Sunday, November 8, 2009

Extreme Makeover

At the start of the service the gregariousness of our congregation was bubbling effusively this morning with high energy and good vibes. Pastor Brad had to really shout to be heard as he welcomed us with his loudest "Good morning! I'm delighted you are here to worship today."

Several announcements were made, as follows.
1. Covenant World Relief soup cans were being distributed again this year to help with needs throughout the globe.
2. Operation Christmas Child is gathering momentum. Wednesday the 11th we will be serving dinner and packing shoe boxes. Everyone is invited.
3. A thank you from Albrook school was conveyed to us for helping with school supplies, etc.

Today marked a first (or a first in a long time) as we assembled a modest choir to usher us into worship. A nice rendition of Father Almighty was followed by Worthy of Worship. Thank you Chuck and Darlene for spearheading and leading this... and to all who made it happen. (Very brief practice next week directly after the service so we can discuss best time for rehearsals.)

The Scripture reading from Colossians 3:12-17 was the basis for today's sermon.

12Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

15Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. 16Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. 17And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

During our time of prayer we lifted up many needs including the families of victims of the shootings this week. Norm and Mae will be visiting the children's home ministry in Phoenix which has become a big part of their lives. Duane reminded us, too, that today is the annual day of prayer for Christians and martyrs who have been and are being persecuted for their faith.

Extreme Makeover

Brad opened by by reminding us of one of the continuous threads in this sermon series on Colossians: the need to do a 180 degree turn in life. This morning, he said that sometimes a 180 has to begin with a 360. This is what he meant by that.

There's a show on cable television which aims to convince people that they are in need of an extreme makeover in their attire. It does this by bringing them into a room called the 360 degree mirror. The results are highly embarrassing and motivational. Similarly we ourselves need to see the 360 degree view of our lives in order to prod us to take the necessary steps toward making the 180 degree turn from self-destructive habits and bad behaviors.

We are God's chosen people, Paul writes, set apart for a different kind of life. Therefore, we are to clothe ourselves with compassion, kindness, etc. as outlined. In other places the New Testament also refers to clothing as a metaphor for putting on the Spirit filled life. Jesus told the disciples in Luke 24 they would be clothed with power from on high, and Peter writes in his chapter five of his first letter that we are to be clothed with humility. And in another place the New Testament states, "be clothed with the fruit of the spirit."

Brad proceeded to confide that this passage was quite pointed for him this week as he prepared his message, confessing that he has failed to be as compassionate, patient and kind as he ought. With this familiarity with his shortcomings he was able to bring into focus the real value of our new attire.

Clothe yourself with compassion. This simply means having a soft heart for people different from you. Whether circumstantial (young, old, single, married, black, white) or with special needs, we need to learn to see the world through the eyes of others.

Clothe yourself with kindness. We can often be kind to strangers and not be so kind at home as we ought. Most of us have been in a situation where the words being spoken are laced with irritation or anger, then the phone rings and one person or the other sweetly answer, "Hello, hey how ya doing?" We're capable of kindness but sometimes do not want to be.

Clothe yourself with humility. This is an attitude of brokenness. Paul came to this place when God brought him to his knees. It was the starting point for being used mightily.

Clothe yourself with gentleness. This does not mean that we become wimpy. The Greek word here means "power under control." Brad illustrated it by describing a solidly built power lifter who was very strong, yet carried his young daughter with a special tenderness. Jesus Himself demonstrated this kind of gentleness when He could stop a raging storm, yet still cradle children on his lap.
Clothe yourself with patience. Brad asked how patient we are when driving. Somehow it seems when we get stuck behind people driving too slow they're idiots, and when we have people cruising up against our rear bumper because they want us to go faster they're morons. Alas, are we the only ones who get it right? Usually we're short on patience with this and many other areas of our lives.

Forgive one another. "How are you doing on the forgiveness front?" Brad asked. And ultimately, put on love. "Be honest with yourselves. When you do the 360 degree mirror, how do you fare?"

The next section, he pointed out, had both expected and unexpected statements. Verse 15 speaks of us being members of one body, connected. Being connected to the body of Christ, and fellow believers, is important.

Moreover Paul writes, "Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts." Jesus said, "My peace I give unto you." Some people today are under so much stress that the only way they can survive is by having the peace of Christ in their hearts. When the peace of Christ rules, even if the worst should happen it is well with your soul.

The 16th verse, though, had an unexpected piece. Yes, one would expect the first part, "Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly..." but here's something unexpected. We're instructed to teach and admonish one another with singing, with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. In other words, transformation is occurring when we're sharing hymns, spiritual formation is occurring while worshiping in song and even when singing to one another. "Don't blow off the song time," Brad said, because there are significant things happening.

It's a fact that by tomorrow you will forget 80% or more of the words from this sermon, but we often remember the songs.

As an aside, Brad commented that sometimes we have outsiders with us who are seekers but do not know what we're really all about. Occasionally, and maybe often, these people are here to see if we are just going through the motions of religious activity or really believe what we're saying and doing.

As for the songs we sing, no matter what songs come up, bear with one another. Joyfully learn our grandson's songs.

Brad closed with a long anecdotal story about a guy who behaved badly, forgetting to pick his wife up at the beauty salon so that she had to walk home in the rain a couple miles. He was hours late, due primarily to his own neglect, and when he got home he well deserved being assaulted by his wife because he was supposed to help clean the house and get ready for having his parents for dinner, who were arriving just behind him. She meets him at the door with a twelve inch knife. Instead of her giving a lashing, she says, "Hey, it's no big deal. I knew you'd forget... just give me a kiss and let's enjoy the evening with your parents."

What kind of kiss would you give? A little peck on the cheek or a condescending smooch. No, it's going to be demonstrative, appreciative and expressive.

So it is that our Maker and Master awaits us... We have repeatedly failed Him and know it. He has a sword in His hand which could be used to destroy us, and we would deserve it, but says instead that by His own blood He paid a price to enable us to be forgiven and reconciled. How do we respond to such a God as this? A peck on the cheek? A smile? No, you're going to say thank you, I love you, I worship you for this love and forgiveness and understanding. You are an incredible God.

It is out of this kind of heart that Paul writes, "And whatever you do whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to the Father through Him."

This message was followed by the breaking of bread and communion.

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