Sunday, February 26, 2017

A Church Transformation

Today's sermon for transfiguration Sunday.


Today is transfiguration Sunday.  It’s the day where we celebrate the transfiguration of Jesus, the glory of the Lord coming down upon him and the voice of God coming down to tell us that this is his son, with whom he is well pleased, listen to him.  This is the moment when Jesus’ clothes turn dazzling white and his face shines like the sun.  The Glory of God is shinning through him.

Now in past years, I’ve chosen to talk about how we can be transformed through this transfiguration as individuals but this year, as I was thinking about this, I started thinking more about the church.  Our church and how we might be able to better shine the light of God in our communities, how we might be transformed as a church. 

Would you please pray with me?  May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts and minds be acceptable to you, O Lord, our Rock and our Redeemer.  Amen.

So what does it mean for the church to be transformed?  How can we transform our church into a fire burning brightly with the Glory of God?  I’ve got to tell you this is a hard message for me to write and preach and I’m sure it will be a hard one to hear too but I think we all need to acknowledge this need for transformation.

I’ll be honest with you.  I’m not sure that I know how to do this but I do think that if it’s something we all want, together, we can make it happen.  

I’ve read lots of articles about declining churches.  One thing they all seem to have in common, is that they say we shouldn’t be solely focused on the budget side of things.  We shouldn’t always be worried about money.  I know, it is a worry, and it’s a legitimate worry but it can’t be our sole focus, our sole purpose for doing the things we do or for not doing things either.    We must be good stewards but we must also have faith.  I’m a believer in “If God calls you to it, He will see you through it.”  If God wants us to do something, he will make sure we have what we need to do it.  

I think that as a church if we encourage our members to give, to tithe, we as a church should do the same.  We have to give as a church.  That can mean that we make more of an effort to give to our missional shares to the big church or that we give more in our community.  

And that brings me to another thing most of the articles have in common, that we need to be a missional church.  What does this mean?  Well, I think it means we need to be out in our community we need to be offering something to our community.  What can we offer?  There are so few of us and little money... it’s hard.  But here’s the thing.  I think we need to be getting out in the community to shine the light the of Christ, not necessarily to get new members or to get people to come to our church but just to be out in the community to do good, to love our neighbors.  We shouldn’t be doing any of this to get something out of it, we should just be doing it because we love our community and we want to be out there helping and sharing with our neighbors.  Because we are followers of Christ and we want to live as he wants us to live.

So how can we be that burning fire in the community that shines the light of Christ?    I think here at Edwardsville we had a good start this church year.  We collected school supplies for the school up the hill.  We collected cleaning supplies for those affected by floods.  We collected snacks to treat our police and firefighters and to show them we appreciate them.  We also took them some soup and chili a couple of weeks ago.  But we can’t stop here.  What else can we do to get out in our community?

So how can we be that burning fire in the community that shines the light of Christ?  I think here at Grinter Chapel we started the church year out well.  We collected school supplies for the school up the road, we collected cleaning supplies for those affected by floods.  We make the bed pads for cancer patients. We had the trunk or treats for the neighborhood children and they seemed to just come out of the woodwork! We have been doing some wonderful things but we can’t stop here.  What else can we do to get out in our community?  What else can we do to show our community we care?

Well, I really think we need to be in prayer about this.  I think we need to have discussions about it.  I think we need to search our Bible for ideas.  Jesus was a great missionary.  He loved the people, he cared for them. We need to study the scriptures to see what it is that he is teaching us to do.  We need ask God for guidance in all that we do.  We need to seek out this transformation, we need to open our hearts to the transformation God has in mind for us.  We need to listen to the community.  We need to keep our ears open to the needs of those around us.

Now, you may be thinking, ‘Wow, Sherri.  You really got a little off here.’  I don’t know, maybe I did but let’s think about those who where there with Jesus on that mountaintop.  At first they were in awe, they were excited and wanted to stay where they were.  Peter wanted to build dwellings there so they could stay there.  Then a cloud overshadowed them and the voice of God was heard and they fell down in fear!  One commentary I read said, that they were face down in the dirt afraid.  Transformation can be scary.  Change can be scary.  But Jesus came over to Peter, James and John and touched them saying, “Get up and do not be afraid.”  And then he led them down that mountain back into the world, the community.  

I think Jesus is here with us right now.  I think that in days gone by this church shone brightly the light of Christ, the Glory of God but I’m afraid that at some point, as things began to change, as the faces in the church changed, as we grew older, we fell down in fear, afraid that we couldn’t make it anymore.  Afraid to change with the changing faces, afraid of the transformation that is coming.  But again, Jesus is right here with us.  Can you feel him touching you on the shoulder?  He is saying to us right now, today, do not be afraid.  Get up and follow me out in the community.  Get up and let my light shine through this congregation.  Get up and let’s be the transformation we need to be so that we can be that fire burning brightly with the Glory of God.  Let’s open the doors again and let the Light of Christ out into community.  Let’s go out the doors and BE the light of Christ.

Wednesday is the first day of Lent.  Lent is a 40 day journey of prayer, temperance and spiritual growth.  We can start this journey with the Ash Wednesday service here.  Come with your hearts open and ready to begin this journey of transformation through prayer and spiritual growth.  

We can use these 40 days to pray. To pray for our personal transformation in Christ, to pray for each other’s needs and to pray for our church’s transformation.  

We can use this time as a time for spiritual growth.  We will have devotional booklets available one per family to help us move these 40 days together.  Take one and spend a few minutes each day with God as you join the rest of us in devotion.  If you feel so led, there will also be a few banks, where you can place your spare change to help feed the hungry of our nation through the gleaning projects around the country and then bring it back with you on Easter Sunday as a special offering.

Join us in Bible study on Tuesday mornings at 10am here at Edwardsville as we begin a Lenten study with Adam Hamilton’s book, The Way.  We’ll be doing the DVD study but if you can’t join us and would like to participate, you can order the book and read along.  Let’s grow spiritually as a church together.

During these 40 days come to worship and invite your family and friends to join us.  Worship is such an important part of our spiritual journey.  Don’t neglect it.  Let’s worship together as a church family each Sunday these next 6 weeks.

During these 40 days, find ways to serve in our community, whether it’s through the banks I mentioned earlier or through the Cancer Action bed pads with Laura Dell, or volunteering at a shelter or school.  Let’s join together as a church and serve our community.

If you so led take these 40 days to abstain from something. It doesn’t have to be food or a bad habit, it can be from gossip or complaining, fear or anxiety.  You don’t have to be perfect at this just mindful of it. As a church, let’s encourage one another in this.

In these 40 days, take time to be still.  Take time to just sit in the quiet with God, through meditation, prayer, yoga or just sitting out on the porch with a cup of coffee or tea and listen for God’s voice.  

During these 40 days, take some time to forgive and to seek forgiveness.  This one is a hard one for me but it is so important.  Reconciliation with each other and then with God is a powerful thing both as individuals and as a church.  As a church, who do we need to reconcile with?  Who do we need to forgive and who do we need to ask to forgive us?

Basically, over these next 40 days, let’s be open to this transformation, to this spiritual growth, to reconciliation, Let’s be open to God’s voice.  Let begin this journey without fear, knowing that Christ is right here with us, leading the way.  Will we follow?  Will we allow this transformation to take place here in our church?  Are we ready to open our doors to the community?  Are we ready to GO OUT of our doors into the community to be the Light of Christ?  I hope so.  

1 comment:

  1. Sherri, just a thought to add to what you've shared here: without the Holy Spirit baptizing us (like at Pentecost) we're not going to be able to much or at least with power and authority. I hope that makes a degree of sense.