I am officially returning to this appointment of the Holston Georgia Parish-- Flintstone, Fort Oglethorpe, and Simpson United Methodist Churches as of July 1.
Today, as an ordained elder, I was able to wear a stole for the first time. It was a blessing to be able to wear the "joy" stole that was given to me as a gift upon becoming a Provisional Elder three years ago by the Tuesday Ladies Bible Study at Burks UMC. This stole has the word "joy" on both sides in stained glass fabric and the celtic knot below. There is a stained glass cross on the nape of the neck in the middle of the stole. It was made by Holy Cloaks and has a tiny mustard seed tucked inside it. There is a card in the pocket that reads, "Your Holy Cloaks stole has a tiny mustard seed tucked inside. This seed is to remind us that our faith is like a mustard seed-- it begins very small and grows throughout our lives. "I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to a mountain: "Move from here to there" and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you." Matthew 17:20"
It has been a faith journey for me to be where I am today. At some point I will take a moment and write about my ordination day because that was a blessed experience.
Below is today's sermon, "Live By Faith" from 2 Corinthians 5:6-17. As I always remind folks, what you read hear is not everything that was shared in its exact form during the sermon. It is a decent representation, but it isn't word for word. You also miss out on any inflection or emphasis. You also miss out on my oral mistakes and goof ups. But those are part of the human aspect of the sermon, too.
When you read through the Scripture and the sermon, what speaks to you? What will you do with it?
Blessings on your journey,
“Live By Faith”
2 Corinthians 5:6-17 (CEB)
June 17, 2018 (4th Sunday after Pentecost/Father’s Day)
2 Corinthians 5:6-17 (CEB)
6 So we are always confident, because we know that while we are living in the body, we are away from our home with the Lord. 7 We live by faith and not by sight. 8 We are confident, and we would prefer to leave the body and to be at home with the Lord. 9 So our goal is to be acceptable to him, whether we are at home or away from home. 10 We all must appear before Christ in court so that each person can be paid back for the things that were done while in the body, whether they were good or bad.
11 So we try to persuade people, since we know what it means to fear the Lord. We are well known by God, and I hope that in your heart we are well known by you as well. 12 We aren’t trying to commend ourselves to you again. Instead, we are giving you an opportunity to be proud of us so that you could answer those who take pride in superficial appearance, and not in what is in the heart.
13 If we are crazy, it’s for God’s sake. If we are rational, it’s for your sake. 14 The love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: one died for the sake of all; therefore, all died. 15 He died for the sake of all so that those who are alive should live not for themselves but for the one who died for them and was raised.
16 So then, from this point on we won’t recognize people by human standards. Even though we used to know Christ by human standards, that isn’t how we know him now. 17 So then, if anyone is in Christ, that person is part of the new creation. The old things have gone away, and look, new things have arrived!
THIS IS THE WORD OF GOD FOR THE PEOPLE OF GOD.
THANKS BE TO GOD.
What does it mean to “live by faith” and “not by sight”? Do we really believe today’s Call to Worship that “In all times and in all places, God is with us.”? Are we ready to become disciples for Jesus? If we’re already disciples, are we ready to grow deeper? We responded today in our Call to Worship, “Lord, make us ready to serve you.” Did we mean it then? Do we mean it now?
What about when we don’t understand what God is saying or calling us to do? In those situations, are we able to “live by faith” rather than by what we know or can see on our own?
Twenty years ago I was in Guatemala, after my first mission trip to Costa Rica, 4 days after I had signed divorce papers. That first mission trip to Costa Rica was a whirlwind, yet a blessing. The trip at the end to Guatemala was an incredible “add- on”. In the market in Chichicastenango, I felt led to buy a stole for my pastor on Long Island. We also bought one for the pastor at Hixson UMC. I sensed a nudge to buy one for myself, but it made no sense to me at the time. I was fulfilling my call by teaching languages at Bryan College. I was freshly divorced. What was this nudge from the Holy Spirit telling me? I ignored it. It didn’t make sense to me. It makes sense now, in hindsight. But I couldn’t “see” what the Spirit was trying to tell me back then. Thankfully, God continued to nudge me, to guide me, to work in and through me. I didn’t then (and don’t now) always have the “live by faith” down 100% well, but God was (and is) faithful to me.
Let’s take a closer look at today’s passage to see what it says about living by faith.
What we find here in 2 Corinthians is a call to remember who we are, whose we are, and how we are to live. It is meant to encourage the disciple to live for Christ, and to live by the standards of Christ.
Verse 15 reminds us that we are to not live for ourselves, but to live for the one who died for us and was raised.
How do we live for Christ?
Verse 14 says that the love of Christ controls us. If we live in such a way that the love of Christ controls us, then we will live our lives not for ourselves, but for Christ.
Verses 16 and 17 tells us that the standard is no longer a human standard, but that we are a new creation and the standard is now based on that. We are to see one another through the eyes and lens of Christ. We are to love as Christ loves. We are to have compassion on ourselves and others as we seek to love God and love others as ourselves.
If we are living for Christ and living by faith, we are going to dig in deep to see what Christ says about how to live, right?
Jesus gave us many examples on how to live by faith, to go deeper, and to live our lives in such a way that the love of Christ controls us.
Jesus opened up space for others at the table, literally inviting people to join him for dinner so he could get to know them better. He met people where they were and took time to listen to them.
During our Bible study time at Annual Conference, Reverend Kim Goddard shared with us about following the Rabbi so close that we would be covered in his dust. She taught from Luke, giving examples of Jesus’ journey from Jericho to Jerusalem. Part of what she said was that if we are following Jesus, we are going to get dusty. And that our #1 agenda is to kick up dust together as we travel in obedience to God’s call. She reminded us that we need to be aware of the hurting around us and be intentional to spend time in relational evangelism. She noted that in the coal mines, everyone was covered in the same dust and they needed to rely on each other to help one another in the mines. The challenge she gave us was this: “What if we all went home and tried to be a Christian, covered in the same dust so that we don’t see the things that divide us, but rather we only see the dust that connects us?”
If we set about to live for Christ and to live by faith, then what WOULD that look like?
How would that change the way we interact with people in our community and beyond? Take a moment and silently name as many places of business as you can in the community. Now, of these places, how many do you visit?
[Mention gas stations (Mapco/Kangaroo), Dollar General, hair salons, Susan’s Diner, the Dinner Bell, Flintstone Ready Clinic, Pharmacy, etc.]
What about those people with whom we disagree? Can we live for Christ side by side with them? If we heed the words by Reverend Goddard, I think we can. If we focus more on the dust that covers us from following Christ rather than the things that divide us, then I think we can accomplish more together than apart.
On Monday morning of Annual Conference I learned that a dear lady had passed away from pancreatic cancer. She had just recently celebrated her 80th birthday. She was one of those persons who lived by faith, who was covered in the dust of Jesus, and who lived for Christ. She impacted many lives locally as she loved God and loved others. I had the privilege to get to know Frances Nevels and her husband Matt over the past several years. I was blessed to be part of her life celebration on Friday. I hope to gather as much dust as Frances gathered, always looking to Jesus, giving Jesus thanksgiving and honor for her life, and seeking to love God and others continually.
Janet Morley, in All Desires Known (London: SPCK, 1992), p. 9, wrote this:
Christ our teacher
Christ our teacher,
you reach into our lives
not through instruction, but story.
Open our hearts to be attentive:
that seeing we may perceive,
and hearing, we may understand,
and understanding, may act upon your word,
in your name, Amen.
(found in Resources for Preaching and Worship, Year B, page 196)
Where is the Holy Spirit nudging you, nudging me to pay attention these days?
May you and I pay attention to those nudgings.
May we live for Christ and be covered in the dust as we live by faith, following Christ.
May it be so.
|Picture in front of Flintstone UMC with the joy stole|