Summary: As a church, the first step in developing a great connection with the community is to give serious thought toward our attitude to the community. Are we its judges, or our we the ones who bring blessing?

Sermon for CATM on September 2, 2007 - “How Does God See our Community?”

Luke 13:34 Jesus said: "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!

Rev 3:15 “I know all the things you do, that you are neither hot nor cold. I wish that you were one or the other!

Luke 6: 37 "Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. 38 Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you."

We’ve started a conversation over the past few weeks about connecting with people in our community. First we were challenged to consider the impact of small acts of radical love. Then last week we were challenged with the notion of reaching out to our community as a church.

Outreach is a hot topic. The whys should be pretty obvious. As a local body of the church of Jesus Christ, we have a mandate to make vital connections to the people around us. We looked at our mandate last week. Jesus said “Go!” Go and do what? Make disciples.

Bring others to the knowledge of the living God. Help them to see that life in its fullest is lived in relation to Jesus. That all the things that diminish our experience of life...fear, guilt, anger, sin, brokenness to name a few...all of these things that rob us of life find their cure in Jesus.

When we come to Him in faith he begins this deep and profound work in our lives of renewing our hope, of replacing our despair or our feeling of worthlessness with the exact opposite. His joy becomes our strength. Our joy in knowing and being known and loved by the Saviour of the world adds fire to our eyes. And then we gradually learn that God means our lives to be loaded to the brim with purpose and with loving relationships and that He means our lives to be the fragrance of Jesus to a hurting world.

How? He wants us simply to care for others. And in caring there will be opportunities for relationship. And some will choose to follow Jesus as a result.

I ended the message last week by asking us all as a church, “Are we ready to ask God: “How might we serve you more fully in this community?” Are we ready to say: “Here I am, O Lord. Send me to do your will?” And each of us in our own hearts needs to answer this question.

But for this to mean anything, and for us as a church family to really mean it when we say we want to reach out to our community, we need to look perhaps first of all at a very simple question:

How do I feel about my community? How do I feel about the people here? What is my core attitude to those who also occupy my surroundings?

Gregory Boyd writes in his book “Repenting of Religion”, of an experience that transformed the way he looked at people. He found himself in a mall, sitting on a bench and watching people go by. He found himself looking critically at different folks.

He writes this: “As I sip on my coke and relax, I study people. I notice some are pretty and some are not. Some are slender, some are obese. On the basis of what they wear, their facial expressions, the way they relate to their spouses, friends, or kids, I conclude that some are “godly” while others are “ungodly”. Some give me a warm feeling as I watch their tenderness toward their children. Others make me angry or disgusted”.

He goes on to describe that he then realizes he is behaving like a judge, and that doing that is making him feel good about himself. Then he recalled that Jesus taught that wherever we go, our first responsibility is to bless people.

He recalled that Scripture teaches us to think and speak evil of no one (Titus 3:2; Jas 4:11). He writes: “I was convicted by how many nonblessing thoughts - indeed, how many cursing thoughts-I had been entertaining without even being aware of it”.

“So”, he writes. “I stopped. I determined to have only one thought and one thought only, about every person in the mall on that afternoon; it was to love them and bless them as people uniquely created by God who have infinite worth because Jesus died for them”.

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