that there will be a resurrection of both the righteous and ungodly.”

That may have been a little contentious.

I’m sure, if there were any Sadducees in the group, they had sour looks on their faces.

Paul closed with these words, “I try with all my strength to always maintain a clear conscience before God and man. I returned to Jerusalem with money to aid the Jews during the famine and to offer a sacrifice to God. I had gone through the required process of purification. Basically, their complaint against me is that I believe that the dead will rise again!’”

I would have loved to be in that room. What could they do with Paul’s defense. That was Paul’s true story, as he said, they couldn’t disprove what he was saying.

Paul definitely demonstrates what can happen in us even in the worst or times.

Paul was there to tell his story, to tell truth, and he did, and he would continue to tell it beyond Caesarea.

Music

He Lives

CCLI Song # 17597

Alfred Henry Ackley

I serve a risen Savior
He’s in the world today
I know that He is living
Whatever men may say
I see His hand of mercy
I hear His voice of cheer
And just the time I need Him
He’s always near

He lives He lives
Christ Jesus lives today
He walks with me and talks with me
Along life’s narrow way
He lives He lives
Salvation to impart
You ask me how I know He lives
He lives within my heart

In all the world around me
I see His loving care
And though my heart grows weary
I never will despair
I know that He is leading
Through all the stormy blast
The day of His appearing
Will come at last

He lives He lives
Christ Jesus lives today
He walks with me and talks with me
Along life’s narrow way
He lives He lives
Salvation to impart
You ask me how I know He lives
He lives within my heart

Rejoice rejoice O Christian
Lift up your voice and sing
Eternal hallelujahs
To Jesus Christ the King
The Hope of all who seek Him
The Help of all who find
None other is so loving
So good and kind

He lives He lives
Christ Jesus lives today
He walks with me and talks with me
Along life’s narrow way
He lives He lives
Salvation to impart
You ask me how I know He lives
He lives within my heart

Message ‘Paths and Protocols’

Let’s begin this morning with a very potent greek word. This word will be our starting word this morning as as we begin our look at the apostle Paul while he is at a low point. A low point marked by disappointment, disillusionment, frustration, confusion, isolation and undoubtedly real and intense human fear. The reality is, it is a time of real and imminent danger. I think it is a New Testament moment that has very obvious Old Testament equivalent moment. Here we have the apostle Paul in a prison, in the Old Testament we have the prophet Elijah huddled in the back of a cave. It is a moment where both men have been faithful, yet now sat rejected, both had brazenly and publicly followed their God, yet now both were being savagely hunted down by hostile haters. In this moment, both men heard from God. 

To Elijah God asked, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”(I Kings 19:9)

But, to Paul, God said, “Cheer Up, Paul.” (Acts 23:11)

Can you imagine, sitting in prison after being threatened by a small group of your own people who vowed to kill you? Can you imagine chained because a small group of the leaders of the religion you faithfully followed since your birth now affirmed the vigilantes seeking your death? Can you imagine the response from God, in your moment of crisis, saying to you, “Cheer Up!”?

Θάρσει

Pronounced in English – Thar – Say

Say it with me – THAR – SAY, one more time.

Now, never say it again!

Not Human Word. Why? Because it is not a human word, the very saying of the word is a summoning up of power. Not something evil like the forbidden word in Harry Potter, but a word that strengthens, a word that encourages, a word that changes our inward and outward being, a word that is not only used as a verb but is, in its very letters, a verb, an action. On only 4 occasions in the New Testament do we see this word or it variant. Each time it is an imperative that calls for a human action which is only possible in the presence of a Holy Empowerment.

The use of this God Word carries with it a meaning of Cheer Up, Be Courageous, Be at Comfort. However, it is not just a group of letters that are voiced but it comes with action and an emboldenment. It is said, only to those most desperate, and those who are prepared to receive it and throughout whatever else follows.

God says to an imprisoned, rejected, endangered, and despondent man –

“Cheer Up, Be Courageous, Be Comforted! You will have to tell your story/My story in Rome, you are not finished!” (Acts 23:11)

Not only is it a word that only God can say, it is also a word that can only be said when humans can say nothing of consequence or rescue. Times of a paralyzed man who only had the physical power of friends who had no words – to him Jesus said ‘Take Heart’ (Matthew 9:2). Or when the woman, who had been suffering a 12 year continuous period, pushed her way through a crowd who knew only to silently avoid her, to her Jesus said “Be Comforted” (Matthew 9:22). To Bartimeus, Jesus said through his disciples,  “Be Brave,” (Mark 10:49), and to his disciples who were sure they were seeing a ghost, Jesus said, “Take Courage” (Matthew 14:27).

About a week later, Paul was brought into the presence of the governor Felix. Also there was the Jewish High Priest who was named Ananias, a small group of other Jewish leaders, and their attorney, a guy named Tertullus who began to present the accusations against Paul. 

  1. Paul had created an uprising among the Jews, which was actually an uprising against the Roman government and even against Felix.
  1. Paul was a leader of the Nazarenes, who were a religious group that operated without government permission – therefore this was a dangerous group who held ambitions to rebel and overturn the Roman government and therefore were out to take down Felix.
  2. Paul had defiled the Holy Temple, which would destroy the delicate balance between the Jews and Rome, and therefore posed a threat to Felix.

Throughout all that Tertullus said, and through all the affirmations from the small group of Jews that supported the accusations, Paul sat silently and respectfully. He followed protocol of waiting his turn and until he was summoned by Felix, the governor, to speak. This was part of Paul’s path at this moment, his path had collided with a very different path, now, he was not in control, not he was not on his territory, now his path had placed him inside the realm of the oppressor which was currently filled with those wanted Paul to be stopped on his path.

Now, as Felix motioned to Paul, it was Paul’s turn to speak. 

Remember, the last engagement we had see involving Paul was the word he had received from God – Θάρσει [Thar – Say], a verb that only God could truly and effectively say.  Now, Paul begins with an adverb, εὐθύμως [You – Thoo – Mose].

“I cheerfully, make my defense” (Acts 24:10).

Is that how it works? God says “Cheer Up” and now Paul, fearfully claims to be courageous? Is this a ‘Say it, be It’ motivational ploy? Probably not. Paul has had a week to sit on God’s instruction to “Cheer Up.” He has had almost a full seven days to consider what his courage stands on, what his peace is grounded in, and what his comfort is settled by. He has possibly even had some moments, possibly brief, where he has actually felt cheery, peaceful, and comfortable. He has probably also had many moments when he was none of those things. But, in the time provided him on his path, the time that he has been able to sit silently, the time he has had moments to ponder – he has come to the conclusion that his cheer, his peace, his courage, his comfort, has nothing to do with humans who have no power over God’s imperative Θάρσει [Thar – Say]. So he has chosen εὐθύμως [You – Thoo – Mose]. In this he responds to these accusations which he has just heard for the first time.

  1. “I did not stir up a rebellion, and it cannot be proven by any of these making this accusation.”
  1. “Yes, I am a follower of the way, the group you know called Christians. However, this is not a new sect, or even an unsanctioned religion. It is a continuation of the same faith as my fellow Jews, that are in this room, also practice. It is the path of this faith I have practiced since birth. It is the fulfillment of the promise to Abraham, it is the pursuit of Moses, it is our deliverance.”
  1. “In no way did I defile the temple, in fact, I was there only after having gone through the actions of purification in order that I would not, indeed, defile that Holy Place.”
  1. “The only reason I am here, the only offense these men have against me, is that I believe in the resurrection, which is fully congruent with Jewish belief.”

Paul’s unique path had prepared him for this moment, it had prepared him for these accusations, it had prepared him for his own cheerful defense. 

“God, set me apart before I was born and called me through his grace. Of my earlier life in Judaism. I was violently persecuting the church of God and was trying to destroy it. I advanced in Judaism beyond many among my people of the same age, for I was far more zealous for the traditions of my ancestors. But, God was pleased to reveal his Son to me, so that I might proclaim him among the Gentiles.” (Galatians 1:13-16).

Is it possible that the time Paul spent between God saying “Cheer Up” and Paul saying “I cheerfully make my defense” was spent pondering his own path. Thinking through his entire life time line. A time spent seeing how everything in life had prepared and brought him to the point. Being born in Tarsus, being a Roman citizen, brought up as a greek speaking Jew, an unyielding passion for his Jewish faith and the promises of a redeemer, a trip to Damascus, a moment in Antioch, and so much more. Is it possible that Paul’s week between ‘Be Cheerful’ and ‘I Am Cheerful,’ involved a realization that, instead of regret, his path had prepared him for all that God needed in order to prepare him for the path.  Is is possible that Paul, in recognizing God’s presence throughout his path, good and bad, led Paul to a trust, a peace, a courage, a comfort, that was impossible before. 

Is it possible that our path has done the same? Is it possible that we can look back in order to confidently look forward?

Let’s Pray

Music

Thy Word

CCLI Song # 14301

Amy Grant | Michael W. Smith

Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet
And a light unto my path
Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet
And a light unto my path

When I feel afraid
And I think I’ve lost my way
Still You’re there right beside me
Nothing will I fear
As long as You are near
Please be near me to the end

Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet
And a light unto my path
Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet
And a light unto my path

I will not forget
Your love for me and yet
My heart forever is wandering
Jesus be my guide
And hold me to Your side
I will love You to the end

Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet
And a light unto my path
Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet
And a light unto my path

#2 TWO Video Community

Song – Tenderness (Bensound)

Community      

Live & Online

Benediction

So it is time for us to go out, to go amongst the other descendants of God.

To join with the beloved of God, those He created, those He calls to His purpose..

To walk with God’s descendants as well as with his children.

It is time for us to look back at our path and recognize that God can be trusted with our path ahead.

It is time that we go out with God’s compassion.

It is time that we go out with God’s mercy.

It is time that we go out with Joy.

It is time that we go out with Peace.

t is time that we go out with Love.

Closing Peace

May the grace, peace, joy, love, and hope 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!

Closing Audio

Spotify Calm Jazz

Order, Words, & Voices 07.25.21

 Order

Sunday, July 25, 2021

#1 ONE Video #1 (4:47)

  • Call to Worship

Made A Way (Jon Reddick)

Live/OnLine

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

    Standing On The Promises    Russell Kelso Carter
    I Will Sing Of My Redeemer    James McGranahan | Philip Paul Bliss
    Great Is Thy Faithfulness        Thomas Obediah Chisholm | William
                        Marion Runyan

  • Story  (No Slides)            McPhersons & Musgroves
  • Message    ‘The Problem with The People’          Rick (slides)
  • Music

    I Will Sing Of My Redeemer    James McGranahan | Philip Paul Bliss

#2 TWO Video Community (1:29)

  • Song – Tenderness (Bensound)

    Community
Prayer Night (Homeless)
        Next Sunday – Paths and Protocols
        Uncomfortable beginning 09.19.21

Live

  • Benediction (inperson/online)  McPhersons & Musgroves (Spotlight) (no slides)
  • Sharing the Peace           Rick

# 3 Three Audio (5:12)
Song – Song – Love Changes Everything (Jake Espy | Church of the City)

Voices & Words

Call To Worship
“Pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart. Have nothing to do with stupid and senseless controversies; you know that they breed quarrels. And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kindly to everyone, an apt teacher, patient, correcting opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant that they will repent and come to know the truth.”  Apostle Paul (II Timothy 2:22-25)

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” Martin Luther King Jr.

“For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” Jesus (Matthew 6:21)

Prayer 

God,
We are  thankful that we can enjoy the tender relationship with you as Father.
We are grateful that you are the almighty God who does the impossible through and for your children.
We are astounded that you are continually tender and close, while still being powerful and impacting history.
May we hang onto your full nature and never lose sight of all that you are.
May we continually seek to know what it is to be your child embraced in your love.
Amen.

Music

Standing On The Promises

Standing on the promises of Christ my King
Through eternal ages let His praises ring
Glory in the highest I will shout and sing
Standing on the promises of God

Standing standing
Standing on the promises of God my Savior
Standing standing
I’m standing on the promises of God

Standing on the promises that cannot fail
When the howling storms of doubt and fear assail
By the living Word of God I shall prevail
Standing on the promises of God

Standing standing
Standing on the promises of God my Savior
Standing standing
I’m standing on the promises of God

Standing on the promises I now can see
Perfect present cleansing in the blood for me
Standing in the liberty where Christ makes free
Standing on the promises of God

Standing standing
Standing on the promises of God my Savior
Standing standing
I’m standing on the promises of God

Standing on the promises of Christ the Lord
Bound to Him eternally by love’s strong cord
Overcoming daily with the Spirit’s Sword
Standing on the promises of God

Standing standing
Standing on the promises of God my Savior
Standing standing
I’m standing on the promises of God

Standing on the promises I cannot fall
List’ning ev’ry moment to the Spirit’s call
Resting in my Savior as my All in All
Standing on the promises of God

Standing standing
Standing on the promises of God my Savior
Standing standing
I’m standing on the promises of God

CCLI Song # 31803
Russell Kelso Carter

I Will Sing Of My Redeemer

I will sing of my Redeemer
And His wondrous love to me
On the cruel cross He suffered
From the curse to set me free

Sing O sing of my Redeemer
With His blood He purchased me
On the cross He sealed my pardon
Paid the debt and made me free

I will tell the wondrous story
How my lost estate to save
In His boundless love and mercy
He the ransom freely gave

Sing O sing of my Redeemer
With His blood He purchased me
On the cross He sealed my pardon
Paid the debt and made me free

I will sing of my Redeemer
And His heav’nly love for me
He from death to life
Hath brought me
Son of God with Him to be

Sing O sing of my Redeemer
With His blood He purchased me
On the cross He sealed my pardon
Paid the debt and made me free

CCLI Song # 69260
James McGranahan | Philip Paul Bliss

Great Is Thy Faithfulness

Great is Thy faithfulness
Great is Thy faithfulness
Morning by morning
New mercies I see
All I have needed
Thy hand hath provided
Great is Thy faithfulness
Lord unto me

Great is Thy faithfulness
O God my Father
There is no shadow
Of turning with Thee
Thou changest not
Thy compassions they fail not
As Thou hast been
Thou forever wilt be

Great is Thy faithfulness
Great is Thy faithfulness
Morning by morning
New mercies I see
All I have needed
Thy hand hath provided
Great is Thy faithfulness
Lord unto me

Summer and winter
And springtime and harvest
Sun moon and stars
In their courses above
Join with all nature
In manifold witness
To Thy great faithfulness
Mercy and love

Great is Thy faithfulness
Great is Thy faithfulness
Morning by morning
New mercies I see
All I have needed
Thy hand hath provided
Great is Thy faithfulness
Lord unto me

Pardon for sin
And a peace that endureth
Thy own dear presence
To cheer and to guide
Strength for today
And bright hope for tomorrow
Blessings all mine
With ten thousand beside

Great is Thy faithfulness
Great is Thy faithfulness
Morning by morning
New mercies I see
All I have needed
Thy hand hath provided
Great is Thy faithfulness
Lord unto me

CCLI Song # 18723
Thomas Obediah Chisholm | William Marion Runyan

That Story = My Story 

We have relocated to Colorado, we wanted to take a break from the humidity of Oklahoma, maybe we can avoid the tornados of the south, maybe even be able to sit out on the porch without being carried away by the mosquitoes.

So, that has all happened, we are enjoying the dry cooler days and nights, have not felt the need to find the nearest storm shelter, and, we haven’t yet found ourselves scratching away the bug bites. We are however, experiencing the smoke from the wild fires, a new addition to our allergies.

It is always something.

You do still share some things with us still here in Oklahoma. Outrageous conspiracy theories, accepted lies and dismissed deceit, absurd solutions, the loss of human decency, the destruction of God’s creation. It never seems to amaze me with all the new things that we are faced with almost every day.

We also share football, the upcoming joy of raking leaves, gaining an hour on November 7, plus pizza and pasta.

You are really reaching there Billy.

Truth is, there is nothing new. Everything has been before and everything will be again.

A wise man said, “nothing is worthwhile; everything is futile. For what does a man get for all his hard work? Generations come and go, but it makes no difference. The sun rises and sets and hurries around to rise again. The wind blows south and north, here and there, twisting back and forth, getting nowhere. The rivers run into the sea, but the sea is never full, and the water returns again to the rivers and flows again to the sea. Everything is unutterably weary and tiresome. No matter how much we see, we are never satisfied; no matter how much we hear, we are not content.”

“History merely repeats itself. Nothing is truly new; it has all been done or said before. What can you point to that is new? How do you know it didn’t exist long ages ago? We don’t remember what happened in those former times, and in the future generations no one will remember what we have done back here.”

The same wise man said, “I applied myself to search for understanding about everything in the universe. I discovered that the lot of man, which God has dealt to him, is not a happy one. It is all foolishness, chasing the wind. What is wrong cannot be righted; it is water over the dam; and there is no use thinking of what might have been.”

And, rather audaciously, he said “I am better educated than any of the kings before me in Jerusalem. I have greater wisdom and knowledge.” So I worked hard to be wise instead of foolish — but now I realize that even this was like chasing the wind. For the more my wisdom, the more my grief; to increase knowledge only increases distress.”

Well, that is depressing. I guess all the riots, the insurrection, the natural disasters, the wars, the hatred and hostility, the homeless and hopeless, the lies, and everything bad has always happened before. It might look different but it is not new.

I guess the manipulation of people, the gullibility of followers, the lack of seeking truth has also always been present.

Truth has become, and has actually always been the casualty of our refusal to think before we follow. Lies are easy to believe when everyone else is believing and proclaiming them. When the apostle Paul went through all the purification process to enter the Temple properly there were still some that started yelling that he was not purified.

They turned the place upside-down. They grabbed Paul and started yelling at the top of their lungs, “This is the man who is going all over the world telling lies against us and our religion and this place. He’s even brought Greeks in here and defiled this holy place.” This was not true.

Some of the crowds quickly believed because of what they had seen, others just as quickly believed because someone told them this lie as a fact. They didn’t check on it or even ask about it. They just joined the people that were upset.

It wasn’t long until it spread beyond the temple,  ‘the whole city was in an uproar, people running from everywhere to the Temple to get in on the action. They grabbed Paul, dragged him outside, and locked the Temple gates so he couldn’t get back in and gain sanctuary.’

It became a huge thing, as the people were joining in the mob even though they were not sure they knew why, just that someone had said that Paul was making an attack on their faith. He wasn’t but you couldn’t convince this worked up crowd, they weren’t looking for truth. Their mind was already made up.

So, Paul requested the opportunity to speak truth to the crowd, to the people. These were his people, from his faith. Paul hoped that they would at least listen to his story.

They were silent for a little while.

They listened for a moment.

Not for long though. It wasn’t long before someone shouted at Paul and soon everyone had rejoined the people rather than to listen for truth.

There is nothing new under the sun, however, truth is still truth and God still yearns that we would seek and search for truth. Maybe it is not all a waste of time, maybe truth is worth the struggle and the pain.

Message        ‘the Problem with the People’ 

Introduction: ‘This is the story of Jesus…..’

In the 1980s, sociologists and other experts set forth to discover the attraction to gangs and the glue that held them in the gang. Usually teen and young adults, and usually males, were increasingly becoming a part of the groups known for their violent behaviors and criminal activities. One of the common elements the research observed was a disenfranchisement and a disenchantment with the society and their lives. They were looking for a People, they were looking for the people that would become their People. The attraction was seldom the activities of these belonging groups but instead the very aspect of belonging, the reality of their people.  Even if they disagreed with this collection of individuals on their activities and lifestyles, the mere fact that they now belonged to the people, their people, was enough to overlook those disagreements and join in. They also found that, even though there were actually risks in leaving the group, the strongest element that kept them in the people was that this was now their people.

Even now, we are beginning to hear stories  of those who took part in the January 6 insurrection, those who had claimed groups such as Oathkeepers and Proud boys as their people, stories that mirror this same attachment and need of the gang members in the late 80s.

Dutch historian and author, Rutger Bregman, argues that mankind is not instinctively selfish, confrontational, ruthless or violent, but instead, we are born with the instinct fo find common ground, to share, to cooperate. His theory is that compassion is actually our guiding principle, but, that compassion has been tempered and reshaped by philosophies, economic systems, and even religious doctrines.

Let go of concerns about original sin and total depravity to think about that from a reality standpoint, a reality of your personal knowledge of humanity.

Bregman’schanges in our instinctual nature leaves us with the primary need for common ground, a people, a home. Often time this need leads us to a willingness to lay aside compassion and mercy in exchange for belonging and acceptance. We are willing to give ourself completely and unconditionally to a group, a people, for as little as one aspect of agreement – even though everything else may be a conflict.

As our readers said, ‘there is nothing new.’ We are in a time of unprecedented lies, falsehoods, conspiracies, and hate. A time that seems to be like no other time, yet a time that has been seen many times before. Times like Jesus experienced during holy week, and times like Paul faced when he, too, entered Jerusalem. Paul had done what the Jerusalem believers had suggested when he entered Jerusalem, he had taken up the Jewish practices that did not compromise his faith, however, lies, deceit, and conspiracies, are powerful tools of evil and soon the crowds, much like the crowds facing Jesus during holy week, were against Paul. The same happened when Paul was taken before the religious officials, the Sadducees and Pharisees.  Neither of these groups cared for Paul or what he was saying, however, when the Pharisees recognized that Paul shared their core glue, the thing that made them the people of resurrection, there was a split in the opposition group.

The danger of finding the people, our people, is that we are faced with required compromises. Things we have to walk away from, abandoning values that we hold dearly, voiding certain aspects of who we truly are and what we genuinely hold to as truth.

Here is a fact of humanity, we want some type of commonality, we want to belong, we want a people.

Conversely, we are also refreshed when we can see unity occur where commonality is absent. We are inspired when diverse people come together in unity, not because some have compromised to be a part but because all have decided that they can be a people, the people, even with disagreement, even with those things that usually divide.

Think of when President George Bush used a bullhorn to tell the essential 9/11 workers that the whole world was listening to them. Or the feeling we all had when we saw the East and West Germans dancing on the wall that had previously divided them, or on April 19, 1995 when people stood in line for hours to donate blood to the OKC bombing victims, or when homes were  opened following Katrina to the newly homeless, the images of US military freeing the hopeless from concentration camps in WWI, and the list goes on. Unless we have hardened ourselves, there is something in us that yearns to be a, the, people who are there for all people.

Andy Williams, Co-MD of Cohesive, says, “In the deeps of the COVID 19 pandemic, did society crumble into a dystopian, dog-eat-dog nightmare? No. The stories we’ll remember were of healthcare workers, inadequately protected, performing daily miracles caring for the sick. More tellingly, it was about the resurgence of community, with volunteers from all backgrounds risking themselves to look after the vulnerable. This was no localized phenomenon, either: it was universal. Those stories spread. And they brought unity, for a while.” 

However, following the events that bring us together, we are back to seeking, to settling, to compromising in order to be a part of the, people. Soon we are back to blindly rushing in to support our/the people. We don’t evaluate the validity, we fail to question or seek our relationship to the statements or conspiracies, we join in, we compromise, we stick with the people.

There is nothing new under the sun.

Twice, in this short amount of time, the people turned against Paul, in the same manner they had turned against Jesus. Not because of his actions or his words, but because of their people. Three times, we see that Paul identified with these people, he was purified as a Jew, he identified with the Jewish Pharisees as a believer in resurrection, – ultimately he identified as a Roman citizen. However, with each identification, he never compromised, he stayed true to his convictions, even those convictions that contradicted the core, the mentality, of his, of the, people. And, each time, the people, his people, rejected him.

There is nothing new under the sun.

This story of the apostle Paul is really a story of the people, peoples, and his people/peoples. Paul sought to appeal to all peoples, and to all the peoples of all peoples. The balancing act for Paul was to appeal while not compromising, and at the same time to appeal without disregarding the people they are – in other words he was not arrogant, dismissive, hostile, and he did attempt to persuade or sell them anything, he testified to his story of what he had seen. All of Paul’s people would come and go. Death, disagreement, politics, disagreements, rejection, conflicting agendas,  and the truth that sometimes it was just time to lovingly disengage or depart.

But, for Paul, his sole focus remained on truth, the God that is truth. It had been his passionate search before Jesus stopped him on the road to Damascus and it consistently remained his focus to his death.

Shortly after this, as Paul was imprisoned in Rome, chained wrist to wrist with a Roman guard, that he wrote to a young man named Timothy, a young rising Christian leader encouraging him to not be a part of a compromising crowd, to not be a part of a people who reacted to lies, deceit, and conspiracies instead of looking for the people of truth.
Paul and Timothy -“Do your best, Timothy, to  present yourself to God as one approved by him, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly explaining the word of truth. Avoid profane chatter which will lead people into more and more impiety. Have nothing to do with stupid and senseless controversies; you know that they breed quarrels. And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kindly to everyone, an apt teacher, patient, correcting opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant that they will repent and come to know the truth, and that they may escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will.”
2 Timothy 2:15-26

The questions that stand before us today is…

Are we more concerned about our ‘the’ people or truth?

Are we more concerned with agreement with our ‘the’ people or the truth?

In the end, here on earth, what will we be left with?
Truth or disappointment?

Love or regret?
Hope or hopelessness?

Let’s Pray

Music 2

I Will Sing Of My Redeemer

I will sing of My Redeemer
And Your wondrous love to me
On the cruel cross You suffered
From the curse to set me free

Sing O sing of My Redeemer
With Your blood You purchased me
On the cross You sealed my pardon
Paid the debt and made me free

I will sing of My Redeemer
And Your heav’nly love for me
You from death to life
Hath brought me
Son of God with You to be

Sing O sing of my Redeemer
With Your blood You purchased me
On the cross You sealed my pardon
Paid the debt and made me free

CCLI Song # 69260
James McGranahan | Philip Paul Bliss

Benediction

So it is time for us to go out, to leave this place.
It is time that we go out into reality. Our reality.
It is time that we momentarily leave this people and go out in the midst of other people.
We go out into lies and deceit.
Which is nothing new.
We go out into hatred and hostility.
Again, Nothing new.
We go out to survive by seeking truth.
We go our to experience life with our focus on truth.
In truth we find hope.
In truth we find peace.
In truth we find love.

Closing Peace

May the grace, peace, joy, love, hope 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 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!

%d bloggers like this: