This week’s Sunday conversation came a few days after the historic US election that saw Donald Trump win the presidency. From whatever side of the political sphere you stand, the weeks and months leading up to this, as well as the historic 2016 election day, have been both fascinating and concerning.
This isn’t a political post. We don’t get into sides on this platform that is for sure. However, we can make some observations as bystanders. This election taught those of us watching just how divisive elections are (if we already didn’t know this). The country involved is divided almost down the centre, at least that’s what the vote results show. We know, that as much as North Americans have in common, they also have many things that split them apart. Politics is one of them.
I remember talking with a sales woman in Quebec many years ago. She told me that her and her husband decided to never talk about 3 things: Religion, Money & Politics. She said it’s kept them together for over 20 years 🙂
Well, as right as she may be, we can’t avoid conflict 100% of the time. So the question is, how can we move forward when important issues divide us?
It’s not just a country that’s been divided because of this election – the church is too. Christians voted on both sides of this election. (This happens in Canada too when we vote) As hard as that is to believe, it’s true, and it can cause much harm if we don’t deal with it in a heathy way.
The church is the only organism (community) in the world that should be able to overcome differences, even strong ones like electoral votes for Presidents or Prime Ministers. Why you say? Because the church comes together to be an alternative community, based around one person and one truth, Jesus, his death and resurrection.
One American pastor held a communion/eucharist service on election night last week. He tweeted by saying, “The election booth divides, but the eucharist table unites.” How can that be? Two reasons. Scripture and Tradition.
Both Galatians 3 and Colossians 3 say that we are One in Christ. No matter what our gender, our race, our class, our income, our citizenship, we are One in Christ Jesus. His death and resurrection are what bring us together. Paul says it this way:
So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, 27 for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise. (Gal 3)
…put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.11 Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all. (Col 3)
Historians tell us that in 1st century Rome, there was no other place for a Roman citizen, a Jew, a slave, a free person, a woman and a man, to be in the same room together and share community other than the church. They were our first examples of true christian community. So in 2016, we should really be able to say…no conservative or liberal, democrat or republican, no income level or education status…we can be ONE in Jesus.
The creeds help us here as well. In the 3rd and 4th centuries, creeds were created to bring people together and to remind them of what unified their faith community. They do come with some tainted history unfortunately. The Nicene Creed was encouraged/issued by Constantine, who wanted to enforce Christianity as the state religion. This wasn’t the best idea, mainly because following Jesus was never meant to be on one political side or another. As you may know, this caused some problems. However, The Apostles Creed, (which I like more) is succinct in nature and is a wonderful reminder of what brings us together. You can read it HERE.
Writer Tim Keller talks about ‘creedal issues’. He says we need to focus on creedal issues to bring the church together. There are many branches of christianity that stem from the root and the tree, but the Creeds are what keep us as one – they are the big branches. Denominations may have different things they hang their hat on or expressions that matter more, but what ties us together is God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit (the Trinity).
My favourite Creed is the Jesus’ Creed found in Mark 12 which simply tells us to Love God and Love others. If we could just focus on that, we’d be fine.
So now what? How do we come together with so many things coming between us?
Here are a few helpful things to think about (and do):
Learn to disagree with out being disagreeable
– we’re called to be Christ’s ambassadors, not Christ’s lawyers
– Give people the dignity to disagree with you
– Not all ideas are created equal, but all people who hold those ideas are created equal.
Faith grows in difficult times
– we are called to follow Jesus in whatever era we find ourselves in
– Jeremiah 29 teaches Israel to be true to themselves in a land that was governed by the ungoldly. God’s advice? Plant gardens and pray for your the wellfare of your cities.
Don’t grow weary in doing good (Gal 6:9)
– we vote everyday…with how we live and how we love
– living out our values is more important than legislating them
– If you want to be holy, be kind (F. Buechner)
Befriend people who are different than you
– we can’t stress this enough
Confess your sins
– we have enough sin to work on and confess with out focussing on others sins (Matthew 7)
Be the change you want to see in the world
– parents, your kids will watch and learn from you more than they will any politician or cultural leader.
– ‘vote for whoever you want, but We are the ones who shape culture’
– If we expect the gov’t to be the voice of the church or do its work, we’ve put our trust in the wrong place.
Lots of stuff in this post. Hope the discussion below helps.
As much as unity is of utmost importance in the church. And as important as it is to be able to disagree in a loving and civil manor. Know this, we are to stand up against the things Jesus stood up against: Racism, Favourtism, Pride, Hate, Violence, etc. And we are to love the people Jesus loved…EVERYONE. Whatever difference you may have, let the Jesus Creed be your ethic: Love God, Love other. You can’t go wrong with that.
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small(er) group discussion : (video wrap up)
Why is it so difficult to disagree without being disagreeable? Is living in harmony that hard?
What about the church? Have you experienced some disagreements that couldn’t be resolved? What were (or are) the main obstacles to unity?
After reading Galatians 3 and Colossians 3, what stands out to you about the early church?
What’s the church’s role in society when it comes to this? How can we help?
What do you think of this – “Our conversation (lives) must be grounded in an identity that runs deeper than our ideas or differences”?
Look over the take home points. Which one resonates with you? Which is easiest and/or hardest to live out?
Pray for unity in the church in Durham Region tonight. Name the churches you know and pray for them? And pray for our cities well-being (Jer 29).
We have come to the end of a 7 week series on things that we value or think are really important. We took the Fall season to ask what we take seriously. Seriously? Ya seriously! We talked about things like love, generosity, transformation; we also talked about our community’s three big values, discovery, story & community.
This week we look at how all those things should play out in our lives. What action does our faith in Jesus lead us to. It’s nice to talk about love and community and transformation, but will we turn those wonderful things into tangible things, action steps? It’s a question that we should always be asking, isn’t it? Even more important when it comes to faith, Jesus and the gospel. It was James who said, “faith without works is dead”. He wasn’t dissing faith, but saying that if faith is real that it’s gotta turn into action, into a verb, into real life things that make a real difference in our world and in others.
TransoforMission – a word we made up for this conversation. What does it mean? It means that the change in us should bring a change through us. Transformation needs to lead to MISSION. Part of last week’s text fits well here. (Rom 12:1-2)
Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. (message)
Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. (NIV)
If our faith doesn’t impact our life, our neighbourhoods, our cities, then like James says, it is no faith at all. With that in mind, let’s look at a familiar story in the gospel of John: that time Jesus washed his friend’s feet.
In John 13, Jesus and his disciples have sat down for a meal, possibly the passover meal and probably the Thursday evening before the Friday of Jesus’ death. He begins to do something that was unconventional and counter cultural. Jesus puts a towel around his waist and begins to wash the disciples feet. Peter wants nothing of this – he doesn’t think Jesus should be stooping down to this level. Feet washing was the job of servants and slaves. This is the first century, people walked in sandals and therefore feet were the dirtiest part of their bodies. Jesus insists on doing this, both as an act of servanthood to his disciples, as an example he would want them to follow.
We learn 4 things about Mission and being Missional from this story:
Mission will be messy…
Anytime you attempt to good, you will probably get a little messy, and risk a bit of pain. Jesus put a towel around his waist because he knew he’d be getting wet and having to dry off his friend’s feet. It’s a mess he knew was worth making. This is feet we’re talking about folks. Basic, ugly, dirty feet. It doesn’t get more down to earth than this. You can’t make the word better without putting a towel around your arm or around your waist and expecting a little dirt when you serve.
Mission involves doing what is necessary…
Peter can’t understand why this has to happen, but Jesus insists that it must happen. It was necessary, for the disciples, and for others who came after them. Jesus had to do this. As we follow him we will start to feel a necessity to serve others as well. God’s love in us compels us to turn our transformation into transformission. What is it that you are feeling you ‘have to do’?
Mission involves a lower posture, just like Jesus, we humble ourselves…
Jesus came to serve, and true servanthood means that we lower ourselves to serve those in need. In the example of Jesus, we are to do the same. People with a sense of mission aren’t above any role; they will do what needs to be done to make their surroundings better. Philippians 2 is the champion of this idea. So if we want to be people of mission, lets think of others more than we think or ourselves. This attitude change the world.
Mission is not about sending someone else or something else, but about being sent…
The crux of our mission is always this – to be Jesus to others. Doing what he did, following his pattern, having a sense of calling, being, as CS Lewis said, little Christ’s. A missional community is not a sending community, but a sent community – we scatter with a purpose. How? By being the hands and feet of Jesus. We are becoming a community of people who love God, love our neighbour, and make the world better.
What does this look like LIVE?
- This doesn’t mean that we go around washing people’s feet. But in the spirit of that act of humility of servanthood, we identify what God is calling us to and serve with all our hearts in that area.
- As a community we serve collectively (i.e. food drives, running4home, community events, raising and sending funds to missional organizations), but as individuals we must find our passion for serving.
- We can be like movie trailers for those who have yet to taste God’s goodness in Jesus – teasers of what Jesus has for the world.
- Of course this always includes simply sharing Jesus’ story with the world as the Spirit leads you to do so.
“The only way to give credit to the story of Jesus and the gospel is to have a congregation/community who believes it and lives it” (Leslie Newbigin)
“As you serve in places of pain, love, sorrow and hope, it’s Jesus walking in, wearing your skin, speaking your tone of voice…” (NT Wright)
Lord, make us instruments of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let us show love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy.
(Francis of Assisi)
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smaller group discussion : (video summary of talk)
What’s harder, change (transformation) or turning that change into action? Why is it difficult to take the step into action?
Why is it easy to talk about good things, but not actually follow through with them?
Skim through John 13:1-17. What do you think about this story? What do you learn about Jesus, his mission, about Peter, about us?
Look at the 4 thoughts around mission. What resonates? What is most challenging? What is most exciting?
Jesus said, “let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16) Now combine that with LB’s quote, “The only way to give credit to the story of Jesus and the gospel is to have a congregation/community who believes and lives it”. How do they jive together?
End with praying through Francis of Assisi’s prayer, and then praying for our world and your missional part in it.
When was the last time you met up with an old friend? Someone from high school, maybe even middle school. If you’re reading this and you’re in high school, then you have some time before you meet up with an ‘old’ friend 🙂 Assuming you’ve done this before, you’re probably hoping that some things haven’t changed, that you can recognize them, that the characteristics you like are similar to the ones you remember. There’s something nice about that isn’t there? However, I’m guessing you’d also appreciate how they’ve changed over the years; how they’ve grown; what kind of person they’ve become from when you first knew each other. Being the same is nice, but it’s also a little creepy if nothing has changed, right?
With that in mind it’s worth noting that reunion shows are really popular these days; comeback TV shows. Netflix is very willing to produce or air these kinds of shows. Why? Because of two very important reasons: People wanna see what’s the same (from their favourite show), and people wanna see what’s different, what’s changed. The most recent one might be the Gilmore Girls: a year in the life. If you’re familiar with this show you share similar questions: What will Lorelai be like, are her and Luke happy, what about Rory, who did she end up with? Are you on team Jess, team Logan or team Dean? If you have no clue what these names mean, it’s ok, but you probably see where we’re going with this. (or not)
Most of us hope that with time also comes change; we hope that as we grow, we are actually becoming better versions of ourselves. The funny thing is that as much as we hope for this, many of us don’t take transformation seriously. We think that things just happen on their own, but that’s not that case. If we want something to change, we have to be deliberate about changing something.
Eugene Peterson once said, “We are not interested in knowing more but in becoming more.”
C.S. Lewis said it this way, “If conversion makes no improvements in a person’s outward actions then I think his or her ‘conversion’ was largely imaginary.”
Surely Jesus didn’t die for his followers to remain the same; he died so they could experience what the NT calls, new life. You’ll find other ways to describe this in the scripture: new creation, born again, made new, and of course the word we’re focusing on today, transformation. This actual word is only found in the NT a couple of times, but it’s alluded to everywhere. Romans 12 is where Paul perhaps makes the best use of this word. Before you read it, consider this question: How do we move from being inspired to being transformed – from a transactional faith (where we receive something) to a transformational faith (where we experience true change in our lives)? With that in mind, let’s see what Paul says:
Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. 2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. (NIV)
So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you. (Message)
This past Sunday we dealt with both verse one and two, but in this post we’ll simply stick with verse two. After Paul urges us to be living sacrifices (unlike the dead sacrifices the Jewish people were accustomed to), in other words, people who, in light of Jesus’, live sacrificially before God and the world as their act of worship, he then moves onto what some might find as difficult language. Difficult perhaps because this language sounds like a command. But Paul is sincere here. He truly wants to help his readers see a better way, the way of Jesus. His challenge not to conform comes as loving encouragement to people who he hopes don’t waste time moving in the wrong direction.
Paul is putting two words and ideas against each other: Conform & Transform.
Don’t conform or get squeezed into someone else’s version of your life. Don’t get stuck in a prefabricated space. You can live in a different space with a fresh view of the world. The only way for that happen is through the renewing of your mind. God actually cares about how you think; he wants you smarter, not academically, but with wisdom. This is all so you can ‘figure out’ how to live – how to live your best life.
Think about the renovation shows we see on TV. People love watching these shows. The best part is always the before and after shots, that’s where we see the magic. We are amazed at the transformation that takes place. We get stuck in our living space and can’t see past what’s there. Contractors or Designers are able to look at what the space can become, not only at what it is. This is what Paul is doing in Romans 12; he’s showing us a better way, a better space to live the lives God is calling us to.
Don’t let faith just be a transaction for you, an exchange, instead, through prayer, community, scripture reading, reflection, and the renewing of your mind, move towards transformation and start living the life you were called to live. Let your faith effect every part of your life. It’s the best way to live. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out.
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small(er) group discussion: (video starter)
What is it about transformation that both excites people and scares people?
Is it easier to see what needs to change in others, than what needs to change in you? Why is that?
We said that we want to move from inspiration to transformation; transactional faith to transformational faith. What do you think about that? Do you see the difference in the two sides?
Look at Romans 12:2, break it up at talk about it.
– Do not conform / Don’t become so well-adjusted to culture without even thinking / Don’t get squeezed into someone else’s mould for your life.
– Instead, be transformed by the renewing of your mind / Instead, fix your attention on God and you’ll be changed from the inside out.
Does the HGTV/Renovation show analogy help us understand what Paul is trying to get at with opening our eyes to a better use of our space, our mind, our heart, our worldview?
What, in your opinion, is God’s good, pleasing & perfect will?