At first glance, the clean-unclean metaphor in Scripture seems lost on us today. But perhaps the meaning is hidden in plain sight for an image-controlling culture that can no longer tell what is filtered and what is real. We, like the Pharisees, are experts at cleaning the outside. But are we what we appear to be? The good news is that Christ can make us clean on the inside.
Why is there so much division among us? The walls that divide us are not between different races or generations but in every human heart. The good news is that in Christ these walls come tumbling down as God forms us all into one new Person.
Why does our pursuit of “freedom” only lead to more bondage? We are too easily entangled in things that once gave us pleasure until, before long, we serve them. The good news is that through Christ the Spirit of God has set us free from the power of sin and death.
Why do smart people do stupid things? Our trouble is not rebellion but folly. Blindness. We walk in darkness, “having no idea what we’re stumbling over. The good news is that, in Jesus, God has opened our eyes and we can see things as they really are.
The gospel is not about going to heaven after we die. It’s about heaven coming into us before we die. It’s more than a message. It’s a miracle. And it’s a way of life practiced in community before a world that is desperate for answers.
It has never been harder, and it has never been more urgent to share the gospel than it is today: harder because people are disenchanted and less interested, yet urgent because so much is at stake. But even when the soil is hard, we must keep sowing.
Organizations are often attracted to the obsolete, to things that should have worked but did not, to things that were once productive but no longer are. Then something happens – something unpredictable and unwelcome – that forces us to re-examine our assumptions, methods and goals. It’s a moment that calls us forward, from Jerusalem to Antioch, and if we go God will meet us there with new power and new opportunities. I believe our church is in an Antioch moment that calls for us to establish new presence in the community, outside these walls.
As we discussed last week, we live in a time of unprecedented change. Traditions, values and mores that have governed our lives for years are met with suspicion from a public determined to “do what is right in their own eyes.” Even the institutions that have stabilized us in the past are, themselves, weakened by internal conflict and impotence. One of those is the Church. Never has the public been less interested in the Church; never have they needed it more. We must now ask, “what will the Church do? How will we adapt to these times? What changes are called for in making more and better disciples?” In this passage, Jesus gives us a formula for relevance in any age.
We are people of ritual and routine. We like what’s known—the things we can predict and plan for. We like to presume that the good things we have known and been a part of in the past will continue in the days ahead. But the story of God is filled with examples of the Lord disrupting the norm for the sake of doing something greater…”a new thing.” And while neither God nor his mission ever change, the manner in which he accomplishes his will and ways is ever-changing, keeping us alert, active, and aware of his presence in our midst, and calling us to join him in his transforming work.
Throughout the Bible, God removes barriers that separate people from him, from each other, and from life needs. We see this especially in the life and teaching of Jesus, specifically in the parable of the prodigal son (Luke 15). The church is an extension of Jesus’ ministry. Or are we? Do we possess the empathy that ignites in us the compassion, courage, and commitment to cut the curtains that keep people from the abundant life?
Proverbs says that “the fruit of the righteous is a tree of life,” (11:30) meaning that the life of one good person is multiplied a hundred times in the people around them. So Jesus and Paul both tell us to reproduce ourselves in others who, in turn, will do the same with people in their own community. This sermon will focus on how living things reproduce, each after its own kind, and call CWC to become a multiplying presence in our community and beyond.
When God calls us into redemption of the world, we sometimes don’t like what we’re called to do, but if we obey Him we will find that God has gone before us, that His grace is more generous and patient than we thought, and that the life we saved was actually our own. Didn’t Jesus say something like this? “He who loses his life, for me and for the gospel, will save it,” (Mark 8:35).