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New Rules for Life

A New You for the New Year: New Rules for Life
Vineyard Church of Ann Arbor • Jan 7, 2018 • Rev. Donnell T. Wyche, Senior Pastor

Preamble

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. If you are looking for a church home, we would love to be your church home, and I, in particular would love to become your pastor.

Interlude

We are also in the midst of our 12-month "You Belong" campaign; we have campaign booklets available on the sermon & Bible cart. Please take a moment to grab one today before leaving the celebration.

Happy New Year!

Such a power-packed hopeful phrase! In this simple greeting is so much promise, spunk, grit, and potential.

Happy New Year!

"Don't worry, Be happy. Leave the past in the past." We rehearse. We have so much to look forward to, we are greeting and welcoming a new year, and maybe a new me too.

Introduction

The Babylonians, who are credited with creating this annual celebration, were a clever bunch. Taking a rather unremarkable transition of no special significance–the passing of time–and infusing it with so much hope, promise, and potential. In the matter of a second, everything that was past, is gone, banished into the abyss, and behold it's a new day, a new year, a new you!

And this celebration is as universal as breathing. Almost every culture around the planet celebrates the passing of another year. It's a perfect occasion to take inventory of the past 365 days and reflect, looking back on failures, mistakes, or sorrow with new hope and increasing our gratitude.

I made it.

Maybe this year will be better.

And this gets us looking forward, making resolutions to ourselves and others. It's about our feeling better or good about ourselves, "I want this year to be better than last year." It's all leaning into our desire to live healthier, stress-free, and longer lives.

Jesus Invites Us to Live Full & Dependent Lives

Jesus wants the same thing for us. Almost. I certainly believe Jesus wants us to live lives of meaning and purpose, lives that are full and joyful, lives that are free from anxiety and worry, which means we have to live lives that are fully dependent on God.

Consider what Jesus says in John 10:

7"Very truly I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. 8All who have come before me are thieves and robbers. 9I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture. 10The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

11"I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.

14"I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me— 15just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep. (John 10:7-15)

As I think and pray about what I want for us as a church and community, I keep landing on trust. I want us to increase our trust by taking more risks. I want us to risk some of our comfort as we make space for those that God is sending to us. Lets make more space for those that God is sending to us. Each week, God sends 10 to 12 new people to the Vineyard, these new people are looking for a place to belong, a community to welcome them, enfold them, and encourage them as they pursue Jesus. This is our shared task. But change is scary.

Practically, here are three things you can do:

 

  1. Take a moment and look around, note the folks you haven't met yet. Before you leave today, introduce yourself to someone.
  2. Help us launch a new service. We want to launch a second service by Easter, that's 12 weeks away, we will need your prayers, your help, time, talent, and treasure to make this happen.
  3. Join us at Cultivate Vineyard. You should have received an invitation to Cultivate Vineyard, which is launching on Sunday, January 21 at 6pm. This is the place where we will come together as a community to learn together, grow together, and work together in God's Vineyard. You can reserve your spot today.

As I continue to think about how we increase our trust, I'm struck by what's in the way, our fears. Sometimes we can articulate our fears.

Will I be taken care of?

Does anyone see me?

Does anyone love me?

Is there space for me?

Sometimes we can't. Maybe we have been hurt or disappointed by others that our fears sit just below the surface.

Either way, if we do not nurture and develop an inner-life that allows us to be in the presence of God, and know that God sees and loves us, we will soon discover that it is our fears, not our trust, that will govern us.

Notice that Jesus says in John 10:14-15:

14"I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me— 15just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep. (John 10:14-15)

Here's a question for us to ponder together, "Assuming we are on a journey together, what might we need to surrender, to clear our path in 2018?"

Would you be willing to participate in a little exercise? Take a moment, reflect on the past year, as you do, consider these questions,

"What did you struggle with or in during the past year?

What disrupted your peace, rest, and joy?

Where did you feel like you missed an opportunity to trust Jesus?"

As you consider your answers to those questions, take a moment and use the pen in front of you and the blue prayer card and capture it as a prayer request. You have a lot of freedom here, but I would encourage you to capture it as a single word or phrase. If you are able, you could form it into a prayerand capture it on the card.

Let's take a moment to do this together.

False Narrative: We Change by our Willpower

We falsely believe that we can change by our sheer willpower. There's a problem there because about 92% of us fail completely at our New Year's resolutions and over 50% of us have given up by the end of January. We fail because we don't understand how change works. On average, it takes 66 days (or 9 and half weeks) to form a new habit.

When people decide to change something, they believe they can muster their "willpower" and set about trying to change some behavior. Except we don't change as a matter of will.

Transformation happens

one action at a time,

one step at a time,

and it starts with our willingness to surrender.

"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)

Think of this way, Jesus is saying he is the good shepherd that he will teach you how to have life, all you have to do trust that he is telling the truth. Now, believing this from Jesus should also affect the way we live, and what we do. It should also affect how we behave towards ourselves, others, and God.

At best, our will is a decision to turn toward the process of our transformation. It's the place of desire. Let me ask a pointed question, are you willing?

Are you willing to surrender some of your individuality, and consider joining-in. This is the realization that we are a part of something larger, something cosmic, something grand, and it's a commitment to participate in that larger story. This is at the foundation of what Jesus invites us into when he says come and follow me. This requires our willingness.

A Better Way: Increasing Trust

When Jesus encounters someone in the New Testament, there's a consistent pattern, he invites them to consider that he has a better way for them to live their lives.

You see this in call of the disciples, in the lives of major characters like Zacchaeus, The Rich Young Ruler, Mary and Martha the sisters of Lazarus. In every encounter, Jesus has something better to offer, if they are willing to trust and obey him. He's not promising them a cushy life or to zip them away, he's offering himself to them.

We start our transformation with our acceptance of God's kindness, forbearance, patience. Imagine with me one of those dreaded "trust-fall" exercises, you know where you have to trust that the people around you will catch you. Accepting God's kindness, forgiveness, and patience is just like that, except you can't see who is going to catch you. This is a very active letting go, you've been holding onto a rope for dear life and then Jesus says, "trust me" so you have to let go.

You have to let go

of fear,

of your false self,

of control,

of power,

and fall into powerlessness and vulnerability suspending your disbelief and trust that you are falling up into God's love, kindness, forgiveness, and acceptance.

Don't you see how wonderfully kind, tolerant, and patient God is with you? Does this mean nothing to you? Can't you see that his kindness is intended to turn you from your sin? (Romans 2:4)

As you surrender, consider that you are surrendering to the God that Jesus trusted with his life and said was always good and at work for you and your benefit.

What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? ... No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. (Romans 8:31-32; 37)

This is the God that Jesus knew, a God, good to God's His core. Our understanding of this starts with the basic truth that God is good, all the time, and that it is God's goodness that leads us to repentance.

Surrender: It might be helpful for us to take this time of the new year to write down our hopes and dreams and present them to God in prayer. As we do this, try to become aware of the way that we are striving on our own to achieve these hopes and dreams; or, expecting others to get with our plans and help us. Doing this will give God a chance to speak to us about whether God has the same hopes and dreams for us and if so, whether we are trusting God to make them happen.

 
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