1. Today was the last official week of Sunday School. For the next four weeks of Advent we will turn the Sunday School time into an Advent-ture time. It will be interesting, entertaining and thought provoking all rolled into one.
2. There will be a Thanksgiving Dinner with Chef Len here at the church for folks looking for friendly company or don't have family nearby. Dinner is free, though donations will be welcome to replenish the church Benevolence Fund. Time and place: 2:00 p.m. Thanksgiving Day, at the church. Call ahead to let us know you're coming, so we know how much food to make. 729-5476 or 729-7448 (Len).
3. New Life Covenant has signed up again for the Salvation Army's adopt-a-family program. We will help make Christmas special for a family of six this year. There is a sign up sheet for needs they would like fulfilled. Bring items by December 12.
Chuck, Ken and Darlene led worship this morning followed by presentations from Walt and Norm regarding progress the Building Committee has been making. Walt noted that the committee will be seeking input from the congregation and will be doing a lot of listening. Norm shared that there are a variety of preliminary designs but that a Needs Analysis has to take place before we have enough information to make any real decisions. This Friday and Saturday there will be a pair of work days to do site prep across the street. All are invited.
During the offering Chuck, Ken and Darlene sang, "It is no secret what God can do."
Today's Scripture reading: Luke 1:68-79
A time a praises and prayer preceded the message.
Brad began by having us look to the mid-portion of the Sermon on the Mount, Chapter 6 of Matthew's Gospel. The first part of the Sermon on the Mount is about the meaning of Kingdom living. Today's message focused on roadblocks to living in the Kingdom, chiefly these two:
1) If you need approval from others.
2) If have a need to acquire more and more material things.
He read verses 1, 2, 5 and 16 for us. In each case Jesus identified a good behavior which gets twisted when its motivation is "to be seen by others," whether doing good deeds, being generous, praying or fasting.
Brad stated that Image Management is a major problem that creeps into the church when we try to control others' perceptions of us. Image management is a game we play in an effort to get others to see us a certain way. Jesus' message to us, and Brad's this morning, cut across this tendency in human nature. Authenticity is who we are when no one is looking.
The opposite of authenticity is hypocrisy. The word hypocrite comes from the masked actors of ancient times who wore masks projecting externally something different from what they were. In other words, concealing what they were within in order to project something different.
Authentic people are the same wherever they are. Mask wearing can become such a way of life for many people that it becomes normal.
Brad noted two tests that address the matter at hand. The Audience Test: Who am I doing this for. The Secrecy Test: Would I do the same thing if no one knew?
Jesus used the example of giving. Why do we give? Is it to show off our wealth? Is it to exercise the power of affluence by influence? Is it to look good in the eyes of others? Or is it because of an authentic desire to help others and honor Christ?
In the Audience Test, the question is this... Is it about expanding the Kingdom, or expanding your kingdom? How much would we give or pray if nobody knew, if no one was looking? Know this, that God sees, even if no one else sees.
Brad shared a Max Lucado story about a time when he accidentally unplugged their freezer while they went on a vacation for a week. The stench when they returned was unbearable. Unfortunately, unless it was cleaned the freezer was useless. He made the point that cleaning the outside of the appliance, no matter how it was dressed up, would not resolve the problem of the stench.
Jesus talked about people who were like whitewashed tombs that looked good on the outside but were filled with dead men's bones. Scripture notes that the heart is deceitful above all things. What is needed is a spiritual catharsis to cleanse the heart.
Authenticity also includes being able to share our struggles. Brad cited the way Alcoholics Anonymous meetings begin with transparency. We need this same transparency in the church. Perhaps a 12 Step Program for Recovering Pharisees would be useful. The meeting would begin with, "Hi. I'm John and I'm a sinner."
It's time we tear off our masks and be real together.
Brad said he'd hoped that the sermon today with the sound of masks hitting the floor. His prayer is that each of us would have the courage to say, "This is who I am."