Reveal Sermon 2
January 14, 2018
This past New Year’s Eve, I decided to pass on a Miller family tradition. For years I’ve waited for the kids to become old enough. And finally, this year I decided they were ready for me to teach them how to have a good old fashion bottle rocket war. As a boy, I participated in a number of epic battles – the route of ’79 and the basement skirmish of ’82 in particular, come to mind. And I wanted Erin, Noah and Cole to have that experience. So, I went out and got some goggles – you could shoot your eye out you know. And I took some PVC pipe and fashioned into bottle rocket holders. That way we wouldn’t burn our arms. Even so, I was pretty aware that Robyn wouldn’t agree with what I was doing. So, I tried to hedge a little by getting her to agree to shoot off fireworks. I just didn’t tell her that we would be shooting them at each other.
When all was ready, I quietly motioned the kids outside and had them put on their safety glasses and gave them their bottle rocket launchers and explained to them what we were going to do. My youngest looked at me like I had three noses. So, I thought I would communicate with them in the most direct, clearest fashion that I could think of and I shot a bottle rocket off at his head. Which was enough to send him inside. It was when I nearly lit the bushes on fire, that I knew I had to explain it to Robyn. She gave me one of those looks and said – you are always doing stupid things like that. And she made me promise not to do it again. Which I intend to honor until I forget. Or New Year’s comes again. Whichever comes first.
In our family, Robyn is known as the parent that keeps the kids alive. Which I appreciate. I recognize that we both play an important role. I teach them what not to do. And Robyn ensures that they will live to see their high school graduation. That’s what happens when you are family. You take different traditions and different expectations and different opinions and different dreams and you mix them all together and you make it work. You don’t always agree. And you don’t always see eye to eye. You may think the others are crazy. But you honor the other and you hammer it out. That’s what it is to be a family.
I share that with you because today I want to talk about family. Not our biological family and not our legal family. But our church family. The gathering of disciples at FUMCWP. Especially I want you to think about where we’re going as a family. As you just heard in the video we are launching a new vision. For the past 12 years, we have been on the move to make a difference. And that vision has served our family well. It has inspired us to dig wells in Costa Rica and work with orphans in Naivasha, Kenya. It has prompted us to feed the hungry in Orlando and repair homes in Georgia. But now the time has come to move into a new era in our church’s history. As Jesus said, you don’t put new wine into old wineskins. Lest they burst. It’s time for a new vision.
So, take your Bible and turn with me to Paul’s letter to the Colossians, chapter 3. We will be reading verses 12 – 17. Last week we began our new series by looking at our church’s mission. And we said that the purpose of First United Methodist Church is to make disciples of Jesus Christ – which we described as life-long learners of all that God says and does. In fact, we said that anything else – whether it be a service, a class, a trip or a sale, as fine as they are – is not the mission or ultimate purpose of the church. They may help us accomplish our mission. But they are not the mission. Making disciples is our mission. It’s our “why”.
This morning we are going to start looking at the “how”. I understand vision to be a picture of what we will be as we fulfill our mission. It’s that image of who we want to become as we make disciples. As you heard, there are four movements. Today we begin with vibrant family. With that in mind, let’s read Colossians 3:12-17.
12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. 15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. 16 Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. 17 And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
So, it turns out, I have been living in the dark ages. I’m usually pretty good about keeping up with recent trends. But I clearly missed this one. Now I know. Matching Christmas pajamas are a must (pic 01)! Evidently, coordinating holiday sleepwear has become the new ugly sweater. According to a recent article in the Washington Post, sales of matching holiday pajamas have grown every year since 2013. Target offered 22 different pajama patterns this past Christmas – some with options for your dog and some with options for your doll. The big sellers? Patterns depicting skiing polar bears and Santa riding a unicorn. The trend has gotten so popular celebrities are joining in (pic 03). (www.washingtonpost.com/business/economy/move-over-ugly-christmas-sweaters-famjams-are-here/2017/11/17). There are even rumors that one of the pastors on staff buys matching Christmas pajamas for his family each year. I’m not telling you who. But I am told his wife and daughters LOVE it! Who knew? According to Debbie Horton, senior sleepwear buyer for Walmart. “People aren’t just wearing matching pajamas to bed anymore. They’re actually putting them on to go out and have fun.” No offense, but there is no way I am showing up in public looking like this (pic 04).
So, where am I going with this? As disciples, we have matching family outfits. Thankfully they are not fleeced onesies. Don’t come to church in your pajamas. They are just as noticeable. 12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, CLOTHE yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Paul says as followers and disciples of Jesus, we are to wear five different items. Compassion means “a heart of pity.” It’s a tender caring for each other that overflows into how we treat each other in private and in public. Kindness includes not only saying nice things but doing nice things. It is going above and beyond the call of duty. Humility recognizes that we don’t always have to be right and the need to be center. It helps us recognizes that each has needs and dreams that are equally valid. Gentleness is the opposite of road rage. It is the opposite of expressing irritation or a tone of being the inconvenience. Patience in the Greek conveys the idea of being patient in unpleasant circumstances.
Notice, that none of these things are feelings. Rather, Paul says, they are intentional choices. We don’t always feel humble. But we can choose to be humble, to recognize that others have needs and dreams. We don’t always feel patient – particularly in unpleasant circumstances. But we can choose to be patient. Paul says it something you choose to put on. You literally wear compassion and kindness like you would a jacket or a coat. You literally put on patience and gentleness like you would a shirt or a blouse. We have matching family outfits.
Second, it is supposed to look like Jesus. 13 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.
In the Gospel of John chapter 13, it says that on the night he was betrayed, Jesus got up from the dinner table, took a basin of water and a towel, and washed his disciple’s feet. Normally, this would be the job of the servant. In those days of foot transportation and unpaved paths, your feet could get pretty nasty. Think – combination of sweaty running shoes that you have to keep in the garage because they just reek and the ring of dirt that is left around your ankle after digging in the garden. Clearly, washing feet was way beneath Jesus’ place as their Rabbi. In that time and setting, dust was to travel from Rabbi to the student. Not the other way around.
But Jesus washes the feet of his disciples. He wants to make a point. He says – do you know what I have done for you? I have set an example for you. You call me teacher and Lord and that is right. I am. If I as your teacher and Lord have washed your feet, you should also wash the feet of each other. For no servant is greater than his or her master. And of course, what makes the story so powerful is that Jesus is well aware that in a matter of hours, he will be betrayed, arrested, beaten and executed. And still he washes Judas’ feet. To wash the feet of those who love you, supports you, agrees with you, and serves you is one thing. But to wash the feet of the one who would betray you, stab you in the back, hurt you for their own agenda is quite another. Who does that?
But Jesus says his disciples do. Jesus says it isn’t an option. After the meal, he says in John 13:34; A new COMMANDMENT I give to you – that you love one another. It isn’t a request. It’s not a suggestion. It’s a command. In fact, Jesus says it will be the one thing that identifies us as his disciples.
And Jesus says, loving one another is a NEW commandment. In the writings of Moses, Leviticus 19:18, it says that one is to love their neighbor as themselves. Leviticus comes before John. So how is loving each other a new commandment? It’s new because Jesus gives it a new measurement of success. A NEW commandment I give to you, John 13:34 – that you love one another just as I have loved you. You are to love one another. Before, the disciples were to love those around us as we would love ourselves. Now, we are to love those around us as Christ loves us! Christ made himself nothing. He disregarded what was rightfully his. He became a servant all the way to the cross. He purposely gave up his freedom so that we might find it. That’s a high bar to meet. But Jesus says that is the standard for us as followers of Rabbi Jesus.
I ask you this morning. Are you wearing love? When loving others, what is your standard? To love them as you love yourself? Or to love them as Christ loved you?
We have a matching family outfit. It’s designed look like Jesus. It unites us in our differences. 14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.
Last week a friend sent me an article written by a pastor in Raleigh, North Carolina. In it he talks about what it is like to lead a purple church. A purple church is a church that is mixed politically. Where the red of Republicans mixes with the blue of Democrats. In other words, a church very much like our own. Basically, the author’s premise was this: We need more purple churches in today’s world. Because we are becoming more and more polarized in our views. More and more we are surrounded by what George Will calls thought silos – where opposing points of view are not considered – because they are not even discussed. This in turn, leads to more and more isolation. Which results in greater and greater loneliness. That is not the way of Christ.
Therefore (says Paul), as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. The therefore, in this case, points to the section of Paul’s letter that immediately precedes our text. In which Paul talks about shedding our old way of life and becoming a new creation in Christ. He says that in Christ we take on a new identity in which – Verse 11 – there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free.
In other words, the way of Christ is not about division. And the way of Christ does not foster isolation. We may live in a time when divisive and inflammatory language is celebrated as a strategy. This is not the way of God’s church, because we are a family. A family that finds its identity in Christ, that finds its source in Christ, that loves with the love of Christ.
So, my challenge this week is to reach out and connect with someone you don’t know. To break through the isolation. To assist you, we have put a little card in your bulletin. We left it blank so that you can add your name and contact information. Take it and fill it out and give it to someone you would like to get to know more. And with it extend an invitation for a cup of coffee. I challenge you to do so right when the service ends. To not tuck it away for later. It will get misplaced – at the very least in our minds. And perhaps, in light of MLK Jr day, and in acknowledgment of our family’s own need for diversity, give your invitation and card to someone who is not like you. Someone of a different age. Or someone from a different country. Or a different race. Or a different economic class. Or of a different sexual orientation. Or a different political persuasion.
The point is to practice being church. In his book, Eager to Love, Richard Rohr points out that St Francis used the word “doing” 32 times more often than he did the word “understanding”. He spoke of the “heart” 45 times more often than he did of the “mind”. For St Francis, the emphasis needed to be on right practice over right beliefs. He understood that doing the right things lead to believing the right things. Most of us have to act a certain way before we feel a certain way. SO, PUT ON love, wear compassion, kindness and humility and gentleness and patience.
I believe that when we put on love that we will find that unity that will overcome isolation. When we put on love we will become the church that God calls us to be. Not just any church but a vibrant church. The lay leaders who put together the vision felt very strongly that we are to become a family that is alive and growing. One in which life is being given. That only happens when Christ is all and in all. When we put on love we will help us fulfill our mission to make disciples. Others will be drawn by the love of Christ that we share. And want to experience it too. We have a family matching outfit. It is meant to resemble Christ. It unites us in a polarizing world.
It is said that Mahatma Gandhi, once seriously considered becoming a Christian. He wrote in his autobiography that in his student days, he was very interested in the Bible. He was deeply touched by the Gospels, and thought that Christ seemed to offer the only real solution to the caste system that was dividing the people of India. So, one Sunday, he went to a nearby church to attend services. He wanted instruction in the way of salvation. But, when he entered the sanctuary, the ushers refused to give him a seat and suggested that he go worship with his own people. Gandhi left and never came back. He later remarked, “I’d be a Christian if it were not for the Christians!” http://www.sermonillustrations.com/a-z/p/prejudice.htm
I ask you this morning – what would others say about our church family today? Would visitors say we are united in Christ? Or are we marked by division and isolation? Do we include others in the love of Christ and invite others in? Or do we make it all about us? Are we known as a church that encourages each other? Are we known for love of Christ? This is so critical. Because we are not fighting a bottle rocket war. We are literally as the living body of Christ in our community. We are his hands and feet of Christ in this world.
So, I am going to put on the matching family outfit. The one that looks like Christ. I am going to wear compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. How about you? How about you?