Greetings in Christ!
Recently, a host of memes appeared on Facebook and Twitter that intrigued me. Set on a background of Jesus teaching discipleships, the text said, “Stop sharing memes that say ‘share and you’ll be blessed.’ God is not your fairy godmother and that isn’t how it works.”
I have to admit that I have a soft spot in my heart for this sentiment. Too often we seem to think that we can manipulate God into doing exactly what we want. Sharing hashtags or forwarding a viral image that magically garner blessings from God.
But we’re still left with a much larger question: How does it work? How does faith work? How is Jesus involved in our lives? If we can’t cast a social media spell, then how do we garner God’s favor? Here’s how: When we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8). That’s how it works. Jesus gets involved in our lives by making us righteous despite our unrighteousness.
We don’t accrue favor from God. We don’t earn blessings. Instead, God offered us favor on the cross and in the empty tomb. We find our blessings in the death and resurrection of Jesus.
But that’s not where it ends. Faith works when that blessing becomes active in our lives, where our behavior becomes a gracious response to our gracious God. In the words of James 1, where we become “doers of the word.”
Posting memes isn’t doing the word of God. Feeding the hungry, giving to those who ask, clothing the naked, caring for the sick, visiting prisoners, embracing outcasts, forgiving offenders, actively seeking justice, loving our enemies,
and a host of other countercultural behaviors? That is how it works. That is how faith works. We don’t garner God’s blessings with those actions. Instead, we point to God’s blessings every time we live the word of God, showing others the active love of God at work on their behalf.
The next time someone invites you to share a meme and be blessed, remember that you’re already blessed, and to perform works of mercy in the name of Jesus Christ who blessed you. That’s how it works, and that’s how God is working to bring the Kingdom of God to this place.
Greetings in Christ!
This week, we turn to the posture of guidance. This may seem a bit strange. Is guidance truly a posture? Who is giving this guidance? Who is receiving it? Where do I fit in?
We all ask that question. Where do we fit in? At work? At school? In our family? In the great scheme of things? We want to know that we have a role and a responsibility, a purpose within our contexts. Guidance helps us to answer this question.
Sometimes, to our great surprise, people search us out for guidance. They see in us a skill, experience, or wisdom that they value. Others often see with better clarity the ways that we may offer guidance, the gifts that we have to share. When others seek out that input from us, our ability to offer guidance helps us to see a bit more clearly about how we fit into the grand scheme of things.
At other times, much more often, we need guidance ourselves. At the end of John 6, when the Bread of Life teachings caused many disciples to leave Jesus’ side, Peter speaks for the small smattering that remained. “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” In the midst of life’s difficulties, whether struggles at work, problems at home, or battles with faith, we need guidance from the outside, from someone with the experience, the knowledge, and the compassion to point us in the right direction.
Of course, this begins with our Creator, our Lord Jesus Christ, with the Holy Spirit. We may seek God’s guidance through prayer, through scripture reading, through devotional practices and meditation, all of which provide valuable access to guidance. Yet, we may also find God’s guidance in our network of relationships. People in the congregation, our elders in faith if not elders in age, each have different experiences of faith that may provide guidance for our own journeys. People in the community know how to navigate the political and business spheres in ways that could guide our future decisions. In each of these conversations, with God at the center and faithfulness as our goal, guidance may help to reveal to us where we belong, our identity as a child of God in this place. We all need guidance in our lives, both as givers and receivers.
Greetings in Christ!
As we embark on this series of faith postures, we look first to wisdom. In Ephesians 5, Paul offers a few words about wisdom to the community: “So be careful to live your life wisely, not foolishly.” Deep stuff, huh?
Though Paul elucidates a bit about what he means here, he talks at length about cultures mores, about the social standards of community life. We might say that Paul talks about Ephesian street smarts. This suggests that wisdom is not necessarily a heavenly knowledge, but instead an earthly cognizance of how to live a faithful life in the world.
In other words, the wisdom we seek in faith is that attentiveness to how we ought to live life. It’s knowing and naming that our behaviors affect not only ourselves, but others around us, and that the decisions we make help to shape the world in which we live. Wisdom is something like self-awareness, or in today’s buzz words, mindfulness.
If this is such a simple concept, why then do we see so much foolishness in our day to day lives, from others and ourselves? Wisdom isn’t just knowing that our deeds have reactions, but choosing to act in wisdom as well. Most people know that we shouldn’t post verbal attacks and inappropriate images on social media, yet Twitter and Facebook remain full of brutal evidence of cyber bullying. Most people know that driving twenty MPH or more over the speed limit is a danger to life, and yet so many high speed accidents take life away.
Wisdom is not just about knowing the good, it is about doing the good. Perhaps Paul’s words, to live your life wisely and not foolishly, are more poignant that at first glance. We need that reminder, not just to be wise, but to live wisely.
Greetings in Christ!
Yesterday’s sermon gave us a lot to think about, especially as we cast vision into the future, so perhaps a summary would help. As we’ve experienced growth toward the future, some new opportunities have arisen for our church. We can serve the community through Operation Inasmuch, the Highlander Festival, and the Rough Draught Coffee House. We can grow together through starting new discipleship groups and through developing Ministry Coordinators for areas like fellowship and campus ministry. We can work to serve God and grow our community through the development of a new worship service.
Now, that’s a lot to think about, so one way to categorize those things, to simplify our speech, is to think about our relationships Up, In, and Out. Our Up relationship is with God. Our In relationships are those within ourselves and within our congregation. Our Out relationship are those with the community of the New River Valley. We’re called to ministry development Up, In, and Out.
What this means is that our worship is integrally related to our outreach and our congregational relationships. As we develop as a congregation, we should grow in our relationship with God (UP), in discipleship with ourselves as well as in unity with our church (IN), and in relationship with our community (OUT). As you hear more of this language, I hope that you will choose to try new things in each of these areas, taking risks in your Up, In, and Out relationships.
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