Matthew 5:14-16

 

Matthew 5:14-16

“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.

A man traveled 6 days a week, but on Saturday he was able to come home and see his family.  His wife took care of everything at home and always had a great meal waiting for him when he did return.  The man decided that he wanted to get something for his wife to show his appreciation for all that she did.  He went to the mall and told the woman at the perfume counter why he was buying a gift.  The woman said she had the perfect thing and brought out a wonderful smelling perfume.  However, she told the man the price was 600 dollars.  The man said he would like something a little further own the line.  Next she brought out a smaller bottle but still very pleasant, but the price was 100 dollars.  The man turned it down asking for something cheaper.  The woman then brought out a tiny little bottle about the size of a thimble and said this is 10 dollars.  The man said you don’t understand, I want to see something super cheap… as cheap as it gets.  The woman went to the back room and upon returned she showed the man a mirror.  There is nothing like a mirror to reflect who we truly are.

Don’t you just love it when Jesus gives us a metaphor that we can understand.  This isn’t about 1st century farming that we might not fully understand.  Instead it is about as easy a concept as possible.  There is light and there is darkness.  Lightness drives darkness away.  We have all seen this in many different ways.  My personal favorite is a sunrise, watching the son come up as darkness flees everywhere around me.

Many of us at some point in time in our lives are/were scared of the dark.  I have a 5-year-old in my house that insists upon at least 3 night lights, though she still believes this is not enough so the bathroom light must also be on with her door open.  Darkness is not something she enjoys or is even willing to try, she avoids it at all costs.  She understands darkness for what it is…scary.

Jesus of course is not talking about actual darkness.  Jesus tells us we are the light of the world!  However, what exactly does this mean?  Didn’t Jesus say “I am the way the truth and the light”?  Well that’s right Jesus did say that because Jesus is the light.  He is the source of all light.  One theologian explains this by explaining the sun and the moon.  The moon does not create light, rather it reflects the light of the sun.  I may walk in the moonlight at night, but the moon gets its light from the sun.  In the same way we can be light to people in the world, though we are really reflecting the light of Christ in the world.

What this means is that we are mirrors.  We are here to reflect the love of Jesus in this world, specifically to the darkness.  In the scripture we read early Jesus tells us to shine the light so people will see our good deeds and the deeds will glorify God.

I’m going to be honest with you, when I read the Bible I don’t always know exactly what they are talking about.  However, I did know this.  I know that Jesus wants me to do good deeds for other people.  Why is Jesus giving people this commandment, isn’t this obvious?  The answer is yes, it is obvious, and he is giving the command because we are still scared of the dark.

Darkness for us is no longer a bedroom without 3 nightlights.  The darkness that has been revealed to us in this world is much more sinister.  We see awful things on the news and in our neighborhoods.  Sometimes it is amazing to think that human beings are capable of such things.  The world can be a very dark place.

There is darkness in terrible things that we cannot control.  There are diseases that can attack our bodies.  There are mental illnesses and things like anxiety and depression that attack our minds.  There is also a thing called addiction that attacks people on all fronts trying to destroy our loved ones and friends.

We have also found darkness in ourselves.  Sin has bent and distorted the good image God has created.  We gossip about people even though we know we shouldn’t.  We do this even knowing ourselves how bad it hurts when others talk about us.  The Bible tells us to love our enemies, but we just cannot get there all the way.  It is just easier to hate them back, or at least ignore them.

Jesus is telling them to be the light directly after the beatitudes.  Blessed are the poor in spirit, blessed are the meek, blessed are those who mourn.  Jesus ends that with,” Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me”.  Jesus doesn’t tell us to be mirrors in case it gets dark.  He tells us to be mirrors to chase away the darkness, which only the love of Christ can do.

Wow, that is an amazing thing for Jesus to say to us.  It is a gift that we don’t fully understand or appreciate.  Of course with such a great gift comes great responsibility.  It is our responsibility to reflect the light into the darkness. Far too many times in our lives do we ignore this responsibility.

There are many reasons that we tend to neglect this duty.  Sometimes it is because we are just so busy in our lives, we just don’t think we have enough time.  Sometimes we hold back because of social stigma, we don’t want to upset anyone.  Lastly, sometimes we just don’t think we are good enough, but I have to tell you even shattered pieces of mirror reflect light.

I don’t know if you noticed that the sermon title is “the loudest noise in the world.  Now keep in mind a have a 5-year-old and a baby living in my house.  But let me ask you, what is the loudest noise in the world?  What noise gets everyone’s attention immediately?  What noise draws all the eyes right to it?  Is it a bull horn, an explosion, an earthquake?  Actually what is louder than all of those things in this world is silence, or maybe better said avoidance.  Often times we say more by what we don’t say or do.  We speak loudly when we don’t respond to the darkness in our world.

Certainly there are times when Christians say and do mean things and these things hurt the church.  I went to college at IUP, I was a cartography major.  All of my classes took place in the basement of Lenard Hall.  Lenard hall was one of many buildings that was located in the oak grove.  The oak grove was kind of the center of campus.  People would hang out, throw Frisbee, or just get talking after class.  Needless to say there was a lot of foot traffic in the oak grove.  Well when the weather was good a man in his 40’s would stand on this little hillside in the oak grove and loudly and angrily read scripture.  From what I remember he would concentrate on sinfulness and call for everyone to repent.  My fellow students would get really mad at him.  I would hear people say things like “that’s why I don’t go to church”.  It would make me mad thinking that people thought that was a representation of who Christians were.  It made me mad that I thought his actions were preventing people from encountering Christ.

The truth is the guy on the hill probably did do some damage to the church.  However, nothing does as much damage as our reluctance to respond to the obvious darkness in society.  While the guy on the hill was loud, he wasn’t nearly as loud as the church is when it doesn’t reflect the light of Jesus in the world.

Look at the world we live in, there are some amazing things, but there is also a lot of division.  When I turn on the television I see people accusing police of racism and brutality.  I see others protesting and fighting.  Many of us find ourselves at a loss for words.  We see such a complex issue that we don’t know how to respond.  We stay silent, not knowing the words to help heal.  We don’t even realize that our silence is deafening.  It is times like this that we need to Read Matthew 5:14-16.  Let your light shine and do good deeds.

If you don’t have the words that’s great, start serving.  If you have a problem with police officers, then start praying for them and take some coffee and cookies to some weary police officers working extra duty.  Let them know you love them and listen to their struggles.  If you have a problem with protesters start praying for them.  Take some cookies and coffee to some weary protesters.  Tell them you love them and listen to their struggles.  If you have a problem with both of them then you better start praying and baking as soon as the service is over.

Of course we do not just respond to this circumstance, but all the things in our lives.  If you see a homeless man, be a mirror and shine some light.  When someone is nasty to you, be a mirror and shine some light.  When your loved ones are stressed out or hurting, be a mirror and shine some light.

When we talk about mission in the church, what we are really talking about is partnering with God to meet the needs of the people we meet, thus glorifying God.  Another way of saying this is be a mirror!  Reflect the light of Christ into the world.  We can love people, we can care for people, and we can change this world for the better thru Christ who strengthens us.  We can be mirrors chasing away the darkness.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



It’s All About Love: Thoughts on God’s love language.


1 Corinthians 13

13If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

4 Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant 5or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. 7It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

8 Love never ends. But as for prophecies, they will come to an end; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will come to an end. 9For we know only in part, and we prophesy only in part; 10but when the complete comes, the partial will come to an end. 11When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways. 12For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known. 13And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.

Next Sunday in Maryland I am officiating the wedding of my niece Krista to her fiancé Stephen.

As with every marriage I conduct, I spent some time talking with them about how to make their relationship strong.

I mean, marriage is a journey.

There are good days and bad days.

There are easy days and difficult days.

There are days of like-mindedness and days of conflict.

And there is only one thing that can keep the journey going.

Love.

That is why folks like to hear 1 Corinthians 13 at weddings.

It’s kind of a charge to the couple about what they need to do to get along.

It’s all about love.

But not emotional love, though that is a good start.

It’s agape love.

Love when you are not feeling it.

Love that is an action.

Love that seeks only the good of the one loved.

One of the best books I have ever read on how this works in a marriage is Gary Chapman’s “The Five Love Languages”.

If you have a significant other, and have not read this book, get it and read it together.

Chapman says there are five ways people understand they are loved by another.

These are the love languages.

Here they are:

What is interesting about these languages is that they are not … well … spoken.

They are things we do.

Someone will feel loved if they receive gifts from the other.

Or have quality time with the other.

Or hear words of affirmation from the other.

Or benefit from acts of service from the other.

Or receive a physical touch from the other.

So what does this have to do with Paul’s ode to love?

In terms of the Five Love Languages, it means that we need to speak our love to the other in the language they will understand.

So you have to know what it is.

It can be hard.

It might be something you are uncomfortable with.

It might not come easily or naturally.

It’s doing love for someone else.

And believe it or not, that is what Paul is talking about in our scripture reading.

It is doing love for others when it’s hard.

But there is a difference between Paula and Chapman.

But Paul is not talking about romantic love.

Paul is not talking about that “lovin’ feelin’”.

He’s talking about love the Jesus way.

Let’s start with Paul and the Corinthians.

Paul had lived with the Corinthians for a long time, then moved on.

He left behind a pretty vibrant group of disciples.

One of the things he taught them was about spiritual gifts.

Now there seemed to be a conflict in Corinth on the issue of those spiritual gifts.

Which ones were of greater significance?

Whose was more important?

Arrogance.

Irritability.

Envy.

Boastfulness.

Self-centeredness.

Cluelessness!

So they asked Paul.

His response was not what they wanted to hear.

Paul told them that none of the spiritual gifts have any importance whatsoever unless they are practiced in a spirit of love.

No love?

You are a noisy gong.

You are a clanging cymbal.

You are nothing.

You gain nothing.

He tells them discipleship love looks like this.

It shows patience.

It acts with kindness.

It rejoices in the truth.

It endures.

It bears.

It believes.

It hopes.

These are God’s love languages.

All these things are done to the one or ones loved even when it’s hard.

Like when the one you love is arrogant or resentful or boastful or envious irritable or rude or deceitful.

Which happens in all relationships from time to time.

And happens even in communities of disciples from time to time.

Listen to this story from Mark 10.

James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came forward to [Jesus] and said to him, ‘Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.’ And he said to them, ‘What is it you want me to do for you?’ And they said to him, ‘Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.’ …

 When the ten heard this, they began to be angry with James and John. So Jesus called them and said to them, ‘You know that among the Gentiles those whom they recognize as their rulers lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. But it is not so among you; but whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all. For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.’

Disciples of Jesus!

Arrogant!

Self-centered!

Boastful.

Irritable.

Not God’s love language.

Who among us has never been envious, rude, boastful, arrogant, irritable, resentful or self-centered with those we love?

Husbands and wives?

Parents and children?

Neighbors and friends?

Members of a congregation?

It happens.

As individuals, we really can’t speak God’s love language all the time.

And while this is all good for individuals, Paul is talking to a community.

And as a community of disciples, Paul says we must speak God’s love language.

We are called, as a community, to demonstrate loving unity in diversity to the world around us.

Even when it’s hard.

Otherwise we are noisy gongs and clanging cymbals.

Listen to Professor Jerry Irish:

To belong to God’s church … is to be an agent of God’s love in the world, not seeking one’s own advantage, but working on behalf of others.

Pastor Lewis Galloway puts it this way:

If those within the church do not do what they do in a spirit of love, then all religious talk, knowledge, piety, and sacrificial giving adds up to nothing.

Which makes Mark’s story of James and John interesting.

Mark’s story is one that takes place inside the community of disciples.

There is rarely, if ever, a story of one of them arguing with Jesus in public.

The public face of the disciples was of unity with and devotion to Jesus and those he ministered to.

To the outside world, they lived a life of agape love.

And while I don’t know any scriptural references to this, I tend to believe that on some days some of the disciples just could not do it.

They were irritable, or resentful, or self-absorbed.

But the rest were on their agape game.

It was those disciples who carried the love load on those days.

The others just stayed home, so to speak.

That is how the community can practice love as Paul describes.

Why is this important?

We are called to model God’s love for us.

God has continually loved us since our time began even though we have been arrogant or resentful or boastful or envious irritable or rude or deceitful.

It’s all included in the prayer of Great Thanksgiving we use at communion.

It summarizes the ways God has spoken his love to us.

God shows patience.

God acts with kindness.

God rejoices in the truth.

God endures.

God bears.

God believes.

God hopes.

God has loved us in these ways even when it’s hard.

Like when it called Jesus to the cross.

Sacrificial love.

For us.

Not God.

So what might be an example of what this looks like?

In July 16 of us went to Chiapas, Mexico to do some construction work at a Presbyterian Church compound.

And if we were going to carry out our mission in a loving way, we needed to act as Paul would have us act.

We had to engage the culture in a way that spoke love to them.

We had to learn the language and the customs and the way they did things.

We had to express ourselves in patience and kindness, rejoicing in the truth, and bearing, believing, hoping, and enduring all things.

And it was hard.

But that is the way we demonstrate to the world around us that we are disciples of Jesus living the Jesus way.

It’s all about love.

Doing love.

Speaking God’s love language.

And it’s not easy.

Here and now, we are broken and incomplete and lack understanding so we exercise our gifts unlovingly at times.

But happily, God knows what is in our hearts fully.

God knows of our desire to love as he would have us love.

God blesses our effort and intent, even when we get it wrong.

And we are called to do the same when dealing with others in our lives and in this world.

When we do this, we live in the love of God.

And that love never ends.

What does that mean for us here at JMPC?

Like in a marriage Paul’s depiction of love can be hard at times.

Sometimes we are not what Paul tells us we should be and sometimes we are what Paul says we should not be.

Love sometimes seems to elude us.

When that happens we need to return to Paul.

We can use 1 Corinthians 13 like a meditative mantra.

When we stray, we can pull ourselves back to Paul’s way of loving.

Then we can exercise love in all our spiritual gifts that we use in ministry.

In pastoral care.

In mission.

In fellowship.

In generosity.

In faith.

In organizational leadership.

Yesterday Session met to discuss the reorganization of how we govern ourselves here at JMPC.

One exercise was to come up with words that describe the foundation of our congregation.

Many words were offered, but all of them can be summarized in one word.

Love.

We do love here by knowing, glorifying and serving God.

That is a language that also does love to all of us here and to the world around us.

Such love comes only from God.

It claims us and contains us.

And causes us to reach out to others.

It is the source of our belief.

It is the source of our hope.

It is the source of all our gifts.

It is what encourages us to live the Jesus way.

It will not fail

It will not fall.

It will not falter.

Because love never ends.

That is what Paul is trying to tell us.

It’s all about love.

Because it’s all about God.



Calling All Millennials!

Young Adults in their 20’s & 30’s enjoyed great discussions on topics of interest this Fall 2016, and we will pick up where we left off beginning in the Spring 2017.

“60 Minutes of Exploring Faith”   engages young adults in an exploration of contemporary issues, as well as explorations of faith using the Bible and relevant study materials as our guide. Topics will vary based on the group’s interests.

All young adults are welcome to  help out with meaningful mission work such as Produce for People and Family Promise. See our website announcements for more information.

Friends and community members are welcome to attend. For more info, contact Matt Fricker: matt@johnmcmillanpc.org



A Passion for Ministry: Thoughts on being passionate for God

Romans 12: 1-11

I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. 2Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect.

3 For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of yourself more highly than you ought to think, but to think with sober judgement, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. 4For as in one body we have many members, and not all the members have the same function, 5so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are members one of another. 6We have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us: prophecy, in proportion to faith; 7ministry, in ministering; the teacher, in teaching; 8the exhorter, in exhortation; the giver, in generosity; the leader, in diligence; the compassionate, in cheerfulness.

9 Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; 10love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honour.11Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord.

At the recent South Branch meeting for Pittsburgh Presbytery, Rev. Jenn Frayer-Griggs who runs the open table meal program for the homeless asked me what we at JMPC are passionate about.

I had to think.

We do a lot of things here.

There are a lot of choices.

We live in a world of choices.

To confirm that, just walk down the cereal aisle at Giant Eagle.

Dozens of types of cereal and several manufacturers of each.

What happens when you stand back and look at that vast array?

Some have said that so many choices are good because it gives us so much more freedom to choose what is right for us.

But there are studies showing that too many choices can actually be debilitating.

Psychologist Barry Schwartz talked about this problem in his book The Paradox of Choice.

He then spoke about it at a TED Talk.

He was trying to buy a new pair of jeans.

When he was a kid, there was only one kind of jeans.

Now there were … well … dozens.

As he tried to figure out what jeans he would buy, he longed for the day when there was only one style.

It made jeans buying easy and stress free.

He did find a pair that fit him better than he could have hoped for.

But … he was not satisfied with the experience.

He experienced the three downsides of choice overload that he says make us less satisfied with our decision.

First, there is ‘option paralysis’.

If there are 36 styles of jeans, it will take you a very long time to choose.

And you might just get overwhelmed and decide not to buy any.

The second is ‘opportunity cost’.

What opportunities did you give up to make your particular choice?

Taste, fit, color, style.

You begin wondering if some other option would have been better, and so are less satisfied with the choice you made.

Lastly, there is ‘escalation of expectations’.

This is when you assume that with so many options, one of them should be perfect.

So when you find your choice is not perfect, you are unhappy with it.

And the opportunity to make a selection from fewer choices might actually be welcome.

Think Trader Joe’s.

Not many cereal choices.

And business is booming.

And this is not just about consumer goods.

It’s about just about everything in our lives.

All of our life’s choices.

In 2003 my son was deciding where he wanted to go to college.

Every day he would receive a pile of mail from colleges that wanted him to apply.

Many we had never heard of.

Each one offering something a bit different from the others.

How was he going to choose?

This was a lot different from when I went to college.

In 1974 my parents told me to apply to 2 schools.

I did.

I got accepted at both and then they told me where I was going.

I did.

There was never the feeling that the “other schools would have been better”.

And I was happy there and did pretty well, in the end.

Thirty years later that method was not going to work.

So how was AJ going to make a choice?

How was he going to avoid paralysis, regret, and disappointment with his choice?

Well, first he might ask, ‘what do I want to do the rest of my life?’

But we live in an age where we tell our kids, ‘You can be anything you want!”

So that is a bunch of choices as well.

How do you answer that question?

Interestingly, Paul talks about that in our scripture reading today.

He says that we should make our life’s choices based on three steps.

God.

Gifts.

Passion.

Step one:

Seek God’s will.

… present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. 2Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect.

So first go to God and say’ here I am, what do you want me to do?’

Focus on God, not the world, and think about how you can best serve him.

Step 2:

Take a personal inventory.

… think with sober judgement, … according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. … We have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us…

Determine what God has given you.

What is your talent?

What do you do well?

What do you like to do?

Step 3:

What are you passionate about?

11Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord.

What gives you joy?

What motivates you?

3 steps:

God.

Gifts.

Passion.

And these kind of go together as Paul says.

You might learn God’s will by the fact you are good at and passionate about something.

Or you might become passionate about something because you feel called by God to it and are good at it.

Or you might become good at something because you feel called to it and are passionate about it.

It all works together.

Paul says when we do this we renew our minds.

It brings clarity.

Purpose.

In the context of college, it might look like this:

You have been building things all your life.

Your room is a museum of Legos, erector sets, K’Nex.

Your furniture is all from Ikea.

You are good at putting things together.

You are passionate about it.

Go to a school that teaches you how to build things.

Learn how to build things.

Then build things.

And our faith lives are really no different.

Lots of choices there, too.

JMPC is basically a three community church.

Bethel Park, Peters Township and South Park.

But there are at least six PCUSA churches in easy driving distance.

There are many other denominations even closer.

And each church has many ministries to choose from.

Time to think of Paul’s three steps.

Where is God calling you?

The mere fact we are here says that is possible God lead us here.

What God given gifts do we each have that makes this congregation a more complete part of the body of Christ?

Look around.

We have all the parts.

What are we at JMPC passionate about?

We are passionate about so many things.

Worship.

Christian Education.

Fellowship.

And that is just what we can see this morning.

There is also mission.

So many missions.

So here we are.

Called.

Gifted.

Passionate.

That is why we are such a force for the Kingdom of God.

Now that we are all here, there are other choices.

What do we want to do here?

Do we just want to go to church on Sundays?

Do we want to be on a committee?

Volunteer for a particular mission or ministry?

Session?

Membership and Worship?

Stewardship and Finance?

Building and Grounds?

Community and Mission?

Fellowship?

Christian Education?

Deacons?

Ushers?

Choir?

Liturgist?

Sunday School teacher?

A Christmas Affair?

VBS?

O.M.G!

Pretty overwhelming.

And so maybe we need to consult Paul again.

What do you think God wants you to do here at JMPC?

What are you good at?

What are you passionate about?

That is what you do.

But what if you don’t like any of the choices.

Consult Paul again.

What do you think God wants you to do here at JMPC?

What are you good at?

What are you passionate about?

That is what you do.

And if it is not yet being done, start it.

Gather the like-minded.

Gather the funds.

Be all in.

That happened 24 years ago when someone said JMPC should fund mission by having a craft fair.

Now A Christmas Affair is our biggest community event!

It happened two years ago when Carolyn Brow and the Mission Committee said we should use some of our acreage to plant a garden to supply the SHIM food bank with fresh produce.

We put a collage of pictures about that on our Facebook page and it was viewed by 1,400 people!

Someone said we should find a mission partner in Central America.

16 of us went to Chiapas in July.

What Paul recommends for deciding on your particular ministry is first self-analysis.

Don’t look at the menus first.

Look at yourself first.

What are you called to do?

What are your gifts?

What are you passionate about?

Make a choice and be all in.

That is what is so great about JMPC!

We are open to the leadings of God.

We are mindful of our gifts.

We encourage passion!

We want to do things and go places that those three steps encourage us to do.

We are passionate about knowing, glorifying and serving God!

Our passion is living the Jesus way.

Doing God’s will, using his gifts, and doing it with zeal.

That is what Jesus did.

Think about that as we celebrate the Lord’s Supper.

That Jesus prayed to God that God’s will, not his will, be done.

That he did what only he had the power to do.

That he was zealous.

That he was passionate.

That he was all in.

So what is your mission here at JMPC?

What is God calling you to do?

What are you good at?

What are you passionate about?

Make the decision.

Be all in.

That’s a passion for ministry.