For This Reason I Bend My Knees
Well, we are down to my last two sermons as the senior pastor of First Presbyterian Church. As I mentioned last Sunday, I estimated that up until last Sunday I have preached 368 sermons since I arrived in 2008.
That's a lot of preaching, and it doesn't seem fair to only have two chances left to say all the things that I want you to hear before I go. But, I am going to do my best. The title of this last sermon series is "Parting Words," and we're working toward my final sermon to you all, which will be from Acts chapter 20, and the Apostle Paul's farewell address to the church at Ephesus.
There are so many things I want you to know. But today we're going to focus on just one. We're going to talk about how everything you need to know and show Jesus in amazing ways is right here... right here among you...
Let's travel down memory lane just a bit. I want you guys to watch one of the first videos we shot to pump up our church members to embrace our church vision, and to commit to volunteer, dedicate themselves to attend worship and financially support the church.
Carry The Vision from Leon Bloder on Vimeo.
This helped to define us--this idea I mentioned that "people are watching." We had asked that important question I've mentioned a ton of times lately: If we cease to exist tomorrow, who would miss us?
Our church got fired up back then. We embraced a vision--to know and show Jesus. People stepped forward to start new ministries and missions, and to give more money, time and resources to the enhance the life of our church, and to further our mission.
All of the resources, the people, the passion and desire to fulfill that vision were right here in the church. We didn't have to go outside of the church to find them. They were right... here.
I showed you this video because I want you to remember where you've been, and I want you to also know something about yourselves:
Everything you need to know and show Jesus in amazing ways is right here--and always has been.
The Apostle Paul said some similar things to the church at Ephesus. In Ephesians chapter 3:14-20 we have these words from him:
14 For this reason I kneel before the Father, 15 from whom every family[a] in heaven and on earth derives its name. 16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us,
Paul wants the church at Ephesus to know a few things about themselves. He tells them, that the Spirit of Christ is in their heart. At the center of everything they do, all that they are, what defines them, guides them and shapes them is the Spirit of Christ among them. Paul wants them to recognize this clearly and without a lot of embellishment. His prayer is that they be strengthened with Holy Spirit power "in their inner being."
Then he wants to make sure that the church at Ephesus understands their own foundation--that they are rooted and established in love, which enables them to grasp the depth of the love of Christ. This love, the Apostle Paul said, surpasses what you know. In other words, this is deeper, it's within you, it's part of your DNA.
When all is said and done, you have everything you need to do amazing things in the name of Jesus, because the Spirit of Jesus is right here, grounding you in love, permeating you, defining you, making you better than you ever thought you could be.
There was this old Prego spaghetti sauce commercial back in the 1980's where an Italian family gathers for dinner. The father tells the adult son that he shouldn't be using sauce from a jar because he needs fresh ingredients like tomatoes, oregano and the like. After every ingredient the father mentions, the son says, "It's in there!"
It's all in there, church. The potential for all your dreams. As long as your dreams are grounded in and permeated with the love of Jesus that is part of your very DNA.
All that you do has to be covered in this love. Lots of churches will give you information when you go to church on Sunday. They'll tell you all kinds of information about the Bible, how you should live your life, and a host of other things. But I want you all to be different. I want you to worry less about information, and more about building relations. Truett Cathey famously said, "People don't care how much you know until they know how much you care."
Some of you have been here a while. You've been through these kinds of things--and some of the transitions that have occurred at First Church haven't been that great. You know what it's like to lose sight of all these things we've talked about. Some of you know what it's like to lose the ability to dream.
I had this poster on my wall once that said, "When an organization loses it's ability to dream, death will soon follow." Some of you saw the end of dreaming and you lived to tell the tale. You're still here. You stuck it out, stayed for the ride and because you did---we had you here as a resource.
Tell the stories of what God has done. Tell the stories of how you've been through this before. Tell them with a sense of hope and don't lose sight of the fact that "it's allin there."
Listen, you have even more resources than ever before. Look at what happened here today. People are joining the church... even though they know I am leaving. People are getting their kids baptized as you just experienced. Life is springing up all around you.
God has been gathering people here, growing our church, expanding our influence, and all the while God knew that we would be in this place of transition. God knew that we were going to need new resources, even more people to step forward and serve, even more people to give faithfully...
So don't squander it. If you aren't serving, find a place to do so. If you are serving, ask others to join you. Don't be afraid to dream, to do and to build during this time of transition.
Everything you need to know and show Jesus in amazing ways is right here.