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Engage: Connect, Grow, Serve #1 - Connect


Engage: Connect, Grow, Serve #1 - Connect
Vineyard Church of Ann Arbor • Aug 16, 2015 • Rev. Donnell T. Wyche, Executive Pastor

Cultivating Faith Networks Nurture Us to Life
We’re beginning a new sermon series on ways to engage with the local church; Engage: Learn to Connect, Grow, and Serve.

Our Lives Are Better Together
We see this echoed in the opening of the Gospel of Mark. Right after Jesus is baptized and tempted in the desert, the very first thing we observe is Jesus gathering a group to do life together with.

As Jesus walked beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.” At once they left their nets and followed him.

When he had gone a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John in a boat, preparing their nets. Without delay he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men and followed him. (Mark 1:16-19)

Jesus offers us a gift–an invitation to live life in community with him and his Father. Jesus knows there is a better way to live than being selfish and possessive, so he resists the empire’s invitation to go it alone. Instead, he gathers a faith network to share his life with, and in doing so, he makes space in his relationship with God that allows those he invites to look in on what a life infused by the ever-present, ever-speaking, ever-loving God looks like.

Cultivating Faith Networks Nurture Space for Welcome & Acceptance:
Faith network is a great name because we all already have a framework for networks and the benefits they produce in our lives, so whether you call your faith network a small group, a prayer group, or a recovery group, they all serve the same purpose in our lives.  They become the places in our lives where we share ourselves with others. Often they become the places where we find welcome and acceptance, where we experience loyalty and friendship, and if we are lucky, we can also find hope, forgiveness, and restoration as well.

Here’s a story of a faith network in action from Mark 2.

A few days later, when Jesus again entered Capernaum, the people heard that he had come home. They gathered in such large numbers that there was no room left, not even outside the door, and he preached the word to them. Some men came, bringing to him a paralyzed man, carried by four of them. Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus by digging through it and then lowered the mat the man was lying on. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralyzed man, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” (Mark 2:1-5)

This is a story of acceptance, friendship, community, forgiveness, and healing. First and foremost, this is a story of friendship and community. While we don’t have the details about how this guy was paralyzed, we can infer that he was a part of a wider community of friends. Someone knew him, his name, his story, otherwise he would have died. It seems like his faith network was at work caring for him–ensuring his survival.

As we cultivate faith networks, we nurture space for welcome, acceptance, and loyalty.

Cultivating Faith Networks Nurture Space for Joy & Sorrow
As these guys arrive at the house, they run into a little problem, there’s no way for them to get in.

Some men came, bringing to him a paralyzed man, carried by four of them. Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus by digging through it and then lowered the mat the man was lying on. (Mark 2:3-4)

They are enduring this hardship with him. Having heard the rumors about Jesus, they take a risk. As we experience welcome and acceptance, we are willing to invite others into our stories, allowing us to be fully loved as we are. Our faith networks are not only willing to celebrate joys with us, they are willing to sit with us in our sorrow.

Faith Networks Nurture Space for Forgiveness & Healing
Having made their way to Jesus, they have encountered a barrier, there’s no space. They get creative and find another way.

Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus by digging through it and then lowered the mat the man was lying on. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralyzed man, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” (Mark 2:4-5)

They have broken the roof apart, littering the inside of the house, and Jesus, himself, with debris. Looking around at what has happened, Jesus, maybe a little surprised, sizes up the scene before him and understands exactly what has happened.

When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralyzed man, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” (Mark 2:5)

He sees their faith. He sees their hope. He sees that they want the kingdom. And so he offers it. It was the faith of his friends that activated the paralytic’s healing. In community, we are better able to resist sin and also find forgiveness for our sins. The paralytic came to Jesus with his friends carrying him — they were literally carrying the burden. When Jesus spoke and said, "Your sins are forgiven,” his friends no longer had to carry the burden, and he was healed.

Jesus leaves behind a “witnessing community,” not a creed, a book, or a set of rules. In this community, our burdens are carried, we are welcomed and accepted, we can confess our sins and be forgiven, receiving our healing and restoration.

Hear Jesus,

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30

Together, let’s turn our backs on the this idea that we can do life alone. Jesus tells us that our lives are better together. Let’s listen to Jesus.

Practical Tip
Consider lowering your, defenses especially as it relates to cultivating a faith network.

 
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