Sunday, March 21, 2010

Keep the Line Tight

The Fifth Sunday in Lent

Brad's welcome this morning included a reminder that next week is Palm Sunday and that it is already the fifth Sunday in Lent, which is traditionally a time of reflection, repentance and renewal. "Do you want to get well?" he asked again, which is the theme he has been returning to in various ways these past several weeks. It begins, he said, by admitting we are spiritually busted. Then we surrender, our lives and our wills, to God. Taking a fearless moral inventory was his theme two weeks ago, and last week he spoke of forgiveness, both the need to extend it toward others and to ask for it.

Today's message would be about what is involved in walking down a new street in your life, and the kinds of shoes you will want or need.

1. Eric and the youth group will be filling Easter eggs for an Easter Egg Hunt for the kids Easter morning. If you bring the candy, they will fill the eggs.
2. Joanne W. will be managing the Secret Friend planning this year. If you have an interest in being a secret friend, see Joanne to sign up before the end of the month.
3. The Women's Ministry took half the money from its rummage sale to support Break the Chains, a ministry aimed at fighting human trafficking.
4. The discount rates for early registrants for Covenant Park summer camp will end soon. Please get your $50 deposit to Cheryl Borndal by next week if you have a child you plan to send to camp.
5. Now that Caribou Lake School fell through as a consideration for our future, the building committee is meeting to discuss plans going forward. There will be a congregational meeting in May for the purpose of visioning.

Darlene played the classic hymn "He Hideth My Soul" for an introit today. A very special rendition, as usual. The choir came forward and ushered us into worship with "Beneath the Cross of Jesus."

The Scripture reading today was John 12:1-8, read by Paula Saxon. A time of prayer followed. It was especially good to see Joe and Arlene back with us after a long winter. (A praise!)

Keep the Line Tight

Those who fish know what this means. Keeping tension on the line is important in order to keep the fish on the hook.

Pastor Brad started by sharing a poem by Porsche Nelson called An Autobiography in Five Short Chapters.

Chapter 1
I walk down the street and there’s a deep hole in the sidewalk, I fall in, I am lost, I am helpless, It isn’t my fault, It takes me forever to find my way out.

Chapter 2
I walk down the same street and there’s a deep hole in the sidewalk, I pretend I don’t see it. I fall in again, I can’t believe that I’m in the same place but it isn’t my fault. It takes a long time to get out.

Chapter 3
I walk down the same street there’s a deep hole in the sidewalk, I see that it is there, I still fall in, it’s a habit, my eyes are open, I know it’s my fault. I get out immediately.

Chapter 4
I walk down the same street there’s a deep hole in the sidewalk, I walk around it.

Chapter 5
I walk down another street.

"My prayer," Brad said, "is that some of you have started down a different street" during this Lenten season. It is interesting how something so simple and amusing can contain such profound understanding.

Citing II Corinthians 5:17, we were reminded that the Scripture talk much about being a "New Creation" and taking a new direction, being a new person and by extension walking in new shoes down a new path.

Today's message stemmed in part from a discussion Brad had with some men last week after church regarding shoes as a metaphor. How do new shoes feel? Sometimes not as comfortable as what we were used to initially. New ways feel different.

So it is with a new life. How do you keep walking in a new direction? Brad used various shoes to illustrate the facets of our new life in Christ so that we could walk in the freedom God intended for us. But first, some of the potholes that can trip us up. It's that time of year when we're painfully aware of the potholes in our roads.

1) Willpower. To get out of the holes we're in we need God's help. Will power is not enough. "Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit, says the Lord."

2) Don't wait to start feeling good to start doing good. Choose the right thing and do it. The feelings will catch up. Major changes do not always feel good at first.

3) Perfection is another pothole that trips us up. Don't focus on perfection. Focus instead on taking one step at a time toward your goal. You have one decision to make -- commitment to walk a new life -- followed by a day-to-day process. Matthew 6:34 says don't worry about tomorrow, worry about this moment.

4) Surround yourself with people who will lift you up and not bring you down. Galatians 5:7 says, "You were running a good race. Who cut in on you and kept you from obeying the truth?" Don't allow old ties to leave you tangled up. "Bad company corrupts good morals." (I Corinthians 15:33)

I Peter 4:3-5 says, "For you have spent enough time in the past doing what pagans choose to do—living in debauchery, lust, drunkenness, orgies, carousing and detestable idolatry. 4They think it strange that you do not plunge with them into the same flood of dissipation, and they heap abuse on you. 5But they will have to give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead." If you're going to walk in a new direction, you can't worry what old friends think.

In Romans 12:1-2 Paul writes that transformation has two components. God's part is to transform us. The Greek word here is metamorpho, the same root as when a caterpillar is metamorphosed into a butterfly. Our part is to renew our minds. To fill our thoughts with God's thoughts.

We need to make new ruts or we'll continue to be stuck in our old ones. It is a daily choice we make to renew our minds.

And now to the shoes.

First, before putting on our shoes, we need to learn how to kneel. We came shoeless before God, beginning our day on our knees. "Be still and know that I am God." Surrender to His leadership, daily.

As a symbol of this daily surrender Brad showed us a pair of slippers. It is to be an honest communion between us and God, daily. He cited several important passages. In Psalm 39 the psalmist writes, "Search me, O God, and know my heart." Psalm 19 addresses this theme in a similar way. And Galatians 6:4 invokes us to test our actions to see where we're at.

Flip flops speak to us about relaxing with God. Friendship with God should be a time of feeling hood in His presence. Take a vacation from being at the center of the universe.

Some of us are in bondage to worry, and flip flops invite us to a more carefree stance. Philippians 4:6-7 states, "Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."

The next show Brad shared was a pair of wingtips. Though wingtips seem a bit geeky to some, there's nothing geeky about seeking knowledge. Psalm 119:92-93 states,
92 If your law had not been my delight,
I would have perished in my affliction.
93 I will never forget your precepts,
for by them you have preserved my life.

Brad is working on a bathroom re-modeling project. It's not enough to pull the old wallpaper off. You have to fill in the new surface with substance to make it what it needs to be.

Brad then showed a pair of clogs and equated them to dancing and inward joy. We need to inwardly celebrate our victories.

Finally, he pulled out a pair of cletes. These, he said, speak of battle. Battles will come. The enemy will try to trip us up. To combat this, Paul admonishes us to put on the armor of God.

10Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes. 12For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.

Brad chose cletes because they are associated with team sports. Our battles are not to be isolated. We go through these together. He then cited the popular song by Bill Withers, "Lean on me... when you're not strong, I'll be your friend, I'll help you carry on."

Brad couldn't find a pair, but he liked the name of a brand of Nike shoes called Nike Free. "I want to live free," he said. "Free to be what God intended me to be. I want to walk free every day."

He then appealed to us to place everything we do before God. Everything. This is freedom. This is life, walking free with purpose and passion in your life. Do you want to get well?

Our closing hymn was appropriately, "I Want To Walk As A Child of the Light."

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