My sermon wound up going in a completely different direction that I had planned this week! I do not often preach from Paul’s writings, although at times, he had excellent advice to the churches in his letters. In today’s passage from his letter to the church in Rome, he seems to speak from the very heart of Jesus’ teaching on love. He is also very aware that the time in which he lived was expected to end very soon, and the new age of God’s reign to begin! Let’s listen to Paul’s sensitive advice, in Romans 13: 8-14
13:8 Owe no one anything, except to love one another; for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. 13:9 The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery; You shall not murder; You shall not steal; You shall not covet”; and any other commandment, are summed up in this word, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” 13:10 Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law. 13:11 Besides this, you know what time it is, how it is now the moment for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we became believers; 13:12 the night is far gone, the day is near. Let us then lay aside the works of darkness and put on the armor of light; 13:13 let us live honorably as in the day, not in reveling and drunkenness, not in debauchery and licentiousness, not in quarreling and jealousy. 13:14 Instead, put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.
So, with those words as our backdrop, will you join me in a moment of prayer? May these words, offered with humility and hope, draw us closer to you O God and one another, amen.
One of the challenges of preaching in my study at home alone rather than with you physically is that I have NO idea how you are responding to what I am saying. I can’t ask a question and get any sort of response, whether it’s a nod of a head, or a slight frown or a quizzical look. For all I know you may be shouting hallelujahs and amens and I will never know! 😉
However, I am guessing that if I ask you what are the currencies that make up the Cycle of Blessings, most you wouldn’t be able to name all six. Perhaps some folks on the Transition Team will be able to, as they have been reading and discussing the book for a while now. So on the screen is the logo to remind you:
- The Currency of Gracious Leadership: Gracious leaders do not decide for others, but rather decide with participation of all involved. They do not impose their values, but seek to find shared meaning with others.Gracious leaders do not focus on self-interest, but on community well being. (Page 94)
- The Currency of Relationship: This is the internal and external networks of mutually respectful connections that leaders and members of a church and ministry have with each other and with the community.
- The Currency of Truth: This means developing processes that allow those who have been historically excluded for a variety of reasons, to share their insights and wisdom alongside the rest of us. A movement from debate to dialogue. It also means facing and hearing truths that may be difficult.
- The Currency of Wellness – Sabbath, breaking the pattern of work and consumption.
- The Currency of Time and Place – What and how do we use our building and property resources as well as our volunteer and paid time resources.
- And the Currency of Money: At it’s most basic, it’s simply a medium of exchange. But we lost sight of it when we started accumulating it as a commodity instead of keeping it moving as a medium of exchange.
And really, once we have food, shelter, clothing and a bit of savings, how much more do each of us need?
Every church I have served spends a great deal of its time and energy worrying about whether or not they will survive. Whether that’s in meetings or through endless fundraising, it captures the time and attention far more than Jesus does. Whether they will have enough money to keep going for another 2 years, 5 years, 10 years. I know you have the same concerns and it’s one of the reasons why you wanted a period of interim ministry. And I ask, why do you want to keep going for another 2 years, 5 years, 10 years?
What I have rarely heard a church discuss with any great degree of passion is why we do what we do? Why are we followers of Jesus? Are we followers of Jesus? And if we are, does anyone know that? And what different are we making in the world? Do we exist for a reason beyond ourselves?
Now if I was with you in person, I would be able to see the expressions on your face and your body language as you thought about the Food Bank and the refugees you have sponsors. You’d be a little ticked off with me right now! I know these are important ministries. But are they the only ministries that we are being called to? The other reason I bring up the Food Bank is that it is a great example of Living the Cycle of Blessings of a Sustainable ministry.
Think about it:
• The currency of gracious leadership – that ebbs and flows
• The currency of relationship – I know that some of the people who volunteer at the Food Bank have relationships, but I wonder if they are relationships of mutuality, where each give and receive, or are you mostly giving and don’t believe the other has something to offer to us?
• The currency of truth – how are we listening to the clients? How has society changed in the 40 years since the Food Bank was brought in as a temporary measure?
• The currency of wellness – blood pressure clinics, perhaps this is something that needs more attention.
• The currency of money – I know that money is donated from within the church and beyond the church and the food bank gives me gift cards in order to have gift cards on hand when they aren’t open.
• The currency of time and place – the church offers space and many volunteer hours, and also receives some financial support back.
See, you know how to do this! You know how to minister within the Cycle of Blessings!
What other ministries might be possible? One of the challenges we face is that we don’t really know the community in which the church is situated. You might be tired of me saying that. But I believe that it is true. On September 21s, @ 1pm, the Transition Team is taking an intentional walk through some of the streets around the church. We are meeting at the church; if you would like to join us, that would be awesome.
The other thing I have found myself wondering, especially as I explored this chapter on GracEconomics, is how many of us invest money in the neighbourhood that the church is situated? Do we buy our groceries there? Do we eat at the restaurants? Shop at the stores? And why is there NO COFFEE SHOP HERE??? Because doing so makes it possible for those establishments to thrive and the cycle continues.
One of the things the Transition Team learned in the book is that because it’s a circle, we can enter it at any one of these points.
• The currency of gracious leadership
• The currency of relationship
• The currency of truth
• The currency of wellness
• The currency of money
• The currency of time and place
Do you remember learning to ride a bicycle? Did you have training wheels back then? I didn’t. Did you fall? I did. More than once. But did you keep at it? Of course you did! And one day, suddenly you were rolling along, and nothing could stop you!
That’s what living the Cycle of Blessings is like. We’ll stumble, we might even fall, but if we keep at it, we’ll start rolling along and nothing will be able to stop us!
What ministry are we being called to start in our neighbourhood?
What ministry are we being called to join in our neighbourhood?
What ministry is Jesus calling us
Thanks be to God for the challenge and the opportunity of following Jesus! Amen.
Romans 13: 8-13
September 6, 2020 – SMUC