Summary: God calls us to go. Into our communities. Into the broken parts of our cities. He promises to go with us and to make us a blessing. To reach the cities for Christ through his highly imperfect church. Improbable? Impossible. Then it must be God!
Sermon for CATM - August 26, 2007 - “Go!”
If you were here last Sunday you heard Maryellen’s message. It was, as usual for her, pretty extraordinary. When we’re given a chance by God to really hear what He is saying to us as a congregation, I always feel that I don’t want to pass up the opportunity to really be challenged and changed by His Word.
If you recall the message was about radical love and Maryellen told some stories about some people who in very simple ways, through simple acts of love, have been used by God to accomplish extraordinary things.
27 children in Malawi adopted by a pastor and his wife who used to live in Toronto. A prostitute transformed because of ‘shining’ Christians who just reached out to her and loved her, made her feel welcome and loved.
Maryellen’s own story of being blessed by a woman who, when she came to understand Maryellen’s situation with Joshua, extended care and compassion toward her. All of these are acts of love. And it is the individual acts of love that have the greatest impact.
As we heard, the decision to live out our love is not something necessary for salvation.
More truthfully, as James says in chapter 2 vs 18, “I will show you my faith by what I do”.
So I’m thinking to myself this week as I’m considering what to say today...what about us as a congregation? What can we do...together? I think that it is true that we experience our faith more fully when we can actually see it being expressed in tangible ways, when we can see that our faith has feet, so to speak.
The stories of the Bible are powerful and true and life-transforming, but it is true that they can sometimes become a bit too familiar to us. That over-familiarity can be overcome by doing more than reading them over and over again.
The Bible is a trumpet call to action. The truth is we need to do more as a church family than come together on Sundays. And we do. A lot of us are in training...we’re involved in Foundations or Journey through the Bible or Lay-Ministry training.
For those of you who have been around for a while, do you know what the purpose is of all the training and education and spiritual formation that we do? It is one hyphenated word: “Ministry-Activation”.
All the classes and training that we do centre around one thing: The Bible. Do you know why that is? It’s because Holy Scripture transforms us. It transforms whole persons and entire communities to live differently.
When we really pay attention to all that Scripture says...not just our favourite parts, not just the parts that support theologies that are dear to us...when we really listen to what the Bible says, and when we allow the Holy Spirit of God to be at work within us...we will be changed.
For some of us the biggest challenge around listening to the Word of God is just that: It will change us. Shake up the status quo. It will release us into new ways of living. New ways of loving. It will make actions that seem impossible to us now actually imaginable.
I spoke with Wes, the new manager of our clothing store, Double Take the other day. He’s been a volunteer at Yonge Street Mission for years, and so he knew that we work with all kinds of people, including people who live on the street. He gave me permission to tell his story.
Wes realized a few years back while still a volunteer that his experience with the mission had thus far not yet helped him fully understand what it was like for people to live on the street. To be a homeless person. So he decided to live on the streets for a year. He left the comforts of a middle-class life and then he did just that.
He lived in hostels and hung out where homeless people hung out...in order to feel what it is like to live on the street - for an entire year.
And talking to him the other day it was clear in his countenance and in his words that risky year was an incredibly enriching experience for him.
Very likely, such a venture, such an adventure was unimaginable to him a few years before that. But God did something in his spirit.
God challenged him to dare to connect with others in this way, and he worked through all the reasons why not to and then just did it.
Wes is one of those “shining people” that Maryellen spoke of last week. Someone who dares to say “yes” to God. Someone who dares to step out of a comfortable life to simply love another person.