First Sunday after Trinity – June 14, 2020
Reading: Luke 6:12-13, 17-19 – Tilly
“One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God.
13 When morning came, he called his disciples to him and chose twelve of them, whom he also designated apostles.
“He went down with them and stood on a level place. A large crowd of his disciples was there and a great number of people from all over Judea, from Jerusalem, and from the coastal region around Tyre and Sidon, 18 who had come to hear him and to be healed of their diseases. Those troubled by impure spirits were cured, 19 and the people all tried to touch him, because power was coming from him and healing them all.”
SLIDE 3-title slide
- The text Tilly just read for us is one we’ve talked about on and off since the first Sunday we met, March 29. The great devotional writer Henri Nouwen pointed out the threefold movement that takes place in the course of these few verses. First, SLIDE 4 Jesus spends the night in solitude in prayer with the Father
- Then SLIDE 5 he came to his disciples, and called out 12 who would be called apostles (“sent out ones”), and he formed a community with them, which—for the next two years—would travel, eat, pray and minister together.
- Then he, SLIDE 6 together with his apostles, went down to the base of the mountain to do ministry, serving the crowds of people who were gathered there. And the text specifically mentions that he taught them, he healed them of physical ailments and he freed them from the influence of dark powers.
- If we were to continue reading through the Gospel accounts, we would see that this threefold movement, from Solitude to Community to Ministry, typified Jesus’ way of doing life. In living this way, Jesus was showing us how to live as his followers.
- So, here at Holy Trinity Chico, we are being very intentional about observing this threefold movement as the pattern for our lives, both as individuals and collectively as a covenant community.
- SLIDE 7 We all, separately, spend time alone with our Father on a daily basis, talking with him, listening to him, reading his holy word, journaling what we hear, hearing him define us as his beloved. Here we allow the Father to re-parent us with perfect love and we say to him, “You are my Abba, my Lord, my God: my will is to do your will.” That’s solitude.
- SLIDE 8 Then we come together in community on Sundays and in home groups during the week and in other informal gatherings to do life together. This is where we share with each other what the Lord is teaching us. We celebrate God and each other, we encourage each other, we help each other, we challenge and correct each other when that’s what we need. We rejoice with those who rejoice: Wietbrock’s celebration of their new grand daughter, Sophie, or Janet Stapp’s baptism. And we week with those who weep: like the excruciating pain the death of Diane Ruby, coming alongside Larry and his family in the wake of that loss. In short: This is where we learn to love each other deeply in Christ, living out what it means to be God’s new covenant community.
- SLIDE 9 Then, we do ministry. We find ways together to take what God has given us—his message of extraordinary grace, his love, his power for healing, his authority over the powers of darkness, his care and compassion—and we freely give those things away to others, inviting them to become a part of us and to trust this same Jesus who is having such a transforming influence on our lives.
- Ministry is basically simply taking what Jesus has given us and sharing it with others who don’t yet have it. We take the love, the joy of fellowship with God, the freedom of a clean conscience, the relief of not having to earn our salvation, the power to live a virtuous life, and we share those things with the people in our day to day lives who aren’t yet enjoying these benefits firsthand. As someone said: it is like one beggar telling another where to find bread. Or, as Jesus told his disciples: “Freely you have received; freely give.”
- Its like this, you guys: Imagine if the Coronavirus mutated such that it got 10x worse and everyone in Chico gets violently sick. You’re on your death bed but manage to make it to a clinic at edge of town that the CDC has set up where you’re given an experimental drug. It heals you instantly with no side effects. What’s the first thing you want to do? Tell others, beginning with your immediate family and close friends! You want them to be healed the same way you were. That’s precisely our motivation in ministry: we want to share with others what we have experienced.
- This threefold movement makes up the Christian life: from solitude to community to ministry, back to solitude, then community, then ministry, over and over, day after day, year after year. This becomes the normal pattern of our lives, just as it was for Jesus. In the process, we grow increasingly attached to God, we become more and more like Jesus in our character, our actions, our lives; and we have a positive influence on the world around us like light and salt; we lead others to Christ and help show them how to live lives in the kingdom of God.
- Today, in the time that remains, I want to focus on the third of these movements: the movement into ministry. And I want to ask and answer two really basic questions: 1) What is our message that we communicate to others? and, 2) What is our method of connecting with others? First, our message.
What is our message?
- If you had 5 minutes to share the good news of Jesus with a non-believer, what would you say? Could you summarize the key points of the gospel in a simple, straightforward way? SLIDE 10 I want to share with you a very streamlined way to communicate the Gospel that everyone can use. It is easy to remember, because it has five points that correspond to the five fingers on your hand. You can embellish these however you like, but I’ll give you just a bare bones version.
- God. At the heart of our universe is a wondrous, beautiful and glorious being: God. This God is not a single, solitary person living in isolation from others, but a community of persons—Father, Son and Spirit, living together in perpetual love, affection, honor and radiant joy. Their life together is filled with laughter and music and singing, and they share it with a large family of spiritual beings they created expressly to share life with. To know this triune God deeply and be in loving relationship with Him is life itself: it is peace, joy and absolute delight. So, our thumb represents God. It is our first digit and arguably our most important one. When we put God first in our lives, then everything is OK: life works the way it was intended (thumbs up).
- Humans. The Father, Son and Spirit so delight in sharing their life with others that they created a entire race of hybrid spiritual-material beings with the capacity to love and be loved, to share God’s life and to share God’s dominion over the material creation on planet earth with its varied resources and species of wildlife. God wanted a rich, meaningful partnership with us as we care for the earth together with Him. And God made us to live in deep relationship with Himself and others in love, not to exist independently, but to thrive in his peace and love and happiness. EX: Humans are not like stars, which generate their own light and heat but like light bulbs, made to give light and warmth to others, but lacking the means to do it without something outside of it to flow into it and through it: electricity. Electricity is the life of the light bulb. In same way, God is our electricity, and we experience life to the extent that we have his life flowing in and through us. So, the index finger represents humans. It’s an important finger: we use it to point at what’s important to us. Where we point, that’s where our attention is. We’re at our best pointing to God, keeping him first: when we do that, we’re saying, “God is number one!”
- Contempt. Now we come to our middle finger, and you know what that is commonly used for: to express one person’s anger or contempt for another person. That’s essentially what our first parents did when they decided to turn away from God and try to live lives on their own: they were flipping God the bird saying: “We got this. You go do your thing and let us do our thing”. That was the beginning of our all our problems as a race: hatred, alienation, selfishness, fear, violence. As a result of turning away from the One who is Life, humans became subject to death, dissolution, and ultimately non-existence. Humans chose to love the wrong things, to set our hearts on things other than the supreme object of our delight, our Creator, lover, and friend. This is what the bible means by sin: misplaced love. And sin is corrosive and cumulative: the more we live orienting our lives around other things—looking to created realities to define us instead of our Creator—the worse off we get, and we continue the slide toward eventual, ultimate nothingness.
- Jesus. The good news is that God loved us too much to abandon us after we abandoned him. Though we turned our backs on God, He didn’t turn His back on us. Instead, He pursued us. God the Son, One of the Three, came to earth to unite His divine nature with our human nature: to make it possible for us to be deeply connected to God, to His life and electricity, so we could radiate his warmth and light to others. Through His life, death and resurrection, Jesus made it possible for us to be relationally joined to Him in the closest possible way. In the NT, one of the leading metaphors God uses is to describe our relationship with Christ as a kind of marriage. So, it is fitting that our Ring finger represents Christ, the One who married His divine nature to our human nature.
- You. It’s the smallest of our fingers, and easily overlooked. But God didn’t overlook you: He’s been watching over you with love and protective care since before you were born. God wants you to be with him, but he will not force you. Love doesn’t force; it offers but doesn’t compel. You have the choice to live forever alone, independent, like a pinky, without the rest of the hand, in isolation and insignificance. Or you can live together with the One who loves you, enjoying his goodness and peace and happiness forever. We can be this (pinky) or this (shaka). When combined with the thumb, the pinky becomes a powerful symbol. The Hawaiian “shaka”, not just hang loose sign used by surfers, but according to Oxford English Dictionary it is “used to express affirmation, approval, solidarity” with another person. So, my friend, that’s what God is offering you. All you need to do is say yes to God’s offer of life in Jesus. What do you say?
- That’s it: that’s the message. You can put it in your own words.
- What do we do after sharing it? We listen. Ask if they have questions; answer those questions. And in the end, If they accept God’s offer of life in Jesus, we lead them in prayer. Then we begin to teach them how to live life in the Kingdom of God.
- If they don’t accept, patiently love them and maybe invite to do a four -week look at Jesus in the Gospel of John. Or watch the Chosen and talk about it together over coffee.
- Okay, so we’ve talked about our message: five points that can be summarized on one hand. What about our method of connecting with others? Let me give you three simple steps, again using our hands as a way to easily remember these.
What is our method?
- First, we pray. (Hands together in prayer). We pray for the Lord to open our eyes and lead us to people whom He is preparing to come to Him. God is always at work around us, preparing others to respond to the good news. So we pray that God will show us who that is: could be someone in your family, at work, in your neighborhood, an organization you belong to. Or it may be a perfect stranger you meet on the street. Pray for God to lead you to others and then be on the lookout for the person. Now, once God makes that relational connection, then you love them (hands together in shape of heart).SLIDE 17
- Get close to them, befriend them, have them over for dinner, make time for them. This is the ministry of hospitality. This takes time. Must become a priority. One of benefits of coronavirus is forcing us to reevaluate our priorities. Let’s determine to make this a priority. Very important: don’t love them because they are potential Christians but because they are already loved by God and he is calling you to share the good news with them. They will share more of themselves with you as you build trust, giving you the opportunity to pray for their needs and care for them. So, we’ve prayed for them, we love them. SLIDE 18 Now we share with them what we have to share.
- We share the message we talked about earlier and we share our life: our friends, our church, our food, our time. We bring them to our community group or Sunday church service, where a person can belong before we believe.
- Love. Share. I told you it was a very simple three-step strategy. And guys, it works. History shows it has always worked, even in the most difficult times. Coronvirus, racial tensions, the questioning of authority structures: these realites present us with a perfect opportunity to show to our neighbors and the world a different way to live. SLIDE 19
- EX: Europe was in chaos during the early middle ages, so chaotic in fact, that those years between the fifth and ninth centuries were known as the “Dark Ages”. The Western Roman empire was dissolving, creating a power vacuum; various people groups—Goths, Vandals, Jutes, Angles, Saxons, Franks, Ostrogoths, Huns and Visigoths—were relocating throughout Europe, bringing disruption and death: towns were looted and burned, industry collapsed, literacy plunged, great works of art and literature were destroyed or abandoned. Basically it was the near annihilation of European civilization up to that point in time.
- But there was a group of Christians living in Ireland who weren’t content to just sit on their hands while Europe was being overrun with chaos and pagan religions. So, they left everything and traveled around Europe in small communities of committed believers. SLIDE 20
- Wherever they went, they would talk with a chieftan, share the Gospel and ask for permission to live among them peacefully…. they would build a small compound like this and…. like a colony from heaven… invite the locals to come, eat with them, worship with them, stay with them… a place where people could belong before they believed… after several generations, the Celtic believers re-missionized Europe, reintroducing them to Christ and preparing them for the Carolingian renaissance that would begin under the reign of Charlemagne.
- Here’s the deal you guys… our present realities have disrupted the American Dream. We are facing things most of us thought we would never face. People are fearful and confused. They are looking for answers. And we have it. Now is not the time to be silent. Now is the time to make room in our lives for others, pray for them, love them, and share with them all we have to share.
- Many of us know Larry Lane. SLIDE 20 Larry used a great analogy to describe our relational lives. He said we were like legos…. Will you make room for just one more? Will you begin praying?
- Be bold… you have the cure to a spiritual coronavirus that is more deadly than any physical disease, and God wants to work with you to distribute it to others and draw them into intimate relationship with Himself.
- Let’s pray.