Sunday, February 22, 2009

Getting In The Game

"Good morning. I'm delighted you're here today." Thus began Pastor Brad's opening remarks on this, Transfiguration Sunday. He told us how Peter, James and John went to the mountaintop with Jesus whereupon the Lord was transfigured before them. They had a glimpse of who Jesus is. The net result was a desire to stay on the mountain, even build a monument. But the reality is, Jesus doesn't stay in one place and to be with Jesus meant having to move down from the mountain to be where He is moving.

1. There will be an inquirers class soon for those interested in membership. New members will be inducted Easter Sunday.
2. Wednesday evening there will be an Ash Wednesday service at 7:00 p.m preceded by a supper at 5:30. Lent is a time of new beginnings.
3. It is time to think about VBS and we are seeking two co-leaders. Contact JoAnn Winship.
4. JoAnn also shared that the women's Bible study is meeting at the church here 6:30 p.m.
5. Ruth Anne Schelinder noted that the annual meeting is approaching. The search committee is seeking to fill a several positions on the board including deacons and a treasurer.
The quartet of Chuck, Darlene, Dale and Ken opened the worship time with a rousing "Heaven On My Mind." Chuck read from Psalm 51 and we entered into a time of congregational singing.

Pam Johnson read today's Scriptures, II Kings 2:1-12 and Mark 9:2-9.

Getting In The Game

Pastor Brad began his message by having us read from Exodus 18. He said today's message was urgent, that he was calling us to come out of the stands and to get out onto the field.

He then told about a playoff game between the Yankees and possibly the Orioles in which Derek Jeter hit a long fly ball. Just before it fell into the Oriole outfielder's glove a kid in the the stands reached out with his glove and caught the ball, which was then ruled a home run.

A debate ensued as to whether the 12 year old kid had the right to interfere with the game. But the real point of the story is that there are two kinds of people in the world, the players and the spectators. Brad used the story to say we're really all called to be players, to be down on the field, not sitting up in the bleachers.

"Imagine that it's opening day at the new Twins Stadium, whenever that is," Brad said. And then imagine that before the game begins a bleacher bum climbs out of the stands and goes out onto the field. And then more follow, and these others do the same till there are 30,000 people out on the field.

Brad said there is a fundamental and tragic misperception about the nature of the people of God. In point of fact in the kingdom of God it was never intended that we should just be spectators. Yet this is how a lot of Christians think. The clergy, pastors, priests are the players. Lay people are just spectators in the stands.

In Exodus 18 we see the beginning of this new notion of sharing in the work of God, and not just being watchers.

13 The next day Moses took his seat to serve as judge for the people, and they stood around him from morning till evening. 14 When his father-in-law saw all that Moses was doing for the people, he said, "What is this you are doing for the people? Why do you alone sit as judge, while all these people stand around you from morning till evening?"
15 Moses answered him, "Because the people come to me to seek God's will. 16 Whenever they have a dispute, it is brought to me, and I decide between the parties and inform them of God's decrees and laws."
17 Moses' father-in-law replied, "What you are doing is not good. 18 You and these people who come to you will only wear yourselves out. The work is too heavy for you; you cannot handle it alone. 19 Listen now to me and I will give you some advice, and may God be with you. You must be the people's representative before God and bring their disputes to him. 20 Teach them the decrees and laws, and show them the way to live and the duties they are to perform. 21 But select capable men from all the people—men who fear God, trustworthy men who hate dishonest gain—and appoint them as officials over thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens. 22 Have them serve as judges for the people at all times, but have them bring every difficult case to you; the simple cases they can decide themselves. That will make your load lighter, because they will share it with you. 23 If you do this and God so commands, you will be able to stand the strain, and all these people will go home satisfied."

In the passage Jethro, the father-in-law of Moses, after observing Moses' leadership style, suggests that the power be spread out so as to involve the people. Moses listens and it becomes the beginning of God releasing His work of ministry to and through the people.

The rest of the sermon we were asked to consider five questions. These questions will reveal something about how we see ourselves and our role in the church.

Question 1: Do I perceive myself to be a minister of Christ?
Prior to the exodus from Egypt, the pattern of leadership with exemplified by Pharaoh. The power resided in the this one man. Brad jovially shared the slogan from the PGA Tour, "You Da Man," which indeed was what Pharaoh was.

Moses led the people out of Egypt and now he was "Da Man"... but God had an alternate structure in mind. As a result of Jethro's wise counsel, we see the beginning of the release of ministry to the people. And in the New Testament this comes to flower with all of us being priests and ministers, no more distinctions between the top dog and the rest.

The point Brad wanted each of us to get: "I am a vital channel through which God directs His life to others and to the world."

Question 2: Have I gotten in the game?
Are you actively serving the body of Christ and the world?

A guy named Greg Ogden wrote a book called The New Reformation in which he said there are two kinds of churches, the pastor centered churches and the people centered churches. God's will is for the people to get in the game and do the work of ministry.

Brad shared how Chuck V. has been ministering at the Salvation Army, and how meaningful it has been. Spectators tend to simply sit in the stands and just cheer or boo. Now is the time to use our spiritual gifts.

Question 3: Am I growing in ministry?
Too often, in pastor centered churches there's a player and a bunch of spectators who get stagnant. Here in Exodus 18 we see that the people were standing around from morning till night. But when people get into the game, they begin to solve problems. The corollary question here is, "Am I more, or less, motivated to serve the body of Christ today than a year ago?

Question 4: Am I helping others grow in their ministries?
Or to put it another way, are you helping people to discover and release their gifts?

Brad poked a little fun at Eric Borndal whose Christmas tree is still up as we approach March. Imagine, however, if not only the tree were up but there were still unopened presents beneath that tree. What if Eric's mom had given a very special present which was specifically for him?

Well, in point of fact God has given us gifts. It would be as foolish not to "unwrap" and use those gifts as it would be to leave Christmas gifts unopened beneath our trees. Within the context of the body of Christ we can help each other open and use our spiritual gifts.

Question 5: Have you eliminated every ounce of pride in your life?
What appears to to be a question somewhat sideways from the rest turns out to be particularly pointed as Brad reminds us of the spirit of Christian ministry. We were invited to look at Number 12:3 in which Moses is acknowledged as the meekest, most humble man in the world.

Moses could have been a "top dog" or carried himself like a big guy. But instead he knew he was called to be a servant, and he looked to one who was greater than he.

Brad pointed out that the Greek word for minister is diakonos or "one who serves." The word actually refers not to individuals but to all of us as a group. We do not come here to be spectators, but to be players.... and in the Christian life to be a player is to be a minister, or rather a servant to the body of Christ.

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