Working Out – An excerpt of Sunday’s Sermon

Happy October, friends!  The calendar tells us that fall is here, and we’re starting to see evidence of the same.  I’ve always looked forward to the color and beauty of autumn—God’s beautiful palette.  On the other hand, it’s hard to believe that 2008 is almost gone.  My mother used to tell me time passed faster as she aged, and you know, I’m beginning to believe she was right.  Not that I’m admitting to aging, you know!



Next Sunday, October 5, Ebenezer Presbyterian will observe World Communion Sunday.  Originally called “World Wide Communion Sunday,” it was first celebrated in 1936 in Presbyterian churches in the U.S. and overseas as a sign of our unity in the Body of Christ.  Unfortunately, because the observance was very soon adopted by the National Council of Churches, more conservative churches and denominations declined to participate.  


Nevertheless, through the ensuing years other Protestant churches have joined the observance, including the United Methodist Church, the Disciples of Christ, United Church of Christ, Reformed churches, and others.  World Communion Sunday became even more meaningful through the years of world war and civil rights advances.  Today many evangelical/conservative churches are joining the celebration, praying for Christian unity among believers, as Jesus first prayed for us.


The Apostle Paul wrote to the believers in Corinth about their improper treatment of the Lord’s Table.   It had become an excuse for division and church cliques.  Paul writes, tongue in cheek, “No doubt there have to be differences among you to show which of you have God’s approval” (1 Cor. 11:19).  We, like the believers at Corinth, worship the same Savior.  However, our differing traditions and beliefs divide us.  Some traditions require closed communion, open only to those who are members of the church, while others are open to anyone who professes faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.  These and other differences may separate us, but Jesus calls us to find common ground, to unite as believers because of Christ, not divide ourselves in spite of Him.


A friend of mine once asked, “I wonder how many of the people I excluded from heaven will be there to greet me when I arrive?”  This Sunday, when your congregation gathers at the Lord’s Table, whatever your tradition, I invite you to join believers from around the world who will be praying for peace and unity in the Body, so that Christ’s name may be heard by all and God may be glorified among us. 


WORKING OUT (a synopsis of Sunday’s message)


A great way to learn a new skill or practice is by modeling, that is, by observing someone who has mastered that skill.  Jesus was a master teacher and used this method to teach His disciples.  The Apostle Paul recognized this method and in Philippians 2:1-13, he holds up Jesus’ example as the model for the believers in life and conduct. 


“Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:  Who, being in very nature[a] God,  (1) did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, (2)  taking the very nature[b] of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, (3) he humbled himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross!” (Phil 2:5-8).


People are dreamers.  We want more.  We want to be respected, looked up to.  Success is something we regularly grasp for.  Jesus, however, had no reason to grasp for anything.  The Gospel of John tells us that nothing was created without Him.  Jesus himself said that He and the Father were one.  Jesus had it all, but instead of standing on His position, He laid down his robes and His glory.


Passing from heaven to this world, Jesus took on an earthly body.  He walked as we walk, talked as we talk, and struggled as we struggle.  He soiled his diapers, skinned his knees, and dealt with peer pressure and growing up.  In all of that, however, Jesus became one of us to serve us.  “The Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve” (Matthew 20:28a). 


Finally, Jesus modeled sacrifice for us by following God’s will and laying His life down for our forgiveness.  Although he asked, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will” (Matthew 26:39).  


What does this mean for you and me?  First of all, set aside all pride and arrogance.  Whatever our background, denomination, or affiliation, none of us has entered the Body of Christ through our own power.  And whatever our abilities and/or achievements are, they are nothing compared to what Jesus laid aside to save us.


Second, we are called to be servants, not only of God, but of one another.  In Paul’s words, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.  Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others” (Phil. 2:3,4).


And third, we emulate our Master Teacher by laying down our own desires and hopes to follow God’s will for our lives.  We find God’s will by working out our salvation—not physically, but spiritually—so we can become more like Christ.  We practice sacrifice, loving others and putting them first so they can see Jesus in us.


A teacher once asked, “When was the last time someone told you that you looked like your father?  No, I’m not speaking about your earthly Father, but your heavenly Father.”  For many of us the earthly family relationship can be seen easily seen.  Unfortunately, we often lack spiritual evidence of our relationship to our adopted Father, brought into the family by Jesus’ blood. 


“One Sunday morning in 1865, a black man entered a fashionable church in Richmond, Virginia. When Communion was served, he walked down the aisle and knelt at the altar. A rustle of resentment swept the congregation. How dare he! After all, believers in that church used the common cup. Suddenly a distinguished layman stood up, stepped forward to the altar, and knelt beside the black man. With Robert E. Lee setting the example, the rest of the congregation soon followed his lead”  (Today in the Word, September 1991, p. 15).


This week, whether celebrating at the Lord’s Table or serving others at work, home, or in the community, remember to get your spiritual exercise in.  Work out your salvation by setting aside pride and serving and sacrificing for others.  In this way you will find God’s will as God works through you for His good purpose.


Pastor Mary Kay



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