God’s Grace

What struck me about Eric’s sermon last Sunday was the Tony Campolo story he told. I’ve heard this story several times before – of how Pastor Campolo once threw a surprise birthday party for a prostitute called Agnus at a late night diner in Honolulu.

Again, I was struck by how enabled folks were in the story by God’s grace – Campolo who has the inspiration, the owner who baked the cake, the owner’s wife who decorated the diner, the prostitutes who knew and loved agnus and who made sure the place was packed when Agnus walked in.

However, what struck me most this time was Agnus’ reaction. Instead of cutting the cake, Agnus took it home – two doors down – to show her mother, who was not at the party. Why was she not at the party? Perhaps she was old or infirm. Perhaps she was drunk. Perhaps no one thought to invite her. Perhaps she was simply asleep!

Whatever the case, Agnus’ reaction illustrates something found in many biblical stories and something that I’ve experienced in life: that people who have been reached out to, in turn reach out themselves.

Agnus’ reaction is stereotypically Holy Spirit! I’ve been helped, I’m gonna help; I’ve been forgiven, I’m gonna forgive; I’ve been invited, so I’m going to invite. Agnus’ reaction is essentially evangelistic – she has experienced the good news – through the actions of others – and she wants to share it with others still.

We talk a lot at Servant Church about inviting, demonstrating and becoming. Agnus was invited, her peers demonstrated and her response was to become – to become a passer-on, to involve those left out – no matter if they are weak, drunk, uninvited or asleep.

When are we inviting

Where does inviting fit into our lives? Being inviting, being one who possesses the gerund, the quality of inviting is different from the actual act itself. To walk up and speak and ask and convince and remember and follow up: these are the ways of inviting and they are a consistent challenge, the key word being consistent. To invite once or twice, to be open to others once in a while is completely manageable and understandable. In the threefold language of Servant Church (inviting, becoming, demonstrating) inviting seems the easiest way to set self-imposed limits. “We don’t want to overexpose,” we say to ourselves. “We don’t want to burn bridges,” we say to ourselves.

Perhaps it is the interior monologue found in personal responses to inviting that is most challenging. While becoming and demonstrating are obviously community based, it is only in our community that we, as individuals, can be truly inviting. When invitations are personal challenges, they do not describe how we live and move.

The where we go from here after two years in weekly service concerns deeply how embedded these habits continue to be and how we continue to transform our own personal as well as corporate habits to  blend with the growth and evolution of the Servant Church community

How to Reconcile

Sunday Reflections are short comments inspired by the preaching at Servant Church.

Why should we reconcile ourselves to others? Who are the others? It is very easy to point out differences and challenges and wrongs. Alone in this world, holding onto our wrongs like children hold onto toys. Since even before the Tower of Babel, humans have divided and divided and divided, often in the name of purity. We look to differentiate so clearly that we no longer have to think to long about who is us and who is them.

The Church in Corinth was like this as well. Paul wrote to them in love but wrote with clarity and specificity about what precisely was going wrong there, and there was a lot going wrong. They were divided over who had supreme authority, they were divided over the Lord’s Table, over marriage, over anything, it seemed, that they could think of. They were a divided body. But Paul, in his second letter to the corinthians, says that Jesus came precisely to stop this. The world was separated from God through sin, and the people in the world were separated from each other.

From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 18 All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. 20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. (2 Corinthians 5:16-20)

Therefor, there is no them, there is only us. God didn’t come to tell us to be nice people and then leave us to it. No. God left the Holy Spirit. Alone, we are no better than the Church in Corinth. Alone, we are no better than ourselves. It is with God, with the Spirit, with each other with humility that we can live out reconciliation daily.

 

Make it Known

Sunday Reflections are short comments inspired by the preaching at Servant Church.

Paul is in prison for preaching the Gospel. He invites the early church to join him in devotion through prayer. He reminds us that we are devoted to God and that God is devoted to us; demonstrating a posture of dependence, of listening. And he essentially asks us to pray that more of what happened to get him in jail keep happening.

At the time, as now, many Christians ask, ‘How do we live under the empire and still obey God?’ Paul says that  we don’t have to work for it! We don’t have to struggle with what to do! The mystery is revealed; Jesus is how we know both what to do and who God is! And everyone needs to know! Jesus is both the treasure map and the treasure.

Paul asks for God to open a door for The Message; he insists that the Jesus movement must go on, with or without him.  This is on all of us, but God will open the door. The Colossians, like us, must have been scared. But Paul says, ‘Pray and ask God, He will do his part.’ What is our part? How will we pray? What is your part? How will you pray and how will you pray?

  • ‘Make the most of every opportunity.’
  • ‘Love people.’
  • ‘Don’t be boring.’
  • ‘Make grace your way of speech.’
  • ‘If you pray for Him to open doors, He will.’
  • ‘Life your life to make people ask the questions for which Jesus is the answer.’

Jesus is making Himself known through His people; where are we asking God to open doors; in our sending, going, eating, singing, serving, giving, sharing? Prayerfully, let us take up one of these. Our task is to create points of connection, to knock on doors both literally and figuratively, and to pray more. It’s God’s job to open doors, it’s our job to be salt.

Giving and Thanks

Paul is in Ephesus on house arrest. No food was provided. His friends send gifts, but the distance between them limited access. So, at the end of his Letter to the Phillipians, Paul issues his ‘Thank You Note.”

How can we give back more than just words on a page? Paul says, “Thanks, but really it’s a deposit in your account, it’s an offer pleasing to God.” Be content, through Him, Jesus Christ, the one who gives us strength. Paul is saying, ‘I’m glad you gave because that’s what it means to be connected.’

When is God’ presence real to us through others? How can we make God’s presence real to others?

Henry Nowan writes in The Spirituality of Fundraising, “we should become richer by giving.” Let giving be a joy, participating in a mission together, giving as rhythm, habit, what a privilege to be able to give!

Together in Christ we function as His body because of all that He has given us, how we share our life together. Not just giving money, but skills, time, etc.. Do more, be more creative, Kingdom Coop—the more we give, the more we have in Christ.

2 Corinthians 8:9
“For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.”