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Summary: Building Community through Relationship

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Vision for Edelstein Congregational Church

Part 1 of 4

Forming a Realistic Community

Good Morning. Before I begin, I would first like to take the opportunity to introduce you to some special guests. They are friends of ours. Chad and Janet Ijams. Their two girls…Corey and Amber .Janet is also graduating from Nursing school in the next few weeks, and we have had the pleasure of having dinner at their home in

Chenoa twice. We are blessed to call them friends. We are very happy that you are with us today. So, if you run into them after the service, would you please make them feel welcome.

I wanted to let you know that I have finished collecting all of my data for the DaVinci Code packet, and now I am starting to organize it, but I am also going to be witling it down. I fear that I have created a monster. Late this week, I realized that I had a small novel on my hands and that’s not really what I wanted to give you folks….so….I will be narrowing that information down this week and I hope to have it to you by this time next week.

Well….It’s June….the schools are out. Baseball is in full swing…the weather is warm…..sunny…some days have been really hot….graduations are happening…..Father’s Day is almost here….VBS will be upon us before you know it….I love this time of year….It’s my favorite time of year….especially this year….I am very excited about what is happening right here in our church…..I am excited about what GOD is going to do this summer….I really, truly believe that GOD has something special for us….this church…this congregation….this community….I believe that we are going to experience a small measure of growth this summer….maybe a new family or two….but I also believe we are going to experience a revival of sorts….I believe that God is beginning to equip us for what is ahead….and I believe that measure of equipping will begin today…..When I was first hired….I was asked to give my vision for Edelstein Church….and I did that….and starting today….we are going to look at what I believe are the first steps in the midst of that vision….I hope you are excited about it….My hope and prayer is that you will be attentive...opening up your hearts and minds to what GOD might be speaking in his still small voice....over the next five weeks….it’s actually four….but we’ll skip a week…on Sunday 18th…for our ecumenical service in Princeville….over the next 4 weeks….we are going to talk about community….Today’s sermon will focus on Forming a realistic community…next week we’ll discuss the formation of an idealistic community….our third week we’ll focus on the forming of a unnatural community…and lastly the forming of a dynamic community…..

You know something….people are just plain weird….It’s true…you can’t deny it…..just look around you today….you are all a bunch of weirdo’s! In fact….the biggest weirdo is gone…..isn’t he Mary…..His counterpart is here…..Keith….Ernie’s counterpart is here….have you guys ever heard stories about Ernie and Keith together….they have had some really fascinating adventures…I’m lovingly calling them the two stooges….People are weird…hard to deal with….hard to put up with….I believe in aliens about two times a year…usually it’s right around the holiday season when I’ve been to visit my family, or my in-laws….and the reason I believe in aliens…when I get with my family or my wife’s family….I see people….well….it’s really hard for me to believe that I share DNA with these people….You know what family reunions are like right? Besides the potato salad and the fried chicken….and the hot dogs and the grilling out and all that…there are always those uncles…those aunts…those cousins….there is somebody there that you forgot about….have tried to block them out…you really don’t want to think that you are actually related….you share the same lineage….how many of you know what I’m talking about? You’ve got a face in your mind right now…don’t you! Ok…now how many of you are afraid that you are that person right now in your family? People are incredibly hard to deal with…wither it’s our impulsiveness….our anxieties….our ambitions…our pessimistic attitudes…our traditions….we don’t want to change…our fear….our desires…people are incredibly hard to deal with. We are made…if we are alive…to be hot…with all kinds of passions….if you’ve ever touched a dead body….you realize that they are not cold….their room temperature…shortly after Alicia died….I needed to hold her and touch her…and it was amazing to me….she felt like clay…she wasn’t cold…humans are either hot or cold…by our decisions….by our choices….by our circumstances….by whatever….it’s not natural for us to be cool….we have to force ourselves into that…When the Apostle Paul closed his two letters to the Corinthians he closed them the same way…He said “Greet each other with a holy kiss.” Now how many of you have received a holy kiss recently? My wife did not raise her hand…I am so embarrassed. Anyone….ok…afterwards….Keith Gehrig and I will demonstrate a holy kiss in the foyer….is that ok with you Keith? This was equivalent to shaking hands….it is a little odd to us…but the Russians do it all the time…open mouth by the way…If you ever go on a mission trip to Russia…take lots of scope! The holy kiss is the equivalent to greeting someone in peace and saying we are together…we are brothers…sisters…we are from the same stock….were the same group…we belong together…and it is the most ironic statement in the entire letters…have you read Corinthians? The immorality…..the sexual perversion….they wanted to be Hellenistic so badly….the lawsuits….arguments….judgments…Corinth was not a pleasant place….it was the third city in the Roman empire…and during Paul’s time….it was at a strategic place for military and commerce to move through…It was a land bridge between Italy and Asia….by the first century it was the foremost commercial center in southern Greece…it was famous for it’s own games that were only bested by the Olympics themselves…Many veterans lived there….many poor people lived there…people just above slave status…it was a pluralistic place….a lot of culture…a lot of philosophies…a lot of lifestyles and religions…it had the feel of an economic boomtown…the sexual immorality was reputable for Corinth…the reputation was this….The temple of Aphrodite was said to have at least 1000 prostitutes in it….Aristophanes actually coined a term for sexual immorality….”to commit fornication was to corinthianize.” To corinthianize was not a nice thing. Plato used the term Corinthian girl as a euphemism for prostitute. The church in Corinth had major problems….what church doesn’t right….jealousy…the exercise of their freedom that led their weak astray….confusing the Lord’s supper with idol feasts…messy worship practices….where people were just out for show….just to impress others that would make themselves feel and seem more spiritual….selfishness at the Lord’s supper…they went there because they were hungry and they wanted to be the first in line to get the food…competition and pride with spiritual gifts and false teachings…and to this group of believers in Corinth…Paul says….”Greet each other with a holy kiss?” My previous church had a mission statement….it went like this….We want to be the family of God….where we all belong……..how interesting is that? Family….families are people you love…not people you like….you have to put up with your family…you didn’t get a choice like you get with your friends or your jobs….I really like the mission statement…but let’s be honest….and be realistic about Christian community….the conflict…competition….desire….sin….how many of you have been disappointed by the church? Paul, closing out 2nd Corinthians…says he’s afraid….that on getting there….that they are going to disappoint him because they are not as he wants them to be….and that he’s going to disappoint them because he’s not what they like him to be….and do you know what….of the non Christians I know….it’s not Jesus they are rejecting….it’s the church….Why would GOD put his reputation in our hands? Paul opens his letters the same way also….Read 1 Corinthians Chapter 1:1….and the second letter verse 1………..Paul said….you little group of believers in this crazy place….your not the only ones…..I’m writing to you, to all the saints…everywhere…there is some kind of bond….that supersedes the sin….the competition…and the conflict…and all of the heat generated in normal community…there is some kind of a bond that exists and supersedes all of that…and actually makes the bond stronger….Paul identifies it….by being called…by the name of Christ….early on in his letters….Paul says…the Jews want miracles…and the Greeks want wisdom….but I preach Christ crucified…that was the basis for Paul’s Christian community. A new youth ministry book was published a couple of months ago….It is called…. “Soul Searching: The religious and spiritual lives of American Teenagers.” It is a huge study that has been recently done. Christian Smith and his researchers have decided that today’s teenagers are not irreligious….they don’t hate religion, even Christianity….The book calls today’s teens…Moralistic, Therapeutic, Deists…We’ve got to be nice and kind to each other…help people…Therapeutic…make me feel better…..make me happy…affirm my life…that’s what we want from our religion…Deism…God’s at a distance…just letting all this stuff play out….in the mean time….let’s feel better and help people…that’s the average teenagers religious code…..I think that’s pretty insightful….Smith and his people are impeccable researchers….interviewing thousands of young folks from all different walks of life….he doesn’t place the onus of blame on young folks…because there is this backdrop culturally in our school systems of therapeutic individualism…we in America are so ruggedly individualistic....we handle our relationships in this way as well….instead of being concerned for the community….we would rather stay in our comfort zone and remain in that place of safety…why…not because of some higher purpose or calling….not because of scripture..but because we’ve always done it that way…..I was approached….well….it’s been a few weeks ago now….and was told secondhand a conversation this person overheard….and it was in regards to our implementing some more contemporary worship songs… “I really like our new worship songs, but I can’t see the over heads. But I tell you what….I’m not going to move from my seat….I’ve sat in that seat for the last 15-20 years…and I’m not moving….? I was totally blown away….a member of our congregation….what is worship? Is it about us? No…never….worship is about meeting with GOD….I’m not moving…..in other words….I can’t see those words to sing….but I’m not willing to move from a place where I’ve always been to meet with GOD….there is something fundamentally wrong with that…I’m tempted to take out some of our pews….so people have to move in a different place….that kind of attitude has nothing to do with fostering community….that kind of attitude is all about selfishness…dear friends…if you are in a place in the sanctuary where you cant read these words…then get up off your butt and move…enter into community worship with us…come and meet GOD….


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