You Belong: To The Church – Sermon #04 • Feb 02, 2020 • Rev. Donnell T. Wyche • • (734) 649-7163 

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. As a church we partner with the liberating presence of God to cultivate joy, hope & belonging as Jesus invites us into freedom, keeps us free, and helps us free others. 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.

Let’s get started with a video testimony detailing our past, present, and future as a church.

You Belong Video

Dave Paladino – 2 minutes 25 seconds

A Unique Church – Welcome & Transformation

We are trying to carve out a pretty unique space here. As a multi-ethnic, multi-generational church, we are trying to live in tension, recognizing that we are at the same time accepted by God and called to transformation. 

Hear Jesus,

28“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30

People will remark that our church is at the same time similar and dissimilar. There’s weekly communion and extended worship. There are votive candles to remember the dead and a prayer stations to welcome the in-breaking of the kingdom of God. There’s a call to social justice by caring for and serving those at the margins and a strong commitment to the Word of God. There’s welcome for everyone and an expectation that we will be changed in the loving presence of God. 

This is intentional. 

We are working hard to create space for all of us to have transformative encounters with the living presence of the loving God. Space, more than anything else, is what we need as we consider what it means to follow Jesus through the narrow gate. 

Consider what Jesus says in the Parable of the Talents in Matthew 25:14-30,

14“Again, it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his wealth to them. 15To one he gave five bags of gold, to another two bags, and to another one bag, each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey. (Matthew 25:14-30)

You may notice that there aren’t specific instructions given to each of the servants, it’s more like, “do your best with what you have been given.”

This is why we do not overly-define God. It’s not that we don’t have a clear picture of who God is–it’s more that we want you to discover God yourself as you engage scripture, the worship liturgy, participate in life groups, and serve others through ministry opportunities. We want to say, there’s more than just ONE way to approach your discipleship with God.

If there’s anything we want to create, it’s the ability to recognize the thin-spaces of our life and to welcome God’s presence, so that God might break into our lives. We are interested in you taking your very next step closer. So instead of defining a series of steps that everyone has to follow, we want you to get on the path and take your first step. Your first step is going to be different than your neighbor. You might be invited to surrender, to serve, to give, to be silent, to be patient, to be kind, to be bold, to be open. We don’t want to assume the role of the Holy Spirit, we want to introduce you to the Spirit. Because only the Holy Spirit can interrupt our lives, creating worldview collisions with the Empire that causes us to take a step closer to God. It’s like what Jesus said in John 16:13-14:

 13But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. (John 16:13-14)

We also don’t have a hierarchy of sins that allow (or even encourage) us to judge each other. We remind ourselves that only God is able to able to judge our motivations and our heart. All of this creates space for us to belong. 

Think of it this way: 

4Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance? (Romans 2:4)

We start by realizing that we are accepted by God, this allows us to enter a relationship with God, which allows God to speak to us about who we are, or better yet, who we think we are, all of which can lead us to believe something different and more powerful about ourselves–that we aren’t who we think we are. 

Maybe we are accepted first because this gives God an opportunity to present and offers us a new way forward: there’s no need to live by the fruits of the rebellion: we don’t have to cheat, lie, steal in order to survive, instead, we can learn to trust and surrender to God’s love, care, and provision for us, which frees us to live as we were intended to be, image-bearers reflecting the king who created us.

The Acceptance Paradox: Those Who Love Their Life Will Lose It

While I am accepted, I cannot enter the kingdom of God if I stay where I am. It’s a process, an unfolding, and it starts with repentance. 

17“Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” (Matthew 4:17)

When I speak of repentance, I’m trying to avoid the “did I do or believe something that would disqualify me from the kingdom?” Instead, it’s like what we see in scripture, Jesus is a throwing a party, a Wedding Feast, if you will,  and sends you an invitation. 

16Jesus replied: “A certain man was preparing a great banquet and invited many guests. 17At the time of the banquet he sent his servant to tell those who had been invited, ‘Come, for everything is now ready.’ 18“But they all alike began to make excuses.”  (Luke 14:16–18)

You have a choice to make, will I attend the party or not. “Am I rejecting God’s generosity? Are my actions or beliefs effectively keeping me out of the party?”

When we find those things, that’s what we need to die to and repent of to keep bringing the acceptance we already have to its fulfillment. Jesus knows the Kingdom is an even better reality than we could possibly imagine, or he wouldn’t have talked so much about it. He also knew how weirdly hard it is for us to actually live with that kind of glory, or he wouldn’t have told so many stories about people responding to it so badly.

Jesus is inviting us to die in order to come alive.

Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it. What good is it for you to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit your very self? (Luke 9:23-25)

Dying daily to the effects of our participation in the rebellion against God – the anger, fear, lust, pride, greed, envy, and apathy that robs us of life. Coming alive to the fruits of the spirit, the gift of the Kingdom: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Friends, this starts with our repentance, which leads to our transformation.

Let me close with what Paul says in Colossians 3:1-4:

Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honor at God’s right hand. 2 Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth. 3 For you died to this life, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 And when Christ, who is your life, is revealed to the whole world, you will share in all his glory. (Colossians 3:1-4, NLT)

I really like the way the New Living Translation put it, “Set your sights on the realities of heaven.” Paul is revealing a mystery to us, our true self is found in Christ. We discover who we are in fellowship with Christ and his people. This is the Messianic Community that Jesus leaves behind to reorder and reshape the world. 

As we enter into this Jesus-following community, our ability to live well is shaped and formed as we confront our selfishness, our sin, our brokenness and our limitations. As we learn to surrender and serve, we learn how to be patient, merciful, how to forgive, how to pray, and how to give. 

Let me try to bring this closer. I want to share two stories, one individual, one corporate.

Furniture Story: Let me give you a story of individual sin. I recently purchased some furniture, when I purchased it, they told me it would be delivered that week. Instead, it took seven weeks. When they delivered the furniture, it was missing a part. I was frustrated, which is an under-statement. As I spoke with more and more people, the angrier I became. I was rejecting God’s generosity. Romans says it’s compassion that leads to repentance, but my sense of being taken advantage of was in the way of me extending compassion to those I spoke with. As I came to this realization, I repented of my sin. I changed my attitude.

Friends, I want to tell you this morning that the church of Christ saved my life. This church in particular created space for me to reach my destiny, this church helped me become who I am today. This is the work of the church, changing lives. We have a real opportunity before us, and I want us to press into it. 

Saline High School: This week, I read about the racial slurs that were posted to the Saline High School  snapchat group. This revelation that rocked the Saline High School and its community. It was revealed there was a snapchat group that students had posted racial slurs to. I wasn’t surprised about this discovery.  

I thought, what can we as a church do to respond to what’s happening with our neighbors. Because of my work with ICPJ, I knew that we offered a workshop for talking with your kids about race and racism.

I invited two other churches to response, Huron Hills, and Knox.

You can participate by considering fasting a meal each week in February and praying for Saline and the community there. You can also consider engaging some of the material we have prepared for Black History Month as way to educate yourself about our racialized culture.

This is the work of the church, we have to roll up our sleeves and do the work of making the invisible visible. This means we have to make a commitment to each other and to God to be a community that bears witness to the name of Jesus. For each of us this commitment will look different, but I think it starts in the same place. A willingness to be the people of God, willing to be do what Jesus tells us to do:  love our neighbors, love our enemies, forgive each other, and do good to those who mistreat you. But we won’t even attempt any of this until we know to whom we belong. 

Prayer Senses:

Psalm 119:105 – Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.

Peace in exchange for discord. God wants to deal with conflict in your relationships.

Perseverance, hope, and transformation. For those going through tough times. His grace is sufficient.