Sunday, June 5, 2011

The Cathedral of the Christian Faith

The sanctuary was boisterous and alive this morning as we gathered for worship this sunny Sunday morning. Sunshine and smiles were exuberantly displayed everywhere. Pastor Brad welcomed us and noted that we were embarking on a new summer series devoted to the Book of Romans, a New Testament book which at least one theologian called, "The Cathedral of the Christian Faith."

Announcements included several regarding Vacation Bible School which begins June 13. There will be a meeting of volunteers at the Twig Town Hall after the service next Sunday at 11:00 a.m.
They are also looking for 5'x3' self standing boards as well as monetary donations for craft supplies.
Even if you are not involved as a volunteer, you're invited to the Family Fun Night on the very last day, Friday the 17th.
It was also noted that the Bloodmobile will be here on June 26th after the service. Please sign up to give blood if you are able.

The worship team sang for us and led us in song, which was followed by the offering. Eric Borndal read to us from Acts 1:6-14.

This week we honored the many grad who are among us by having them come to the front to be recognized. Steven Borndal, Monica Mullvain and Casie Westgard have now graduated from high school. Sara Borndal finished college and will be going to South Korea in a few months to teach English. Lisa Smith completed four years of post-grad studies in the pharmaceuticals field. Their lives are ahead of them, and we pray for them to make good choices while following their dreams. (See photo of the grads at bottom of this page)

The Cathedral of the Christian Faith

Martin Luther called the book of Romans the purest Gospel, noting that even a cursory study of this book will have life-changing consequences. Pastor Brad began by breaking today introductory passages into three sections as we lay the foundation for the weeks to come.

Romans 1:1-7 Paul's introduces himself, the writer of this letter to the church in Rome.
Verses 8-10 Paul sentiments toward the church in Rome.
Verses 11-17 Paul's dreams for the church and his intentions.

How Paul saw himself

Unlike many of the letters which were written to churches he founded, this one is different. Paul had never been to Rome and did not found this church, so he begins by introducing himself.

1 Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God...

Even the first word is pregnant with meaning. Paul, each time he reflected on it, could no doubt remember that he had once been Saul, a legalist and persecutor of the early church. The name Paul had been given to him by Jesus, who called him to be an Apostle, specially chosen and commissioned, set apart to proclaim the Gospel, the good news of salvation through the Jesus.

But Paul was not a ladder climber and did not aspire to this high position. Rather he saw himself simply as a bondservant, which is to say slave, of Jesus Christ. There were six million slaves in the Roman world. To be a slave is to be someone's property, and when Paul used this language, everyone knew what it meant. He was the property of Jesus, in service to the wishes of his master.

The letter begins with Paul citing his new name, new status, new calling and proceeds to outline his new passion.

At this point Brad paused and asked what we would say about ourselves in the opening of a letter of introduction? What is your status, your ministry, your passion?

Paul's sentiments toward the church

8 First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is being reported all over the world. 9 God, whom I serve in my spirit in preaching the gospel of his Son, is my witness how constantly I remember you 10 in my prayers at all times; and I pray that now at last by God’s will the way may be opened for me to come to you.

Paul is so in love with Jesus that he loves what Jesus loves. Jesus once compared the church to a bride, an object of love rich with meaning. Paul, too, loved the church, and upon hearing the good things happening at the church in Rome, he earnestly prayed for that church as well as prayed to be able to one day visit.

How much do you love the church? Do you love the people there? Brad said that while growing up it seemed that for a lot of people church was simply something to be endured or that others endured.

This church in Rome was interesting. There were liberals and conservatives, educated and uneducated "barbarians"... but they shared a common love for Christ. Paul longed to go there.

Paul's dreams and intentions

11 I long to see you so that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to make you strong— 12 that is, that you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith. 13 I do not want you to be unaware, brothers and sisters, that I planned many times to come to you (but have been prevented from doing so until now) in order that I might have a harvest among you, just as I have had among the other Gentiles.

14 I am obligated both to Greeks and non-Greeks, both to the wise and the foolish. 15 That is why I am so eager to preach the gospel also to you who are in Rome.

16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile. 17 For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed—a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.”

Why does Paul say he is so eager to preach the Gospel in Rome? Because he wants to witness and be a part of the unleashing of God's power in Rome. He had seen it elsewhere and longed to see it here.

Brad said he identifies with this longing. It's not about new buildings or new carpets, new liturgies or new styles of worship. It's about the power of God, and Paul was confident that when he reached Rome and preached the Word of God, powerful things would happen.

God's word gives strength, direction and nourishment. And it isn't one person that makes it happen. It happens in communities of faith working together. God can do that here if we speak the truth and are not ashamed. Go the second mile and watch what happens.

Paul was ever dreaming about the church. "I'm never going to stop dreaming about what God can do when unleashed," Brad said.

When was the last time you dreamed about the church? It's not about me doing this alone. It's about us.

After a closing hymn we proceeded to share communion together.

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