Grace that Reconciles!
Sermon: Ephesians: Removing the Barriers to God’s Family
By: Donnell Wyche – January 27, 2019
Inspired – The God-Breathed Life: Part 3 – Making the Invisible Visible
Inspired: The God-Breathed Life – Making the Invisible Visible – Sermon #03
Vineyard Church of Ann Arbor • June 18, 2017 • Rev. Donnell T. Wyche, Senior Pastor
We’re so glad you are here with us this morning.
Whether you arrived here this morning because of an Internet search, because you were invited, because you listen to the podcast, or because you already knew the way, we are grateful for the gift that you are. We pray for you before each celebration that you would experience welcome, acceptance, and peace. We also hope that you will find a little bit of space today to have a transformative encounter with the living presence of the loving God during your time with us!
Show Us a Sign. Nope, You Are the Sign – upset the equilibrium (Oops)
There’s this interesting interaction between Jesus and some of his disciples that’s captured in John 14:6:
5Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?” 6Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 7If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.” 8Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.” (John 14:6-8)
His disciples are still struggling and wrestling with understanding Jesus and his vocation, so they do what we all do, they ask questions.
Thomas starts, “How can we know the way?” Jesus replies, “I am the way.” Then Philip asks, “Show us the Father and that will be enough for us.”
Together their questions are asking Jesus to do something, “to make visible, the invisible.” Do this, then Philip says, “we will believe.”
Jesus responds by asking Philip a question, “Don’t you know me, Philip?”
9Jesus answered: “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? (John 14:9)
But this is the point of our discipleship.
As the people of God, we will make visible, what is invisible: the loving, enduring, transformative presence of the living God. As we live as the people of God trusting, surrendering, loving, and doing what Jesus has commanded us to do.
15“If you love me, keep my commands. 16And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever— 17the Spirit of truth. (John 14:15–17)
This can feel like a tall order, but this was God’s plan from the beginning. We were created to be image bearers, icons, reflecting God’s faithful and loving presence in creation, joining in the rescue mission to restore what was broken, to restore what was taken, and restore what was lost. We are to welcome people to the table of redemption, to do justice, to love mercy, to be the people of reconciliation, to care for the least of these, and to unlock and release the hidden potential in creation with our creativity, intellect, and prophetic imagination. This only happens in partnership with the Holy Spirit. We have to restore our unity with the Father. This is why Jesus promises to give us the Holy Spirit. We will need the Holy Spirit in order to do this.
Think with me for a moment of the kinds of stories that Jesus tells that reveal God, what do they have in common? One thing is the unleashing of the Kingdom of God in creation.
Indulge me for a moment.
Jesus is out teaching, it’s getting late, so his disciples come to him and say, release the people so they can get something to eat. [I just want to note that even Jesus struggled with staying on time with his teaching and preaching!] Jesus replies, don’t send them away. You feed them.
35By this time it was late in the day, so his disciples came to him. “This is a remote place,” they said, “and it’s already very late. 36Send the people away so that they can go to the surrounding countryside and villages and buy themselves something to eat.” 37But he answered, “You give them something to eat.” They said to him, “That would take almost a year’s wages! Are we to go and spend that much on bread and give it to them to eat?” 38“How many loaves do you have?” he asked. “Go and see.” (Mark 6:35–37)
It feels like too much when Jesus tells his disciples to feed the people. At one level, he would not have told them to feed the people if the disciples were unable to do so, and in the response of the disciples you see that they trying to do what he told them to do. List to their response, “with what resources?” It would take a year’s wage to feed this many people.
Here we are.
The disciples have identified a need among the people, their initial solution is to send the people away. Jesus, rescinds that idea and tells them to feed the people themselves. Puzzled they double check that he wants them to use the treasury to accomplish his command.
Instead, Jesus says, Look!
They see the people, they see the need, they are even able to see a child who is prepared by bringing a lunch, but it’s the kingdom of God that the disciples miss. They don’t see the kingdom in their midst.
A friend of mine reminded me about my healing from the debilitating worry that I mentioned last week. He said that all of the components leading up to that healing were ordinary. We were two ordinary people, doing what the people of God have done since the beginning, we were just praying. The miracle of the healing happened when God showed up. But first we had to be willing to ask. Now, I wish that every time we prayed the miraculous happened, but it doesn’t and that shouldn’t discourage us from asking in the first place. Who knows when the miraculous will take place? That morning when that young child packed their lunch, they didn’t know that they were going to feed a multitude.
From Fear to Faith
In order for us to see the kingdom, we have to first believe the kingdom is present.
We’ve been talking about the power of Pentecost during this sermon series and a central character who emerges is Simon Peter, one of the twelve disciples. For me, Simon Peter represents one of the best examples of discipleship in scripture. I want to look at his story for a moment as an encouragement and example for how we might make visible the invisible.
I love Simon Peter not because of where he ends up, but because of how he gets there. Over his journey with Jesus, Simon Peter moves from Fear to Faith. I love the story of up and downs that Simon Peter has on his journey of following Jesus. From walking on water to sinking in that very same water. Often, we are told where we should be without ever being told how to get there or even better, how to get started.
The Journey – All of its ups and downs
One of the lessons that Peter learns early on his journey is to be himself. As I look back on Peter’s story in Luke 5, I see that “Peter is accepted, but is called to a different kind of life.”
8When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” 9For he and all his companions were astonished at the catch of fish they had taken, 10and so were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, Simon’s partners. Then Jesus said to Simon, “Don’t be afraid; from now on you will fish for people.” 11So they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed him. (Luke 5:8-11)
It’s as if Jesus is saying, “I see you. I believe in you. I know you.”
There’s something powerful that occurs when we understand that we are all on a journey of discovery–learning to see ourselves in the beautiful light that God casts, that we are channels of grace, mercy, and forgiveness.
As Peter makes his way on his journey, he makes mistakes, like when he speaks up during the transfiguration and God invites him to be quiet.
He learns to listen to and watch Jesus, especially as Jesus operates within the special world. It’s Peter, James, and John who are invited by Jesus to witness the healing of Jarius’ daughter. You can surely bet Peter learned something significant that day – that maybe the world isn’t just what you can see, hear, and touch, maybe there really is a kingdom that’s breaking into this ordinary world. (Repeat)
Any of us on this journey with Peter will have what we in the trade like to call a “dark night of the soul.” It’s either a significant test or challenge that we have to overcome.
Peter had bragged about how loyal he was, how he would never leave or forsake Jesus, even if others did. As Peter denied Jesus three times as Jesus predicted, he had to confront who he thought he was.
After the resurrection, Jesus forgives Peter just as he forgives each of us. (John 21)
Then on the day of Pentecost, it is Peter who rises and helps everyone make sense of what has just happened. (Acts 2)
I want to close in Acts 3.
One day Peter and John were going up to the temple at the time of prayer—at three in the afternoon. Now a man who was lame from birth was being carried to the temple gate … When he saw Peter and John about to enter, he asked them for money. Peter looked straight at him, as did John. Then Peter said, “Look at us!” So the man gave them his attention, expecting to getsomething from them. Then Peter said, “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.” Taking him by the right hand, he helped him up, and instantly the man’s feet and ankles became strong. He jumped to his feet and began to walk. Then he went with them into the temple courts, walking and jumping, and praising God. (Acts 3:1-10)
Once Peter agrees to leave the ordinary world, he never returns to it. He accepts his new identity as a child of the King and he learns how to live his full life within the Kingdom; just as we all are invited to do. For Peter this all unfolds slowly. His transformation doesn’t happen all at once, it’s step by step.
This is why I love Peter, he’s really one of us. He’s just trying to find his way in life, discover his calling and purpose, and learn to increase his trust, which will loosen fear’s grip on him.
We Are His Witnesses
When we share our stories and create space for others to share theirs we change the ordinary world–a prayer request that was answered, a healing, revelation. This simple act of creating space for ourselves and others unlocks so much in the lives of those around us. It communicates worth, value and power in our lives and those around us.
One of Jesus’ qualities was his empathy. Crowds followed him everywhere he went and he had compassion for them. He responded with miraculous healings of those who were sick, he drove out demons, and even raised people from the dead. He cared for the poor, outcast, and marginalized and he fed the hungry.
We can respond in this way too as we perform acts of compassion, comfort, and service. We do this when pray for people, when we comfort the grieving and hurting, when we feed the hungry and clothe the naked.