11/30/14 Sermon (November 30, 2014)

posted Dec 17, 2014, 11:22 AM by David Hawkins

11/30/14 Sermon (November 30, 2014) “Called Into Fellowship”

Scripture Reading: 1 Corinthians 1:3-9  (Liturgist -  invite the congregation to follow along, p. 166)

Grace to you all and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

I give thanks to my God always for you all because of the grace of God that has been given you all in Christ Jesus, for in every way you all have been enriched in him, in speech and knowledge of every kind — just as the testimony of Christ has been strengthened among you all — so that you all are not lacking in any spiritual gift as you all wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ. He will also strengthen you all to the end, so that you all may be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.

God is faithful; by him you all were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

Sermon: "Called into Fellowship"             Rev. David Hawkins

For those of you nerds who care about Liturgical kinds of  things, Advent is the beginning of the church year. It might seem a little bit weird to think of a new year starting up, because our civic calendar is winding down. For the rest of the world, it’s the end of the year, not the beginning. End of the year parties, end of the year tax accounting, end of the year shopping sprees, end of the year  just about everything, except the Church. The Church is just getting started.

Advent is the season in which we actively think about what it means to get ready for Christ -- both in the sense that we are anticipating the birth of Christ, but also in the sense that we consider the prophecies that prepare us for the coming of Christ into the world, the promise that he will  come again to the world that he redeemed.

And so, it makes sense that this is how the Church organizes its life. We begin with Jesus. We begin the Church year in much the same way that our children do on Christmas morning --  in the darkness just before dawn, looking for the first morning sunrise of Christmas, trembling with the hope and the promise of the Gift that God has given to the world.

Throughout this season, we’ll be lighting candles signifying the coming light of Jesus Christ. Our scriptures will remind us that Jesus is coming, to make ourselves ready for him. Our hymns and prayers will be a reflection of our own desire to see Jesus, to know him, and to be known by him.

Advent is a season of preparation, and our beautiful church bears witness to our own preparations for the arrival of the Christ child in Bethlehem and in our hearts. I would like to thank those wonderful folks who came out yesterday to decorate our fellowship hall and sanctuary.

This morning, as Kim read the words that the Apostle Paul wrote to a church that he started in the city of Corinth. those of you who were following along may have noticed that he said the words  ‘you all’, rather than just the word ‘you’.  I asked him to do this to point out a characteristic of Greek grammar, something called the plural ‘you’. We don’t really have that syntax in English, except for maybe down here in Texas, y’all.

The point is, Paul is writing, not to an individual, but to a group. He isn’t writing to one person in the church, he’s writing to everyone. Community is a big deal for Paul, and for those of you have read the Book of Corinthians in the New Testament, you have already noticed that Paul has a lot to say about what it means to live in fellowship together.

You may have also noticed a certain amount of tension in his letter. There are problems in the church in Corinth, and I have to say that I am profoundly grateful that our church doesn’t have the same issues. We have our own stuff of course, every church has that. But the folks in Corinth? They are messed up.

But even though we’re not a Greek church in the ancient world, wrestling with questions about whether or not we should eat food that has been dedicated to Roman gods and goddesses, we do share something in common with Paul’s church. We also are a community in Christ, and that means things.

And so, as we begin our Church’s new year, I would like to invite you all to join with me as we begin a year-long look at what it means to be a community, to be a fellowship of Christians. This year we will look at a few different ways that we can strengthen our membership, and reach out to include more folks in in our congregation. We will examine what it means to be a member of Christ’s body in this place and time, and put some special emphasis on living into our call to be a church.

And that’s what being a church really is. It’s not a choice. It’s a call. And the concept of call is a little bit foreign to us. We’re not entirely sure what that really means.

Part of the reason we’re not sure what being called really means is because we live in a culture that offers a lot of choices. It’s who we are. When we getting ready to buy something, we like to choose the color, the size, the shape, the flavor, the smell, the fit, everything down to the smallest detail.

And I don’t really think there’s anything especially wrong with being able to choose from a selection of things. I mean, it’s our money, right? We should be able to spend it the way we want. And I agree with that, in principle.

But I never really thought about how much we, as Americans value the ability to choose things, even insignificant things, until I spent some time living in Germany. In a German supermarket you have a much narrower selection from which to choose. For instance, if you’re looking for cereal, you can decide between a corn kind and a rice kind, a granola kind and and oat kind. You can decide between sweetened and unsweetened, and you can choose between rolled oats and steel cut. That’s about it.

As an American, at first I found that to be a little bit... stifling. I would make jokes about going to the store to buy ‘People’s Oatmeal #1’, that sort of thing. But then I got used to just going to the store to buy oatmeal and coming home. I realized that my cereal didn’t need to be a reflection of my personality. It simply needed to be oatmeal.

When I came back to America after five years in Germany and went to the store to buy oatmeal, I was paralyzed by an entire aisle dedicated to just cereal. Thousands of different kinds of cereal. It was overwhelming. Even after being back in the states for the last 20 years, I still think the cereal aisle in the grocery store is out of control. The amount of choices we have for cereal is absolutely ridiculous. The next time you go to the store, check it out. Especially the oatmeal department. Oatmeal! How hard can this be? You’ll see what I mean.

We value the ability to choose. But Paul reminds us that we didn’t choose to be a church. We were called into existence. We didn’t choose to be members of this church. We were called to be members. And this is a big deal.

Being called to a church is different than choosing to go to a church. Choosing a church means that you are looking for a group of people that fits your own personality, one that reflects your own viewpoints, your own ways of thinking about things, one that is able to serve you and your needs. Being called to a church means that you are are being invited by God to offer your skills, your talents, your viewpoints and personality in order to serve others.

Choosing a church means that church has become a commodity, a product to be purchased. Being called to church means that we are members of something bigger than ourselves -- invited to participate in the life and ministry of Jesus Christ himself.

Today we celebrate that invitation. As we begin our Advent Season, we are called to this table to remember and to rejoice in the presence of Christ, to be knitted together as a community, to be strengthened for the work of his kingdom, and to be comforted by his promise to be with us forever.

This new year, I would to encourage you to consider your own sense of call to be a part of this congregation. Each of you are here for a reason, whether you know what that reason is or not. Your gifts, your voice, your hands, your talents are needed. Your presence enriches this congregation, and because of you and your fellowship with us, we are the church of Jesus Christ.

(After the sermon)

Now to the God of all wisdom,

who strengthens us according to the gospel,

through Jesus Christ be all glory forever. Amen.