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The Peaceful Gospel

Advent 2016: The Peaceful Gospel - Sermon #02 - Peace
Vineyard Church of Ann Arbor • Dec 04, 2016 • Rev. Donnell T. Wyche, Senior Pastor

 

An Tithing Interlude

The last time I shared with you, I talked about learning to trust God with our treasure. I invited those of you who are not giving at all (giving zero dollars) to start giving by partnering with us for the next 12 weeks by giving $12.50/week.

 

For those of you already giving, but not regularly, I asked that you would established a recurring giving account.

 

For those of you have been faithfully, sacrificially giving, I offered a heart-felt thanks because we wouldn’t be here with you and I asked you to keep it up!

 

This morning before I invite up our guest speaker this morning. I want to give you an update.

 

After the sermon two weeks ago, six new families made their first contribution, and six existing givers created recurring giving accounts, which is a great start, only 44 new givers to go! Let me just say thank you to each of you for your decision to trust God with your treasure and to invest financially in the church and following through with your decision by making your first gift or setting up a recurring giving account. For many of you, you had to overcome something to make this decision and to follow through with the decision you made. Without overstating it, your decision to trust God with your treasure and to obey his call to follow him was an important step on your discipleship journey and I’m proud of you! Thank you! Your decision of trust and obedience, builds my faith! And your financial partnership is vital to our church, we literally can’t survive without each of you. Your first contribution or your recurring donation account helps ensure we can do the work we have been called to do, which is proclaim the good news of Jesus for our friends, family, neighbors, and city. We do this as we become disciples who are being formed by God into a welcoming, diverse, inclusive community that is committed to inviting everyone into the transformative story of Jesus, which is, let me say it again, good news!

 

If you weren’t here two weeks ago, I talked about learning to trust God with our treasure and I laid out the current income shortfall we are facing as a church. I would invite you to go back and listen to that sermon. Whenever we talk about money, it can be difficult to enter into all of the details, so I want to frame the financial situation this way, our income shortfall is preventing us from having the resources (like more staff) to help disciple the over 200 new people who have decided to make the Vineyard their church home.

 

So, if 50 non-giving families started giving $50 a month, and if everyone else maintained their giving level, we would have enough money to acquire the resources to do what we need to do to disciple the people that God is sending to us and to make space for those who aren’t here yet.

 

Let me tell you a story:

On Tuesday after returning from Washington DC for Thanksgiving with my family, I had two experiences that I want to share with you. Right after I arrived at church Tuesday morning, our office manager, Jesica, told me that someone wanted to talk to the senior pastor about the Thanksgiving meal that we hosted. Usually these types of calls deliver bad news like the one I received after someone broke into my office during a past Thanksgiving meal. So, I called the caller back, and braced myself. He started out by telling me that he had just read an article about the Thanksgiving meal in MLive and asked me how much it costs to put on the meal, I told him about $2,500. Then he said, I’m a farmer in Washtenaw county and if you tell me what you want to plant, I will plant it in June and then you could come and harvest it and use it for the meal next year so you can feed more people. I was blown away. I’m going to come back to that in a moment. Later that day I caught up with and had a great conversation with Tina Berry who is one of our CM elementary classroom teachers. I want to invite her up now to have her share some reflections with us about the recent lessons on tithing she has been teaching to our children.

 

Hi, Tina. Thanks for joining me up here.

 

Would you like to share with us what you do in our church and in the wider community?

 

Tina, what brings you joy?

 

So, talk with us about the lessons in the elementary classroom on tithing and how they have been going?

 

Talk a little about the “tithe shaming” you witnessed?

 

How did you explain that tithing is about how we participate in corporate worship?

 

After Tina shared with me about the class, I shared the story of the farmer and she thought it would be great if we could invite the elementary kids out to the farm to help plant the seeds for the veggies for next year’s meal. Then this got me thinking about the idea that we need to be putting seeds into the ground, so that we can reap a harvest.

 

Church, I’ve been here for almost 19 years and we’ve done this Thanksgiving meal almost 10 years straight and this is the first time that a farmer has called to invite us to use his field to plant some seeds. I don’t want to over think it, but I also don’t want us to miss what I think God is doing right now in our church. I think God is up to something!

We had over 120 volunteers from outside of the church offer to help with the meal because of an article that MLive ran before the meal, we actually had to turn away people because of the response. After the meal, a outside of the church volunteer emailed us and asked for a flyer, so she could raise money on our behalf for our homeless ministry. Let me frame this response as planting seeds and reaping harvests. The Lord planted an idea in the hearts of a few people in our church 10 years ago when they decided to go take bags of food and clothing to the homeless encampments in Ann Arbor. That seed turned into our weekly Friday night homeless outreach in Liberty Plaza, and our faithfulness (being in the park every week for eight years) has allowed the community to trust us with their time and resources. Friends, I really think this is all from the Lord. I think he is inviting us to be thinking about what he has already seeded within us, within our community, and what we want to see come to harvest in our lives, in the life of our church, and in the life of our wider community. I want you to press into this moment with me because I think there’s an opportunity to meet with God as we do the work of the church being good news for those who need to hear the gospel of hope, peace, joy, and love. Our community needs us to be the church we are called to be!

 

Friends, we can’t expect a harvest unless we are willing to plant some seeds. What has the Lord seeded in you? What do you want to see come to harvest after the rain? Are you asking the Lord of the Harvest how you can join him as he plants seeds of hope, peace, joy, and love in our families, places of work, our schools, our friendships? Let’s ask the Lord of the Harvest to make us into who are supposed to be his messengers of Good News into a despairing world. You can use the blue prayer cards to allow the staff to partner with you in prayer this week for what ever it is you are asking the Lord for or whatever he has seeded in you.

 

Advent Introduction

Today is the second Sunday in Advent. Advent is a part of the liturgical calendar where Christians around the world set aside the four Sundays and weeks leading up to Christmas Eve to prepare themselves to receive new hope, peace, joy, and love come to us.

 

Immanuel–God with us.

 

The theme for the second week of Advent, is peace. Last week, Pastor Anna spoke to us about the gospel of hope and invited us to consider the metaphor of light and darkness as we engage Advent this year. Today, I want to us to consider the gospel of peace.

 

On the surface, I think we all long for and desire peace because for most of us we consider peace to be the absence of conflict. But what if we consider that peace isn’t the absence of conflict, but that peace is “the ability to discover joy, laughter, and life in the midst of adversity and conflict.” It’s the idea that anchors itself within us that we were made for better days, we have to have hope in order for us to have peace. In the Bible peace shows up as reconciliation with ourselves, our relationship with God, and reconciliation between each other. It was more than spiritual tranquility, it means wholeness, completeness. The Hebrew word is shalom. It means the end of injustice. It means the rich would no longer devour the poor. It means all brokenness would be set right and healed. It means that people would love one another. Shalom would flow deep and broad, embracing all of creation, including plants, animals, and the earth itself. This call to shalom is embedded all throughout the Bible because has been dropping clues that would awaken our hearts to long for better days. For the people of God, the hope of shalom was wrapped up in a person, namely the messiah, the promised one. Someone who is coming to open the world to peace and reconciliation. The prophet Isaiah put it this way: "For to us a child is born, to us a son is given … and he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace."

 
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