Get It Together 04: Me to We

Get It Together 04: Me to We


Welcome back to the final week of our Fall Kickoff series – Get It Together: Finding Jesus in Each Other!
It’s time to take out your Bible (or get a visitor Bible, or look on with someone close by, or use a Bible app on your phone). We’re about to learn something life changing. This is going to be good!
Here are some thoughts about why doing life together is matters…
The great wisdom traditions of the world all recognize that the main impediment to living a life of meaning is being self-absorbed.
– Barbara Brown Taylor, An Altar in the World
…the hardest spiritual work in the world is to love the neighbour as the self – to encounter another human being not as someone you can use, change, fix, help, save, enroll, convince or control, but simply as someone who can spring you from the prison of yourself, if you will allow it.
– Barbara Brown Taylor, An Altar in the World
If you see a young monk by his own will climbing up into heaven, take him by the foot and throw him to the ground, because what he is doing is not good for him.
– Thomas Merton, The Wisdom of the Desert
Every day we make choices. Then our choices make us. We have options. We make choices. Then we live the lingering effects, good and bad, of those decisions. And those decisions determine so much about our lives. Much of what I live today is the result of the choices I made yesterday.
– Lysa Terkeurst, The Best Yes
We are not in a community just to protect ourselves. We are not even there to protect our own little spiritual lives. We’re there for the church, for people in pain. We have a message to give, and we have a message to receive. We have a mission, and if we are not a people of mission, then the community is in danger of closing up, and of dying.
– Jean Vanier, From Brokenness to Community
– I just love that little robot.
He makes me smile.
Good morning.
It’s an interesting commentary.
This little robot that’s trying
to make relational connections,
and trying to get to be in a relationship
with Eva, WALL-E and Eva.
Also interesting as an animated film,
that’s commentary really, I think,
on what our society is like
as we move towards
continually more curated lives
where how does my life suit me,
or how do the things around
me fulfill my personal needs?
I think it’s a really interesting thing
that a movie like this
can reveal that to us.
If you remember back to
week one of this series,
we asked a pretty pointed question.
If you were Satan,
what kind of culture would you create
in order to fracture relationship,
in order for people to not be together
the way that God has designed
church community to be together?
Maybe since then you’ve
come up with some ideas.
I know I’ve thought of a few as well.
It’s like, of course, if I was
trying to create individual
pockets of life where people
did not connect together,
I would probably emphasize
comfort over everything else,
or I’d keep people afraid.
Or I would make it so that
each person wants to craft their life
just the way they want it at all costs.
Or I’m gonna control my
life at all costs because
you know what even though I am
a person who believes in God,
I’m not quite sure if
he’s gonna get it right.
Or heaven forbid that I
actually am surrendered to God,
and he totally rips my life apart.
That’s not what I wanted it to look like.
So we’re gonna play a
little 10-year challenge.
It’s me.
It’s the 10-year challenge of Lisa.
So it’s a picture of me from 10-years ago.
I asked this friend
if I could show her as
well on a Sunday morning.
She goes to The Meeting House as well,
and when I showed her the picture
I was gonna use, she said,
“Oh, Lisa, you look the same,
“but your heart’s really different.”
I was like, “Exactly.”
This is why I wanted to use this picture
because 10 years ago,
even just before that
in this picture, you see a happy person.
I had a career in my field of study.
I was working in TV news for several years
writing for broadcast.
I had a pretty great disposable income.
I didn’t really have
to think about yes, no.
Can I spend this kind of money?
I had the car I wanted,
could go on trips all the time.
But a year before that picture was taken,
I thought, “Wow, I feel kind of stuck.
“Like I have all this
stuff on paper I want,
“but I’m really unsatisfied.”
The thought that entered my mind was,
“Maybe God is the thing that’s missing?”
So that year before this
picture there’s a bit slow
dismantling of what my life looked like.
Ended up ending a long-term relationship
that I thought it was
gonna end in marriage.
I ended up changing jobs, moving cities,
joining a church community
where I was living.
Then if you think this
picture was at a point where
I was like, “Okay, I’ve done
all these different changes.
“I’ve given up a bunch of things,
“and I’m trying to be,
you know, living for God.
“I think, I’m doing all
the things I’m supposed
“to do to live a good life.”
But I still was like something
still feels like it’s missing.
I still feel like there’s
this void going on,
and I just remember thinking,
“All I know is I need more, God.
“Not even quite sure how to get that
“the way my life currently looks.”
But that picture was taken a few weeks
before I left my secure
job at in a TV newsroom
and picked up and moved to
the other side of the world
to join a missions
organization for six months.
So I said, “Six months I’m just
gonna learn more about God,
“see what he has to say about me,
“and hopefully that’ll be good.
“That’s gonna get me fired up,
“and I’m gonna be great to
live the rest of my life.”
So six months ended up
turning into five years,
and I stayed with this
missions organization
for five years working with
young people in Australia
and in other places.
When I think about what
my life was like there,
I moved from having my own apartment
to sharing a room with 12 people.
I moved from having a pretty
great disposable income
to raising my own income by saying,
“Hi, will people donate to me
“to help me pay for living expenses?”
I was living on the
other side of the world,
so everyone that I knew back
in Canada was a definite
time change anytime we
were talking to each other.
There was lots of inconveniences
or things that were choicefully painful
in the way I had now directed my life
because it looked very different
and it was uncomfortable.
Even though on the surface
some things did look different,
when I think back to what was happening
over those five years,
there was a definite change in my heart
to what was happening inside of me.
It was this slow dismantling
of this little empire
I’d been trying to build for myself.
I had curated on a piece of paper
what I thought I wanted
my life to look like.
I was like, “Come on, God.
“Come along for the ride.
“This is gonna be great.”
But then, slowly but surely he said,
“Yeah, I love you, I care about you.
“But what if you just
loosen your grip a bit?
“What if you let me lead you?
“What if you make yourself uncomfortable
“by serving other people,
“and being available to
people in your community?”
None of the things that I
wanted were necessarily wrong,
the things that I was curating
and wanted in my life,
but they started to be
an issue for me at least
because that’s where I was
pitting all my happiness against.
If I have this right thing,
if I have this certain look,
then I will feel good about myself.
The people around me
will think that I matter.
Our culture right now also
says self care at all costs.
You’ve had a stressful day.
You’ve had a hard week.
Things are not going the way you want.
Just take a bubble bath.
Just go for a massage.
Just play 18 holes you’ll feel better.
Just take time for yourself.
But that’s a totally counter
what Jesus is telling us.
Jesus routinely tells
us spend time together.
Be real, admit to one another
where you’re struggling.
Admit where you’re celebrating.
In my reading in preparing for today,
I read an article where it talked about,
“Self-care is about the individual caring
“for their own basic physical needs.
“Whereas, community care is
focused on the collective,
“taking care of people together
“for everything from
their basic physical needs
“to psychological and even spiritual ones.
“Community care is a recognition of the
“undeniable cooperative and
social nature of human beings,
“and involves a commitment to reduce harm
“simply through being together.”
So there’s something important
about us when we are together
that God wants to do in us
in our relationship with him
and in our relationship with one another.
It isn’t necessarily this
idea of a curated life.
It’s an interdependent life
where we need each other
and we need God.
Church is not a solo endeavor.
Throughout scripture, Old
Testament and New Testament,
there are times where God
manifests himself to humanity.
The fancy word for that is the theophany.
I don’t know if you’ve
heard that word before,
so that’s the fancy word,
God manifesting and
showing up to humanity.
But the really cool thing is that we now
maybe don’t see pillars of fire
or pillars of smoke on a regular basis.
Maybe you do, which is really cool,
but most of us probably don’t.
But what we do get to see
is each other’s faces.
We get to see one
another every single day,
the people we live with,
the people we work with,
we interact with on the street,
and we know that God has made
each one of us in his image.
So it means I’m experiencing
theophany every time I see you.
Every time I see you I’m experiencing
some of God manifesting
himself here right now.
No wonder he wants us to be in community,
so we can see flickers of him
when we interact with each other.
So then how do we repent?
How do I, how do we repent
of this individual curated
culture that our culture really reinforces
as being important, and
instead step into the one
that says I choose to be
interdependent in community?
We’re gonna jump into the book of Romans
to do that in the Bible,
so if you have your Bible with you,
I invite you to turn to the New Testament
book of Romans for that.
If you need a Bible at our sites,
you can go to the front or the back.
Here in Oakville our ushers
are handing those out,
so just pop up your hand.
Another quick announcement too.
Next week starting here in Oakville
is the beginning of a new series called
“Origins The Story of
Everything That Matters”.
Then the following week October 13th
it begins at our regional sites.
This is a great opportunity if
you know people in your life
who were like, “I just got
lots of questions about
“why was the Earth created?
“Why did God matter to make humans?
“He could’ve just let the
planet and animals co-exist.
“Why humans or why did evil
even show up in the first place?
“It would’ve been much more of a paradise
“had that not been the thing.”
So if they’re asking big
questions like that of you
and you maybe know some of the answers
or you wanna help them walk through that,
invite them, have them
come to church with us.
Share the podcasts with them
it’s gonna be a great way
to include other people in our community
for the next several weeks.
So as I mentioned we’re going
into the book of Romans,
which is in the New Testament.
So if you go to the middle of your Bible,
flip right a little bit,
and it is a letter written
to a group of Christians
in the first century in Rome.
Most of them are not Jewish backgrounds.
They didn’t have any kind
of religious background.
They are living in a secular society.
Paul, who was a missionary in telling
the early Christians how to follow Jesus,
that’s their big question is
like, “We live in this culture,
“so how do we live in such a way
“that we know we’re following Jesus well?”
So we’re gonna start Romans chapter 12:10.
“Be devoted to one another in love.
“Honor one another above yourselves.
“Never be lacking in zeal,
“but keep your spiritual
fervor serving the Lord.
“Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction,
“faithful in prayer.
“Share with the Lord’s
people who are in need.
“Practice hospitality.
“Bless those who persecute
you, bless and do not curse.
“Rejoice with those who rejoice.
“Mourn with those who mourn.
“Live in harmony with one another.
“Do not be proud, but
be willing to associate
“with people of low position.
“Do not be conceited.
“Do not repay anyone evil for evil.
“Be careful to do what is
right in the eyes of everyone.
“If it is possible as
far as it depends on you,
“live at peace with everyone.”
I counted in those eight verses
there are 20 action verbs telling us
here’s the stuff that it
means how to live this out.
Not a small list when I look at them,
and they’re kind of
divided up in three chunks.
So the first few verses
focus on what it looks like
for us to live well with
other Jesus followers.
So verse 10, “being devoted to each other,
“honouring one another,
never lacking in zeal,
“keeping up your spiritual fervor,”
which is something we kind
of need each other for.
Hard to do on our own.
“Being joyful and sharing with one another
“and practicing hospitality.”
Then verse 14 is kind of this hinge verse
that explains how Jesus
followers are to interact
with those who are not
simply outside the church
but actually hate the church.
It says, “Bless those who persecute you,
“bless and do not curse.”
Then verse 15 through 18,
“Rejoicing and morning
and living in harmony
“and living at peace with one another,”
is instructions for how
to live with all people
regardless of their faith.
One interesting note too,
when you look at this passage
is you really see that Paul,
the author of this knows
“The Sermon on the Mount”,
and “The Sermon on the Mount”,
being those a few chapters
in the book of Matthew where we hear Jesus
talking to people that are following him,
these large crowds, and he’s saying,
“You knew this, live this way.
“This is what you were taught before.
“Choose to live out of love.
“The law said to do this.
“I’m gonna up the ante,
“and tell you it’s gonna
be harder for you to follow
“because love means there’s this grey.”
Love means that sometimes it’s not easy.
It sometimes is messy, but
he says, “Follow this way.”
“The Sermon on the Mount” appears here
a bunch of times in
Paul’s writing as well.
You can see at the bottom
of your notes there
I have a few examples
of where it’s in Romans
and then in Matthew where you hear
Jesus saying the same thing.
So for example Romans 12:13 is,
“Share your belongings,”
is what Paul says.
Then in “The Sermon on
the Mount” in Matthew six,
Jesus says, “When you give to the needy.”
He doesn’t say, “if.”
He says, “When you give to the needy.”
It’s a given that we’re gonna
take care of one another.
Then he goes onto say, “Do not
store up treasures on Earth.
“Share your belongings.”
Romans 12:17, Paul writes,
“Don’t repay evil.”
The well-known line that Jesus says in
“The Sermon on the Mount”
is, “Turn the other cheek
“or forgive other people
when they sin against you.”
Romans 12:18, Paul writes, “To
live at peace with everyone.
“As long as it’s up to you,
live at peace with everyone.”
Jesus tells us that, “Blessed
are the peacemakers.”
Being somebody who is a person of peace
is not simply being passive.
It is actively finding ways
to reconcile relationship.
It’s actively finding
ways to bring healing
to things that were broken.
It’s actively disarming
people who are in conflict.
They both say that to us,
and it’s so fascinating.
Paul really gets “The
Sermon on the Mount”,
which is really, really
beautiful because he tells us.
Paul says, “Follow me as I follow Christ,”
and Christ is saying,
“Here’s the way to live out
“what it means to live
under the law of love.”
As Anabaptists that’s our tradition here
at The Meeting House,
our church tradition,
we use “The Sermon on
the Mount” really as this
bulls-eye target of the
way we look at scripture
because we focus on Jesus.
So we look at “The Sermon on the Mount”,
and then the gospels,
and then the rest of the New Testament,
like the letters we
were just reading from,
and then the rest of scripture.
But “The Sermon on the Mount”
really gives us this target of
if you don’t even read
the rest of the Bible,
just read, “The Sermon on the Mount”,
and try and live those things
out, because that is hard.
All right, they’re very
simple instructions,
but it is challenging.
So I kind of think of when
we read these passages,
that everything in our faith life
is kind of like a three-legged stool
the way we relate to God,
the way we relate to people.
If you knock out one of the legs,
the stool is not gonna be very sturdy.
So there’s a way to walk
through our faith life
to think, “As long as I believe
“and think the right things
about God then I am set.”
Fancy word for this is orthodoxy.
So if you just are, “I’m
gonna believe the right things
“and know the right things.
“Or I am just gonna focus so much
“on doing all the right things,
“then I will show to myself, to God,
“to everyone around me that
I am a good Christian.”
That’s orthopraxy.
It’s do all the right stuff.
Then the last one is orthopathy.
“I am just gonna wait till it feels like
“I’m doing all the good stuff.
“I just gotta feel God,
“and I just wanna know he’s present.
“Then I’m gonna actually know that
“this whole faith thing is real.”
But you can’t really have
one without the other.
I mean some of us maybe in the
church tradition we grew up in
or another faith tradition that
emphasize one over the other,
which is not bad, but I’d say
it’s not a holistic approach
to our face life or a
holistic approach to the way
we are to relate to God
and to relate to people.
You know Jesus knew that.
He mentions it in his
“The Sermon on the Mount”.
He’s talking about our whole beings
in “The Sermon on the Mount”,
how he treat others, how
you feel about things,
what we do, what we believe,
and Paul knows this too.
In another letter to an
early church in Greece,
Paul writes about the fact that we are
body, mind, and spirit.
We are not just one or the other.
When I think about my own story,
the way that I could get
unstuck from the life
that was in front of
me was having to look,
and let God look at this
holistic picture of me.
Sure I made certain
decisions to pick up and move
or to serve a certain way
or to learn more about God.
Or be in a community that did
have more experiential faith practices,
but it wasn’t just one or the other.
It was all of them
together and it took time.
So I don’t know where you are
at in your life right now.
Maybe you’re feeling a bit stuck.
Maybe you’re feeling a bit empty.
Maybe you feel uncertain.
Maybe you feel like you’re ready
to chuck it all out the window
because you’ve been trying
really, really hard,
and it’s not working out
the way you want it to.
Or you’ve just been holding on so tight
that it’s very hard to put
anything into a closed hand
or just surrender anything
from a closed fist hand.
Maybe God is calling you to
something different today?
Most of us don’t run the
risk of becoming too radical.
C.S. Lewis has this great
metaphor where he talks about,
“A little kid playing in a mud puddle,
“and just loving the mud puddle.
“But over the sand dune is the ocean.
“If only the little kid knew
“the ocean was just that far away.”
How often do we get satisfied
with our own little mud puddle of faith
when there’s this giant
ocean on the other side?
Maybe you don’t feel stuck,
and everything I’m saying to you are like,
“I’m actually in this
really great season of life
“right now, and things
are great with me and God.
“I love the way that I am
being used in my community.”
I would say thank goodness we need you.
We really need you because
those of us who are stuck
need you to encourage us, need
you to point us back to God.
We need you to be our encourager,
the one that stirs up our faith,
gives us zeal and fervor again.
As I was saying throughout scripture,
we see that we have this
example of Jesus is God
who came to be with us to
show us what it was like
to be in good relationship with God,
be in good relationship with other people.
He came to show us what
God is like with skin on,
so we can see how to
actually live that out,
but how to also relate to God.
But the thing sometimes for me
at least when I’m following,
I would say, “Follow Jesus,
follow Jesus, follow Jesus,”
is I feel a little bit
like I’m a steam engine
kind of just trying to go
on my own where I’m like,
“I think I can, I think
I can, I think I can,”
and I’m following what
it says in scripture.
Then eventually I hit an end
point of the, “I think I can,”
and I’m no longer the
little engine that could.
I think for a lot of us we forget that
what Jesus said to us is that he left.
Sure we have his example
of written down for us.
But he left, but left
us with the Holy Spirit.
He says, “Before I leave I am
going to leave you somebody
“who’s gonna comfort you.
“I’m gonna leave you a guide.
“I’m gonna leave you with the
being that will empower you.”
So we follow Jesus wholeheartedly
and with reckless abandon,
but knowing it’s not by our own strength,
knowing that it is by the
strength of the Spirit
that God has placed in us.
One of the things that I
think I just so loved about
spending my time with this
missions organization is,
and when I said, “All I
know is I need more God,”
it was with a group of
people who were just
so gaga for Jesus.
I knew that, “I don’t know
how else to get closer to God,
“but all I know is this
group of people love God
“and are doing cool things.
“I’ve never heard anyone talk
about God this way before.
“I just want that.”
What if we became this
community that people knew,
“Wow, they’re like super gaga for Jesus.
“If I just hang out with
them for a little bit,
“I know I will get more God.
“I know my life might not be perfect.
“It will probably still be challenging,
“but what if I just rub
shoulders with those people,
“I’ll just get more God.”
I think this is God’s
invitation for all of us to move
from a place of being stuck
to a place of being more free.
What would it look like
if on a Sunday morning
you came early, huh?
Because there was so many people
you wanted to connect with
because you knew what was
happening in their kid’s life.
You know what was happening
in their parents’ life.
You knew you just had to see
these people because you were
so invested in what’s
happening in their lives.
Or what if you today even say,
“Hey, I see when I show
up on a Sunday morning,
“that person who opens the door
“is insanely happy this
early in the morning.
“I wanna be that insanely happy
this early in the morning.
“Maybe I should sign up
to serve on that team.”
Things that have inspired
me to choose to make these
sort of choicefully painful
decisions towards God
and towards community are things
like our local compassion partners,
who volunteers through
them, are willingly walking
with like a 15-year-old
and 18-year-old brothers
who have lost their father
suddenly in this community.
It is people in this church
who’ve decided to cut down
the hedge on their front lawn
and stick a picnic table on it,
so that they can get to know
their neighbours better.
It’s people in this community who
pooled their money together
to buy a guitar for somebody
whose guitar was stolen and
had their name engraved in it.
It’s friends of mine who
are still missionaries
who regularly once a year or more say,
“Okay God, where to next?”
What do I do in my life?
Well, a few little things,
and that’s the thing.
They don’t have to be big
earth-shattering things.
I live in a small apartment building.
There’s only 11 units in my building.
This past summer I was like,
“Great, I’m just gonna invite
everybody over for dinner.
“Bring your own bowl.
“I’m gonna make chili.”
Seven out of the 11 units came for dinner.
It was great.
One lady who lives in
my building she says,
“I’ve lived here for 10 years,
and this has never happened.
“This is so great.”
There’s another young lady
in my building, single mom,
and I’ve just been praying
that she would somehow see me
as the one she can go to
when she has a problem,
when she needs something.
So far they’ve been very
little problems thankfully.
But she’s texted me when she’s
left her key in her apartment
and got locked out of the building,
and just last week she needed baking soda
for something she was making.
Little things but I was
like, “Wow, thank you God.
“She thought to connect with
me instead of somebody else.”
In my life too it definitely
looks like a daily surrender
of like, “God, who are the people
“that are in front of me today?
“Who do you want me to interact with?”
Leaving enough time in my
life to be inconvenienced
that I’m not rushing from
one thing to another.
I’m being open-handed with God to say,
“God, what are you healing
and transforming in me,
“so that I am more whole
so that others are blessed,
“and so that I can point people to you.”
So what is your next step today?
It might be something practical,
like those things I just listed,
or it might be something
that’s as simple as
we’re gonna pray together as a community.
That we would be more open-handed
to what God is doing in our lives,
and open-handed to the people around us.
You can stay in your seat,
but we’re gonna use
our hands as a reminder
of what we are saying with our mouths
and as a reminder of what we want
our hearts to believe as well.
We are holistic beings,
body, mind, and spirit,
so we can use all of those
parts of us when we pray.
So I’m gonna read out
some parts of a prayer.
You may remember back last
year, Danielle Strickland,
a friend of The Meeting House was here,
and she guided us through this prayer
from one of her organizations
called Infinitum.
We’re gonna pray it together today again.
So I think it’s really
powerful for the way
that we are asking God
to transform our hearts
towards him and each other.
So I’m gonna say a part
when our hands are closed,
and you’ll repeat after me.
Then when we do it open-handed posture,
the words are gonna appear on the screen,
and we can read all of those together.
So would you repeat after me?
“I hold up my fist and say I confess.”
– [audience] “I hold up
my fist and say I confess.
– “My natural human posture.
– “My natural human posture.
– “Is to fight for my right.
– “Is to fight for my right.
– “To try to make something happen.
– [audience] “To try
to make something happen.
– “But as a follower of Jesus.
– “But as a follower of Jesus.
– [Lisa] Now we can read
this on the screen together.
– [audience] “I
choose to hold up my hands
“as a symbol of surrender.
“My life is not about me.
“I surrender to your Lordship.
“I surrender my preferences, prejudices,
“and position to you,
“my fears, finances,
friends, and family to you.”
– Then we’ll hold our fists
out in front of us like this.
“I confess.
– “I confess.
– “My natural human posture.
– “My natural human posture.
– “Is to take.
– “Is to take.
– “Is to keep.
– “Is to keep.
– “Is to hold.
– “Is to hold.
– “But as a follower of Jesus
– “But as a follower of Jesus
– [Lisa] “I choose to hold out my hands.
– [audience] “I choose
to hold out my hands.
“As a symbol of generosity.
“What I have is not mine.
“I am only a steward of
all that you have given me.
“I want to mirror the way that
you opened your hands to us
“and lavished your love and life upon us.
“I want to live an open-handed life
“in a closed-fist culture.”
– Then our last posture is with
the arms crossed in front of us.
“I confess.
– “I confess.
– “My natural human posture.
– “My natural human posture.
– “Is to spectate.
– “Is to spectate.
– “Is to criticize.
– “Is to criticize.
– “Is to say it’s not my problem.
– [audience] “Is to
say it’s not my problem.
– “But as a follower of Jesus
– “But as a follower of Jesus
“I choose to hold my hands
forward as a symbol of mission.
“I want to live for
something greater than me.
“I want to embrace your kingdom mission.
“I want to embrace, and
welcome your mission
“to the lost, last, least, and lonely,
“the poor, powerless,
privileged, and persecuted.”
– May it be so, amen.

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