Sunday, September 21, 2008

Don’t Despise the Day of Small Beginnings

Pastor Brad Shannon opened the service by welcoming any guests that were here among us, noting that this was a place to meet God and we’re glad you’re here.

The service was again conducted in a restructured manner, with announcements preceding the sermon, and the worship, offering etc. taking place after. Here were a few of the important announcements cited.

1. The CHIC Rummage Sale fund raining event will be held next Saturday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Gethsemane Covenant. If you have items to sell, bring them to Gethsemane Covenant after 5:30 p.m. on Friday evening, or call Cheryl Borndal to arrange a pickup.
2. Joanne shared that there was a survey in the back of the church which she would like all to pick up. She is seeking to arrange a women’s Bible study.
3. Paula shared that the Circle of Life women’s group will be meeting monthly from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and (among other things) their next meeting will be Octrober 18.
4. Brooke shared that Adventure Club for kids will begin again, starting a week from Wednesday.

After an introit by Darlene, Dana Stroschein shared a song with us. But beforehand, Dana opened her heart and shared about an fresh experience she’d just had. Saturday night she participated in a “homeless night” event in which people spent the night in boxes or tents. Dana spent the night sleeping in a box. What excited her was that in the morning she had an unexpected opportunity to share her faith in a manner that came natural to her. The woman said she was not into religion, and Dana said, “I don’t do religion either; I do God.” It was a powerful testimony.

Don’t Despise the Day of Small Beginnings
Pastor Shannon began his sermon by talking about names, citing people whose original names we may not be familiar with, who became famous by other names. In the realm of sports Lew Alcindor we came to know as Kareem Abdul-Jabaar, and Cassius Clay became Muhammed Ali. In the world of entertainment, we know Reginald Dwight by his name Elton John, and Robert Zimmerman as Bob Dylan.

There are others with famous nicknames and some – like Dale Earnhardt – who were known by their numbers,

This morning’s sermon was taken from Revelation 3, the letter to the church at Philadelphia. The ancient city of Philadelphia had been built on an earthquake fault line and as a result had to be rebuilt many times, often with new names. It was a city with an ever changing identity. For this reason, Jesus makes a promise to these people in verse 12, “I am going to change your name to an unchanging name.” There is a future for you in which you will never have to move or re-build again.

Verse seven, which opens this section, begins with “These are the words of Him who is holy and true. My name… Holy and True. I am sovereign, holding the keys of the house of David. This reference comes from Isaiah 22, and to the Philadelphia church He is saying, “I’m that guy. I hold the keys, and what I open no man can shut, and what I’ve shut no one can open.”

Often Jesus opens doors for us, but we tend to want to go through doors that are locked. The key to getting it right is to listen, for Jesus said, “My sheep hear my voice.”

Brad shared an example of a ministry that was started by two young people who simply listened and stepped out in faith. They used to go to downtown Minneapolis loaded with bag lunches which they dispersed to hungry and homeless people along Nicollet Mall which riding up and down the mall on skateboards. They called their ministry Shredding for Jesus. By stepping out, others became involved, and when they later moved to Chicago to go to Bible school, others took over the Minneapolis arm of this work. They started a second route in Chicago, expanding the circle of impact.

Open doors exist all around us. We need to be willing to walk through.

In this letter to the church at Philadelphia, Brad noted that there were no words of rebuke. “I know your deeds. I see your courage. You may not be the richest and most powerful, but I’m using you because you depend on me.” Jesus says to us. ”Never forget when you are weak that I am strong.” Small churches can be used in mighty ways.

God wants to use us to start serving our community. The enemy whispers lies to us saying, “You’re small, you’re weak. What can God do with your puny church?”

Pastor Shannon exclaimed that he wants us to embrace the motto, “We are willing to be inconvenienced for the Gospel.”

In the letter, Jesus says not to worry about that Synagogue of Satan. “I will be with you. I’m coming soon. Don’t let anyone steal your joy. Stay positive and hope filled.”

The close of this sermon was a reading from Romans 8, the resounding affirmation of Christ’s faithfulness and unfailing love from The Message.

So, what do you think? With God on our side like this, how can we lose? If God didn't hesitate to put everything on the line for us, embracing our condition and exposing himself to the worst by sending his own Son, is there anything else he wouldn't gladly and freely do for us? And who would dare tangle with God by messing with one of God's chosen? Who would dare even to point a finger? The One who died for us—who was raised to life for us!—is in the presence of God at this very moment sticking up for us. Do you think anyone is going to be able to drive a wedge between us and Christ's love for us? There is no way! Not trouble, not hard times, not hatred, not hunger, not homelessness, not bullying threats, not backstabbing, not even the worst sins listed in Scripture:

They kill us in cold blood because they hate you. We're sitting ducks; they pick us off one by one.

None of this fazes us because Jesus loves us. I'm absolutely convinced that nothing—nothing living or dead, angelic or demonic, today or tomorrow, high or low, thinkable or unthinkable—absolutely nothing can get between us and God's love because of the way that Jesus our Master has embraced us.

This is the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.

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