In my sermon today in the series “Be the Message” I drew on the wisdom of Dallas Willard and his work on Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount and the “attitudes that ought to be” (or Beatitudes). Willard said that living a good life, or being a good person, is learning to live “interactively with God”. He suggests that this is what Jesus is speaking about in his famous sermon when he describes persons who are “blessed.” Jesus does this by offering a quite unlikely list of 8 different characteristics: poor in spirit, those who mourn, the meek, those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, the merciful, pure in heart, peacemakers, and persecuted (for righteousness sake). Those who live in this way are “blessed” or content because they are in tune with the things of God, the ways of God, and the will of God. They are living “interactively” with God.
That may seem to us a high bar of a goal. Perhaps even unattainable in our own merit, and therefore unreachable. But it’s the life that Jesus modeled, and the life that he calls us toward. A friend, having listened to the sermon, commented that living interactively with God today might be thought of as having a 24/7 FaceTime encounter with God. Continue reading
One of our dear more mature members (let’s just say she’s in her 10th decade on this earth) remarked to me Sunday as she left worship: “I ask the Lord every morning what he wants me to do today. He generally has something in mind.” She put in two sentences what I had just tried to say in about a twenty-five minute sermon.
As we strive to “be the message” by finding God’s purpose for our day . . . week, month, year, life . . . we would do well to begin with her question: “What do you want me to do with this day (week, month, year, life) Lord?” But, having asked the question, we then need to be in a listening posture to discover what the Lord has in mind. Continue reading
Our church is in the midst of a five week emphasis called “Be The Message” utilizing a resource published by Kerry & Chris Shook. One of the most memorable pieces of this emphasis so far for me has been the phrase “love the one in front of you”. Chris Shook introduces the phrase in one of the videos as she describes an encounter she had with a woman in the grocery check out. She was frustrated with this woman who was completely disorganized and unable to focus on paying for her groceries. In a hurry herself, Shook could feel her irritation building until the woman shared with the clerk that she had just come from her daughter’s first chemo treatment and she was trying to find something at the store that her daughter could eat without it upsetting her stomach.
Shook was reminded that everyone, including the one directly in front of you, has a story. Our calling as followers of Jesus is to “love the one in front of you”. Continue reading
I have been attending worship services since I was about two weeks old. Most, but not all, of these have been services in a Baptist tradition (an American Baptist tradition). But this does not mean that this worship has been similar. I have worshipped, and led worship, that might be considered “traditional” – with hymns, responsive readings, pastoral prayers, and sermons preached from the pulpit. I have worshipped, and led worship, that might be considered “liturgical” or high church/high steeple – with printed and spoken liturgy, pipe organ, written prayers, robed clergy and choir. I have worshiped, and led worship, that might be considered “contemporary” – with praise bands, choruses, video projection and clips, a preacher standing among the people, extemporaneous prayers and a few “amens” from the congregation. I have worshiped, and led worship, that might be considered “contemplative” – with Taize music and chants, long periods of silence and prayer, warm visuals, candlelight and quiet background music.
These services have occurred in the humble country Baptist church of my upbringing, suburban and urban sanctuaries, modern worship space, a new church start that met in an exercise facility, outdoors under the stars and in a cave, in old rustic chapels at camp and in state parks, and in the beautiful sacred space at 3300 Fairlawn Drive in Columbus, Indiana. The places contributed to the worship experience, of that there is no doubt; but not more so than the people. I’ve worshipped in small groups, medium size groups, and large groups; with family and loved ones, covenant members of the same congregation, and complete strangers. I learned to worship sitting next to my Grandmother and my parents, my attention being directed to the hymnal, the sermon, or the prayer. I have been blessed to collaborate on worship with some truly gifted servants of Christ. Continue reading
One of the campfire songs my family of origin often shared during my formative years was Woodie Guthrie’s “This Land is Your Land, This Land is My Land”. We sang that tune all across the USA as we traveled with our parents each summer on a two or three week trek, leaving our Indiana home right after the completion of the 4-H fair and returning in time to start school. I’ve thought of that song the past couple of weeks as I took a trip to the West coast with my own family and once again enjoyed the beauty of our home land. In fact some of the lyrics coincided with our travels “from California” and the “Redwood Forest”.
Guthrie’s song wraps up with the phrase “this land was made for you and me”. Continue reading