Monday, March 28, 2011

Third Sunday of Lent - Growing through Fellowship

Third Sunday of Lent “So… Why?” Series, Part III Growing Through Fellowship 1 Is there any encouragement from belonging to Christ? Any comfort from his love? Any fellowship together in the Spirit? Are your hearts tender and compassionate? 2 Then make me truly happy by agreeing wholeheartedly with each other, loving one another, and working together with one mind and purpose. 3 Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. 4 Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too. 5 You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had. Paul, the apostle, here asks several pointed questions of his favorite church. Questions that ring down through the centuries to us and echo through our own lives and relationships in the Body of Christ. That IS what you are, you know. The Body of Christ. By virtue of your baptism, you have been knit into a MYSTERY. It’s called the MYSTICAL Body of Christ in our prayerbook. We say it in the prayer after communion. “You have graciously accepted us as living members of Your Son our Savior, Jesus Christ “ OR “And for assuring us in these holy mysteries that we are living members of the Body of your Son.” Or my favorite and the favorite of many I think: Almighty and everliving God, we most heartily thank thee for that thou dost feed us, in these holy mysteries, with the spiritual food of the most precious Body and Blood of thy Son our Savior Jesus Christ; and dost assure us thereby of thy favor and goodness towards us; and that we are very members incorporate in the mystical body of thy Son, the blessed company of all faithful people; We are partakers of a mystery – members of one another, Paul says - “members incorporate” – “living members” we say. But what does all that mean? KOINONIA Many of you here know of my long time fascination with the Greek word KOINONIA, mostly translated “fellowship” in scripture. And so it is our subject this morning as we explore how we grow through fellowship with one another. One of the wonderful things about the Greek language of the Bible is that many of the words have several, varied shades of meaning. Some find that disconcerting at first, especially when they get the feeling that some preachers give that there is a kind of “secret” knowledge that can be gained from the study of the Bible in its original language. Let me assure you that what is in the Bible in English is enough to challenge you to the core for the rest of your life!! BUT, let me also challenge you, and I hope this morning to illustrate the fact, that there are depths in this WORD OFGOD that we don’t plumb, because we don’t have the tools to do it. One of those tools is how to look up words and their meanings and to see how they are used across an array of verses. And a perfect example is this word, “KOINONIA.” KOINONIA is translated with a variety of English words: “Fellowship”; “Sharing”; “Participation”; “Community”; “Communion”; “Intimacy”; even to the “hand shake” as a sign of welcome or pledge of friendship/fellowship; and finally, the collection of money or goods that is jointly contributed, that exhibits an embodiment and proof of fellowship. Our offering each week is a KOINONIA; our communion service is a KOINONIA. In fact this is where we will pick up with Paul in his 1st letter to Corinth, in the 10th chapter where he is discussing the eating of meat sacrificed to idols in comparison with our Eucharist: 14 So, my dear friends, flee from the worship of idols. 15 You are reasonable people. Decide for yourselves if what I am saying is true. 16 When we bless the cup at the Lord’s Table, aren’t we sharing in the blood of Christ? And when we break the bread, aren’t we sharing in the body of Christ? 17 And though we are many, we all eat from one loaf of bread, showing that we are one body. 18 Think about the people of Israel. Weren’t they united by eating the sacrifices at the altar? The word “sharing” that Paul uses is a verb form of the word koinonia. This sharing is our active participation and the actual eating of the sacramental elements – the bread and the wine, that is offered on this Table. One of my favorite posters is a picture of a TV with a Eucharist set up on top of it. It simply asks “When was the last time you received communion from your Sony?” We live in an age that trivializes and marginalizes our participation in the worship of the Church – it has become a kind of take it or leave it proposition for many. “If I come at Christmas and Easter, I’m good for the year.” Right? But the sense of the word that we translate “fellowship” is so much more comprehensive, that even attendance weekly, barely gets at the depth of the meaning of true fellowship. Our tendency is toward the instant, but koinonia tends toward the long term; our tendency is toward the shallow, but koinonia tends toward the deep; our tendency is toward the easy, but koinonia tends toward the hard. This kind of “fellowship” is what is in view in Acts 2:42 where we have read that the early church “devoted themselves to fellowship” among other things. And the verses just after 42 are a logistical summary of how that looks in a living community of believers: 43 A deep sense of awe came over them all, and the apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders. 44 And all the believers met together in one place and shared everything they had. 45 They sold their property and possessions and shared the money with those in need. 46 They worshiped together at the Temple each day, met in homes for the Lord’s Supper, and shared their meals with great joy and generosity[j]—47 all the while praising God and enjoying the goodwill of all the people. And each day the Lord added to their fellowship those who were being saved. Listen to the key words: Deep Sense of Awe; Together in One place; Shared everything; Sold property & possessions; Shared with those in need; worshiped together each day; met in homes for Eucharist; shared meals; praising God; enjoying favor in the community; each day the Lord added to the fellowship. Who doesn’t want to be a part of something like this? I’m there!! I’m sooooo there!!! This is how you spell REAL CHURCH!! Our twentieth century manifestation is pretty anemic by comparison: Its often not awe-filled, its sometimes aweful! Its together in one place, once in a while, at controversial town meetings or at Christmas eve or Easter morning services. Its… well, all that selling property and possessions stuff … you know they didn’t have a lot anyway. Its nice to share, but lets not go overboard. I’m too busy to do any more than Sunday morning. And… every Sunday? Really? Communion in my home? Am I sick or dying? I just can’t bring myself to do that monthly supper deal? Some of those people get on my nerves! And these are just things I’ve heard around here!! And we wonder why “the Lord” doesn’t “add each day” to our numbers!! Hmmmm? LIFE TOGETHER In a book by the name LIFE TOGETHER, the German theologian and martyr, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, explored the meaning of the fellowship of the Church. It is a short book that you can find in libraries and book stores to this day. He compares and contrasts our tendency to substitute what I call “an inch deep and a mile wide” fellowship for the real thing. He warns that this substitution will eventually result in the dissolution of the whole enterprise, as it looses its meaning and power in our lives, through sheer lack of commitment and vitality. Paul addresses this tendency in his letters quite often. He calls his hearers to the deeper aspects of a life together – what we saw in the Acts passage. He reminded them, and continually reminds us of our place “in Christ” and of our “fellowship” in the Spirit. It is the Spirit who ushers us into the Body of Christ, through repentance and baptism, through a constant “in-filling” of His presence and power. It is the Spirit who gives gifts to each of us, for the fulfilling of our part in the Body of Christ – gifts that are given for the “common” good, the root word for koinonia. It is the Spirit who guides us into all TRUTH and Truth that binds us together in a common vision. The clearest challenge that Paul puts before us is found in our opening verses from Philippians 2. Let’s review: Paul begins with some pointed questions: Any encouragement among you? Any tenderheartedness or compassion? Consolation of love? Fellowship of the Spirit? Any genuine affection? I love the Message here: If you've gotten anything at all out of following Christ, if his love has made any difference in your life, if being in a community of the Spirit means anything to you, if you have a heart, if you care— then do me a favor: Agree with each other, love each other, be deep-spirited friends. Don't push your way to the front; don't sweet-talk your way to the top. Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead. Don't be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand. Paul paints a picture in his words that is similar to what we read in Acts 2. Though I think Paul’s is more inwardly and emotionally focused, he give us clear marks for the “feelings” of community that are to be among us. And the marks are the same as what he lays out in the Galatian letter, that we know and recognize as “The Fruit of the Spirit.” Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness, Self-control. Listen again to the way that Peterson puts it in the message: But what happens when we live God's way? He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard—things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely. Friends, this is the type of KOINONIA that God is prepared to deliver to us, by His Spirit! This KOINONIA is a gift of the Spirit to the Whole Body of Christ, but the gift requires us to SHARE in it – to PARTICIPATE in it. The Body of Christ is a dynamic mix of His Spirit – His Presence and OUR PRESENCE – OUR PARTICIPATION in Him with others who are similarly called. Look around you… smile … say, “That means YOU.” Paul’s charge to the Philippians was to “Have this Mind in You which was also in Christ Jesus.” Jesus prayer to His Father the night before His death was that we might be ONE – as He and the Father are ONE. This is the direction that the Spirit is constantly moving us, if we are willing, available and obedient. ONE doesn’t mean similarly inclined, nor does it mean we even think alike or look alike. God forbid. The sense that ONE has in the NT, especially in the case of the Body of Christ is the same sense you get when an orchestra comes together, under ONE director, with ONE piece of music, but MANY individual instruments all in TUNE with one another. Ever been to a great symphony? The greek there is SUM PHONEO – to Sound Together as Many with ONE SOUND. SYMPHONY! This is the sense of the word in Acts 2:46 that is translated “with one accord” or “with one mind.” This is what the commentators in the Blue Letter Bible say about the word HOMOTHUMADON: A unique Greek word, used 10 of its 12 New Testament occurrences in the Book of Acts, helps us understand the uniqueness of the Christian community. Homothumadon is a compound of two words meaning to "rush along" and "in unison". The image is almost musical; a number of notes are sounded which, while different, harmonize in pitch and tone. As the instruments of a great concert under the direction of a concert master, so the Holy Spirit blends together the lives of members of Christ's church. (Blue Letter Bible. "Dictionary and Word Search for homothymadon (Strong's 3661)". Blue Letter Bible. 1996-2011. 27 Mar 2011. < http:// www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm? Strongs=G3661&t=NASB >) Friends, this is my prayer for us, that we may become ONE as Jesus prayed, through the Gift of KOINONIA, given by the Spirit of Jesus among us, and that we may share in His Kingdom and Power, under the Spirit’s Direction, as we bring our gifts to bear alongside one another, for the sake of His Kingdom and for the fame of His Name. Amen

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Lent II - Growth Through Prayer

Second Sunday of Lent
Part 2 of “So…Why” Series

Part II: Growth through Prayer


Today is the second in our Lenten Series entitled, “So… Why?”

Luke 6:46 records Jesus’ question of his disciples and other followers at the time:
“So why do you call me ‘Lord,’ when you won’t obey me?”

Some time ago, I heard a three-step formula for success in the Christian life:
Pray – Listen – Obey

Pretty simple. Not easy, but pretty simple.

Prayer is the environment; it is the medium of relationship with God. Just like conversation is the medium of relationship with each other. Last night we had our REZZERS’ Dinners – the point of the evenings together is to foster conversation. Because why? It is through conversation that we enter more deeply into relationship with each other. And it is through prayer that we enter more deeply into relationship with God… and incidentally, at least in my experience, most deeply into meaningful relationship with each other in the Body of Christ.

Prayer is the act of talking with God.

Jesus warned that it not be used as a platform, or done for a show. His instruction specifically was that it be done in a closet! That it be unseen; that it be “in secret.”

Isn’t it interesting that so much of what we deal with in our world has to do with people’s “secret” lives – our “deep, dark” secrets eventually have a way of oozing out into our public lives. The stories of fallen leaders are myriad. What might happen if the “secret” of our lives was a place of “saturation” in the Presence of God?!!

The one time that Jesus got “hot” publically was in the temple, in the midst of a people who had turned the activity of prayer into an opportunity to turn a buck. If fact, it was in that instance that Jesus reminded them of the calling and purpose of the Temple in God’s mind: “My House will be called a ‘House of Prayer’ for all nations.”

The “secret” of the Christian’s Life; the calling and vocation of the Christian Church is prayer. “So…Why,” Jesus asks, “do you call me Lord and you won’t even come talk to me?” For many of us, our lives are so busy, that prayer gets ‘bumped’ off the table. We live in a culture that is militant against “margin.”

Our lives and activity schedules crowd out prayer, in most, but its most cursory forms. We say ‘grace’ at meals (most of the time) and occasionally we will have time to read a devotional and/or a bible passage, and then ask God about some of the needs of the day, but rarely do we endeavor to “set aside” a specific and significant block of time for this most important of activities.

What could be more important and empowering than entering into ACTUAL relationship with the God of the Universe?!! Have you ever been “IN LOVE.”

What does that phrase conjure up for you? Do you have some memories of lingering dinners – of long phone conversations – of spending inordinate amounts of time with the LOVED ONE? And that’s not to mention the time spent THINKING about the Loved One!!

This is EXACTLY the model – or better, the reflection of the model – that we are going after here. Actually our relationship with God is to be that model! The spending – the investing of time with God each day, each week, and in sufficient quantity that it counts as a ‘relationship’ in some meaningful way. Have you ever noticed when someone is “with you” but they’re really NOT WITH you? How do we say it? We say, “Their mind is … “a thousand miles away.” How does God feel when we approach Him similarly? Probably the same way.

Jesus spoke often in terms of human relationship in this regard: His model of persistent prayer was the neighbor who came at midnight asking for bread who would not give up, till finally his neighbor got up and gave it. His model of prayer was the persistent widow asking justice from the unjust judge, who granted it because of her persistence. His teaching about God the Holy Spirit was illustrated with the story of sons asking for things of fathers. HOW MUCH MORE is God willing to give the Holy Spirit to those who ask?

He taught his disciple to pray, based on his own prayer “life”. Do you have a “Prayer Life” or do you just pray? And do you pray in a place each day or just “on the way?” In the gospels we continually see Jesus drawing aside specifically for prayer – sometimes all night, when faced with great trial or when facing great decisions. Isn’t it funny how our circumstances assist our prayer life? Do you wonder why life is so HARD sometimes? Have you considered the volume of prayer that come out from “Under The Circumstance!!?”

So how do we do it? How do we balance our prayer life and “real” life. There is the real issue isn’t it? We need an attitude adjustment – a mind set shift. We still live in a world that has been bifurcated into the “sacred” and the “secular” – where priests pray and lay people … um… lay. We are trained to believe that because we are not professional, that we are not qualified or competent. It’s a lie!!!

There is no competency needed here, friends. Jesus made the model of prayer for his disciples the action of children who loved to come and climb up into his lap!! Jesus went further and said that no one can come into the Kingdom, unless they come just like a little child. My favorite times as a DAD were when my girls would run to greet me at the end of the day, from the time they could walk to the time I could no longer catch them in mid air, I loved to get ‘bowled over’ by two little girls jumping into my arms. That what God wants!!

Its not complicated or theological. Its KID STUFF.
God is our FATHER. Remember the first two words of Jesus “MODEL” prayer:

OUR FATHER
Jesus came specifically to return us to this kind of relationship with GOD OUR FATHER! That is precisely the theological definition of “salvation.” -- being reconciled to God.

Of course Jesus had more to say, in response to the disciples’ request, “teach us to pray!” Let me break it down briefly, understanding that this is another YEAR LONG or LIFELONG study!!!!

OUR FATHER – We are being given back a relationship! Just like the one Adam and Eve had in the garden, walking with God, in the cool of the day. God is our father (and God forgive fathers who have marred this image for their children!): a presence of unfailing love and faithfulness, steadfast patience and caring provision, with discipline as we need correction along the way.
WHICH ART IN HEAVEN - This relationship is with the WHOLLY OTHER – the God of the Universe, who spoke it all into existence from nothing, and who knows our needs before we ask, but who still wants us to ASK!
HALLOWED BE THY NAME – Here we come to our knees or onto our faces, knowing what Moses knew: No one can come to a Holy God and live. We bow before the Presence and Revere the Name of God – this is the first commandment.
THY KINGDOM COME, THY WILL BE DONE, ON EARTH AS IT IS IN HEAVEN – The work of prayer is first of all cooperation with God in His agenda! And here it is! Job #1. “Seek ye first the Kingdom and His righteousness,” Jesus said. Once you pray it, you become it!
GIVE US THIS DAY OUR DAILY BREAD – Jesus also said as he continued, “… and all these things will be added to you.” God knows of our needs and will be faithful to supply them if we will trust him first and do His will obediently.
FORGIVE US OUR SINS, AS WE FORGIVE THOSE WHO SIN AGAINST US – Our greatest need after daily sustenance is God’s forgiveness! And He willingly forgives us, in the same way and measure that we forgive others! OUCH. In fact, Jesus specifically points to this need for his hearers telling them that if they don’t forgive, God CAN’T forgive! Daily, just as surely as bread, we need the washing of God’s forgiveness in our lives, and it comes as we forgive those who have sinned against us.
LEAD US NOT INTO TEMPTATION, BUT DELIVER US FROM EVIL (THE EVIL ONE) – The other great need of our life is protection from falling back into what we have been forgiven for: the influences of the world, the flesh and the devil.
Only God can protect us from these temptations, and the most effective protection afforded us is in the simple act of asking for it.


A.C.T.S.
Four Steps in Prayer

I want to close with something I feel sure you have heard, but I need to remind you and myself of this simple model. Four simple steps that can be done, the Navigators tell us, in “Seven Minutes with God.”

ADORATION
Prayer begins with an adoring heart. That is the feeling that I received when my girls would run and jump into my arms – or nestle into my lap and fall asleep. Pure unadulterated “adoration.” This is where we begin with Our Father, which art in heaven: Hallowed be Thy Name! God invites us into prayer through the gateway of praise, because He is worthy, and because the act of adoring, draws us close and makes us like the adored!! What could be better?

CONFESSION
We need to tell God, out loud, of our mistakes. We need His forgiveness daily, almost hourly. Confession means we don’t have secrets from God (which is an oxymoron anyway.) But it is here that we come to the Cross and receive the great exchange that Jesus promises us: His righteousness for our sin!

THANKSGIVING
Having received his forgiveness, I am filled with thankfulness – especially if I’ve unloaded the weight of my sins. The whole world is new! The colors are brighter, the birds are cheerier; there is much to be thankful for, as all of life is seen and received as His gift. Not to mention the million specific things He does each and every day to sustain us and to bless our lives – but we need to mention them, back to Him, in thanksgiving!!

And finally,
SUPPLICATION
HUH? Asking! Asking God for daily bread… for Aunt Martha’s surgery… for the things regarding our day to day life and existence and the lives of others who are close and far off. Asking for salvation for friends and family or co-workers by name. Asking … Seeking … Knocking. And keeping on asking, seeking and knocking. If Jesus hammers home one tenet of prayer in His teaching it is this one of persistence and reward.


And for us in the Anglican tradition we have help!! So we are entirely without excuse!! The Book of Common Prayer is the world’s finest source of prayers. I believe that we need to go beyond the BCP, but making the prayers of the Prayer book “ours” in a real way, can be like adding a jet engine to our sputtering and faltering prayer lives!

When we feel at a loss for words, the prayer book can help, or there is always just being with the Lord! Sometimes, being together in silence, is the deepest form of prayer. So I invite you to begin – to go deeper – to go longer – to reach for more in your prayer “life”. When you do you will come to know Him better, day by day, and come to be a participant in His agenda, as you grow in your obedience after you spend time praying and listening to Him speak to you in your “secret” place of prayer.

AMEN and AMEN.

Lent 1 - Growing In the Word of God

First Sunday of Lent, 2011
Part 1 of “So…Why?” Sermon Series

PART 1: GROWING IN THE WORD OF GOD

Series Introduction

I’ve been asking the Lord, “What shall I speak on during Lent” now for a week or two – some very hectic weeks and so I haven’t had a lot of time to just be quiet to listen, but as we prayed and did our quiet day on Saturday in this first week of Lent I felt I heard the Lord say to me, and I believe to us – perhaps even to others, beyond our walls, these words:

Luke 6:46 (New Living Translation)
"So why do you call me 'Lord,' when you won't obey me?

Jesus had a way of seeing into the very heart of the matter. Here, at the end of what we call “the Sermon on the Mount”, both Luke and Matthew record this very pointed question he has asked of his hearers. Luke just asks the question, but Matthew puts this in the context of a very clear warning about naming Jesus as Lord, yet not being obedient to His commands… to His Word.

I’ve always said, when people come to me, asking me how to understand God’s Word (complaining that it is difficult to understand and read it), “Are you doing the part that you do understand?” In actuality, the Word of God is pretty simple, when simply being obedient to God is in view – it gets complicated when we are trying to “dance around it.” Have you ever danced around a clear command of God? The steps can sometimes be quite confusing!!

So I want to begin a 5 part Lenten Series with this question in mind. We will be looking at the clear commands of Jesus, that lead us to spiritual growth and maturity – what Scripture calls, “growing up into Him” or “growing into the full stature of the Body of Christ.”

PART ONE: GROWING IN THE WORD OF GOD

The context of the very question that Jesus asks has to do with our response to the Word of God! We are to both hear AND obey His Word to us. HEAR AND OBEY! In Luke’s account, Jesus simply asks the question: “So … Why do you call me “LORD”, when you won’t obey me?” Matthew has a much more stern and foreboding warning connected with this question:

"Not all people who sound religious are really godly. They may refer to me as 'Lord,' but they still won't enter the Kingdom of Heaven. The decisive issue is whether they obey my Father in heaven. On judgment day many will tell me, 'Lord, Lord, we prophesied in your name and cast out demons in your name and performed many miracles in your name.' But I will reply, 'I never knew you. Go away; the things you did were unauthorized. '

So… Why?

How can we assure ourselves of our “rock solid” place “IN CHRIST”, so there is no room for the aforementioned scenario in our future? Simple!!! Be Obedient - that is, Listen to God’s Word and then DO IT. Jesus said that those who hear AND DO His words, are like those who build on solid foundations of rock – BEDROCK – down deep … because life’s storms are coming.

The first place we must go for this FOUNDATION is to this book, God’s Word – the Bible. In your bulletin there is a hand out that outlines the five areas we will be looking at over the next few weeks of Lent. The first is this area. In fact, James, who was Jesus brother and the leader of the Jerusalem church after his death, repeats a very similar warning:

So get rid of all the filth and evil in your lives, and humbly accept the message God has planted in your hearts, for it is strong enough to save your souls. And remember, it is a message to obey, not just to listen to. If you don't obey, you are only fooling yourself.
“Be doers of the word,” James tells us, “not hearers only!”
His warning is one of self-deception: a very particular kind of danger that we are in here in America, as we are fed well on spiritual fare, available to us like a well stocked banqueting table at a buffet restaurant. We have become spiritually “fat” from all the teaching we have received, because we do not exercise our faith through the discipline of obedience! We don’t do what we know!

And when we don’t do what we know, a kind of blind confusion sets in, and pretty soon we don’t “know what to do!” And so here we are as American Christians, asking for clarifications on minor points of theology, while we are ignoring the major tenets of the faith.

The point is to obey the Word.

How are you doing? How am I doing?

Let’s just talk about The Word itself for a minute.

Jesus, as he answered Satan’s first temptation in this morning’s reading from Mt 4, replied simply, “One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.”

How important is food to you? It ranks right up there with air for me!!

To our young moms, how important is milk to your new baby? Addison and Caley Mei are only a few weeks or months old and need the nourishment that comes from the rich breast milk, supplied naturally by their moms. Sophia, however, is a little older. When was she no longer on a diet of only milk? Very soon!! In fact, if she were still only drinking milk, we would likely be concerned for her growth and development! Right? Of Course, right!!

We move naturally from what the bible calls , “pure spiritual milk” in 1 Peter to what Paul calls, “solid food.” Paul addressed the Christians in Corinth on this very point: “Dear brothers and sisters, when I was with you I couldn't talk to you as I would to mature Christians. I had to talk as though you belonged to this world or as though you were infants in the Christian life. I had to feed you with milk and not with solid food, because you couldn't handle anything stronger. And you still aren't ready, for you are still controlled by your own sinful desires. You are jealous of one another and quarrel with each other. Doesn't that prove you are controlled by your own desires? You are acting like people who don't belong to the Lord.”

Time after time, Paul and others make this reference to “milk” as for those who are just beginners in the faith. And time after time, it is pejorative – it is a negative reference – urging the readers to press on in their maturity, beyond the simple things of God’s Word, beyond the milk to the “solid food.” Just as we look sadly at children who have failed to develop – who are still on milk alone at age two or three - so the Bible looks dimly on those who, after years in “the faith” are still toddlers, still infants, who need the coddling presence of a bottle of milk or the breast of their mother –

I heard humorist, Charlie Jarvis, once refer to such as the “thumb-suckers of life.” People who unplugged their umbilical cord from their mom and have been walking around ever since looking for another place to plug it in!! So it is with Christians, in our consumerist culture, who refuse to grow up beyond the “feed me” – “change me” – “take care of my needs” stage of Christian life and get into a place of ministry in Christ, sharing what they have learned in Jesus Christ with others who are coming after them.

We are to become “Workmen” who God approves of ! Paul writes young Timothy that he is to become a “workman approved by God, who is not ashamed and who knows how to handle correctly the Word of God.”

Let me just ask a basic question: How many of you here eat something each day?
Let’s start there. Daily intake. How is your daily intake of the Word of God?

The word that is used by Jesus, in our Gospel reading this morning is not the same one that John uses in his prologue. “In the beginning was the Word…” The word that Jesus uses here is a “conversational word!” It is the word RHEMA. Used about 70 times in the New Testament in denotes a “spoken” word. “that which is or has been uttered by the living voice.” Do you have that kind of relationship with God that your bread is the daily conversation that you have with His Word?

Next week we are going to talk about Prayer, in Part II, but here is a part of the important daily relationship – the daily interchange that we have with the Living God, through prayer and through listening to His Word to us, each day, for that day.

God’s Word is important for many, many reasons and in many, many ways, but one is for the daily guidance and direction that God provides us through it, for our life and ministry in the world. Remember, we either see our selves as and behave as infants, always receiving and never giving away – or we are maturing, taking more solid food (beyond teachings about repentance, about faith, about baptism, laying on of hands in prayer, about the resurrection or about judgment in eternity. Cf: Heb 6:1ff) and becoming mature and responsible for our own feeding!! And eventually, as we grow and have children of our own, feeding others in turn!!

The writer of the letter to the Hebrews challenges them with a challenge that still stands for us:
And so, God willing, we will move forward to further understanding. … those who have experienced the good things of heaven and shared in the Holy Spirit, who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the power of the age to come.
… For God is not unfair. He will not forget how hard you have worked for him and how you have shown your love to him by caring for other Christians, as you still do. Then you will not become spiritually dull and indifferent. Instead, you will follow the example of those who are going to inherit God's promises because of their faith and patience.

In our Sunday School lessons this Lent we will also be hearing of the challenge to grow into the full maturity of Christ, that we see in the Letters to the Seven Churches of Revelation. I invite you to dive in, friends. Dive into a conversation with the Living God – We express ourselves to Him in prayer and He expresses Himself on us through His Word. That conversation is where the Word that has been spoken (the Logos) becomes the Word that IS BEING SPOKEN, (the Rhema) into our hearts, day by day. The “Word that is our daily bread.”

It needs to be as regular as taking our food – perhaps that is why the Bible talks of itself in this way.

Let us pray:

Dear Jesus,
We thank you for giving us your Word, living and active; sharper than a two-edged sword, piercing our hearts to discern our thoughts and intentions, to show us our motivations and to cause us to be transformed thereby. Work in us, the renewal of mind that comes from daily conversation with You, by Word and Prayer in the power of Your Spirit. Help us to hide your Word in our hearts, that we might not sin against You, Lord. Let us know your Truth and thereby be set free. For the sake of your Kingdom and the fame of your Name, we pray, Lord Jesus Christ.
Amen