Preaching: Pastor Rebecca Henry
Date Presented: Sunday, October 2, 2016
Scripture Reference: Galatians 5:13b-25
Sermon: Imagine the People of God: Fruition
This summer much of the world was watching the summer Olympics, and in awe of what these athletes had accomplished. Watching them is inspiring, especially for younger athletes who aspire to one day be in the Olympics. Only it doesn’t take long before a person realizes it doesn’t just happen. It takes a great deal of commitment and discipline to train, to eat a certain diet, and miss out on school activities. It takes work.
It isn’t all that different from other things we might imagine and want for our lives, whether it is losing weight, having a happy and healthy marriage, owning a home or business, being free of debt. Unfortunately, while we may all wish for a magic pill to just make it happen, there isn’t one. We have to work at it. We have to make a commitment to this new life.
It is no different for us as a people of God, whether it be in our personal walk of faith or our life as a community. One of the things that I hear over and over again about the church is that when people walk through the doors they are expecting a utopia, that things in the church will be different from the rest of the world, that things will be better. They expect people will be loving and caring towards one another, welcoming and accepting of people. They don’t expect to experience fighting among people or to hear gossip. Only when they start to get involved they discover maybe the church isn’t all that different after all. People argue over what color the new carpet should be, when education classes should be held, how to spend money. There are people who feel judged by others, or avoid coming because of what people might say. The church is not that different, except perhaps in one way.
The different is that we make a commitment with our lives to live in a new way. We make a commitment to let the Spirit of God teach us and guide us in how to live. We start to live by what the Spirit says (what we learn through reading the Bible, study, prayer) and not by what we think or want. We make intentional efforts and choices to do things differently. We work at being compassionate, going out of our way to do something for someone even when it is inconvenient, or to hold back our judgements and try to understand someone else’s situation. We make it a practice not to talk behind people’s backs when we are upset, but instead have face to face conversations. We try to find new ways of communicating. We make a commitment to do things differently, to be open to changes in ourselves, because we want a new life in the Spirit, because we want to be the people of God.
That is why today is such an important day for us as a church as we hear about the experiences of mystery guests who worshipped with us in the past year. In reading the Bible and studying what the Word of God tells us, we know hospitality is important. We know that we are called to build relationships with others, to make disciples of Jesus Christ. Now we are doing that work; we are taking steps and acting because we take that calling seriously. We are intentionally making the commitment to learn and grow, to hear what more we can be doing as the people of God to share the good news of Jesus Christ.
Paul says, as we hear it in The Message, “Since this is the kind of life we have chosen, the life of the Spirit, let us make sure that we do not just hold it as an idea in our heads or a sentiment in our hearts, but work out the implications in every detail of our lives.” In other words, let us not just be people who think and talk about the church, let us be the church. Let us bear the fruit of our life in Christ so that the transformation, the new life in us, is evident to all.
It is no different for each one of us personally. I talk with individuals who profess belief in God, but then acknowledge they haven’t gone to church; they haven’t been reading the Bible. Instead they think about God when sitting in the words, or at Christmas. Only they admit this doesn’t seem to be working. They are going through marital troubles; they are struggling to control their anger; they aren’t happy. They want something different. They want something better.
The truth is whether it is someone who is stepping into a church for the first time in many years, or if it is those of us who sit in our pews week after week, we won’t’ grow, we won’t deepen our relationship with Christ, if we don’t change something, if we don’t make a deeper commitment. We won’t get different results in our lives, in our church, in our community, in our world, if we don’t do something different. It takes commitment. It takes a willingness to be vulnerable, to see and hear where we need the help of the Spirit.
That is so often what we experience when we come here to the Lord’s Table, a vulnerability, an awareness of how much we need Christ. But it is also here at this Table that we are reminded of who we can be. We are given a vision. Yes, we may struggle with our own desires and choices, but we are forgiven and set free to live a new life by the Spirit. We are called to a life where we become the body of Christ in the world, a life where we are united in love. Here at this Table we speak, we imagine, we pray that this life may be so. And when we come to this Table, with our hands open to receive, we are welcoming the Spirit into our lives. We are making a commitment to Christ, a commitment to do what the Spirit is directing us to do so that we may indeed bear fruit.
Yes, it is hard work, painful work at times. It can feel like we are losing ourselves, but it is not work we do along. The Spirit is with us helping us, guiding us, and what we gain is so much more. We gain a life marked by the Spirit, full of love, kindness, self-control, joy, peace, patience, faithfulness, goodness, and humility.