Sunday, September 19, 2010

Community - We’re all in this together

John 15:12-17

“This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends. You are My friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you slaves, for the slave does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you.
You did not choose Me but I chose you, and appointed you that you would go and bear fruit, and that your fruit would remain, so that whatever you ask of the Father in My name He may give to you. This I command you, that you love one another.”

When you watch the Saskatchewan roughriders play you see more than just a football game. You see a province that is excited about their team. You see what people call “Rider Nation”, and you see exciting football. They had a couple overtime games last year. They were so close to winning the Grey Cup. And now they have their own loonie! On game day you see green shirts and sweaters all over the place. The Riders are known across Canada for many of these things.

When you talk to people about the church you also get a sense for what the church is known for. In many places around the world the “church” is synonymous with the Catholic Church. The church is known in some countries as a result with the shame of abuse. In other places it is known for issues of control, control of people or money. There are also positive things - compassionate ministries and holding out hope and love. As we continue our study of John 14-17 we want to look at what themes Jesus talks about as what we should be known. You and I have this mission to accomplish, to be like Jesus and to share His love in the community around us. When people look at us, what are we known for? Who we are today, is not who we were 8 years ago. Even if you just go back 4 years, we have changed and grown significantly. So what does Jesus want us to be known for?

Peace - John 14:27 People of Peace - Not like the world. When you read the newspapers, what are the most common headlines? The headlines tend to focus on the problems. That is what sells newspapers. People like to read about other people’s problems. Look at the video games that dominate the market - many are all about war and killing. Look at many of the movies - more senseless violence. What is big in sports? Ultimate fighting. Wars and rumors of war. Peace in the world is often bought and sold to the highest bidder. How long does the world’s peace last? Just reading in the Star Phoenix on Friday about the continuing conflict in eastern Congo. What a mess, and the civilians are paying a horrible price.

Jesus says I give you a different kind of peace. He says, “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.” He gives us a peace in spite of all the problems around us. He gives us a peace that passes all understanding as we rest in Him - it doesn’t make sense. That peace is connected to the promise of His second coming - we know the last chapter and the promise of seeing loved ones gone before us again in heaven. We also have peace because we are not alone - we are promised the presence of God and the Holy Spirit. God’s love will never leave us nor forsake us. So we have this strange peace - does it show? How can we show this peace to the world around us? How can we be known as a people of peace?

Fruitfulness -John 15:12 People of Love The heart of God is love. That is how the Law is summed up - Love God and Love your neighbour. The problem is the heart of people is corrupted by sin and there is this constant struggle between selfishness of sin and selflessness of love. I had a conversation with Iona Bischu this past week about the international students program at the U of S. A new administrator has come in that is very much anti Christian and shut it down. He later relented because they saw how much good the program was doing, but there is still a very cautious stance. The problem is there are not a lot of people willing to help these students anymore. She said people don’t seem to know how to be friendly anymore.

We saw last week how love is a result of our relationship with Jesus. Love is not what gets us to Jesus, but what happens as a result of being connected to the vine. Here Jesus uses language that no one can argue with, “This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you.” He modeled it and expects us to be doing the same as we grow and become more like Him. How natural is love? Probably not very. Love asks us to look to the needs of others first. But love is something everyone needs and wants. There is a shortage of it in families and life. There are many, many instances of love, but it is not nearly enough for the needy world we live in. So, how can we do better? Which is more effective - love as a group through some kind of program, or love as an individual from one person to another? Which do you think people will respond to the most?

Perseverance - John 16:1 People of Testimony Did you watch some of the World Cup? I have never watched soccer before, and was shocked at how easy and often players took a dive and faked injury. Watching the news there for a while it was all over the place. How can a player fake it knowing there are millions of people watching it on slow motion replay? It is so obvious, but I guess it is so natural to take advantage of it they can’t help themselves. It certainly did nothing to attract me to the game of soccer.

So, people are watching us. We have a message of the kingdom of God - one of peace and freedom and love. Some are called to make a stand on behalf of those poor and downtrodden. Some are called to help the homeless. Some are called to stand for truth in places where truth is not wanted. Jesus said, “These things I have spoken to you so that you may be kept from stumbling.” In the context of persecution, Jesus said to stand firm in your faith. There are several places around the world today where calling yourself a follower of Jesus results in persecution, jail, and even death. We pray for them, but that is not our Canadian experience. We have a both a spoken testimony, what we say, and a lifestyle testimony - what we do; that people see and watch.

Christians are not the only ones being persecuted. What would it take for you or I to give up our faith? We have talked the last couple weeks about two men who are giving up because of how other self proclaimed “Christians” are acting around them. I have heard of some people leaving a church because of disagreements over a whiteboard. Others have broken fellowship over issues of coffee. Others because of moving a broken photocopier off of a platform after it sat there for several years. What kind of poor discipleship have we been doing in our churches if those things are all it takes to walk away? What kind of faith do we have if that is all it takes to cause us to move on? No wonder the church is in decline in North America. The church has gotten soft in the middle, like a piece of over ripened fruit. Where are the men and women who are mature in their faith and will stand up not for coffeemakers, but for the Gospel of Peace? Where are the people of God who will do whatever it takes to reach the lost? Where are the ones who will take up their cross daily and forsake all in order to follow Jesus? May that be our testimony.

A people of peace, characterized by love, with a testimony of enduring faith is what Jesus calls of us. We are all in this together, and may we marked and known here on out by these.

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