Monday, March 14, 2011

Reflections on ""Unbinding Your Heart" Lenten series Isaiah 55: 1-5; Romans 5: 6-11

This was the first sermon on the Lenten series based on the book Unbinding the Heart.  I like the idea of preaching a series on a topic that many in the congregation are reading about on their own and/or sharing about it with a small group.  I also struggle a bit with trying to stick to a topic given to me!

This week's sermon spoke to the theme of the first chapter, as least in its suggestion that we reflect on what difference a being a Christian makes in our own lives.  I departed from the section of the chapter that focused on reasons we share our faith and why others need to know Christ.

I did not mention that I was doing it to model faith sharing, but I did include two personal stories (one about when faith was important to me and one about a negative experience of evangelism) in the sermon.  Without having written the rest of the sermons in the series and knowing what will actually be preached, I am thinking that each sermon will include a personal story about my faith to model faith sharing.

I believe that the recognition that the Reformed and Presbyterian tradition has a vision of a gracious God that the world needs to hear may have been the most important point of the sermon.

Even if I had not preached, just hearing Paul's powerful comments about Christ bringing us salvation was worth coming to worship!

Does It Make A Difference” March 13, 2011; FPC, Troy; Unbinding the Heart Lenten series
Introduction: Everyone is invited to read Unbinding the Heart and participate in a weekly small group discussing and reflecting on each chapter.  

Move 1: Jr. year in high school, I was part of an ecumenical youth council in Denton, TX. Youth and adults from various churches in town. As I recall, our purpose was to organize activities for all the youth in Denton to do.

As the fall approached, we discussed doing something after the high school football games. We decided to have an ecumenical gathering after each home game with pizza, soft drinks and some type of entertainment.

The first week was going to be the big splash. After the game, all the high schoolers would be invited over to the auditorium across the street, a great band would play, and we would eat pizza.

I vaguely remember there being some conversation about the band and making sure the gathering was an ecumenical event.

I attended my first Session meeting to request and receive funds for the event.

Lots of effort and preparation went into the event.

Friday night arrived; I can't tell you whether we won or lost the football game, but I know that nearly every seat in the auditorium was filled as we ate pizza and listened to the band.

We were off to a great start. And then one of the band members shared his faith and how important Christ was to his life.

Being a Presbyterian, I confess that I was not used to hearing this type of conversation!

The faith sharing led to what I now know is an altar call, except it was the come down to the front of the auditorium to be saved call that night.

I guess not enough people came down to be saved because the band member told us he was disappointed that more people were accepting Jesus into their hearts. And, he noted that we were going to stay there until more people were saved.

Looking back, I don't think they actually locked the doors until the quote of people being saved was met, but I remember feeling trapped.

That night's event ended the ecumenical after football game gatherings; it ended the youth council in Denton; it began my dislike of anything called evangelism.

When the author of Unbinding the Heart says many people in our churches are uncomfortable with the word evangelism, I say “Amen.  I know how uncomfortable evangelism can be."

b. On the other hand, as we read Paul's letter to the Romans, we also say “Amen” to the good news that Paul shares.
    1. God sent Christ to save the world.
    2. Christ reconciles the world to God; Christ reconciles us to God.
    1. Christ does not save only those who preach fire and brimstone; Christ saves us.
  1. For me, that is what makes evangelism so compelling for us.
1. We Presbyterians have a story to tell the world of God's grace.

2. Not a story that coerces people with the threat of hell and damnation.

3. But a story of how we have encountered God's grace and love in our lives.

Move 2: I invite you to move past any negative thoughts you have about evangelism, and think about the difference God's love and the call to be a disciple of Christ makes in your life.

a. Changes the way we feel.
    1. Confidence as we face the world.
    2. Deal with issues of life and death in the assurance of God's love for us.
    3. 4th grade my Grandfather died; parents told us; went outside; crying; singing “Kum ba yah;” means “come by here;” in the face of death turning to the God who chooses to come by here and join us.
b. Changes the way we act.
    1. Sara Miles, Take This Bread, “How could I take communion read the Bible and not feed people.”The Food Pantry was founded by Sara Miles in 2000. It currently provides free groceries to over 1200 hungry families around the altar at St. Gregory of Nyssa Episcopal Church n San Francisco.

      The food pantry buys between nine and twelve tons of food each week, for just pennies a pound, and offers it free to everyone who comes. Families select the food they need from a wide variety of fresh fruits and vegetables, bread, rice, pasta, beans, cereal, and dry goods

      The Food Pantry is run entirely by volunteers, most of them people who came to get food and stayed to help out. It is supported entirely by donations.

    1. Mission trips – people want to give back; want to make a difference in other people's lives.

In your small groups, or in your own reflections this week, consider what a difference knowing God's love and following Christ makes in your life.

Move 3: Tell

a. Isaiah
    1. We are a witness to all the people.
    1. Telling is not trying to get others to believe a certain set of theological truths.
              3. Simply sharing what has made an impact in your life.

b. I ran into a colleague recently and noticed he had some new clothes.  

          1.  Which led to a discussion of how he has lost 45 lbs.

         2. He told a compelling story about how he has dieted, why he dieted, what he eats, howe he feels.  he told me when he walks he feels like a "gazelle."  Powerful imagery for a conversation.

         3. when I left him, I wanted what he had.  To feel like he did.

         4. We have a much better story than about a diet -- we tell of Jesus Christ saving us.
Conclusion:  In a few minutes we baptize Hadley.  On behalf of our community of faith and God's people, you commit to nurturing her and raising her in the faith.  As she grows up, what will you tell her about God's love and Christ's call to discipleship.

1 comment:

  1. I can totally relate to your event at your high school and the way that people were almost forced to come forth and "be saved."
    As you might remember I attended a Baptist college, Georgetown. I felt like an outsider at times because I was not a baptist.
    I had tons of questions about faith and God and life and the only answer I was given was yeah you have to be saved. I remember being asked on more than one occasion now what religion are you I would just say Christian. I mean come on is there going to be one big room for BAPTISTS only.
    I am so very glad that Geogetown is no longer a part of the Baptist Convention.
    I know I kind of rambled on here but I do like reading your blogs.

    Keep it up. :) Lisa