Combined Worship October 29th 2017
Good Morning! Buenos días!
Yesterday in Tennessee, less than 200 miles from here, there was a rally held in which men and women gathered under the idea that they were superior because of the color of their skin. If you listen to these men and women they would tell you that they are valuable because of something they had no control over, how they were born.
We gather this morning to say that they are wrong, and they are sinful. We gather this morning to worship a beautiful and creative God who designed us with different talents, abilities, colors, and languages. And when we look at what God has done we believe it is beautiful.
We understand that diversity is beautiful but it is also difficult. Today might be a bit uncomfortable for you, but it will probably be a bit uncomfortable for everyone of us. But let us remind you that you were created to do difficult things. God is our audience this morning, we are worshiping Him, and our God loves diversity.
Today we have planned a service that involves both the Spanish and English language. We know that some of you do not speak English and others do not speak Spanish. So the idea of singing in an language you do not speak is intimidating. Please remember that you are sining to God, the creator of all languages, and He hears you and understands. So please sing out, and join us as we show through our worship that we believe that GodD is no respecter of persons.
Communion Meditation: Unity
Now is the time that we enter into the centerpiece of what we do on Sunday. I might not preach every Sunday. We might not have a sermon at all, but we will always have the Lord's supper. It is the time we remember what He did on the cross for us. The bread reminds us of His body, the cup reminds us of His blood. As we gather around this table we are reminded that there is a place for all sinners to come and sit at the table with the one who can save us from our sin. As we look at the other sinners gathered at this table we are reminded of the new body of Christ, and our call to love and care for one another. We take it every Sunday because we need to be reminded of what our Savior did and why He had to do it.
We are reminded that Jesus said of the bread, This is my body. And we remember that we are the church who is also called His body. And so this morning we are reminded that the communion loaf has a double meaning. This is where the church body shares in partaking the body of Christ. So we stop for a moment to think about what that means.
I can’t pretend to fully understand this, but obviously there’s a powerful emphasis here on church unity. We are required to leave our individuality by the side of the water where we experienced our baptism into the body.
We are now one, and the Lord’s Supper is a reminder of our unity, not that we are to work to one day be unified, but that we have been unified by the hand of God. Unity is a gift that comes from God for us to enjoy.
That is why we cannot gather around the table this morning if we are fighting and bickering among ourselves. We cannot truly proclaim the Lord’s death unless we are true to the meaning of His death. We willingly participate in this meal and proclaim with our actions that a united church is worth any price that has to be paid for it, even the death of Jesus Christ.
And if Jesus can give his life to bring a united church into being, surely we can crucify our pride, our love of feeling superior, and our arrogance on the cross. It would be a much cheaper price than what Jesus had to pay.
Let pray together and then take the bread together: Father, before we share in this feast, please forgive us of our sins, our divisiveness, our sense of superiority, our self-love, our disdain, our bitterness, our love of man’s praise. Help us surrender these things that seem so important to us but which are so very wrong, please Father take these sins and hang them on the cross. Please free us from these sins and allow us to serve you as you wish, with humility and a servant’s heart. In Jesus name, Amen.
Notice that the communion is simple meal, the sort of meal any first century peasant could afford and enjoy. It’s an humble meal, designed for an humble people. Despite our desire to present the bread and juice in gold and silver trays decorated with crosses, the original thought was to participate in the simplest, plainest, most humble meal possible.
And so, as we share in this cup, let us commit to God, the Creator of the universe, the One who saves and condemns and who truly knows our hearts, let us commit to be people who are like the meal we share, simple, plain, and humble. After all, we’ve been taught over and over, that in Christ, there is no room for boasting, only for humility.
Let pray together and then take the cup together: Father, please give humble hearts. Take our pride and superiority and cast them into the depths of hell so the rest of us can be saved. Teach us repentance and help us to see how sinful we appear in your eyes. And help esteem others better than we esteem ourselves. Help us to feel privileged beyond imagining to take this simple cup and share it with one another. Help us to be ever thankful for all our brothers and sisters who’ve you’ve joined us to. In Jesus name, Amen.
Now we enter our time of giving, or a collection of our tithe. It seems that our favorite verb is "keep." Our favorite adjective is "mine." But time and time again Jesus, Paul, Peter, James and John all command us to give. The Bible doesn't know anything about a Christian who keeps his possessions to himself.
One of the most important acts of worship we perform on Sundays happens without a word. Our giving. Every time we pass the plate to collect the tithes you and I face a decision. Are we going to put our faith in money or in God? Are we going to serve ourselves, or serve the one who gives us everything. And He has given us everything.
All we have is from God and because of that we are called to gratitude. Giving is the best way to show that gratitude. And if you and I dare to complain about the command to give we'd do well to remember how gratitude was shown during the days His people lived under the law. "It took 30,000 Levites to give thanks to God in King David's time. Every morning and every evening, the shifts would change. 4,000 were needed just to carry away the carcasses of hacked cattle, and another 4,000 were needed to sing about it. They didn't cross stitch their gratitude on samples to frame and hang on walls. They wrote thanks in blood on the door posts every day." (Virginia Stem Owens, found in Disciplines for the Inner Life).
Giving is one of the most important things we do together on Sunday. It’s a visible expression of our faith, and trust in our Savior. Let us pray together and thank God for what He has done for us as we participate in the tithe: Father we have been given so much that we have to overlook our riches. You continue to pour out your blessings in our life and I pray that you will open our eyes and allow us to see that your well will never run dry. This morning we ask you to bolster our courage and our faith, as we give this tithe to you. We pray that it will be a sacrifice that shows our trust in you to take care of us your children. In Jesus name, Amen.
I am so excited about our time of worship this morning. I have been looking forward to this day every since Cristobal first told me that from time to time we get together and worship as one family. I want to be sensitive to the fact that my Spanish is so bad that there was no way I was going to attempt to speak in Spanish because eventually I would mispronounce something and say things that I did not intend to say. So I have written down word for word what I intend to say and Cristobal has offered to translate for me. But for those of you who are bilingual you need to know that he has what I am supposed to say, and I have been known to say other things, so in those moments he’s on his own.
One of the things that I was reminded of as we sang and read scriptures together this morning is that we have so many things and reasons to be separate. We have different backgrounds, different traditions, and different preferences. We have different color skin, and different struggles. The most glaring difference is that we speak different languages. And while I loved being able to sing Santo, Santo, Santo with you this morning I am thankful that God hears our hearts and that we love one another enough to overlook when the english speaking Christian part of our family mispronounces the Spanish words or the Spanish speaking part of the family mispronounces the English words.
There are no shortage of reasons or things that keep us apart. As a matter of fact there are plenty of reasons that it is just easier to have an English service and a Spanish service. But this remarkable thing happened here this morning, in the face of all of those reasons we have to be separate, we found our greatest reason to be unified. This morning when we paused for communion we found ourselves standing on common ground. It was a holy place. At the cross your language, your color, your economic background, your social standing, or your gender ceases to matter. Because at the cross, because of the blood of our Savior we are one. We find unity.
And I truly believe that’s exactly what God desires. One of my favorite aspects of God, is His creative nature. God created everything according to His will and His design. And if we will just take a moment to stop and look at His creation, we are drawn to this idea that God is not just creative, but He loves diversity. That’s why there are 7,500 different varieties of apples and over 2,000 different types of edible fruits that range from mangos, to bananas, to pomegranates, to oranges, and the variety just stretches on and on.
In the text that was read for us this morning, David writes: How good and pleasant it is when brothers and sisters live together in peace! The Psalmist is not calling for uniformity here, nor does he say how good it is when everyone looks, talks, and thinks alike. There is a difference between unity and uniformity. Living together in unity does not mean that we are rubber-stamped or cookie cutter copies of one another with no diversity or variation. Living together in unity means that we are all equal.
Crayons can teach us a lot about Christians, some crayons are sharp, some are pretty, some are dull, some have weird names, each is a different color and many are never used to their full potential. However, they all exist in the same box. In very much the same way this church is made up of people who are very different, but we all are called to be part of one body.
As God’s Children we were blessed with different gifts, different tastes, different abilities and different needs. And every one of those differences come together in the body and brings about a beauty that we would never be able to achieve alone.
It’s was God’s idea and design for us to be diverse. He didn't make us all the same color. He didn't make us all the same shape. He didn't put us all in the same place with the same languages and cultures and characteristics. God created a beautiful bouquet of colors and people to show His personality. And if we are going to be His church and wear His name then we must also show His love for variety and difference. A church that believes that unity and uniformity are the same thing will be a small church, not just in numbers, but in heart and soul.
David writes that when we come together with all of our differences and all of our variety and live in unity that it is very good. When I read those words my mind goes back to the beginning when God creates the world. God called the light from the darkness and said it was good. God formed the dry land and the sea and said it was good. God created the trees, the birds of the air, animals, and humans and said it was all good. Then we are told in Genesis 1:31 when God saw all that He had created, and He declared that it was very good. God’s perfect design had been accomplished. Everything was done exactly how He had planned for it to be accomplished and God said it was very good.
When David said that it is very good when brothers and sisters live together in unity, he is reminding us that we were created to live together in unity. Dwelling together in unity is God’s intention for us. While God created us with beautiful differences, it was His desire and design for our differences to complement and complete one another. He made us for one another. Where there is unity among God’s people, we are experiencing the joy of heaven here on earth. When we learn how to live with one another, and prefer one another we are accomplishing the beautiful work of the creation over and over again. David is saying in our text this morning what is seen throughout all of Scripture and church: community is essential. People of faith are always members of a community. Even God did not declare everything very good until there was community made up of Adam and Eve.
But let’s at least be honest with one another and admit that living in unity might be desirable, it is also enormously difficult. That’s why David writes when brothers and sisters get along. Even those of us who have accepted God’s generous gift of grace experience sibling rivalries. Children fight a lot, we are quick to take offense if we don't get our way. Children are only concerned about their own needs and wants that they see a brother or sister not as an ally but as a competitor. If there is only one piece of chicken left and two people want it, their brothers and sisters are no longer a delightful dinner companion but rivals. The world insists that living together like brothers and sisters means endless squabbles, quarrels and angry arguments. And so if we are going to sing "How wonderful, how beautiful, when brothers and sisters get along," we will not do it all by ourselves.
It is important in our community of faith to see one another not as rivals but with an expectation of what God is about to do in one another's lives. Our community of faith can only flourish when we view each other with glorious expectation, wondering what God will do today in the lives of one another and how will that promote peace and unity in our community. When we truly live in unity with one another we see one another as the object of Christ’ love. We are truly interested in hearing about the new things that God is doing in their lives. We see one another as a new person each morning with endless possibilities. It is impossible to live in unity and remain selfish.
David expresses the unity found among brothers and sisters as the oil flowing down Aaron's beard which expresses a warm, priestly relationship. The dew descending down Hermon's slopes expresses a sense of fresh and expectant newness. Oil and dew. The two things that make life together delightful.
The last line of the psalm shows that the good and delightful life together is where the Lord bestows his blessing, even life forevermore. We spend so much time trying to manufacture a little piece of heaven down here on earth, but we never quite succeed. At best our attempts can be compared to a four year old fingerprinting of the Mona Lisa. In our failure we begin to wonder if we really want to spend eternity in a place like that.
It’s time we stopped looking for substitutes and experience what God truly desires for His children. When relationships are warm and we submit to and prefer one another, then we can enjoy the life together that God designed for us to experience here and in life everlasting. We can truly bring a little heaven here to earth filled with the deepest joy and peace when we choose to see our differences, appreciate our differences, and live in unity.
This morning, there may be things in your life that are keeping you from experiencing the unity God desires for us to enjoy. We are not here to judge, we are here to love, and point you to our Savior. Jesus calls you to put away the things that cause division, and be united with the Body. If we can help you this morning, pray with you this morning, or talk with you this morning. Maybe you want to be united with Christ through the waters of Baptism. If we can help please come while together we stand and sing.