Sunday’s sermon: Why Christian?

Why Christian

  • Last weekend, I was at a conference up in the cities called “Why Christian?”
    • Organized by Nadia Bolz-Weber & Rachel Held Evans
      • Nadia: organizing pastor @ House for All Sinners and Saints in CO, NY Times best-selling author, religious boundary pusher
      • Rachel: NY Times best-selling author, progerssive evangelical who “writes about faith, doubt and life in the Bible Belt”[1]
    • Filled with other female speakers – authors, pastors, and professors – who each spent about half an hour answering a complexly simple question: Why Christian?
      • In the face of the violent, oppressive, overpowering history of Christianity, why continue to be a Christian?
      • In the face of all the negative things that have been said and done in the name of God and Jesus Christ – even up to the present day – why continue to be a Christian?
      • In the face of suffering – your own or the suffering that we witness in the world each and every day – why continue to be a Christian?
      • Why Christian?
      • Simple question, right? Right. And as you can surely imagine, this question has been rolling around in my head for the past week or so. Why am I a Christian?
        • Certainly a questions you’ll have to answer for yourselves as far as individuality of it goes – Why are you still a Christian?
          • My answer: I am a Christian because of investment. Throughout my life, time and time again when I was running on low, God invested in me. God invested strength. God invested love. God invested compassion. And God invested more grace than I ever could’ve imagined possible. When that investment has pulled me up out of the trenches so many times, how can I not choose to invest in God each and every day?
        • Today we’re tackling the related question: Why are we still gathering as Christians together in this place? Why Christian here?
  • Come to church to connect to God
    • Connect to sense of the Holy, wider story/context than our own limited slice of life → Now I’m not saying that church is the only place that we can feel that connection.
      • Other places we connect
        • In nature
        • In Scripture
        • In relationships
        • In solitude
      • But it cannot be denied that there is something profound … something holy … something sacred about the way we find and relate to God in this space.
        • In the words we read and hear and sing and pray here – collective voice when we pray the Lord’s Prayer together
        • In the ways God speaks to us in the sounds as well as the silence
        • In the palpable presence of God in the sacraments
          • The roughness of the bread in our mouths
          • The bitter tang of the juice/wine on our tongues
          • The cool splash of water from the baptismal font
        • It’s about finding God, not about finding answers. → Conference quote – Allyson Dylan Robinson: With God, the closer you get to certainty, the further you get from the truth.
          • Put in a different perspective (also ADR) – from God: I am a mystery. Get over it.
  • Come to church to BE
    • Be presence/reflection of God/Christ for each other and for the world around us
    • Conference quote from Rachel Held Evans: “Our belief carries each other. Can’t pray? Can’t praise? Can’t sing? Can’t profess? Can’t witness today? The people around you can carry you today just as you can carry someone else tomorrow.” → We come to church for the community of faith – community that lifts up and supports and celebrates and cherishes.
      • Hear this call in gospel passage – Matthew 5:13-20
      • Sacred community, sacred investment in one another – not just another social club → plenty of other great places around here to meet for coffee, food, small talk, etc.
        • Do “Christian” here to …
          • Learn from each other
          • Grow with each other
          • Challenge each other
          • Be changed by each other
  • Come to church to EXPERIENCE/FEEL
    • Experience/feel God’s presence and call in our lives → be moved and stirred by that experience (call to ACTION!)
      • Jas is calling this out in our other NT Scripture this morning: James 2:14-26 → It’s important to note that James isn’t talking about works justifying That’s the idea of “works righteousness” that the Reformers raged and rebelled against. We are confirmed and accepted by God through God’s own grace alone. What we do hasn’t, doesn’t, and won’t ever earn God’s love because that love is a free gift. But James is saying that we can’t just take that gift and hoard it away. We’ve got to let it inspire us to go from this place with the fire of the Holy Spirit in our hearts and in our bellies.
        • Go out into our homes, into the community, into the world to make changes
        • Also go out into the congregation – come to church not to simply and half-heartedly “do church” but to “be church” together
          • Implies action
          • Implies investment
          • Implies being engaged in the life and works of this congregation
    • Not always easy/comfortable/safe
      • Conference quote – Emily Scott (pastor – dinner church): Being a Christian is living at the fulcrum of your fear.
      • Not about appearances → IT’S NOT ABOUT BEING/LOOKING PERFECT!!
        • Not put together? GREAT
        • Having a bad day/week/year? SUPPORT
        • Never darkened a doorstep before? WELCOME
        • Jesus didn’t hang out with the perfect people … with the put-together people … with the super strictly religious people … with the always-strong, always-right, always-happy people. Jesus hung out with the outcasts … with the sinners … with the screw-ups and the has-beens and the never-beens and the weak and the struggling.
          • Conference quote – Kerlin Richter (pastor): Christianity is a messy and embodied religion, and I am a messy and embodied person.
  • So why Christian? Why do you continue to claim that name, that identity, that Spirit out in the world? And what does it mean to connect with and be and experience that faith here in this place? What does it look like … what should it look like … what can it look like to be Christians together? Amen.

I don’t normally do this, but I’m including our charge and benediction for this service because it was so crucial to the message. Before the charge and benediction, we listened to the song “Brave” by Sara Bareilles.

Forget fear. Forget hesitation. Forget uncertainty. Forget tired. This morning, I dare you to be salt. I dare you to be light. From the bottom of my heart, I want to see you be brave!

** May the love of God surround you, may the grace of Christ abound in you and through you, and may the intensity of the Holy Spirit astound you day after day. Amen. **

[1] Rachel Held Evans, “About” on http://www.rachelheldevans.com/about. Accessed 21 Sept. 2015.

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