Thursday, June 9, 2011

Build Up The Body of Love

“Build Up The Body of Love.”

A Sermon
On the Occasion of Celebration of New Ministry
The Rev. David Nelson Christ the King Episcopal Church

Texas George Kinsolving, the second bishop of Texas, in his 1902 missionary sermon at Virginia Theological Seminary wrote these words about the reformers:

[The reformers], you remember, were delegated to remodel and old system which was then, and had been for many centuries, in existence, but which somehow in the lapse of ages had got strangely out of repair, and sadly needed reconstruction. Numbers of her stones had rolled down from the walls of this Zion, and accumulated masses of debris and rubbish were visible on every hand. All things appeared to be crumbling away into decay and ruin; wild beasts of various descriptions had crept through the breaches into the enclosure, and were trampling underfoot the celestial flowers growing within, and making a fearful havoc with the trees and fruits planted in this garden of His by the hand of the Lord Himself; so that earnest and faithful men found it necessary to replace these stones in their former position, to build up again the towers, to remove the dirt, thoroughly renovate the structure and restore it to its original condition. (The Church’s Burden, Section 2, 5)

David and my friends of Christ the King, you have neither as difficult a challenge nor as great a burden in this place.

Yet it is true that there is work to do.

You exist for God.

You exist for the world around you.

You exist to glorify God and to make his name known by transforming the lives of the people around you.

You must indeed rebuild the mission of this church out into the world.

You have a solid foundation in Jesus Christ.

You have a sure footing given to you by the people through their labors during the transition time.

But together you are charged to renovate and build up, stone by stone the mission of Christ the King to the community of Atascocita and Humble which surround you on either side.

The work is clear. This congregation exists not for the benefit of itself; not for the benefit of the Episcopal Church or the Diocese of Texas.

This congregation exists for the clear work of glorifying God in worship and mission.

On Sunday you are to offer praise and prayers to God. You are to serve all those who come to you.

You are to: build a goodly community of fellowship; a community that cares for the old and young alike; a community that prays for its members and for the world; a community that offers healing.

Christ the King is a sanctuary from the world. It is a pilgrim’s way station as all pilgrims (known and unknown) make their way in their daily life lived with Jesus.

The rest of the week this place is to be used as a mission point from which your people and you leave and go out into the world. It is good for the doors to be open to all people but they aren’t coming to find you. You have to go out and find them.

You are to be like Jesus looking for the lost sheep of Israel; the people of Zion.

Today in Holy Men and Holy Women we remember Roland Allen. He is the great missiologist and missionary to Northern China and Africa in the late 19th and early 20th century.

When describing the Pentecost moment and the missionary repercussions he wrote:

They [the apostles] preached as men who were convinced that the need of [people] could be satisfied only in Jesus Christ. “There is none other name under heaven given among men,” said Peter (4.12), and St. Paul’s preaching was that “by him every one that believeth is justified from all things…” To read Acts with understanding, we must know, with the real knowledge born of experience, that the Spirit of Christ, the Spirit of the Incarnation and the Passion, the Spirit given at Pentecost, is the answer of God to a real need of the world, that is of every single soul in the world; for in the Acts these two meet, the redeeming Spirit and the utter need, and it is the redeeming Spirit that reveals the utter need. (The Ministry of the Spirit, Roland Allen, 1960, 38)
The reality is the world is in need.

I love the world of technology but the world is not in need of more technology.

I love music and rock and roll but the world is not in need of more rock and roll.

I love the world of shopping and clothes and design but the world is not in need of more things to buy.

The world is not in need of some old idea of church…that crumbling constantinian church that Texas George recalled, but of a vital living missionary organism that is one with the community in which it finds itself.

Christ the King began its life at the end of the high watermark of the church 1977. We are not living in a church that existed in the 1970s or 80s but one that must reclaim from the past a new missionary spirit for the foreign culture in which we find ourselves.

The world needs people who:
Love others
Care for others.

Need and welcome others.

Who listen first.
From Ephesians: Build up the body in love…

Love God and love neighbor. We do a good job at loving God, we do a good job at loving ourselves, but we have not mastered the loving our neighbor part…We are so intolerant we have difficulty loving if people aren’t like us, don’t agree with us, don’t look and act like us….

As Paul warned us of just this challenge in the emerging church of Rome: “Welcome those who are weak in faith, but not for the purpose of quarrelling over opinions.” (Romans 14.1ff)

Yes David, you and the congregation in this place have a good foundation – solid bedrock. But you must move outside this place and space and become involved in the community around you.

The rotary, clubs, neighborhood civic associations, and schools are all places waiting for Christ the King missionaries. David, you are going to have to lead your people and let your people lead you out of this place into the world in order to show and be one with the people you are given charge over.

You see you are not given to this church. You are not this congregation’s rector you are the Episcopal Priest, missionary, and shepherd over the whole of Atascocita and when you have than in hand you can begin to work on Humble.

David, lift up your eyes and see the world is in need of Jesus and those who love and follow Jesus. They are waiting on you and your people.

Our scripture from Ephesians reminds us: You are given the gifts to do this work.

Don’t be tempted to look this way and that way for some new solution, some new church program. Love people and invite their gifts forward.

Don’t flip this way and that… but be decisive and make mistakes, make glorious mistakes.

Not from burying your gifts and treasures but by flinging wide the seeds of the Gospel’s gifts.

You see we all have much to offer.

From Paul’s letter to the church in the midst of Ephasus:
4.7 But each of us was given grace according to the measure of Christ’s gift.
8Therefore it is said, ‘When he ascended on … he gave gifts to his people.’

What are the gifts for?

12to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13until all of us come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ.

Rolland Allen believed that the congregation and the community in which you find your ministry has all the gifts needed for ministry.

Out of an assurance of God’s abundant provision, the church claims and believes that God provides in all of us the gifts need for the fulfillment of God’s ministry in every context.

The devil and your ego are liars David; and evil will whisper in your ear that you are the only one here with vision.

You are the only one here who can do and ever does anything. You will hear the whispers of a Gollum like voice that will challenge you to see preciousness only in your ideas and words and deeds. And if you listen to these lies and untruths you will find yourself alone in an empty church.

Lift up your eyes and see that God is providing.
God provides. God is providing to you all that is needed.

You need not hold the vision alone.

You need not carry the burden alone.

You need only but ask and it shall be given. You need only knock and the doors of people’s hearts will be open unto you.

These are good people. And they are waiting to be led and invited into ministry alongside of you.

These people are God’s people here and throughout Atascocita. God is their shepherd.

Jesus is their Good Shepherd.

I have been given oversight of this flock and so these people are entrusted to me and tonight I entrust them to you.

As the service says, “These are signs of yours and my ministry in this place.”

When you stand at the altar you do so in my place.

Take care of God’s people. Take care of my people. Take care of our people.

They are good people. Follow them out into the world of their lives and make your missionary field in the spaces in which they travel during the week.

Visit them in their homes. Visit them in their work places. Ask them their story and seek to understand the vision God gives them. Listen to them and invite them into the work the church is given to do.

David, lead these people with all their gifts in changing the world around you.

Lead these people by loving them first and by loving the world around you.

Lead these people in the mission of Christ, rebuild the connection between this church and the community which surrounds you.

Lead these people with all the gifts God has given.

Promote the body’s growth.

Built it into a body of love.

Let me end where I began with Texas George. He writes in his concluding remarks to those priests to be, clergy and missionaries gathered before him:

Therefore, come up to the help of the Lord; to the help of the Lord against the mighty. The work may be slow and arduous, but in God’s time, in His way, and by His means, victory will crown our efforts in the end. “Come it will, and come it must,…. what a joy and privilege to feel that we can, indeed , help in such work and do battle for Christ and serve in His army and share in the ultimate triumph of His glorious cause. The vision comforted St. John at Patmos, when he saw the Holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of Heaven from God, having the glory of God. St. Augustine gazed with rapture upon the same entrancing sight while the Roman Empire was crumbling to pieces around him and the Voice of God whispers to our souls, even as we speak, and bids us gaze in faith upon a like vision and even while we look it may cease to be vision by becoming transformed into a consummate reality.

David, where you have the will, where God gives you a vision, may God give you the grace and power to help as a privileged missionary to make it real in the lives of the people of Christ the King and Atascocita.

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