Summary: In the midst of an ever-changing world Christ and message of God’s love stays the same
Do you remember when General Motors declared, “It’s not your father’s Oldsmobile"? It was suppose to reinvent the brand for an upcoming generation. It didn’t work. The last models of Oldsmobile rolled off the line in 2004. Radical, far-reaching, earth shattering change rocks everyone eventually and it changes the landscape forever. It happens to nations, no American alive will forget 9/11. It happens to companies, remember Pan AM, TWA, WorldCom? It happens to families and individuals with death, disease, job loss and the rest of life.
A dilemma for every congregation is how we share the eternal truth of God, with a world overturned by change. That was true in the first century as Gentiles started to believe in this Jewish Messiah and it’s true today when most people are what George Hunter III describes as "ignostic, they simply don’t know what the church is talking about with its insider language."
Some people believe the Bible is the answer to the problem. I believe the Word of God has a significant role to play however do you realize that printed bibles as we know them are less than 500 years old. Even with the Gutenberg press most people couldn’t read the Bible if they had one. I don’t think that everyone having a bible is going to the answer to helping the world around us deal with the change we face. I believe the chief way God’s people will make disciples in this century is by becoming salt and light to the world. Not just the world next door, not just the world in our city, but to the whole world. The tenet we’re considering today says,
The Church is called to make disciples of all nations, proclaiming the Gospel to the spiritually lost and equipping believers so that they may be presented mature in Christ. The Lord calls all believers to be ministers and witnesses to God’s amazing grace and readily to participate in the task of making disciples, for which God gives the Church powers, gifts, and talents. It is the responsibility of the Church and its leaders to develop, equip, and release people into their God-given ministries in the Church and the world.
This isn’t going to be easy. For the Church to be “salt” we need to realize how our world’s taste for seasoning has changed. For the Church is to be “light”, a city set on the hill, we will need to compete with the semi-light offered by other sources in our world.
Here’s the first thing to remember. Jesus doesn’t change. No matter what changes Jesus stays the same. No matter how radical, how painful, or how far-reaching the change, Jesus is constant. He loves us with the same love with which he loved his disciples. He will love our great-great-great grandchildren with the same love he has today for those in Haiti, Cuba, Latvia or China. Change isn’t meant to discourage us. Change is an opportunity for God’s grace to shine brighter. Acts 15 reports how change threatened the first generation of Christ’s people. Gentiles suddenly believed in this Jewish Messiah and it upset those who had lived their entire lives under the law. How could they not first become Jews?
Sadly there will be those who see God’s hand in the midst of the change and grab hold for fear of being left behind. There will also be others who don’t and be left in the dust wondering why God did this to them. Paul said he became "all things to all people so that I might save some." It meant he understood and communicated with them where they were at in order that they could hear about Jesus’ love. For us, reaching the world beyond these walls will take actions not words.
Jesus tells us we are to be salt and light. In the days before refrigeration salt was the way someone kept meat safe. That’s the role of the God’s people, to preserve. If you think the world can’t get any worse just imagine what would happen if the little bit of preservative we offer were removed.
We are to be light. In the ancient world the sight of a city, with lights in the distance had to be a sign of hope for those who had traveled overland. In a culture without the glow of TV, the LCD’s of computer screens and cell phone, without the headlights, streetlights and motion sensors life was dark.
How can we be salt and light to our community? Where do we start this great work of God? There are at least three opportunities before the end of the year for us to, as our belief states, "to be ministers and witnesses to God’s amazing grace". The first is to become involved in serving the least of these. You can do that by either helping fix lunches for homeless Portlanders on December 20 or by writing a heartfelt note of encouragement on a Christmas card that we will put in the lunches. As we get closer you can participate in making Christmas more hopeful for children and families of those who are in prison. Last year was our first year of sponsoring Angel Tree. Our second year should be better as we know a bit more of what we’re doing. Soon you’ll see a tree with stuff you can donate toward the food baskets we want to share with these families as well as the gifts for the children.