Where do we go from here? 5/2/10

Acts 11:1-18, Revelation 21:1-6, and John 13:31-35

  1. Peter’s mission to the Gentiles, A New Heaven and New Earth, the glory of Christ, a new commandment — where is all this taking us?  The message of Easter is for everyone … the end is also the beginning (Creation – garden to city) … a glory (fame, honor, prestige) is shown in Christ’s service … and a foundational stone of life, love.  (chess image – in Harry Potter)
    1. “As disciples of a crucified Lord, Christians have been called to walk by faith and not by sight, which is to live in the middle of the story.”[1]
  2. How do we live out the love of Christ in our lives?
    1. “Dallas Willard has said that our churches are filled with converts who have never become disciples.  Yet, how can those with whom we serve grow up into maturity in Christ, unless we also are growing up.  This year’s study is for leaders who are hungry for God and committed to be the people God has created and called us to be.”[2] 
    2. My continuing education this past week at LPTS was beneficial to me, and constantly learning, growing, and changing is something that I am very committed to.
    3. Cliff Kirkpatrick’s warnings.
  3. The message of Easter and rebirth in Christ is for all – even for Creation! (Acts 11)
    1. The crucial question that Peter asks is in v.17, “Who was I that I could hinder God?”  Peter had been going about witnessing to the Jewish community about the wonders of Christ’s life, death, and resurrection.  And as he went, he was discerning – mulling, thinking over, and reflecting on this message.  As he did so, God was working within him, helping him to begin to understand a new way of thinking.
    2. How do we hinder God?  Of course, each one of us does our very best to not get in the way of God’s work … but my hunch is that we still probably manage to hinder God even when we don’t necessarily mean to do so.  Maybe it is in our busy-ness that makes us to unable to “hear” or respond to God’s nudges.  Maybe it is in our desire to feel comfortable in worship instead of moved.  Maybe it is in our silence instead of allowing the joy of Christ to bubble up through us like it would have done through the stones on Palm Sunday.
  4. A New Heaven and Earth in Revelation 21
    1. We often picture heaven as the “final destination” but Revelation talks of a “new heaven.”  Even heaven is not yet complete … because we are not yet in full communion with God
    2. As we riddle out why John included this understanding of a budding, emergent heaven and earth, it helps us to understand that the kingdom of heaven is what we are living towards, what we proclaim every day.  We are not sitting idly by and waiting for the second coming; it is irresponsible of us to cast off concern for the earth because this is “not our home.”  It is clear that God cares deeply for Creation – which includes us and the earth.  And so, we believe that in Christ we are enabled to live more faithful, more just, more honest, truer lives.
    3. Envisioning the New Jerusalem is not about a pie-in-the-sky kind of end times belief, it is about discipleship and being transformed by your faith.
    4. Karen Armstrong notes in The Spiral Staircase that in most religious traditions, faith is not about belief but practice.  She relates how in studying the Islamic faith, she realized that Muslims are not asked to memorize and accept a creed, but are required to perform ritual actions (pilgrimages, fasts, Mecca-facing prayers) that are intended to lead to personal transformation.
  5. The Commandment of Love in John 13
    1. Story from Out of Africa by Isak Dinesen about boy named Kitau hired as a servant.  Three months later asked for a letter of reference for the Sheik in a nearby town.  She offered him a raise, but that was not his object.  “Kitau had decided to become either a Christian or a Muslim, and his purpose in working for Dinesen has been to see, up close, the way a Christian lived … The author remembers how she had wished Kitau had told her that before he came to live with her.”[3]
    2. Like the story about the Christian woman being observed by her servant to see how her faith compelled her to live, we also are given one simple rule for living out our faith in Christ – love.  (There are no perfect creeds, beliefs, or worship practices)
    3. “[This] new command is simple enough for a toddler to memorize and appreciate, and it is profound enough that the most mature believers are repeatedly embarrassed at how poorly they comprehend it and put it into practice.”[4]
  6.  “I have loved you in order that you also love one another.”  “When we allow the love of Christ to take deep root in us, so that it flourishes in all that we do and say to one another, it is the first step in helping the world to understand how Christ has transformed glory.  We give witness to what no purely verbal argument can ever accomplish: the glory of God breathing through the life of a Christ-centered community.”  Beloved – may we work tirelessly to be that kind of loving community.

TIme with the Children – A Walking Prayer

– The Door to the Sanctuary – coming into God’s presence with singing, praying, rejoicing

– The Baptismal Font – welcoming God’s children into the church family

– The Window – letting God’s light stream into the sanctuary.

– Communion Table – celebrating Christ’s death and resurrection.  His ministry and love.

– The Pulpit – proclaiming God’s word to us
            (faithfulness and gentleness in teaching and preaching, active and participating listeners)

Let’s pray:

God, thank you for this special place to worship you. 
Teach us more about your love. 
Show us how to live more faithfully.  Amen.

[1] Michael Pasquarello III in Feasting on the Word, Revelation 21:1-6.

[2] Debbie Rundlett on the pamphlet for The Journey, a course offered at the MVP offices, May 11, 2010.

[3] Gary D. Jones in Feasting on the Word, John 13:31-35.

[4] Gary D. Jones in Feasting on the Word, John 13:31-35.


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