Saturday, September 12, 2015

Church Has Left the Building Campaign Sermon 1: Living Outside Our Assumptions

Living Outside Our Assumptions                               9/13/15

Week 1 of Church Has Left the Building Sermon Series

Acts 1:1-11, Luke 7:1-10

Whenever I have an experience that is new or unusual, I will offer the joke, “if I had a dime for every time that happened, I’d have a dime”.  Today’s word is “assumptions”.  If I had a dime for everytime I made an assumption, I would be a wealthy man.  And my guess is that you might be too.  It is something that we do as people.

What are some of the negative types of assumptions that people make?

The word assume is a very interesting word, for it has several different definitions.

The original meaning is “to take up, or in”, and so companies assume another companies debt when buying them out.  The family cook might assume feeding dinner to their children’s friends over for a playdate.  A grandparent might help assume the cost of a college course for their grandchild.

For today’s purposes we’ll use the most common understanding of the word assume;  to “take as granted or true, to suppose”.  An assumption is “a fact or statement taken for granted.”  This is an interesting definition, because if something is a fact, you might feel safe building your life upon that fact’s reality, because facts are accepted and agreed upon by society.  But a statements are different from facts.  That is, you might be assuming a statement that is on far more shaky ground.

In Scripture, the only use of the word assume is in the sense of taking over or in.  For example, The Levites assume responsibility for worship in Nehemiah’s rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem. 

But for many, the trickier, difficult and complex issues arise from taking something for granted.  Taking something for granted, making an assumption, can lead to a lot of problems.  And if we make assumptions about how to live a good life, or about God, or about God’s family and are wrong in our assumptions, spiritual unhealthiness can sneak in. 

Bad assumptions can lead to dysfunction and distance.  If someone reacts negatively to your assumptions, they might lose some trust, or not want to speak to you. Making assumptions eventually leave us lacking, empty, frustrated, and sometimes, foolish or embarrassed.   The stakes are higher, and the consequences more tangible for our faith and Christian life.  So we need to view everything in light of Scripture and the Holy Spirit’s guidance.

As Christian’s our call is to worship God, follow Jesus Christ and experience the Holy Spirit. We are called to be people of grace and truth.  Jesus Christ is full of grace and truth.   Truth allows us to rest secure and be at peace.  It also provides a foundation when things do not go our way, or challenges arise.  And when we work with all types of people in the church that have different knowledge, context, history and yes, assumptions, a little grace is needed along the way. 
Jesus Christ is our model:  he was full of grace and truth.  And he lived this duality perfectly.

Assumptions can box us in.  But God wants us to live boldly in this world for him.  We are to be godly, to be Christ-like, to be Spirit filled.  We are called to be different than the people who have no hope.  We are called to shine for Christ.  

What we announce is not our assumptions, but the truth, and grace, of Jesus Christ, Lord and Savior.

What do we know from Acts:

            Jesus gave instructions to his disciples by the Holy Spirit

            Jesus showed himself to his chosen after his suffering

            Jesus gave many convincing proofs that he was alive

            He appeared to his disciples and spoke about the kingdom of God

            Jesus promised that the Holy Spirit would soon come

            Jesus redirects the disciples regarding what God will make known

      (they had a big assumption regarding how Israel would rule the nations)

            Jesus declares that his disciples will be witnesses throughout the earth

            Jesus is taken up into heaven

            The 2 men declare that Jesus will come back from heaven the same way he went

               to heaven

This passage also speaks to us about what we have in Christ, not what we might assume, but what is really ours, what is real, and true, and certain!

    The Holy Spirit’s instruction to us as disciples

    Jesus Christ as the Living, resurrected Lord, having endured the cross

    The presence of the Holy Spirit

    The need for faith  (we don’t yet know how the final reveal will look)

    The call to witness to Jesus Christ 

    The promise of his return

 We might assume we have to figure out everything for ourselves, but the reality is that the Holy Spirit teaches us about Jesus Christ.

We might assume that Jesus is just a spiritual concept, but the reality is he is alive.

We might assume that if we do good, then God will think we are good enough, but the reality is that by faith in Jesus, we have the promise of the Holy Spirit, dwelling in our hearts.

We might assume that we know it all, but the reality is that it takes faith in God, and trust that God will accomplish his purposes.

We might assume we can just do little things to help the cause, we can fit God’s service in when convenient for us,, but the reality is we are to speak and bear witness to Jesus Christ.  Everything should be done for God’s glory and with God’s glory on the forefront of our hearts, minds and souls.

We might assume how the world will look at the end of time, but the reality is that Jesus has promised to come again.

And so our call toward being people of grace and truth, just like our Lord is, should make us bold, not defeated.  It should make us confident, because we can do all things through the one who strengthens us.

Today’s gospel less on speaks to a Roman military figure, with authority endorsed by the Empire.  A Centurian was in charge of 100 roman soldiers. How do we see faith at work for the Centurian? 

The centurian seems to have built a successful and good life when we meet him

            He has a good reputation before trouble comes (7:5)

            Kept his ear to the ground for opportunity:  He heard that Jesus was there (3)

            Cares for his servant, servant’s life  (which was probably surprising for his

                position and context)

            He has good relationships with the people who are controlled

            Humble (7)

            He understood the power of power (say the word, and he will be healed)

The faith is astounding to Jesus because the Centurian’s assumption is really a fact:  Just say the word Jesus, and he will be healed.   God’s word was sufficient to the Centurian.            

Culturally how do we build on more solid ground than assumptions:

Time   (which speaks to commitment, we show what we really value by giving

             our time to it)

            Communication  (understanding what is important, and making the effort to talk

                                        about important matters)

            Consistency   (how we do what we do)

            Clarity of mission (why we do what we do)

Living Outside of our Assumptions means we are living upon God’s Holy Word, Thy Word is Truth.  Jesus Christ is full of truth.  The Holy Spirit will be our counselor and will guide us into truth.  

We should be gracious when we trip over assumptions.

We should be full of truth so that we move toward all that God has for us.

We should live in Jesus Christ, the Way, the Truth, the Life.

Background on The Church Has Left the Building Campaign
*Program started by Woodside Presbyterian Church in Yardley, PA 6 years ago.  Their pastor wanted to emphasize that Christians “be the church”.

*One Sunday a year, participating congregations worship outside their sanctuary and their worship is participating in a Christian mission or work project.

(ideally, all projects can be seen by people who do not have a church home)

*Over 40 churches in NJ and PA participate in this program

*This is Stockton’s 3rd year.

*Each year, there is a theme for the Church Has Left the Building program.

                   This year, the theme is Living Outside the Box.

          We will use the Book of Acts as the basis for our sermons.

*There are 8 sermons between now and November 8th on this theme.  All worship continues at our regular 11am time.

*This year, on the weekend of Oct 24/25, there will be a chance to participate in one of several projects that help get the message out about Jesus Christ as Lord and God’s love for people.

There may be more projects that arise, but I will be highlighting 3: one each from the Shared Staffing partners (Stockton, Mt. Airy, Titusville)

          Sat. am:  Titusville will be sewing dresses for children in Bahamas

                         (where Titusville sends a mission team every year)

          Sun. am:  Stockton will put together Operation Christmas Child


          Sun. afternoon:  Mt. Airy will lead a worship service at Nursing Home

*Stockton, on Sunday morning October 25, will have a brief commissioning service at 11am.  We will then go into the Main Hall to put together the shoe boxes…Unless, you chose to go to another work project. 

*Participants from all of the NJ churches will gather in the evening of 10/25 at Hopewell Presbyterian for a pizza party (5pm) and worship service (6pm). 

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