the tentmaker

daily thoughts on the common lectionary

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Location: Sharpsburg, Georgia, United States

"...because he was of the same trade, he stayed with them, and they worked together — by trade they were tentmakers." Acts 18:3. Tentmaker is a title taken by bi-vocational pastors. As such, I am both a pastor and a project manager. I am a pastor of a local congregation of moderate, accepting and affirming people who worship in the Baptist tradition. We call our church "Hope Memorial Baptist" and we are about 40 in number. I am also a project manager of major construction projects for the State of Georgia. My home and church is in rural Coweta County, between Peachtree City and Newnan, with a mailing address of Sharpsburg, Georgia.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Year A - Easter 3

Liturgy of the Word:
Acts 2:14a, 36-41
Psalm 116:1-4, 12-19
1 Peter 1:17-23
Luke 24:13-35

This morning, I commend to you two scriptures that I think should be our guides in forging ahead with the rebuilding of Christ’s Church in this community.

The first one is 2 Corinthians 5:17-20. Out of all the things that Paul wrote, this passage comes closest, in my opinion, to being the mission of the Church, not only in his age, but in all ages:

2 Corinthians 5:17-20

Paul says two things here in this passage:

First, he says that we ourselves must become a new creation. We must re-created in Christ. Now, this is the same thing that Jesus said when he told Nicodemus, “You must be born again.” David said it this way, “Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me. We must first realize that we are sinners. Our nature is sinful to God. First, last and always, we are no better than the people of the world we call sinners, the drunks, the harlots, the thieves, the murderers. “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.”

But Paul says that if we are in Christ, we are a new creation. Our spirit is transformed from the evil creature that we were to one who represents Jesus here on earth. And that brings us to the second thing that Paul says to us in this passage.

God, who reconciled us, has given to us the task of bringing the message of reconciliation to the rest of the world. It’s like a pyramid corporation. Take, for example, the Tupperware Corporation. The sales rep. first interests you in purchasing some of their products. Then you begin to purchase more because they are certainly unique and very helpful in the kitchen. You tell your friends about this marvel of modern kitchenware. The next thing that happens is you give a party yourself and invite your friends to come see the products first hand. Before you know it you too are a sales representative for Tupperware. When you are a sales representative your secondary job is to sell product. Your primary job is to recruit other sales reps.

The Kingdom of God is like unto the Tupperware Company. We are ambassadors for Christ. We not only introduce others to Him, but we teach them about God and His Kingdom on earth. We instill passion in those around us because we too are passionate for the gospel. If we are in Christ we are re-created from a person who is comfortable being in the world and of the world into a person who is passionate for Christ and this message of reconciliation. This message that says God loves you. This message that says there is a better way of life than hoping in the affluence and power of the world. If you are not passionate about the Kingdom of God then no one else will either. But Paul is convinced that if you truly have Christ in your heart, you cannot help but be passionate about him.

It is this passion for Christ that is the foundation of the Church of Christ in the world. It is this passion that is the foundation and heart of every church in every community in every age.

Again, the message that we are so passionate about is “In Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them. We entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.”

But all of this rhetoric is hypothetical and abstract. We need some concrete ideas for our action. How do you fulfil our mission of reconciliation? Do we stand on the street corner and proclaim “Be Ye Reconciled to God!” Do we go from house to house telling the strangers the Roman Road to Salvation? Salvation, that saving grace that comes from belief in Christ and him crucified, is certainly the end result of our efforts. But the message that falls on ears that are unprepared to hear falls by the wayside as seed sown on hard ground. The ground must be cultivated, plowed, air entrained, fertilized and made ready for the good seed to be planted. And that is where our second scripture comes in: Luke 4:16-21.

Luke 4:16-21 (ref: Isaiah 61:1-2)

This is the mission of Jesus. It is the mission of Emanuel, God with us. And it sounds very much like the mission of the Church that Paul spoke about in 2 Corinthians.

The Spirit of the Lord has anointed me to bring good news…

But here Jesus does not speak in abstract terms. He gives us concrete examples of what must be done to bring this good news that God Loves YOU.

Proclaim release to the captives. Help the blind recover their sight. Heal the broken hearted. Let the oppressed go free. Proclaim the Year of the Lord’s favor.

To those who are held captive to destructive addictions of materialism, greed, sex or drugs God has given us the mission of telling them they don’t have to be captive to these things any more. To those who are blind to the Love of God and his ability to help them transcend the day to day failures and disappointments in their lives, we must show them by the way we live our lives that Jesus is the light of the world. And not only that, they too can become the light of the world and help those around them to see that light. To those who are oppressed by bills that exceed the available income in the household, or those who are oppressed by persecution because they are different we must help them to overcome their oppression. To those who are oppressed by poverty, the poor, the homeless, the sick, the maimed, the bereaved, we must comfort them, we must provide for them. It is true that if you give a man a fish you have cured his hunger for a day, but if you teach him how to fish, you have cured his hunger for a lifetime. But we must also remember that before we can teach him how to fish, he must have nourishment and strength to learn. So, not only do we teach the poor a trade, but we must first rescue them from the gutters of life.

All of this is the mission of the Church of Jesus Christ in the world. If we are not doing these things, then we have no right to call ourselves a church. If we do not do these things then we are no better than a social gathering, singing songs, reading our favorite books and listening to lectures.

This day, make a covenant with your Lord that you will pray constantly that His Spirit will come upon you and guide you to reach out to those in the world who hurt and are in pain. And by the actions of your life and the actions of this church say to them “Be ye reconciled to God!”

Let us pray.


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