1. Our life of faith is a journey
Later on in today’s service, the life of faith will begin for this little girl as her parents and family bring her forward to be baptized. As the water is poured over her head and the Holy Spirit fills her life nm, we are remembering that God blessed us with the gift of life… and life abundant.
As her family and as this congregation – we will make promises this morning. Promises to hold her firmly in this faith to which she is born. Promises to guide her and pray for her. Promises to support her – no matter where on this earth her journey may take her.
That journey begins for her today – at this baptismal font.
But it doesn’t begin in the same place for all of us. Think for a moment – Where did this journey begin for you? Was it through an invitation from a friend to come worship? Was it in a Sunday school class? Perhaps as you were engaged in some community service project –or elbow deep in another person’s pain? Maybe your journey began as you plowed your fields or first saw your newborn child and thought about the miracle of life?
Sometimes we think of our journey beginning the moment we are saved. But I want us to think farther beyond that experience. When was the seed of faith first planted in your life? Believe it or not – you have been on this journey ever since.
Now, I’m going to be completely honest here for a moment. In the institutional life of the church – where we record such things as baptisms and confirmations and those who profess their faith – this is the journey of membership. It is pretty much the way the church is organized to help and support people along this journey. I’m not saying it’s a perfect system – but ideally, as we make members of this body of Christ, we are also in the process of making disciples of Jesus Christ. In my mind, that is what the whole journey of faith is about – becoming a disciples of Jesus Christ.
The question I want us to explore over the next month together is – Are we on the right path?
Will you pray with me?
2. Come into the light
God is light and in him there is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with him while we are walking in darkness, we lie and do not do what is true; If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.
If I were to stand up here and say that that membership process I just described is perfect – that it accomplishes the mission of the United Methodist church… I would be lying. I would be walking in darkness.
for too long, I think that the church as a whole has let our system do just that – stay in the dark. We simply let it be and we haven’t taken the time to look at whether or not disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world are being formed (that is after all – the goal)
In this passage from 1 John, we are reminded that when we come into the light of God – reality is exposed
all the stuff that we were hiding in the darkness, or ignoring, is seen clearly. And it is clearly judged. I can honestly say that over the past few weeks, I have been looking prayerfully and seriously at this process and I have felt convicted. Our system is broken. It doesn’t work properly. And as a pastor, I can say that I am part of the problem. We make and take vows to support the ministries of the church through our prayers, our presence, our gifts, our service and now our witness – but if we are honest with ourselves, we don’t really have any expectations on people to live them out. We don’t hold one another accountable to these promises. We say all the right things – but then no one really cares if you aren’t walking the talk.
The amazing gift about standing in the light – is that once we see clearly, once we confess and acknowledge what is broken, than God who is faithful and just will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. That is our promise from the First Letter of John. And then we have a chance to truly walk in God’s light once again.
3. So come into the light with me. Come see what it is that I have been so convicted about – what it is that isn’t working. For that, let’s go back to our scripture from Luke. We find ourselves in the midst of the disciples, who have basically stalled in their journey faith. They aren’t going forward, they aren’t going backward. They are stuck.
This passage comes after the women have encountered Jesus at the tomb. It comes after a few of the disciples themselves were witnesses to the resurrection. It comes after two followers of Christ met him on the road to Emmaus and rush back to tell the disciples. There has been a whole lot of talking about the resurrected Christ – but the disciples haven’t really MOVED yet.
As Jesus enters their midst, he doesn’t bring judgment, he doesn’t ask them what on earth they are doing, he brings them peace. He shows them his hands and his feet. He eats a piece of fish. He is the living and breathing Jesus Christ walking and talking among them and he wants to remind them of that.
BUT – because he is the light of the world, he also reveals some truth. He sheds some light on the situation so to speak. And so he says: This is what I have told you… that everything that was written about me in the law and prophets and psalms must be fulfilled: the Messiah must suffer and rise from the dead on the third day and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations!”
The disciples were not only witnesses to all of these things – but they were also now supposed to be witnesses of these things. They are called to go out, to tell the world why Christ died and rose again – to call people to repentance and share with them that their sins are forgiven.
4. This is pretty much the great commission from the gospel of Luke – it is the sending out of the disciples with the promise that the Holy Spirit will soon be right there with them – empowering them to speak and live out God’s good news.
Let’s not leave our church out of the light either… because here in this church – we hold that commission pretty seriously. It is in fact our mission. Our calling as a community is to make disciples of all nations – First, by baptizing them and then, by teaching them everything that God has commanded us.
Hey – we’ve got a baptism happening this very morning! We are helping this beautiful child begin her journey of faith. We are certainly on the right track! We are reaching out to our families and loved ones and inviting them to be a part of this mission that we ourselves are on.
And we seem to be doing some teaching as well. We have Sunday school classes and confirmation and small groups… I know that I have learned a lot in this past year… but I sometimes wonder if we are doing enough.
Are we truly making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world?
Quick show of hands… and I want you to be completely honest here – how many of you feel like you are equipped and empowered as a disciple of Jesus to transform the world? How many of you think that you, as the Body of Christ, really can go out there right now and make a difference?
(might be more than you think) I think that if I come into the light, if I stand firmly in the light of Christ, I have to admit I have doubts. I think my doubts are not so much about our ability to do so (or Christ’s ability to work in us), but about our willingness to do it.
We can only go as far as we think we can go. Which means if we
I think that as much as we talk about following Jesus, we are a bit more like those first disciples of Jesus Christ, hunkered down in a room somewhere, not quite sure if we want to take the next steps… not sure if we are able to take the next steps.
5. I think those disciples drastically underestimated just how much was expected of them. And they did so, because they drastically underestimated just how much was given to them.
I wish I could take credit for this wonderful image, but as I talked with the pastor over at the Lutheran church about this passage, he said that we are like sticks of dynamite sitting on a shelf. We are filled with all of this potential power and energy – extremely dangerous stuff! But as long as we sit on the shelf… or in our pews… or on our couches back home, we are simply potential.
We forget that Jesus promised the disciples that power would be given to them. We forget that power came down from heaven and filled the disciples at Pentecost. We forget that although they were in that room waiting for God to act – God has ALREADY acted in our lives.
The Holy Spirit is loose on the world. It is a spark of fire and energy given life by the resurrection of Christ from the dead and it is ready to turn all of that potential energy inside of you – inside of this church – into the amazing transforming power of Jesus Christ.
And yet… the Holy Spirit is wild and elusive. While I would like to believe that we could all just hold out the wicks on our little sticks of dynamite like we hold our hands up in the air and catch the spark – I can’t guarantee the Holy Spirit will show up.
John Wesley – that founder of our faith – waited for YEARS – to have the holy spirit light a fire in his soul. His ministry up until that point was a series of flounders and failures mixed in with some good attempts – but it wasn’t until the Holy Spirit took hold of him that the Methodist movement really took off. In the meantime, he was the same thing he was afterwards… a preacher – out there proclaiming the word of God.
In the midst of one of his struggles with this dilemma, he asked a friend and mentor Peter Bohler what he should do. Bohler’s advice: Preach faith until you have it, then, because you have it, you will preach faith.”
If I were to translate that to our journey of faith, I would say that we need to practice being a disciple until we have the Holy Spirit, then, once we have the Holy Spirit, we will be a disciple! Until it happens, we shouldn’t sit holed up in the church waiting to be filled… but we should be out there, in the world, actively looking for others to join us on this journey of transformation.
Come into the light my friends. See that we already have a path laid out before us – a way of living as a disciple that we have already claimed as being holy and good. We live as disciples through our prayers, our presence, our gifts, our service and our witness. Each of these things are a means of God’s grace – Each of them opens us up to the Holy Spirit in the world around us. Each one of them will transform our lives – if we truly do them and if we hold one another accountable to do so.
That is the journey of faith that we are invited on in this church. Come and walk in the light of God with me in these next weeks. Amen and Amen.