Sunday, June 3, 2012

Communion, Not Competition

We've finally adjusted to our summer schedule and a sunny summer morning it is. The red sash on the cross, hung there last week as a reminder of Pentecost, seemed especially vibrant this morning with the sunlight streaming in the window.

"Good morning!! I’m grateful you’re here today," Pastor Brad said in his opening remarks. "As it is the first Sunday of the month, we will be celebrating communion… instituted by Jesus, who said, 'Do this in remembrance of Me.'"

Announcements were several.
Elsa 1: Bonfire one week from today at Borndal’s 7:00 p.m.
Elsa 2: I have need of containers, bins and things for youth group project. They will be returned.
Ruth Ann:  The Bloodmobile will be here July 8, parked out back. July is a month when blood is especially needed….
Brooke 1: Baby shower after church.
Brooke 2: VBS starts a week from tomorrow. Asked to bring items we buy from the dollar store. Volunteer orientation next Sunday 11:00 a.m.
Dwayne thanked the congregation and Brad for all the help and support as his mother was passing away.

Traditional greeting set us in the direction of worship, initiated by Chuck and the quartet. “And I know, yes I know, Jesus’ blood can make the vilest sinner free.”

The worship songs today were from the silver song book. During the offering, the quartet proceeded to sing “When the Roll Is Called Up Yonder” a capella.

Today's Scripture reading was taken from John 3:1-17, the story of Nicodemus.

Before prayer it was pointed out that Muriel is now 94 and we sang “Happy Birthday” for her. We lifted up many needs, spoken and unspoken.

Communion, Not Competition 

Brad began by reading I Corinthians 13. “And now I show you the most excellent way…”

Have you ever looked at a catalog for a Christian college or larger church? The back part is information about the classes or the financial statements. Usually it is quite dry. The front part is put together by PR people who show pictures of green hillsides with kids playing soccer, or students sitting on the grass with their teacher, all listening attentively, smiling.

The aim of these the images is to show us more than just a college or church. If you come here, you will be part of a community. Folks come to church looking for community. Another word for community is church.

Paul’s letter to Corinthians is a letter to a community, a community of believers. He states that these people are quite talented, gifted. But gifts by themselves do not bring community. Gifts are valuable but it is the wrong focus to focus on our gifts. Love is the basis of community.

“What do you mean by love, Pastor Brad?”you may ask.

The word here is agape, which has nothing to do with emotion. Paul is talking about a mindset, an act of your will… a determination that I will seek that person’s highest good. I will not return evil for evil.

I Corinthians 13 is about love in action: Love is patient, love is kind. It reflects the God we worship. God does not deal with us according to our sins…

Other aspects of love deal with the nature of community. Love does not envy.

To illustrate the way envy works, Brad shared a legend about some people who were trying to get a holy hermit to sin. First, they appealed to his lusts, without success. They then attacked his doubts and other areas of weakness. No luck. Then the devil got in the act and went to the hermit and said, “Did you know that your best friend has just been elected to be Bishop of Alexandria?” The holy man’s face showed that he was crestfallen, a look of envy in his eyes.

Brad cited examples of envy from all walks of life, including pastors. Envy latches on to the differences between us. But love is not this way… Love sees people as people, not cars, houses, retirement income.

It was pointed out that when we think that we want to swap places with someone with goods or the rest, you have to swap everything. Not just what we see, but everything, including the children, the cancer, the hidden pressures they carry. An example of this is found in the poem Richard Cory by Edward Arlington Robinson. People in that town thought the respected Richard Cory was living the ultimate good life, but they couldn't see the whole picture.

We were reminded to remember that whatever gifts we have come from God.

Brad then told the story of his friend who was a pastor, and how a church a mile away grew to a thousand members and Brad’s friend was jealous... until one day while in prayer the Lord showed him that this church was an answer to his own prayers. He had been praying for God to reach unbelievers and needy in their neighborhood. This church was attracting people who his own church was not attracting. Instead of seeing that church as competition, he understood that it also had a purpose in God's plan and he even gave a financial contribution to that ministry.

"If God gives you something, accept it with a grateful heart. But boasting puts us in competition, not communion."

I have a friend who died last summer, Jim Hawkinson. Jim, who was known for his bluntness, said, “God has given you some good gifts.”

“Thanks,” Brad said.

“What are you thanking me for?”

“That seemed like a nice compliment.”

“I wasn’t complimenting you. I was complimenting God.”

The message was brought to a culmination by a story about William Carey's remarkable humility in light of all that he achieved in India. Love is not puffed up. Love is not proud. We're not to be like cotton candy, all fluff and no substance.

One problem with knowledge is that it puffs people up. Love builds up. All too often we look down on people who don’t know as much as we do.

Love does everything it can to preserve community. The mark of the presence of the Holy Spirit in your life is how you love people.

Here's a prayer for you today: Lord, show me myself as I really am. And above all, show me who You are.

We ended the service by sharing the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper.

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