Tag: Renew Mission Life

A Communal Love

Sermon: RENEW Mission Life: Where Love Comes to Life

Sermon Four: …COMES TO LIFE

Small Worship, Sunday March 22, 2020. 

Colossians 3.1-11

Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. 3 For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ, who is your[a] life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

5 Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. 6 Because of these, the wrath of God is coming.[b] 7 You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. 8 But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. 9 Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. 11 Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.

I was glad to hear the Prime Minister name the selfishness apparent in the hoarding at supermarkets across the country in his speech during this week. I hope people stop that. It reminded me of that self-orientation living inside all of us, even those of us already made new by the Spirit by water and Word.

We too struggle daily with this self-orientation. As Luther rightly put it, we tend to ‘curve in on ourselves’ and that causes no end of relationship breakdown, unfairness and pain.

Even our longing for love and belonging can be very self-centred. “All I need is for someone to love me!” is a selfish cry too! It’s still “all about me”; very individually centred.

We in the West have been steeped in this individualistic kind of way of life. We tend to transfer this individualism into our hearing of God’s Word. We often hear that being a Christian person is all about “Jesus and Me” way more than “Jesus and US”.

But even in our self-orientated individualistic world, we recognise that love still counts. We somehow know that love is more valuable than anything else. We look for love. We long for that sense of belonging that makes us matter. We ache for true, faithful, irreversible affection. Just put your attention on the world of the Arts!

God says that he IS love; agape; self-giving, self-sacrificing love. It is the fullest love and it is communal by nature. God’s love is never just for him and never all about me. Only. It is always for me and others around me. God’s love is communal because God is communal in nature.

The great jewel at the centre of Christian faith is this: God is Community; perfect community; Three Persons in One Person.

God’s Communal Love

The Father loves the Son, the Spirit loves the Father; the Father gives honour to the Son, the Son glorifies the Father; the Spirit glorifies the Father and the Son…and so on. You get the picture and can see that that’s the way it is.

In other words, the love of God is not an abstract idea. It is personal, divine communal self-giving, self-sacrificing love.

But how do we know this communal love? How do we experience it? How does it comes to us and make love a reality among us and in God’s world?

Gods Open Circle

God loves in every possible way. He creates (he enters into relationships outside of himself), he sustains (he commits himself to that set of relationships eternally), in his Son, Jesus, he redeems (he opens himself to the pain of rejection, entering into death itself to redeem the creation he’s brought into being).

And he glorifies. Not just redeems us then leaves us to our own social distancing and self isolation! He glorifies. He brings us into the divine family. He adopts us his own kids in baptism and places us in his holy community of self-giving, self-sacrificing love. He makes us his family. He unites us with Jesus.

He gives his life for living today, no matter the virus, the threat the size of the group. He bestows his Spirit on us, and in us, to call him “Abba, Father”. He spreads his table before us in the presence of all enemies of love in love (Psalm 23).

Look at that set place and know it is your place in the church with Jesus!

God’s love comes to life in communities

God’s love comes to life in communities. God’s love produces new expressions of human fellowship. It breaks down dividing walls, drowning old hostilities under the flood of his grace.

This is not just some future ‘heavenly’ thing. This is for now. What I’m describing is the very thing that marked the New Testament churches. They needed a new vocabulary to describe the love they experienced (agape) and a new way of expressing their self-emptied devotion to one another (koinonia).

That’s why the gospel was—and is—so radical. It made previously divided and often hostile groups into one. Jews and Gentiles, slave and free, male and female; “here there is no Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all” (Col. 3:11).

When Paul speaks like this he’s not describing what might be one day. He’s giving voice to what the gospel actually did. It created a community that had never existed before. Christians had a new citizenship, a new family. And the whole of the New Testament is devoted to proclaiming and sharing this this miracle of love. That’s what Paul is so red-hot in his opposition to any form of so-called ‘gospel’ which would undermine it. Just read Galatians, for example!

Because that community had God’s communal love coming to life in people, it was very open to the outsider. No closed club, but a flowing embrace of grace.

Yes. To be like this is risky. As we said, to love it to risk. But would we rather be totally alone, totally disconnected without any love? That would kill us. That would be ‘hell’.

Better to be involved in God’s love coming to life in our deadness, God’s belonging creating new community in our social distancing, God’s mission to love our enemies that breaks down our hoarding. That is what the world needs. It is what I need. It is what you need.

Friends, as you spend time alone or in smaller groups in these days, trust that the loving Spirit is at work among us. His ways are not our ways. This testing time is also his growing time.

The love of God never leaves you where you were, or where you are! He is moving you along the journey into his communal life. Hed is opening us to life you or we never imagined.

Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.

 

It can happen here

Sermon, Series: Renew Mission Life, Week 1

Lent 1A, March 1, 2020

 

Welcome to our first RENEW Mission Life in Lent season.

For some time, we as a local mission community have shared this vision from the Lord about seeing his great love come to life more and more in people in this community.

We believe that the Spirit of Jesus is working in the lives of all kinds of people. We trust that He is always calling us his baptised loved people to serve and share the good news of his love for all people.

We long to see and hear of real people being truly transformed by this grace of God in Jesus – we long to see God’s love springing to life in everyday people in big and small, noisy and quiet, obvious and not so obvious ways.

We want to be part of what the Holy Spirit is doing because God is Love, God is life and God is on a mission because he is love and life.

1 John 4:7-21

Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: he sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.

13 This is how we know that we live in him and he in us: he has given us of his Spirit. 14 And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Saviour of the world. 15 If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God. 16 And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.

God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. 17 This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: in this world we are like Jesus. 18 There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.

19 We love because he first loved us. 20 Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. 21 And he has given us this command: anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.

 Have you noticed that when people fall in love they just seem to ‘come to life”? Their eyes sparkle. They are totally focussed on the ‘love of their life’. They just seem to find a whole other side of their character. They find a joy they did not know they had. It may have happened to you…..

With love, life takes on a different dimension. People in love seem to be straining forward to meet life head on with commitment and joy.

Like the young guy who announced to his father at breakfast one morning, “Dad, I’m going to get married.” 

“How do you know you’re ready to get married?” Dad asked. “Are you in love?” 

“I sure am,” said the son. 

“How do you know you’re in love?” asked the father. 

“Last night as I was kissing my girlfriend good-night, her dog bit me and I didn’t feel the pain until I got home.”

The Apostle John is famous for his deep words about love. You can tell from this portion of his first letter about God’s love in our life that John is sure that God’s love does change people. It changed him.

The experience of being loved by God, just as the experience of being truly loved by another person, brings with it a kind of newness that brings out the best in us. He wants us to see that love bringing life. He trusts that God’s love brings God’s life.

He even says;

  1. God is Love

God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them. John 4:16b

God loves and God gives life. God’s love life is big!!

In the very beginning God brought life to the world. By his hovering Spirit he created and shaped this planet to be our home (Genesis 1).

Then God breathed life. God breathed his own holy life into our human bodies and brought us to life (Genesis 2).

  1. God is Life

But then, when the time was right, God did the unthinkable. He even entered our limited, broken human life at a depth which no-one could have anticipated.

Our holy powerful God became a human being. He filled our humanity with his own life. Remember John’s famous opening words about this new creation in Jesus?

The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighbourhood

(John 1.14 Message)

Why did he do this? John says, it was for love. This flesh-taking (incarnation) was not an interesting physics experiment but God’s own project to rescue us from loveless death and futility. In spite of our worst efforts, even when we killed him, God succeeded in bringing love back to life (John 1).

  1. God is on Mission because he Loves

So, this God of life and love is here, and he is active.

I know so many of your family and friends don’t believe this at all. Sometimes you might struggle to trust this because of all the trouble you see and the loss you feel.

I see people of all ages and stages searching for love; seeking life. I see this longing for love in myself. As St Augustine said, it is not that we human beings don’t love enough. It is that we love too much.

We love the things created more than the Creator of the things. We want what this God of love can give us more than this God of love himself. We will love just about anything above the promises and presence of this God of love.

Hear John, this closest disciple of Jesus who names himself “the one Jesus loved”, speak now.

This is how God showed his love among us: he sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.

In our search for real love and for full life, John announced both are here in Jesus.

10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 

When you could only ever be God’s enemy, God friended you. He has loved you with a love you cannot and did not manufacture.

God is love and God is Life and God is on a mission. It is a mission of love, not merely good morals, right behaviour, squeaky clean reputation, successful life in world terms. His mission is to bring love and life to lifeless, loveless people.

His love drives him on in his mission and we are involved. Remember what we have been saying for some time now?

“The church has not got a mission for God, but God has a church for his mission”.

“We don’t do mission FOR God. God does HIS mission through us”.

John says it so simply:

19 We love because he first loved us. 

“We love”. That is why we do what we do.

Every group, every gathering, every activity, in its beginning and its end is done for love of people. We join Jesus in his mission to love people, not to get more numbers, not for more money, not for good looks, not for anything less than self-giving, gospel love of Jesus.

We reach out to love. We serve to love. We give to love.

But it seems so hard! It seems these days that church is on the way out. Lots of our fellow Lutherans seem to believe this; that church is mostly about Sunday worship and less people are coming. So, one day we will not be able to hold church services and we will therefore no longer be church.

Does that sound like the Apostle John’s vision of church? Not to me. We, God’s church, live on by the gifts of love he still supplies, no matter the culture, the pressure and the testing.

We live on his gits of forgiveness, healing, peace, powerful Word and Holy Spirit transforming people, raising people, making a holy community of love and life to be a holy community of life givers and lovers of others.

This is being church and is not only about ‘going to church’. We don’t ‘go to church’. HE gathers us AS church; God’s church, big or small, limping or leaping.

We gather, we hear, we eat and drink, and we are sent. That is our shape.

And what does he do all this for? To love. And so we love in his love and see his life coming to life.

What God does with you and in you here is always preparation. He gets us ready here and everywhere we meet.

We are never here or anywhere else only for ourselves, although we surely receive from Jesus what we need for ourselves. You can hear it in John’s words, over and over again: 

Dear friends, let us love one another,

11 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 

12 …..if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.

19 We love because he first loved us

21 And he has given us this command: anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.

 Life in the church is really a preparation and empowerment for a life of love in the world.

 The world needs this love.

The paradox of our time in history is that

we spend more, but have less;

we buy more, but enjoy it less.

We have bigger houses, and smaller families;

more conveniences, but less time;

more medicine, but less wellness.

We read too little, watch screens too much,

and pray too seldom.

We have multiplied our possessions,

but reduced our values.

These are the times of tall people, and short character;

These are the days of two incomes, but more divorce;

of fancier houses, but broken homes.

We’ve learned how to make a living, but not a life;

we’ve added years to life, not life to years;

we’ve worked at cleaning up the air, but polluted the soul.[1]

 

The good news is Jesus Christ loves people searching for love in the wrong places. He is the place of real lasting love. He is love and life for you. He is our love and life here.

Don’t you want to be part of what he is doing? Don’t you too want to see his love giving new life to people?

Don’t you feel compelled to receive his love and then give it and see new life where you thought there was none? Paul is: 

16 For when I preach the gospel, I cannot boast, since I am compelled to preach. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel! (1 Corinthians 9:16)

 For us it is more like: 

“For when I love you in word and deed, I cannot take the credit, because I am compelled to love in Jesus’ name. I can do but no other”

Will you think more on this these 40 days in Lent? Will you invite the Holy Spirit to renew you in this loving life? 

As you do, you will be loved, and you will live, and you will be his love and his life. It can happen here. 

Play video – MISSIONAL COMMUNITIES 1

 

[1] Adapted from Bob Moorehead – http://www.goodreads.com/quotes/22242-the-paradox-of-our-time-in-history-is-that-we