First off, thank you to all who made Church at Birch a great success this past Sunday. While I couldn't stay for the brunch, I hear that the food and fellowship after the worship was wonderful. Thank you, Everyone. (If I tried to name everyone who contributed I know I would forget someone!)
This Sunday we will continue with our Sermon Series "A Future with Hope". The seventh in the series will focus on "The Bearing" and the scripture will be Philippians 1:3-11. Of this week's theme, Marcia McFee says:
"Once planted, nurtured, cared for, and tended, our gardens overflow. All of creation is pregnant with possibilities, bearing fruit and flower. The goodness must be shared with all. The diversity and variety of creation is cherished and celebrated. We vow to honor that diversity, to share God's overflowing goodness and to hold, carry, and bear the burdens of any."
Paul opens his letter to the Church in Philippi with his prayer for them, our reading. He gives thanks for them for they have shared in the Gospel from the first. He is confident that the work God is doing through them will continue until Jesus returns. He is also thankful because they keep him in their hearts, even during his imprisonment. The full point of Paul's prayer, however, is that love may overflow from them so that, one day, they will reap the full harvest that comes through Jesus Christ.
Our "Future with Hope" is a seed (the analogy the sermon series is using) that is planted in us by the Holy Spirit through attending to the words of Jesus (Luke 10:38-42). The seed germinates, opens, through prayer (Luke 11:1-13) and is planted through giving (Luke 12:13-21) which seems counter intuitive. Once planted, the seed (seeds) need to be nurtured through trusting that God will provide but also by participating in God's work for God's Kingdom (Luke 12:22-34). Then there comes a time of waiting, residing where we are (Jeremiah 291, 4-7) during some difficult times (Luke 12:49-56). These difficult times does not mean we hunker down and ignore what's happening but that we reach out to the hurting world with Christ's love. It is also a time when we build the community of believers using the gifts that God has given to each of us (Ephesians 4), sometimes even if it means we ignore the "rules" to reach out and break the bonds that cripple us and others (Luke 13:10-17). As the seeds of hope push roots down and shoots upward it will begin to bear fruit; fruits of love that should be shared with others (see above). How this happens is all about how we treat others, whether in worship, at fellowship, or in mission (see below). [This, I hope, summarizes my sermon series so far.]
Our Gospel Lesson will be Luke 14:1, 7-14. The opening verse says that Jesus is headed to a Sabbath meal hosted by a Pharisee leader. We skip the verses about Jesus healing a man with dropsy. He arrives at the dinner and notices how the guests are seated according to their honor standing. He offers some sage advice about sitting at the lower honor seats and being asked to move up verses taking a higher seat and being asked to move down. I think for our sermon series verses 12-14 will be very fruitful. Jesus tells the host to not invite friends or family members to the dinners because they will simply repay. Instead, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, etc. precisely because they cannot repay. Then, repayment will come at the "resurrection of the righteous."
May the Lord God bless you this week with the opportunities to share the Good News of Jesus Christ. When this happens, and it will, the Holy Spirit will give you the word and strength you need.
Peace in Christ,
Pastor Gary Taylor