Begin with video about inviting neighbors to church.
As soon as I saw this video, I knew it had to find its way into today’s message. It’s a humorous and convicting video that may expose some of racial biases, as well as our discomfort found in talking to others about church/faith. While racial inequality deserves sermon time, today we are going to confront the other elephant in the room.
We ought to take a moment each morning to look in the mirror and ask ourselves, “Will others notice the faith that I proclaim on Sunday morning within my day today? Are we who proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior inside the confines of the church building, living out that proclamation throughout the rest of the week?”
That doesn’t mean delivering sermons to your co-workers. But are your words and actions during the week consistent with the faith you proclaim on Sunday? We often use the excuse that faith is a personal thing so that we don’t have to take the uncomfortable step of potential rejection by those we love and respect. In that moment, the perceptions of others have more credibility than God’s perception of us.
Within the worship service, we acknowledge that we are nothing without Christ; that the love and forgiveness of Jesus comes to us unearned and undeserved. We confess that we can’t save ourselves. That message affects our perceptions of the world, how we conduct relationships, and how we live our lives. Yet our faith is something that we should keep to ourselves?
There doesn’t seem to be any hesitation in discussion of the new school building project at Eastwood. When the riots occurred in Ferguson, MO and the beheadings by terrorists hit the news, were those stories kept mum in our community? Are those issues more important than the Gospel message of Christ’s love and forgiveness?
And we wonder why the generations have gradually turned away from worship. Who is teaching them that Christ’s message is important and has relevance today? If the only time that our culture is hearing about our conviction of faith is during an hour of worship on Sunday morning, then it doesn’t seem that our faith is REALLY a priority, does it? If an unrelated neighbor closely watched our daily schedules, where would they place faith on our priority list? Guess what…they are watching.
Jesus said that he would have to go through great suffering. Peter replied, “God forbid it!” Jesus’ response, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; for you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.”
In our resistance to invite people to worship, or to stand up against issues that conflict with our faith, are we not the same stumbling block for Jesus as Peter? Are we not more concerned about ourselves than seeking the will of God?
Christ’s never promised comfort and ease in the Christian life. “If any want to become my followers (Christian means ‘Christ follower’), let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.”
Jesus makes his words plain as day and reading them requires an uncomfortable gut check for all of us. What does it mean to say that we must deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow him?
Deny ourselves? But our human nature wants to justify ourselves! How can the Body of Christ work without us? Take up our cross? This isn’t a reference to the inconvenience of having to give some of our hard earned cash and time to the church. To take up our cross is to put our personal pride to death while confessing that we are nothing without Christ. And lastly, after denying ourselves and taking up our crosses, Jesus calls us to follow him. That’s not a Sunday morning activity, folks. Jesus is our lead, and we are called to live out our faith in all aspects of our life. How do others witness our faith during the rest of the week?
In our call to deny ourselves, take up our crosses, and follow Jesus, we have to overcome our pride and confess that we always fall short of the glory of God. It forces us to remove ourselves from the center of our universe.
But the Gospel message that we proclaim states that God loved us before we were born and he loves us in spite of our actions today. Jesus loves you and me and forgives you and me, not through anything we’ve done or not done, but simply out of divine compassion. That message should not be silenced. And the people of God said...AMEN.