I’m beginning a two-month Sabbatical, called an Inter-Mission, this week coming, so today at worship, I preached a message from Romans 12.6-13 that encouraged the congregation to stay the course, and how to do that. Have a look! The message itself starts at 31:40.
Every year, on or about the fourth Sunday of September, St. Paul’s Church, Nobleton celebrates “Bring A Friend” Day. While any Sunday is a good Sunday to bring a friend to church, we make a special effort on that weekend: invitations are issued, lunch is shared, guests are ‘expected’.
It’s become challenging for many people to issue the invitation, to make the ask. As I’ll say on Sunday, we’ve been taught for a few generations now not to talk about politics or faith in polite company, and the result, especially in our polarized society, is that we are no longer able to dialogue in a civil manner about the Lord Jesus.
The key is to build relationships.
When we are engaged in healthy relationships with our neighbours, our friends, our family members, and when faith is an integral part of our lives, those with whom we share those relationships will naturally want to know why faith is part of who we are.
And that opens the door to inviting them to join you for worship.
I’ve occasionally shared a vlog done by Penn Jillette some years ago about how, despite his avowed atheism, he admired a man who gave him a Bible after a show. His point was this: If we believe we know the way to eternal life, how much do we have to hate someone else to be unwilling to share it?
It’s a good question. And a haunting one, if we’re honest.
Whatever congregation you’re part of as you read this, I hope you’re not waiting for an excuse to invite someone to worship with you. If you’re looking to understand why this is important, I will be talking about our role as ambassadors this Sunday. I’m inviting you!
“So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, ‘Come back to God!’” (2 Corinthians 5.20, NLT).
Australian Christian singer-songwriter, Darlene Zschech, famously sang these lyrics some years ago, written by Hillsong worship pastor, Geoff Bullock:
I will never be the same again.
I can never return, I’ve closed the door;
I will walk the path, I’ll run the race,
And I will never be the same again.
I have long resonated with these words, for they reflect two stories in my life: my conversion, and my call to ministry. (You can read the rest of the lyrics to the song here.) When Jesus calls us to faith in him, we cannot ever be the same again. We have turned away from sin, as the Westminster Confession of Faith says, which is our nature, to grace and salvation in Jesus. Such a radical change means we can never return!
Likewise with a call to ministry – which we all have, though for a few, it is to full-time Christian service. Once we are called, finding our niche in ministry, whatever that is, puts us on a path. It might be leading worship, or keeping spaces clean, or organizing events, or teaching children, or leading a small group, or praying fervently. There are countless areas of ministry where God can call us to serve, and when we find the one or ones for which we are spiritually gifted, we find ourselves walking a path, running a race, and never being the same again.
Is your discipleship walk such that people who knew you before you were a Christian would say that you are not the same person you once were? In whatever ministry you serve, would you yourself say that you are not the same because of the ministry you undertake? I encourage you to consider those questions, and if need be, dig deeper with Jesus, because he calls us to be different in and because of him.
I reflect on the words of that song today, as I mark the 25th anniversary of my ordination to the ministry of Word and Sacraments. Since God got hold of me, I have never been the same. And since God called me to full-time Christian service, it’s been a wonderful adventure that I’m grateful to be on. Whatever avenue of service you undertake for Jesus, I pray that it is a life-changing adventure for you!
“[A]nyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun” (2 Corinthians 5.17, NLT).
This Sunday in the Christian calendar is called Christian Family Sunday. It’s an effort to make Mother’s Day as inclusive as possible, since, it seems, Father’s Day doesn’t get much press (and some people struggle with the day, either because they did not have children or their mothers are deceased). Whichever way you look at it, this is an opportunity to remember your mom, or to make your mom feel special.
Though it was written in a patriarchal period in human history, the Bible highlights many great mothers. Two examples that come to mind are Hannah, the mother of Samuel, who prayed earnestly to bear a son (1 Samuel 1), and Mary, the mother of Jesus, who at a very young age agreed to fulfill the Lord’s will and give birth to the Son of God.
One greatly desired a child from the Lord, and the other had her maternity thrust upon her by the Lord. What they have in common is that both of these women lived out of a deep relationship with God.
If you’re a mom, your relationship with God will be the greatest inheritance your children will receive. Talk about it with them, and model it for them; they will see how you walk with the Lord, and no matter how far they may stray, they will remember it as they age. God may use that memory to draw them back to him.
If you’re not a mom, perhaps your mom planted a seed of faith in you; use this weekend as an opportunity to thank her, if she is living, or to thank God for her, if she is not. If your mom is not a follower of Jesus, maybe this weekend will provide you with an opportunity to witness to God’s grace at work in her!
One way or another, this weekend can be a time of celebrating God’s goodness toward us all in Jesus Christ. Whether or not your church makes a big deal out of Mother’s Day, you can praise God for the gift of motherhood.
“You should clothe yourselves instead with the beauty that comes from within, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is so precious to God” (1 Peter 3.4, NLT).