Sunday, February 13, 2011

Servants of the Kingdom

Epiphany VI
Feb 13, 2011

Servants Of The Kingdom

At this point I have to say that I hope not to see the inside of another plane or airport for several months!!

It is massively good to be home – it was good to go – to be in the flow of what God is doing around the globe, to meet new friends and old ones, to share God’s love and His Word in places and ways that we’ve never before dreamed of… But it is massively good to come home to a steadier pace and familiar surroundings, to rest and to reflect on all God has done and is doing in His World.

I know over the next few weeks we will be sharing the "glory" details of all that we’ve all experienced on Mission with Jesus around the world. We have one yet to return home to roost – Judy who is on mission now in Mexico and we continue to lift her up in prayer.

On a related note to that, I urge you to continue steadfast in prayer for those of us just returning, as we know that Satan is not happy with our efforts. Spiritual Warfare is not only a reality in Africa and South America and Mexico – it is very much a reality for us as we have returned and we need your continued prayer covering as we rest for a couple of weeks and regroup for the next phase of God’s work here among us and through us at REZ.

I bring greetings from our new Archbishop, Onesphore RWAJE and his wife, Josephine and from our sister parish in Ngarama, along with Pastor Servillian Nsingimana. Also I bring greetings and regrets from our new bishop of Byumba Diocese, Emmanuel Ngendahayo and his wife, Vicky, who greeted us and you warmly, but who failed to get their visa for this month’s trip to the US. We will likely receive them later this year, when that happens on their side and they can carve out some time for travel. Pray for them as they step into big shoes… both ++Onesphore and +Emmanuel have big transitions that they face, taking over from much beloved leaders.

I also bring you greetings from the Anglican Mission and the Winter Conference this past week in NC. 1200+ gathered from the 50 states and from our overseas partners. God continues to bless the work of the AM, as its now called, as we are seeing an explosion of emerging works across the US and Canada. Alongside the work of the Anglican Church in North America we are seeing a new Anglican witness being built in North America, that is vital and alive, reaching the lost, and birthing new work – still at a pace of one every two weeks or so, and now, speeding up!! In fact we want to pray this morning for a new work that is launching in our own city: Wellspring Church is launching a new church, Church of the Advent, in the Baker Neighborhood at about 10th and Broadway, near downtown. Let’s pause to pray for Rob Paris and Clint Wilson and the launch team as they meet this morning for worship…

Father, we thank you for the opportunity to be a part of something bigger than ourselves. Lift up our eyes to see You and Your hand at work in the whole world around us as we travel on mission with You, here in Denver and across this world.

We pray for Rob and Clint and their team at Advent Church this morning, and ask you to be especially present with them as they set out into the deep, and begin to cast their nets, at your direction. Give them a great load of souls, Lord, so much so that they have to call for help. Bless their faith and obedience this day, Jesus, as they follow you in your call to become fishers of men and women. In Jesus Name, Amen.

Servants of the Kingdom

As I reflected on our readings this morning, a phrase caught my eye from our reading in 1 Cor.
What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you came to believe, as the Lord assigned to each. I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. The one who plants and the one who waters have a common purpose, and each will receive wages according to the labor of each. For we are God's servants, working together; you are God's field, God's building.

If any could claim to be “something” Paul could have, and we see our human tendency here in this reading to claim for ourselves some of the perceived fame of others that we know. Divisions happened in the church because of this human tendency. So Paul, here in his first letter to Corinth, corrects the perspective of name dropping party affiliates in the church by placing himself and Apollos, another leader, in the role of servants. What then are we? He asks. We are simply servants – planters and waterers of the seeds of the Gospel planted in your hearts – but it is God who gives the growth.

I’m reminded of the parable that Jesus shared in Mark 4, beginning at V. 26

26 Jesus also said, “The Kingdom of God is like a farmer who scatters seed on the ground. 27 Night and day, while he’s asleep or awake, the seed sprouts and grows, but he does not understand how it happens. 28 The earth produces the crops on its own. First a leaf blade pushes through, then the heads of wheat are formed, and finally the grain ripens. 29 And as soon as the grain is ready, the farmer comes and harvests it with a sickle, for the harvest time has come.”

Here as in Paul’s letter to Corinth, the actor principally is GOD, not us. We get to play a part – a small part all be it – but a part in the process of planting and watering, but every farmer will accede the fact that he has nothing to do with the natural forces of growth for the crop. As Jesus said, “The earth produces the crop on its own.”

Paul says it most clearly: we are servants. And we are servants in three roles:
Planting or scattering seed – watering that seed – and finally, harvesting that seed, as it comes to its full fruitfulness. These are all very important in the grand scheme of things.
I love the story of the farmer and the city slicker who are standing in a field of unharvested wheat. The city slicker is marveling at God’s handiwork and the beauty of that field of wheat, and the farmer agreed, but added, as he turned to go: You should have seen this when God had it by Himself!

We play an important role in God’s plan for the field. Each one of us. We are the servants of the Harvest. God is the Lord of the Harvest, we read in Luke 10 and in other places, but we are called to co-labor with Him in what He is doing in the world. God is the only one who can give growth – the growth of the Kingdom of God, like the mustard seed of the next parable in Mark, is entirely in the power of God. We are servants of His Kingdom and as such are stewards of all that God has given us to do – in partnership with Him. We have important roles: Soil preparation, planting, watering, and finally, harvesting the souls that God has made ready for His Kingdom.

We don’t have to go to Uganda or Rwanda, to Brazil or Honduras or Mexico to do this work. It happens in our own back yard! If fact, if it isn’t happening here, it is out of order for us to do it there! The order that Jesus gave us is: Jerusalem, Judea, all of Samaria and to the utter most parts of the earth.

We are all Servants of this Kingdom, my friends. As we go… wherever we go. Every day … all day. The mobilization of the army of God into the world is the most desperate need that the world has, and we see it most acutely in our own culture and city, in our own neighborhoods and on our own blocks.

God has invited us to be a Missionary Church and so we are, here in America. We have been commissioned by Him first of all and we have been sent by Him and by the Church in Rwanda, to be Servants of the Harvest of Souls. We must never forget our purpose and mission as we live our day-to-day lives, for its here in our day-to-day that God intends for us to serve Him. Gossiping the Gospel of Jesus as we go into the world – touching the lives of fellow travelers on this path and bringing along those who do not know Him yet.

Friends, the seeds we plant are from the witness of our lives: in both word and deed, as we prayed at the opening of the service this morning: "...because in our weakness we can do nothing good without you, give us the help of your grace, that in keeping your commandments we may please you both in will and deed. "

Paul reminds us that it is God who is behind this all! We pray, “Give us the help of your grace!” Indeed! None of this can happen as an act of our will – we can’t just decide one day that we are going to NOW obey the GREAT COMMISSION and then see it happen! It is an act of GOD’S GRACE to us. Our obedience is simply the trigger that sets in motion the powerful force of His Grace – the empowerment of the Holy Spirit for witness (Acts 1:8) and the action of the Spirit of Jesus along side of us as we go into our Jerusalem, our Judea, our Samaria and to the ends of the earth. And God’s Grace will never fail you. Believe us when we tell you, we have seen God work in all kinds of ways, in all kinds of places, that before would not have been on our radar!

It will take us weeks if not months to tell the stories of this single trip, not to mention the multiple trips that have happened from REZ in this past month. I pray that your hearts will be open to hear, not just the tales of your brothers and sisters, but to hear the call of God to you, as he says, “Come Follow Me. I will make you fishers of men.” And “Go,… Make Disciples… Plant, Water, Harvest – teaching them to obey all that I have commanded you. And I will be with you, all the way.”

This is Jesus work, from start to finish, and we get to come along in the process, as servants of His Kingdom and stewards of what He has given us. Lord, give us the help of your grace, indeed, that in keeping your commandments we may please you both in will and in deed.

Amen and Amen.

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