This morning was Kaitlyn Shannon's inaugural worship experience. Not sure she got much out of the message, but it was good to have Brooke back with us, and the Shannon's healthy baby girl in our midst.
Brad mentioned the Breakfast Roundtables we've been having as part of his welcome and a summary of this morning's discussion will appear at the end of this blog post. Everyone is invited as we discuss significant, thought provoking issues and questions pertaining to our church's vision and future. Breakfast buffet style is ready at 8:15, with discussion following at 8:30 a.m. Sunday mornings throughout the summer.
There was also an announcement about a woman who had surgery and our church is helping provide meals. Contact Karen Mehle for details. Also, Norm reminded us that there are a number of Modest Home Makeover fund raising events coming up. Last night netted more than $4,000, which provided an excellent boost forward. You can contribute or follow along here: http://modesthomemakeover.ning.com/
Before commencing with his traditional greeting, Brad explained for us the meaning of this greeting in which he says, "The Lord be with you," and the congregation replies, "And also with you." It is not just a meaningless formality. It is rather a way in which the pastor invites a response from the congregation indicating that worship is participatory, as opposed to spectator sports where one purchases a seat and watches others perform.
Darlene and Brad performed a duet for the introit today singing, "People need the Lord." A time of worship, including the offer, a Scripture reading (Col. 1:1-4) and prayer.
Pastor Shannon began by asking what we believed was the single most important influence in shaping one's character. Books? Teachers? Solitude? The media? Brad proposed the notion that friendship is the single most important influence in shaping souls and lives.
"Friend" is one of the most powerful words, he said. "I don't think anyone can have a great, deep friend and be called poor. And I'm not sure anyone lacking in friends can be called rich."
Today's message was about the relationship between Jonathan and David, one of the great friendships in history. The story begins in I Samuel 18:1-4.
1 After David had finished talking with Saul, Jonathan became one in spirit with David, and he loved him as himself. 2 From that day Saul kept David with him and did not let him return to his father's house. 3 And Jonathan made a covenant with David because he loved him as himself. 4 Jonathan took off the robe he was wearing and gave it to David, along with his tunic, and even his sword, his bow and his belt.
Brad pointed out that Saul attempted to kill David at least five times, thrice by javelin and twice by chicanery. And when nothing else worked he sent out assassins. But in the midst of all this, a significant friendship have developed between David and the king's son, Jonathan, heir to the throne. This is why the actions of Jonathan are so significant.
Jonathan here makes a covenant with David, giving to him his royal robe, his royal sword, and even his tunic, bow and belt. It is as if Jonathan were saying, "When I look at you I see a king. This is what God made you to be." There was no envy, no jealousy. It was a friendship that helped David through turbulent times. Jonathan's friendship was an anchor for David's soul.
In chapter 20 of I Samuel, Jonathan struggles with the balancing act of being loyal to his friend while striving to honor his father. At this point he does not yet know Saul has been trying to kill David, and he determines to get to the bottom of things. In verse 30 we see that Jonathan is willing to risk everything for his friend.
Chapter 23:15-18 records the last known meeting between Jonathan and David. It is a heartbreaking parting as they re-affirm their commitment as friends. These are two men who should have been rivals and at each others' throats.
Jonathan was killed in battle not long afterwards as was Saul, who fell on his sword rather than be captured by the Philistines. David became king and ruled forty years. Brad pointed out that though his friend was gone, the memory of that friendship never left him. Years later he one day declared, "Is there anyone left in Jonathan's house to whom I can show kindness?"
There are many levels of friendship, but "there is no wonder like a spiritual friendship." Brad encouraged us to seek it out, if it is not part of our lives right now. "What I want for each of us is a life giving spiritual friendship." But how do we find this, he asked.
First, it takes a relational risk. We have to be open to moving deeper. It's also not something you can force. There is an element of mystery to the way friendships develop.
Second, you have to take you time. Test the water for a while. You test the water by moving a little further beyond polite conversation, which is aimed at not hurting feelings. In this phase we look for people who are empathic as listeners and who honor confidentiality.
The third phase is when a relationship enters a spiritual dimension.
How many of these kinds of friendships can we expect? No, not 50. It is a small number. Brad encouraged us to prayer for friends like this with whom we can become vulnerable and open up.
Brad reminded us that a friend is not like a "spare part" that we use and then discard when it doesn't work any more. And sometimes becoming vulnerable can result in our being hurt. But it is a necessary risk. The absence of friends will make the heart grow hard, so it is worth the search.
Brad elevated the point by noting that David wanted to be Jonathan's friend more than he wanted to be king, and that we have a friend like this in Jesus, who made a name for Himself as a "friend of sinners." For Jesus, it was more important to be our friend, so much that He died on a cross for us, than to be king of the world.
BREAKFAST ROUNDTABLE NOTES
Brad opened with a few introductory remarks saying, "If a community of faith gets serious about moving forward, you can count on being broken." He then read to us from II Corinthians 1:8-9, "We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about the hardships we suffered in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life. Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead."
We are in this together, he said. Church ministry will involve all of us.
Today's discussion questions were:
What are the critical areas where our church can be more dependent on the Holy Spirit? And, how as a church do we continually challenge ourselves to move forward into God's future?
Are we too timid? Too frenetic? Have we been too risk averse? Someone noted that commitment is a missing quality in today's culture and it carries over into church commitment as well. There were too many good comments to capture here, including confession, repentance, prayer, but the candor and open exploration was refreshing.
We each asked ourselves, "Am I willing to be inconvenienced for God?"
Brad read Romans 12:1-2 from Eugene Petersen's The Message: "So here's what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don't become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You'll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you."
We closed with this question: What Biblical story most describes what is happening in our church now. One person said, the parable of the talents... what will we do with ours? Another said, Noah building the ark. In an unsafe world, we are seeking someplace safe.
What Biblical story do you think most describes what is happening in our church today? Join us next Sunday for breakfast. We'd like to hear from you.