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You Belong - Belonging For a Purpose - Sermon #06

You Belong - Belonging For a Purpose - Sermon #06 • October 22, 2017 • Rev. Donnell T. Wyche, Senior Pastor


We’re so glad you are here with us this morning. We’re grateful for you and the gifts of God that you bring with you into this space this morning. As we gather together as a church, we do so in the active presence of God through our worship, community, and engagement with scripture, which we hope will lead to transformational growth in our everyday life. As a congregation we want to experience belonging, cultivate tangible joy, activate hope, and know comfort as we learn to trust Jesus more and more, enabling us to reflect the welcome and peace of Jesus to those closest to us. We pray that whether this is your first time with us this morning, or you've been a part of our community for a while, that you will feel the invitation of the Holy Spirit to join in with our vision.

You Belong Video

We are in part six of our “You Belong” sermon series. If you’ve missed a sermon in this series, please download the audio or watch the video of the service/celebration you missed. Let’s get started with a video testimony detailing our past, present, and future as a church. Cody McPeek is up first and then we will hear from Mikaela Wyche

You Belong Review

For five weeks we have been unpacking the idea that we are accepted by God yet called to transformation. This tension, we are accepted and called to transformation, is at the center of who we are trying to be as a church community. As a church we are trying to live within this tension as we understand what it means for us follow Jesus through the narrow gate into life. The welcome that is extended to us gets us in before Jesus and our transformation happens because there is space being made for us.

We Belong For a Purpose

We belong to God.

We belong to each other.

We belong to the church.

All of this belonging has a purpose. We bear witness. We bear witness to God’s love and grace that found us where we were and created space for us to belong. In Acts 1:8, Jesus says,

8But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. (Acts 1:8)

Secure in our belonging, empowered by the Holy Spirit, we create breathing room and space for the disconnected, the disfavored, and the discounted to belong.

God, who is invisible, wants to make his real presence tangible. To do this he sends his people We are sent out, bearing witness to God’s grace, mercy, forgiveness, and love. We are sent to practice “the one anothers:": love one another, be kind to one another, forgive one another, suffer one another, and serve one another.

This is what it means for us to be a witnessing community. We bear witness to the love of God that made space available to us. In turn, we create space for others. We bear witness to the truth that we are not alone.

The Breathe of Life - Receive the Holy Spirit

After Jesus death, the disciples are gathered together in the upper room, afraid. Let’s get started in John chapter 20. If you have a house Bible it’s on page 743, if you have your mobile device, John is in the New Testament,

19On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” 20After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord. 21Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” 22And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” (John 20:19-22)

I want to make a few observations as I make my way this morning. Each of the disciples in the room had space created for them. Each of them had been called to follow Jesus. Hear John 15:16:

16You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. 17This is my command: Love each other. (John 15:16)

He tells them that their belonging has a purpose to go [be sent] and bear fruit. As much as their belonging was for them, it was also for others. They belonged in order to bear witness. To show what God was up to in the world through Jesus–welcome, restoration, healing, and transformation. But they didn’t expect that Jesus would die and be defeated in such a public and humiliating way.

They are together paralyzed by their fear. What now? I think it would be safe to say that there is a bit of tension in the room. Will being Jesus’ witnesses cost them their lives? Will what happened to Jesus also happen to them? If we do what he did: welcome, heal, forgive, and love people, will they do to us what they did to him?

Isn’t that our question as well? What does it mean and what will it cost for us to be Jesus’ witnesses? Just like the disciples, we must be reminded to whom we belong.

Jesus shows up to speak a word to them, and by extension to us.

“Peace be with you!” (John 20:19-22)

Jesus reminds them of the purpose of their belonging,

“As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.”

Then Jesus breathes on them,

22And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” (John 20:19-22)

The breath of God always animates our lives, helping us come alive. Remember after God shaped and formed the first humans, God then did something. God breathed into them the breath of life.

7Then the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being. (Genesis 2:7)

We belong for a purpose–let me unpack what I sense. We belong to create breathing room for ourselves and those who need it.

Creating Breathing Room

So, what does it mean to create breathing room? Let me give you a working definition that can also double as a prayer, breathing room is the relief we need to draw life from intimate connection to God.

Room to breathe in hope, peace, joy, purpose, love; Room to breathe out sin, frustration, judgment, anger, bitterness, lust, apathy, shame, guilt.

I have an overly simplistic way of seeing this — outwardly focused people and churches see others, which creates breathing room for those who need it. This happens as we make space in our lives to be present with and to see others.

“Where we stand determines not only what we see but, even more importantly, what we want.”

People need what we have, belief & hope in a Messiah who is actively transforming his people to welcome, heal, restore, and transform the world by creating breathing room.

We create this space by seeing a need in our neighborhood or community and deciding to give ourselves and our time to address it. We create this breathing room by inviting someone over for dinner or watching a friend or neighbor’s child. This breathing room can happen when we invite people to share their lives with us, starting with listening to their story. Breathing room is created every time we create space in our own lives to be interrupted, to be displaced, to sit with another, and to listen.

I don’t want to over-speak here because I don’t want to limit the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives to create breathing room for others. I want us to live as people who are open. Open-handed people living in the presence of a Spirit who will invite us to be creative and faithful as we reveal grace and mercy to others. This creates space for people to be present to themselves and to God. This creates space for questions, allowing people to discover and experience the presence of God. And all of this has the ability to create space for people to be transformed, restored, and renewed by Jesus.

Let’s return again to the disciples locked in a room, afraid.

This is breathing room in a nutshell: people cut off from every source of life, locked in a room, when suddenly, they find that things are different than they were just moments ago, and God is there with them, breathing new life into them, if only they will receive it. This is the work that the Holy Spirit does when we create space for others, we become outwardly focused revealing grace, mercy, forgiveness, and welcome.

Here we see that the disciples are disconnected. The community they had been born into, the community that had once been the community of promise for them had cursed them. So they are huddled together behind locked doors, cut off from their original source of life.

In a way, they’re disconnected even from God because it seemed that everything they knew and believed must have been wrong. They had a worldview failure; the things they believed and took for granted were challenged.

I spoke last week about being disconnected. I needed a community that would welcome me, that would carry my burdens, and a community that would love me. A community that would create space for my questions and and my wrestling.

Are we willing to create breathing room for those who need it?

Here we see that the disciples are disfavored. The disciples have gone from the most blessed of people, favored to be called friends by the miracle working Messiah to now becoming outcasts. To becoming enemies of the state. Their leader, the so-called Christ, has been disgracefully killed, cursed to hang on a tree. The kingdom they’d put their hopes in what had been a mirage, and they are left with nothing.

I remember when I started to ask my questions, questions that challenged basic assumptions. I remember responses I received from those in my embedded community, the accusations, the contempt, and the condemnation. There wasn’t room for me to breathe… let alone to ask questions

Are we willing to creating breathing room for those who need it?

Here we see that the disciples are discounted. Once they had dreams of glory, sitting at their Master’s hand. Healing the sick, casting out demons, forgiving sinners, wielding the authority of God’s Son.

Creating breathing room means joining with Jesus in revealing grace that creates belonging. For many of us that will require us to be invited to join-in or participate. There is something powerful we do when we see others and invite them to join us in the work of revealing God’s grace and mercy.

This is what we see in Jesus. He saw each of the disciples. He invited them to join him. They took a risk and it changed their lives.

Let me get super practical for a moment.

We have an upcoming Fall Festival outreach event happening here at our church in about 9 days. This event is special in so much that we invite about 5000 people to come anywhere between 100 and 500 will show up depending on the weather.

But here’s the thing, being invited to an event like this can change someone’s life. There are people who are in this room because a neighbor invited them to the fall festival. It was a safe and welcoming place for them to trick or treat with their kids. This simple invitation turn into someone finding community, being restored, being healed, being transformed all because you saw someone, and extended an invitation to them.

As a church, we want to create space for you to invite those in your life that you see into God’s grace, mercy, and love. This happens as you invite people to join you here at church. I try to greet and meet our guests and newcomers each week. Each time, I ask them to tell me how they found their way to the Vineyard, a majority will reply because someone invited them. I’ve been learning that our invitations are powerful [I want to say that we have the power of life and in death in our invitations, but that might be too much.] I just want us to become a people who are empowered by the Holy Spirit to see other and let them know that they belong.

We gather each weekend and give of our time and energy to create a welcoming environment for those God is calling. We become what we were intended to be, communities of hope (answering the despairing culture) with love and grace of God. We take our active selves and walk into the heart of our communities we bear the image of Jesus. His humble, gentle, open-handed heart to the those who need to hear his message of hope most.

When we love,

when we pray,

when we care,

when we are present,

we renew,

we transform,

we restore,

we give hope,

we give purpose.

We create room for those who need it.

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