Sunday November 25, 2018
“Transformed to Transform: Sharing Christ in a Christless Culture”
Today is the day- Marble Mystery is revealed! This month we talked about being a winning witness, the priority of praying together, and daring to fail. Today, we may conclude our conversation on ‘transformed to transform’, but our call to live into this missional ministry does not end as we share Christ in a Christ-less culture.
Let’s pray… Come Spirit of the Living God, light the fire within us as your people to serve the least, last and lost. Come Spirit of God, come. Amen.
Our final image last week was the image of being and doing church with our center on Christ with one another… and with our other hand and arm reaching out into the world. No longer can we function as a church with our backs to the world in a closed circle. Many of you have shared how helpful, exciting, as well as, poignant this image was for you!
Jesus is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow, but HIS church the Body of Church must make an adaptive change to HOW we are being and doing church in 2018 and beyond. We have spoken about how the secularization of our society. The days of preaching to people who have even the most basic understanding of Christianity are gone from our county. Now, I say this not to reminisce about the good ol’ days but merely to establish, again, that where we are as we try to share Jesus to a Christ-less culture. I will be repetitive to what I said two weeks ago- what an amazing, outstanding OPPORTUNITY!!!!!!!!
The truth of the matter is that our culture in America is a mess, but it is far better off than the culture which Paul and the Apostles brought the gospel. Our story from Acts 17 is where we find Paul in Athens, Greece sharing Jesus with the intelligentsia of his day.
Paul was called to take the message of Jesus to a Christ-less culture so too have we been given this task in 2018 and beyond. The years and fashion may be different, but humanity’s needs remain the same. We do stupid to ourselves, one another, and the created world around us. Our relationships are messy- if the holiday season is any indication- therapists will have overflowing calendars in January to handle all the folks who are trying to recover from being with family (functional- to dysfunctional and in-between). We need help. We sin, make mistakes and when we try to fix things on our won… we often make things worse. We need a HIGHER focus, morality, compass, and source of love, patience, hope, grace, generosity than just ourselves.
God does not call us to be perfectly successful in our efforts to share Jesus with the world; but God ask us to be faithful. Paul used his knowledge of the culture, his passion for Jesus, and the opportunity God gave him to share the good news of Jesus. His faithfulness resulted in people responding to the Holy Spirit. That is all God asks from us.
We have heard the story from the gospels (especially Mark 10:13-16’s account) when people brought their children to Jesus and the disciples fussed at them. When Jesus saw this he was ‘indignant’. This is an unusual word for Mark to use… which translates as Jesus was very displeased with the disciples.
What this tells us about Jesus is that investing in children for the sake of the Kingdom of heaven is our obligation, responsibility and joy. Whether those the kids in our families, in our church, or kids in our larger community, nation or world. As followers of Jesus we have the privilege to invest in the lives of children in a way that has an eternal. We get to invest in kiddos because as followers our Jesus we playing for keeps! Jesus lived, died and rose to keep each of us close to God’s holiness both now and in the forever home. Kids, teens, youth matter to Jesus and therefore they matter to the Body of Believers, Christ’s church at Ridge UMC!
George Barna and his group have conducted research in America for over 30 years. His studies on faith, culture, and church have consistently revealed that almost 2/3 of people who consider themselves Christian made a first time commitment to Jesus Christ before their 18th birthday. I did. Did you? His studies over time have consistently revealed not only the necessity, but the urgency of reaching children and youth with the life-changing Gospel of Jesus Christ.
I have been told over the years, “you just want to indoctrinate children into your beliefs”. To which my response has been and is, “I would rather ‘indoctrinate’ a child in love, generosity, hope and service then allow the world to teach them that ‘narcissism is ok, hate is ok, and self-service is ok”.
Some of you have been curious about our jars of marbles. When people have asked me about them, I’ve asked a question in return, “what do you think they’re for?” The responses have been interesting… 1) lost your marbles; 2) a guessing game; 3) growth of God’s love in a person; 4) illustration of how full a jar can get; and 5) it’s lesson about the numbers. All of these are good guesses. But not right.
These jars represent the passage of time (marbles are not people- but time)… and that time goes quickly… and time along with opportunity goes by too quickly. These jars and their diminishing amounts of marbles within them tell the story of the passage of time and our calling to impact lives for Jesus. Marbles represent time because you need to the urgency before us.
Consider this when a child is born, there are 936 Sundays before they reach the age of 18. That means Ridge UMC has 936 Sunday for us, the Body of Christ to share the stores of Jesus, light their hearts aflame with the love of Jesus, and to teach them to share His love to others.
In the blink of any eye, this child turns 5 years old, and there are only 576 Sundays remaining before they turn 18. When they enter 3rd grade… and time of reading and exploration…only 468 Sundays remain to surround them with steadfast love, establish them in the faith, confirm and strengthen them in the way that leads to life!
When a child enters 8th grade (about the time of Confirmation for many of us) there are only 208 Sundays left before this student turns 18. And then at age 18 (see empty jar) the window of opportunity to share Christ has closed.
Now, I am not saying these children (yours, mine, and our grandchildren) are lost… God is so much busier and bigger than human statistics. The Barna Research Group does affirm that 2/3 of those who follow Jesus made the decision before they turned 18. 1 in 5 persons accepts Jesus by the time they are 21. Then after age 21, one person in eight make a decision for Jesus to be their Savior, Lord, Friend, and Hope.
The Holy Spirit is working in the lives of people of any and every age, but the fact does remain that the WORLD we live in would change in a way we cannot even begin to imagine if we would obey Jesus and invest ourselves in reaching and teaching the most innocent and vulnerable among us. And invest with passion, purpose, and a sense of urgency!
How would our community and, subsequently, our world be changed if we decided as a church, as the Body of Christ, that we will play for keeps and make sure that Every Sunday Matters in the life of a child or teen?
This morning you are invited to come be a part of blessing our newly renovated Youth Space (by fellowship hall). Come see where and how our church is creating safe space for teens. Eat a cupcake. Hug a teenager! High five a youth leader!
When I first was appointed as your pastor in 2015 (just a little over three years ago) and we gathered in cottage meetings for conversation… over and over I heard from you that Ridge was and is a congregation which places a high value and priority in investing in the lives of young people. You said it. Must be so… and we have been living into this vision together.
We have done much to fulfill the vision of a missional church we talked about last Sunday. With one arm centered in Christ with others, and the other arm reaching out into the world. We are doing this when we created our Children & Family Pastor position in 2015 and hired Beth Ann in 2017.
We do this through our keen lay leadership on both our Education and Youth Council teams; through our Winning at Life breakfasts, last day of school ice cream sandwich give-away, sending our youth to church camp, leadership retreats, mission trips, serving as leaders in worship monthly, creating space and opportunity for children and their families to be together in worship, establishing three areas of growth in within our 2019 ministry budget to support children, teens and families, the list goes on and on… but folks, we are NOT done, and there is more we can be about.
We anticipate our largest class of confirmands this spring. We will need mentors for each of these students. We are doing more inter-generational mission work as the Youth and Mission teams are working together to serve our world. Shoulder to shoulder. If you want to have hope about the next generation… then some work side by side a youth at the food bank.
At the close of worship, we will share with you a marble to keep. Please take this home as a visual reminder to share the Good news of Jesus and invest in the lives of our children & youth is URGENT! So very needed! When you see your marble in your home…make a priority to pray together for children, youth and for our congregation here at Ridge UMC, as we seek to be faithfully obedient to the most innocent and vulnerable among us for the sake of Jesus’ love for all. Let us pray…