Spirit-Filled and Spirit-Blessed Community
A man said to the Lord, “is it true that in your scale of reckoning a thousand years is like a minute?”
The Lord assured him that it is.
“And is it true that in your weights and measures, a thousand dollars is like a penny?”
Again, the Lord assured him that he is right.
The man then said, “Lord, I am a poor man. Give me a penny.”
The Lord said, “In a minute.”
You got it? “In a minute” means a thousand years.
Have you tried to make a deal with God before? I don’t know making a deal with God is good or not as a Christian. In many cases, many people try to make a deal with God for their own interests, successful life, prosperity, and the other accomplishments of their desires. However, if we try to make a deal with God not for ourself but for God, our church and, neighbors, then what will happen?
Last Sunday, I presented our visions for 2013. That is, 1) Serving God and our church with our whole heart. 2) Using our talents and spiritual gifts for God, our church and neighbors. 3) And inviting many more people living in Chilmark and on this Island, and celebrating the coming of the people to God.
The key to the accomplishment of our vision is our participation. Our participation in worship and our neighbors’ participation in the life of our church. For the last several years, I have been in a seminary and one of the major question asked of us is “How can today’s church become a church that encourages people to participate fully in worship and a Christian life?” Participation seriously matters.
Today, I bring this question into the sermon. How can we become a growing church which encourages people to participate in our worship and shares the Good news from God? When I mention “a growing church,” it means not only the growth of numbers but also the growth of God’s love, the growth of God’s wisdom, the growth of our faith in God, and, finally, our growth as a Spirit-filled and Spirit-blessed community. In order for us to meet these challenges and our need to be a growing church, we must rely on the strength of the Spirit.
I believe that the Holy Spirit is active and present in our lives and in the world. God wants us to be filled with the Holy Spirit. Luke 4, which is today’s other scripture, introduces us to a Spirit-filled and Spirit-blessed one, Jesus Christ. Jesus, reading the scroll of Isaiah in the synagogue, selects a passage that speaks of the one who is Spirit-blessed, the anointed one, the chosen one. But we make a serious mistake if we believe that because Jesus announces the fulfillment of the Scripture to the congregation, he is taking Isaiah’s words to refer exclusively to him. The original passage in Isaiah refers to the mission of a whole people, a redemptive mission to heal and rebuild what was destroyed in the exile to Babylon. The one who is anointed and chosen is “the people” who together are being called to repair what has been broken, and to bring freedom to the enslaved.
In I Corinthians, Paul also speaks of the Spirit in action, inspiring the shared mission of the church to build the kingdom with its God-given talents. He stresses again and again that the whole church is necessary to this work, no one part, no single gift, is enough to attain the goal. We come to know the fulfillment of our ultimate vocation only in the company of the faithful, only with and through others. By our alienation and apathy, we weaken the whole; by our fruitfulness and connectedness, we edify the whole.
Community life is essential for Christians. When I was baptized, I realized that I am one of a community, a baptismal family. The people of the church had supported me to find my vocation and to grow up as a Christian who serves God and people with love of Christ. Through my life, I have lived with several church communities. This community life that I have had has influenced on my life so I can follow the way God guides, no matter what the troubles and challenges are in my life. This community life has helped me know who I am and the way of living with people. Community life is essential for us to be Christians.
Paul speaks of who we are in Christ. We are not separate souls. We are covenanted to one another and entrusted with a common witness, because a congregation is not 20, or 50, or 100 individuals who gather in the same place on Sunday morning. A congregation is what is created when those 20, 50, or 100 individuals come together intentionally to rest in one another’s faith, to hear one another’s message, to answer one another’s questions, to teach one another’s children, to pray for one another’s souls, to rely on one another’s gifts, and to love one another with the love of Christ. When we become the congregation, we will be the one that is truly part of the Body of Christ, the Spirit-filled and Spirit-blessed community. It is a place where the guidance of God is actively sought and the presence of God is avidly welcomed. It is a place where the gifts of God given to each are used to bless the whole people of God. It is a place of shared suffering and shared rejoicing.
The words of Isaiah, we read today, speaks of that mission, that redemptive mission to heal what has been broken and to rebuild what has been separated. Jesus, as our head, calls the whole body to that mission. It is not a mission for individuals, but for a community committed to being a nurturing environment in which healing, teaching, praying, prophesying, and preaching are the focused intention of every person.
In the story I mentioned in the beginning, the man makes a deal with God for his own prosperity. He says to the Lord, I want a penny but that means he wants a thousand dollars. The Lord says to the man. “In a minute,” which means a thousand years.
For the man, making a deal with God is not easy. Our Lord does not make a deal with people like the man in the story. We know that. We know that we should pray in this way, “O God, come to us, so we can know you are always with us. Fill us with the Spirit, so we can follow its’ guidance. Fill us with your love, so we can share it with others. Fill us with your wisdom, so we can grow as a Spirit-filled and Spirit blessed community.”
Let me wrap this sermon up. In Luke 4, we can see the inaugural address of Jesus’ ministry. Jesus was filled with the power of the Spirit and a report about him spread through all the surrounding country. Through his life, what Jesus has taught to us is that we should inaugurate our mission with the power of the Holy Spirit. We should start our Christian lives in 2013 with the power of the Spirit. Then, this Chilmark Community Church will spread its light of Christ throughout Chilmark, the whole Island, and possibly the world.
Let us pray,
Dear Lord, fill us with the wisdom and power of the Holy Spirit so that we can be a Spirit-filled and Spirit-blessed community. Then spread our Spirit-filled and Spirit-blessed lives throughout this whole Island. In your name we pray. Amen.