Main Street UMC, Kernersville, NC

OUR VISION: Love and Life-Changing Experiences

“Our Vision,” Week 2

LOVE AND LIFE-CHANGING EXPERIENCES

Luke 19:1-10; 1 John 3:14-18

 

He entered Jericho and was passing through it. A man was there named Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was rich. He was trying to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was short in stature. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree to see him, because he was going to pass that way. When Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down; for I must stay at your house today.” So he hurried down and was happy to welcome him. All who saw it began to grumble and said, “He has gone to be the guest of one who is a sinner.” Zacchaeus stood there and said to the Lord, “Look, half of my possessions, Lord, I will give to the poor; and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will pay back four times as much.” Then Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because he too is a son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man came to seek out and to save the lost.”

Luke 19:1-10

 

14 We know that we have passed from death to life because we love one another. Whoever does not love abides in death. 15 All who hate a brother or sister[e] are murderers, and you know that murderers do not have eternal life abiding in them. 16 We know love by this, that he laid down his life for us—and we ought to lay down our lives for one another. 17 How does God’s love abide in anyone who has the world’s goods and sees a brother or sister in need and yet refuses help?

18 Little children, let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action.

1 John 3:14-18

 

 

Today is the second in a 3-part sermon series on our vision at Main Street UMC. And first let me say very, very clearly that our vision is founded squarely on

 

Our Mission:

To make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.

That’s what we’re doing. That’s the reason we exist.

 

THE VISION takes that a step further and says,

 

  • What’s going to happen if we carry that out?

 

  • Based on who we are and the needs of our world, what does it look like for us, here, today, to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world?

And so after months of prayer and study, we discerned a vision, which you will find printed on a bookmark in today’s bulletin. Let’s read what it says out loud:

Fostering vital communities through love and life-changing experiences

Now last week I talked about the first three words—“Fostering vital communities.” The big take-away from that sermon was the importance of community:

  • Human beings were created for community
  • Our world is desperate for community

And our vision is to make disciples in such a way that we foster vital communities.

Today I’m going to talk about how we do that:

“Through love and life changing experiences”

 

LET’S PRAY: Lord, open our eyes, and by the power of your Spirit, help us to see your vision for this church. Amen.

 

Today at our 11:00 service, 19 young people will be confirmed into full membership of Main Street United Methodist Church

And in just the short time these young people have been alive, the world has changed drastically

They’ve never lived in a world without…

  • Computers
  • Email
  • The internet
  • Social media
  • Cell phones
  • Smart phones
  • Text messages

They’ve never had to use a paper airline ticket.

They’ve never had to lick a postage stamp.

They’ve never had to ask for directions—because they have Google Maps and GPS.

 

None of our 19 confirmands has ever seen the World Trade Center:

 

  • They’ve never seen what the world was like before 9-11
  • They’ve never gotten on a plane without going through security
  • The entire time they’ve been alive, the United States has been at war

 

Before these young people were born:

  • Amazon was a place in Brazil
  • A text was a Scripture passage
  • The Cloud was something that made it rain
  • Twitter was what your heart did when you fell in love

 

The world has changed drastically, especially when it comes to the state of Christianity in America.

 

People don’t like the church. They say…

  • Our worship is boring
  • Our sermons are irrelevant
  • Our teaching is out-of-date

 

People don’t respect the church:

  • It used to be that clergy were the leaders of the community
  • Our sermons were broadcast on the radio and printed in the paper

But it’s not like that anymore.

It used to be that…

  • The church was at the center of society
  • Schools would never schedule events on Wednesday night
  • Soccer games would never take place on Sunday morning

But it’s not like that anymore.

People don’t trust the church:

  • Surveys show that people outside the church think that we are…
    • Judgmental
    • Hypocritical
    • Narrow-minded
    • Always against something

 

-and that our real goals are to get people’s money and have political power.

 

AND WHAT ALL THAT MEANS IS…

 

People don’t go to church:

  • Fewer than 20% of Americans attend church on a regular basis
  • And missions experts say that as many as 60% of Americans are opposed to going to church

 

Now there are several things we can do in response to these changes:

  • One thing we can do is point our fingers at the people outside and say, “It’s their fault. They’re just bad people.”

 

  • Another thing we can do is keep doing what we’ve always done and hope in vain for a different result.

 

  • Another thing we can do is just give up and wait to die.

 

Lots of churches have tried those three approaches–which is why lots of churches are dying.

 

But we at Main Street are going to do something different:

What we’re going to do is recognize that in this changing world there are still three things that people need desperately:

One is vital community. (I talked about that last week.)

The other two are LOVE and LIFE-CHANGING EXPERIENCES

 

In our Gospel Lesson today we heard the story of a guy that nobody liked:

  • Nobody liked Zacchaeus

 

  • In a world where everybody else was struggling, Zacchaeus was rich

 

  • And he got that way by taking their money

 

  • And in a world where everybody else hated the Roman Empire, Zacchaeus worked for ‘em!

So nobody liked Zacchaeus. Nobody except… Jesus.

Now I want you to notice what Jesus did with Zacchaeus, because it’s a perfect model for what we’ve got to do today:

 

  • Jesus WENT TO Zacchaeus

When Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down; for I must stay at your house today.” 

–Luke 19:5

Notice that Jesus didn’t just invite Zacchaeus to church

  • He went on Z’s turf
  • He entered Z’s world

–That’s what we’ve got to do more and more today

We’ve got to take church beyond the walls!

 

The fastest growing religious group in America is the Nones and the Dones:

  • The Nones being the people who claim no religious affiliation
  • And the Dones being the growing number of people who say they are DONE with church

And for that group of people, which is 40-60% of Americans, it’s becoming less and less likely that they’ll ever set foot inside a church

  • So what we have to do is take church to them!

And so there are churches holding services in coffee shops and bars and public parks

  • There’s a church that meets at Moe’s SW Grill – Burritos and Bibles
  • There’s a church that meets in a tattoo parlor
  • There’s a church in New Bern that meets in a bar, and the owner of the bar bought them an organ and a little old lady comes and plays the organ for them every Sunday night

In England, there’s a Christian police officer who started meeting with three of his colleagues who don’t go to church

  • That group became several groups
  • Those groups became a network
  • That network spread throughout the police force

And it’s become a true workplace church:

  • They offer counseling and support services
  • And a large group comes together for worship at police headquarters

Some ways we’ve taken church to the world:

  • Prison Ministry
  • Community Picnic
  • At least one member who leads a Bible study at work
  • Youth Director leads bible study at two different restaurants

Jesus went TO Zacchaeus, and that’s what we’ve got to do today.

 

2-Jesus LOVED Zacchaeus

All who saw [Jesus going to Zacchaeus’ house] began to grumble and said, “He has gone to be the guest of one who is a sinner.”

Most people looked at Zacchaeus, and saw a SINNER

            -Jesus looked at Zacchaeus and saw a child of God

Most people looked at Zacchaeus and saw a guy who was RICH

            -Jesus looked at Zacchaeus and saw a guy who was lonely

Most people looked at Zacchaeus and saw somebody who deserved to go to HELL

         -Jesus looked at Zacchaeus and saw somebody he wanted to take to heaven.

 

Listen: The world has gotten enough judgment from us. What they really need from us is love.

But listen to what we mean by love

  • We’re not talking about mushy-gushy sentimentality

 

Like it says in our Scripture from 1 John—

…let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.

–1 John 3:18, NIV

 

We love by feeding the hungry

We love by serving the poor

We love by uniting the community against racism

We love by volunteering in the schools, and with the elderly, and with crisis control

We love by spending time with people

We love by listening, which is a rare commodity

We love by giving sacrificially

 

Jesus loved Zacchaeus – and that’s what we’ve got to do today.

 

3-Jesus CHANGED Zacchaeus’ LIFE

 Zacchaeus stood there and said to the Lord, “Look, half of my possessions, Lord, I will give to the poor; and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will pay back four times as much.”

Whoa! This is a guy who loved money so much that he was willing to sell his own people to the Romans

–NOW, he’s giving half of his money away, and he’s probably using the other half to pay people back!

All of a sudden, he doesn’t care about money anymore!

–All of a sudden, he’s found something better than money!

And friends, what we have to do is help people find something …

  • Better than drugs
  • Better than alcohol
  • Better than status
  • Better than possessions
  • Better than sports
  • Better than Facebook
  • Better than popularity
  • Better than working all the time because you think your value is based on what you do

What we’ve got to do is help people have life changing experiences with Jesus!

Many of you have had life-changing experiences:

  • Disciple Bible Study
  • Mission Trips, ASP, Re-creation
  • Camp Close Encounter

Some of you have suffered with addiction, and you’ve had the life-changing experience of joining the recovery movement.

Some of you have been to spiritual retreats and conferences, like The Walk to Emmaus, or Presbyterian Pilgrimage that you would say were life changing experiences.

In today’s world experience trumps information

-People believe it when they experience it.

Jesus offered Zacchaeus a life-changing experience – and we’ve got to do the same thing today.

 

 

Luke 19: 1-10

Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through. A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy.He wanted to see who Jesus was, but because he was short he could not see over the crowd. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-figtree to see him, since Jesus was coming that way.

When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.”So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly. All the people saw this and began to mutter, “He has gone to be the guest of a sinner.”But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.”

Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”

1 John 3: 14-18

We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love each other. Anyone who does not love remains in death. 15 Anyone who hates a brother or sister is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life residing in him.

16 This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. 17 If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? 18 Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.