In the last week of our Windows series, Mark Mikel talked about attitude. Using quotations from famous people and scripture texts, Mark reminded us that belief is necessary if miracles are to happen. He talked about the difference between a naysayer (who is always negative and focused on why something won't work) and a truth-teller (who looks at a situation realistically and sometimes urges us to not move forward). The former will usually breed more negativity in a group; the later will keep the group from making mistakes. Mark contrasted the stories of David slaying Goliath and Jonah going to the people of Nineveh to illustrate the difference attitude can make. David gave his skill and the outcome of the fight to God, confident God could use him to kill the giant. And God did. Jonah chose to run away from God's call at first and then, when he obeyed and preached the people of Nineveh into repentance, complained when God did not destroy them. He sat down and felt sorry for himself rather than rejoicing that the people were reconciled with God. Mark challenged us to replace our negative thoughts with positive vision for our future, to ask God for opportunities to share the hope that is within us, and to ask God for a miracle we expect to become reality in our church.
“Ask, and you will receive. Search, and you will find. Knock, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives. Whoever seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door is opened." Matthew 7:7-8 (CEB)
Pastor Ed invited the congregation to think about how well the common thought of "the church doors are open--if people want to come, they can come" is working today. He went on to show statistics of our church membership and attendance over the past 10 years; the numbers showed a decline. Pastor Ed reminded us that Jesus is our model for life--and Jesus didn't just sit in Nazareth and wait for people to come to him so that he could teach them God's Word. Instead, Jesus went to the people. Are we also willing to "go to the people" rather than expecting them to show up in our church on Sunday morning? Pastor Ed challenged us to invite people who do not go to church to attend with us. He also challenged us all to attend the upcoming Fruitful Congregations Journey Values Workshop on Feb. 27.
Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through town. A man there named Zacchaeus, a ruler among tax collectors, was rich. He was trying to see who Jesus was, but, being a short man, he couldn’t because of the crowd. So he ran ahead and climbed up a sycamore tree so he could see Jesus, who was about to pass that way. When Jesus came to that spot, he looked up and said, “Zacchaeus, come down at once. I must stay in your home today.” So Zacchaeus came down at once, happy to welcome Jesus. Luke 19:1-6
Jeff Stueve shared with us our privilege, responsibility, and anointing to lead as believers in Christ. We are members of "a royal priesthood." Unlike Old Testament days, when the high priest interceded for the people, holy and set apart for this job, with Christ's death on the cross all believers became priests--able to approach God on their own and set apart to be different. While we are all called to lead, Jeff reminded us that we will lead differently: we have different gifts, different leadership styles, and different arenas to which we are called. Leadership also empowers a group toward a vision--something we are working toward through our participation in the Fruitful Congregations Journey. Jeff challenged us all to be open to God's call to lead in a specific time and place and to pray for the leaders of our church to see God's vision for our church. In discussion group we considered the question: as you listened to the message on leadership, what jumped out to you? What might God be trying to say to you about leadership?
But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. 1 Peter 2:9 (NIV
Pastor Ed encouraged us to think about the difference between what is of critical importance to the Christian faith and what things might be of secondary importance. In the passage from Matthew 15 Jesus criticizes the Pharisees and scribes for elevating human tradition above the commandment of God. Pastor Ed gave the example of Martin Luther who argued that the use of Latin in mass was standing in the way of people understanding God's truth. He conducted services in the language the people understood rather than in one they didn't understand. John Wesley also challenged tradition when he chose to preach in the open air rather than confining worship to inside a church. He went to where the people were to bring them God's truth. We were challenged to adhere to the core values of the Christian faith as taught by Jesus Christ--and to remain flexible to use the methods and forms that will best communicate the gospel to people today.
Then Pharisees and scribes came to Jesus from Jerusalem and said, “Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands before they eat.” He answered them, “And why do you break the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition? For God said, ‘Honor your father and your mother,’ and, ‘Whoever speaks evil of father or mother must surely die.’ But you say that whoever tells father or mother, ‘Whatever support you might have had from me is given to God,’ then that person need not honor the father. So, for the sake of your tradition, you make void the word of God. Matthew 15:1-6 (NRSV)