Friday, July 9, 2010

Guest Preacher, July 4, 2010

The following is a sermon preached this past Sunday at St. Christopher's by guest preacher Anders Litzell, a candidate for Holy Orders in the Church of England and good friend.

Isaiah 66:10-14 ;
Psalm 66:1-8 ;
Galatians 6:(1-6)7-16 ;
Luke 10:1-11, 16-20

I read an article in the New York Times on Friday, with the title “You Say God Is Dead? There’s an App for That” the occasion was several new iPhone apps that promise to provide cookie-cutter answers against any argument made by a Christian, or contrariwise for that matter, Bible verses for the Christian put on the spot.

While this new media is mushrooming with the God question, a recent study of young people’s religious habits, as reported by the Dallas Morning News in April, shows that while young people’s desire and searching for God is as high as it has ever been, they are “unplugging from religious institutions at a rate unprecedented in U.S. history” Does that sound strange to you? It may or it may not, you’ll have to ask yourselves.

We are all aware of the church’s shortcomings – both on a local level, national and global. There’s enough faults to go around. But before we lose heart, let’s remember that this was also the case with the disciples Jesus called. Still he declared them worthy and sent them out, first the 12, then the 70 as we read today, and eventually everyone, with the charge to proclaim that the Kingdom of God has come near.

That means today the charge is the same as it ever was, to proclaim the Kingdom of God. And the Church is the first-fruits, a sampler if you would, of His Kingdom, of God living among us. Do we see ourselves this way? Do we live as though it were true, as if the Church really were the body of Christ? If we ourselves don’t, why should young people take us seriously when they go looking for God.

I’ll tell you this though, some 18 months ago there was an article in the London Times; Matthew Parris, a UK Parliamentarian, journalist and prolific travel writer states after evaluating various social transformation efforts on a tour through Africa: “As an atheist, I truly believe Africa needs God” – that’s the headline. In the article he elaborates:
It confounds my ideological beliefs, stubbornly refuses to fit my world view, and has embarrassed my growing belief that there is no God. Now a confirmed atheist, I've become convinced of the enormous contribution that Christian evangelism makes in Africa: sharply distinct from the work of secular NGOs, government projects and international aid efforts. These alone will not do. Education and training alone will not do. In Africa Christianity changes people's hearts. It brings a spiritual transformation. The rebirth is real. The change is good. [ ... ] Far from having cowed or confined its converts, their faith appeared to have liberated and relaxed them. There was a liveliness, a curiosity, an engagement with the world - a directness in their dealings with others - that seemed to be missing in traditional African life. They stood tall.

Let me tell you, you are seeing Jesus’ prophesy from when he rode into Jerusalem on his donkey coming true. We, the church, his children, have gone too quiet singing his praises, and now the rocks are crying out, telling of people being set free in Christ to become who they were created to be.

So I ask you, are those the words you would use to describe people in the church? As having “a liveliness, a curiosity, an engagement with the world, a directness in dealing with others” When the church has those characteristics, it’s attractive. More to the point: when God’s people have those characteristics, they are attractive. Do those words describe you? Would you like them to? Tell God and tell a friend you trust, and invite God to get working in you.

Sometimes it’s easier to believe in our inability to do God’s work than to believe in God’s ability to work through us. We heard Jesus’ call: The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.

Well, y’all are the start of the answer to that prayer. Allow me to drive home that point – I really mean it: you are the answer to Jesus’ prayer; he prayed that you would come and help. For, as Paul says, we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

So how do we get started? Well we read earlier: Whatever you sow, you will reap. So what do we sow, and how do we sow to the Spirit, so that we may reap eternal life from the Spirit? Let’s look at our dreams, for dreams are the seeds of action.
* What do you dream the impact of St Christopher’s could be in this community?
* What would it feel like to bring your friends who don’t go to church here – and find that they enjoy themselves?
* What would it be like to give of yourself and discover gifts you never knew you had?

If your answer isn’t ready at hand, then ask God to give you His vision for you and of this church. In fact, even if you have an answer, ask God to clarify it, to flesh it out, and to let you see yourself and this church through His eyes, and ask Him what He wants you to do to make His Kingdom come.

He has created you, and given you talents, and gifts, and friends to support you, and a unique task: to be yourself, and to make your everlasting contribution to his Kingdom. All God wants to do, is make us more ourselves, more who He created us to be. How would it be, to feel right in our element, knowing that we’re doing what we were born to do, being who we were born to be?

I believe, firmly, that self-realisation is only to be found in the service of others. Now I want to invite you to ask God, and to ask your friends as well, what your God-given gifts are – what is not clear to yourself might be obvious to others. And always remember that the purpose is to serve each other, and together to serve the rest of the world.

As St Paul put it:
Bear one another's burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.


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