Jan 21 2024 The Church with a Capital O - "Our" Church

Genesis 1-11 lays out every theme of the Bible – Tuesdays or Wednesdays – over Zoom starting soon.

Last week we talked about the Church – Capital C – universal, invisible.

This week, we will talk about the Capital O church – Our church. Some of us have been together for many decades. You are the church here. It has never been about a program or organization – it is about people. When we have tried that – it didn’t work. For others – it works – even this morning – we had 3 technical difficulties.

I do have a verse:

Philippians 1: 1 To all God's holy people in Christ Jesus at Philippi, together with the overseers and deacons:

Paul is writing to the holy ones. When Paul was writing – it was to Our church – Capital O –

The focus of our church has always been Jesus. There is no church without Jesus. Like the old joke – I wanna say a squirrel, but I’ll stick with Jesus.

All of us got here in vastly different ways and would never have connected except for Jesus bringing us together.

Fellowship can only exist if it is in Jesus.

Paul mentions the people before mentioning the leaders. That is just the way the Kingdom of God is – it is upside down. All the leaders are is servants. They hold the lowest position in the church – because Jesus held the very lowest position.

2 Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 3 I thank my God every time I remember you. 4 In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy

Paul’s typical greeting…

5 because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now,

Paul refers to them as partners. The church is a community of equals. Paul understood the equality in the church – no rank, no hierarchy. Sure, there are gifts and positions – but in our church – there is no rank.

Partnership in the gospel. That is much bigger than partnership in evangelism. Evangelism is good, but a small thing when we partner in the gospel. We partner with Jesus – and as a community – in a cosmic metanarrative! (Come to the Genesis class, we’ll talk about that)

From the first letter – it is a story – the story of God – and it is good news of great joy for all people.

If you start in Gen.1-2:4 – then Revelation 21-22 – you have read the entire story of the Bible and everything in between only tells you the details. And WE are in the middle of all of that! Grace Summit has had its place in the big story – and it is an important role. If the Bible were still being written today – it would be written. But we don’t need any more Bible – we have all we need.

6 being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

And the YOU is plural – it is never about YOU – it is about Y’ALL.

It is not about buildings – or programs – it is about people. We have all been formed over the years. We see it in one another.

Cindy and I are closing in on 33 years here.

For me – it has been an honor and privilege – serving you all – and I deeply mean that.

Some of your kids are here – and they have kids – and some of them worked at our house in the summers as high school kids. And they didn’t know what they were doing! But it was a blast having them.

I was at a pastor’s time – the last 6 years have been really hard on churches. Pastors sharing – struggles – and someone said – pastors have these sayings – and Cindy says – don’t use those… I forget if this was one of them.

“Just remember – Sheep stink” – My thought was – I’m not sure how Jesus was using that word picture. I think it was – they need care – love. We’ve been watching a series…

Instead of stinking – you all have been faithful. Jesus tells a parable – well done, good and faithful servant – you all have been faithful. And each of you will have it said – well done. Yep, you’ve blown it a zillion times, but that has nothing to do with those words being said to you. I would join Him in those words.

Dave Brenner has summed up the difficulties of our world: “You know, I am closer to people in the church…” – Dave has been here from the beginning – Genesis 1 – “The closest I have ever been”

That sums it all up for me. That is what has happened.

Jeff kind of mentioned this – On the back of my office door is The Tardis.

Cindy and I are big Dr. Who fans – if you know – It is bigger on the inside. I did a sermon series on that once – and we have a small church – but it is bigger on the inside. A mustard seed church – having a bigger impact.

Jeff put out a lot of numbers – I didn’t calculate so closely – I have shared more than 1500 sermons here – so what I want to do in closing… Some things I have shared in ad nauseum – at one point – it was always about having points. 3,5 whatever points. And lately – the points have gone by the wayside – but in closing – I have 7 points.

First – practice the way of Jesus. You become like Jesus through practice – not just trying harder or willpower – and I always give my one example – I used to have a bit of struggle with patience. I started a practice of telling myself – I am not in a hurry. And it really formed me. Whatever you struggle with – think of the fruit of the Spirit – or the fruits of that other spirit to avoid.

It is like golf – I love golf – and the secret is finding a swing that is constantly repeatable. Find practices that are repeatable.

2024 can be emotional. For me – woke up at 2:30 in the morning – yeah, I did get back to sleep – but remember this –

2) We are citizens of another place. We are aliens and strangers. Heaven is our home and hope. Don’t trust in strength or armies or kings – don’t hope in those – only Jesus.

3) Play the long game of evangelism. Cindy and I have lived in Woodridge for 33 years. We never went door-to-door sharing – but God gave us all these opportunities to live the gospel and become friends and at times, to share with them. And this week – and last week – the boiler has been not working and working. So, I called George – the boiler guy – his son, Danny is friends with Tony – they were part of this GANG of kindergartners! Terry, his wife – has had a spiritual interest. George was asking about the closing – George said – Terry has been going to Grace Church – she has these friends who have been talking to her – play the long game.

4) – Say the Jesus Prayer – Lord Jesus, son of David, Have mercy on me. Sometimes in life – that is the only thing I have.

5) You have done this – Keep reading the Bible on its own terms – the way it wants to be read – even when it contradicts – don’t try to harmonize or defend it – let it be what it wants to be - and if you sit with that – it will open its treasure to you – I have seen that over and over. As long as I try to mold the Bible into what I think – it doesn’t

Be a Berean – someone was saying – I struggle when I hear other pastors and think – is that right? Yes, the Bereans did that – but do it gently!

I hope – that you go off – and say – Mike said this, but I’ve found something different.

Philippians 2 – Have this attitude in yourselves – that although he existed in the form of God did not equate equality with God a thing to be grasped, but let go of it – became a servant and slave – even to the cross.

In every context of relationship – ask – What privilege or advantage do I possess – NOW – lay it aside to be a servant. To be the slave – in that context – as Jesus did.

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