Thursday, February 10, 2011

My Sermon for Sunday

Mandy & I are heading for the airport in about an hour for our trip to Africa, so I thought I'd blog one more time before I left. We are really excited about the trip and know that it will be an amazing experience that we will never forget. We will have internet access during our first week there, so I will try to blog some while we are in Chamwino.

I am preaching on Sunday in Brian and Nicole's church, so I thought I would share my sermon with you. I was pretty nervous about what to preach, so this was a really tough sermon to write. I wanted to make sure that there were no hints of colonialism in my words. I don't want to seem like the educated superior from the West coming in to share my wealth of knowledge. So I basically spent my words thanking the church for being who they are. I realize that this is like 6 pages of reading, but here is the sermon. Enjoy.

My Sermon

In It Together
Text:  Multiple Texts

Good morning everyone. It is so great to be here with you this morning. My name is Jason and my wife, Mandy, and I will be with you all for the next week here in Chamwino. We are very excited to be able to meet you and experience your life and culture during our time in Africa. I am currently in school preparing to be a pastor, so I greatly appreciate you allowing me to preach here this morning. It really is an honor.
After being asked to preach by Pastor Daniel, I really struggled knowing what to share with you. It is hard to preach to a group that you barely know, especially since I will only be with you for one Sunday. I think the best direction for me to go is to simply thank you. I am sure you hear plenty of great sermons that help you understand the Bible in some new and exciting way, so this morning I simply want to celebrate who you are and thank you for the gifts that you offer the world.

Reasons to be Thankful
Thank you for all you have taught, and are teaching, us in the West about how to live like Jesus. We Americans often think we are the ones who should be teaching everyone else how to do everything, but we have so much to learn from other cultures and people, especially all of you. As I began to think about the ways in which you can help us in the West learn to live more like Jesus, a number of things began to surface.
            The first thing that I want to thank you for is the importance you place on community. Living closely with one another in intimate community is at the heart of being Christian, but my culture has begun to lose our sense of community and connection. We have become a culture where everyone takes care of themselves and no one needs any help from other people. This is obviously not a good way to live. Thank you for reminding me of how important it is to be connected to others.
            The Bible is very clear about how important community is. The writer of the book of Hebrews encourages us saying, “Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day [of the Lord] approaching.” Jesus’ disciples also understood this need to be in community and take care of one another. Acts 2 says, “All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need. Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having the goodwill of all the people.” Americans can easily forget how important it is to be with each other, so I thank you for reminding me of the goodness and blessing of community.
            I also want to thank you for being people of incredible love for others. I have experienced that love through the people from Chamwino who have visited America, like Kedmon, Pendo, Nasson, and Pastor Daniel. I have also seen how you have all loved Brian and Nicole while they have been here with you. You have taken care of them and helped them as they learned about your culture, language, food, and so much more. Thank you for loving my friends while they have been away from us.
            Love is such an important part of being a Christian. Jesus sums up all of the law of God by saying that you should ‘love God with all of your heart, soul, and mind’ and that you should ‘love your neighbor as yourself.’ First John 3 says, “We know love by this, that he laid down his life for us—and we ought to lay down our lives for one another. Thank you for being people who love well.
            While I am speaking on the theme of love, I want to thank you for loving strangers and guests. The Bible is constantly encouraging us to love everyone, including strangers, guests, and our enemies. Deuteronomy 10 says, “For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who is not partial and takes no bribe, who executes justice for the orphan and the widow, and who loves the strangers, providing them food and clothing. You shall also love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.” Thank you for caring for everyone who enters into your community. Thank you for welcoming everyone you meet with open arms and open hearts. Thank you for caring for those whom no one else is caring for. We have already felt your incredible love, and we have only been here one day.

Worshiping a Global God
And finally, I want to end our time with the reminder that we all worship the same, huge, amazing God. Mandy and I were having tea with Kedmon and Pendo a few weeks ago and I asked him what I should preach about this morning. He told me I should remind you all that we worship a big God who is in charge of the entire world. In many ways, you and I are very different from one another. We live so far apart and our cultures are very different. It is amazing, however, that we all worship the same God. This morning my brothers and sisters in the United States are meeting together to sing and learn and celebrate just like we are here.  They are reading the Bible and listening to a sermon, just like we are here. And while they may be worshiping in a different language, we are all worshiping the same God.
The way of Jesus has a way of breaking down walls of separation. We are good at creating division and difference, but the way of Jesus is a journey that unifies the world, that builds bridges between those who were once separated. I am reminded of the Apostle Paul’s words in Galatians 3:28 when he says, “There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.” In Christ we are one; we are family. As Christians we must learn to be aware of our differences and celebrate the things that make us unique, but we must not let these differences divide us from one another. May we learn to partner together in bringing the good news of Jesus into the world; a message of hope and love; a message of healing and wholeness; a message of peace and forgiveness.
I will close with a beautiful verse from Paul’s letter to the Philippians. Paul says, “Whatever happens, live your life in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that, whether I come and see you or am absent and hear about you, I will know that you are standing firm in one spirit, striving side by side with one mind for the faith of the gospel.” It has been so encouraging to hear about this church from Brian and Nicole because I know that you are beautiful people who live out your faith in the world. I am so encouraged by worshiping with you this morning, because I have now seen your faith with my own eyes. When I leave Tanzania in a few weeks, I will leave knowing that even though I will not see you all often, you are still ‘standing firm in one spirit, striving side by side with one mind for the faith of the gospel.’ You have been a blessing to me already and I thank you for that. May we all continue to be a blessing to the world. God bless you all. Amen.

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