Holding Fast

Pastor Diane Gordon

Mt Pleasant FUMC

July 23, 2017

 

 

Scriptures: Romans 8:12-25 and Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43

 

Theologian and author, Brian McLaren, asks a vital question: “Could Christians migrate from defining their faith as a set of beliefs to expressing it as a loving way of life?”[1]

We live in a world filled with weeds. We have within ourselves weeds of greed, gluttony and a few others that vary. We live in a time when it is not popular to actively participate in organized religion, and yet our mission as a church is to make more disciples of Jesus – more and more people following Jesus’ Way – which we assume is the not-weed-way.

What might it look like if we lived our faith through love of God and neighbor? It’s tempting to think we can just do that without having faith in Christ, any belief in God, or without the power of the Holy Spirit helping us. The world in the last century has put forth the notion that we don’t need God to be “nice” people who care for one another. How this has been lived out has been to become isolated from our neighbors. People come and go without even knowing the name of the person who lives next door. It seems easier to think kindly of them if you don’t really know them. If you have no real relationship then they don’t ask anything of you, no cup of borrowed sugar, no collecting their mail while they’re away, no listening ear when they are going through a rough time, and absolutely no borrowing money when they are in desperate straits!

If our faith is defined as a set of beliefs then we can get away with living in isolation from our neighbors and not feeling like we have any responsibility for them or to them. But if our faith is a lived experience, a “loving way of life,” then it is necessary that we redefine what it means and what it looks like to be a Christian.

When we were in the worship space on the mission trip to Cass I noticed a poster on the wall. I had the same poster at home so I dug it out, happy that it had not gotten destroyed in the flood. It is entitled “How to Build Community.” Here’s some of what it says:

·        Turn off your TV

·        Leave your house

·        Know your neighbors

·        Look up when you are walking

·        Greet people

·        Sit on your stoop

·        Plant flowers

·        Use your library

·        Play together

·        Buy from local merchants

·        Share what you have

·        Barter for your goods

·        Help a lost dog

·        Hire young people to do odd jobs

·        Take children to the park

·        Garden together

·        Support neighborhood schools

·        Ask for help when you need it

·        Fix it even if you didn’t break it

·        Have potlucks

·        Honor elders

·        Pick up litter

·        Read stories aloud

·        Listen before you react in anger

·        Seek to understand

·        Mediate a conflict

·        Learn from new and uncomfortable angles

·        Know that no one is silent though many are not heard. Work to change this.

 

There are others, but you see that while many things are fun and easy, others require effort and time. Some are downright difficult and require a spirit that is of God. Creating community demands that we participate in a shared interest. Living in isolation with individualism and self-interest as our gods will not fuel a desire for community, but living with a sense that sharing one another’s burdens and caring for one another does.

          The early church thrived on this very act of creating community, sharing, looking out for those most vulnerable and welcoming the stranger. This will be the very thing that spreads the gospel of Jesus: people who love God and are grateful for the gifts of the Spirit share the love and gratitude freely because they know there is an unlimited supply. God’s grace and love will never run out. There is no scarcity in God. It is not limited to any certain group of people, but instead is given to all, without price. Our response is to live in that same attitude of generous grace, caring for those who face injustice, using our voices to work to change the systems that damage God’s good creation.

          We live in weedy times. Greed has been lauded through consumerism and the profits benefit only those at the top as they sell us things that do not satisfy and even make us sick. Then they sell us medicines to cure a problem we may not have had otherwise, or a diet pill, or a self-help book that promises peace of mind in ten easy steps.

          Creating a Christian community that has room for various opinions and yet a solid foundation in the love of Christ will help us be God’s people – God’s wheat – in the midst of all the weeds of life. Gaining strength from God – through the Holy Spirit – will make it possible for us to not be choked out by evil. This is only possible when we intentionally connect to God, staying mindful that we cannot do this on our own. Creating life-giving community is not easy. It demands a strength and willingness that is beyond our own power.

          God is willing and able to give us this strength. All we have to do is ask. May it be so. Amen.



[1] Brian D. McLaren, The Great Spiritual Migration: How the World’s Largest Religion Is Seeking a Better Way to Be Christian (Convergent: 2016), 2-3.