Good Morning! On this cold December morning — the second Sunday in Advent — we find ourselves in the unique and unusual situation of being unable to gather for worship.
In an attempt to “gather” us around a common reflection this day and week, I am here posting the text of the sermon I would have shared with you this morning.
The scripture base is Acts 25 and 25
The sermon title is “Out of Our Minds!?”
May the Holy Spirit stir and unite us across the blocks and miles.
Peace to you in the gracious and living name of Jesus — Pastor Jeff
“Out of Our Minds!?”
Acts 25 & 26
Headline (Michigan): “Shortest holiday shopping season in 11 years puts pressure on retailers & shoppers.”
USA Today: This holiday shopping season will be the shortest in at least a decade, forcing companies . . . to think up new tactics to grab as much festive spending as possible.
There are 26 days between Thanksgiving & Christmas this year, compared to 32 last year. To make matters worse, there’s one less weekend . . . That means less time to schedule holiday parties, less time to shop for gifts, less time to wrap & mail them . . . the dearth of days has put shoppers in a dither. “It’s going to be harder for people to get all their shopping done.”
Forbes: “How to Profit from the Shortest Holiday Retail Season in a Decade” sees “an opportunity for investors to make money.”
So what are we doing sitting here?!
ARE WE OUT OF OUR MINDS??? Some folks think so… for many reasons… all revolving around
The Life-altering Message of the Christ who is the source of this season . . .
THE VERY MESSAGE PROCLAIMED BY PAUL IN ACTS 25/26:
Here Paul tells the story of his life in Christ to a King & a Governor
At the center of this story is a 2-point message:
- The Risen Jesus himself had called & empowered Paul as a Partner to Serve him & Speak of Christ to others (v.16)
- Jesus – the Messiah – came, suffered & rose from death (v.22,23) to bring Light & Real Life to All People
Responding to Jesus’ Sacrifice & Call, Paul:
- Obediently Turned to God in Christ & was Transformed by the Spirit, He supported his decision with a total re-orientation of his life
- Called on others to do the same – (v.20) to follow his example & live the disciple’s life.
All of this was just too much for Festus, who interrupted Paul w/ a shout:
“Paul, you are out of your mind! You’re crazy. Insane. Nuts!”
But Paul wasn’t finished. In fact, the next thing we know,
Paul the prisoner is inviting Agrippa the king to become a Christian &
Prays that the king – & everyone listening – would become like him!
No Wonder Festus Thought Paul Was out of His Mind!
HOW DOES THIS APPLY TO US?
If We Really Live as Disciples of Jesus, People Will Think We’re Crazy!
It’s not just choosing worship over shopping that confounds people, It is people voluntarily giving up the day before Thanksgiving to provide shelter to one move un-housed neighbor. It is gift-buying & care-giving to somebody else’s children; even children we don’t know. It is the radical nature of a life-change that values: giving more than receiving, community over independence, obedience to Christ over personal freedom And it is not just the lifestyle – its the message too! Let’s face it, the whole idea of God born in a feed box, dying on a cross & rising from the dead to give people life is a bit irrational.
As Paul says in 1 Corinthians (chapter 1), to unbelievers, it is all foolishness. But it is just such foolishness that we are called to believe & proclaim:
Jesus Christ Came & Suffered, Died & Rose, Lives Today Jesus was born; and he lived, died & rose from death in order to bring light/life – salvation – to all people. He calls every person who will respond – he calls you & me – to be his partner in this great plan & awesome mission, serving him & sharing his life with others.
He promises to be with us as we Go – Make Disciples – Baptize – Teach – Obey. Paul shows us that the best way to accomplish this mission is to:
Live for Jesus Christ & tell our own story, inviting others to join us in this life.
To Live for Christ & Invite Others to Join You; Here’s What You must do (v.20):
1. Repent: Allow God to – CHANGE YOUR MIND from being set AGAINST Christ, to being open TO Him
Move you from living life YOUR way, to living life GOD’S way
Alter your perception of life & ministry, so you see giving & serving & obeying not as an imposition, but view partnership with Christ as a Gift of God’s Mercy. To repent is to come to your senses. It is not so much something you do as something that happens. true repentance spends less time looking at the past and saying, “I’m sorry,” than to the future and saying, “Wow!”
Frederick Buechner, Wishful Thinking
2. Turn to God, Change your direction, Willingly do an about-face –>
Follow Christ instead of following the crowd or pursuing your own agenda
Live as God’s Friend rather than God’s adversary.
3. Back it up with Changed Action/behavior Such as:
Faithful Commitment to Spiritual Growth
& Activities that foster such growth
Radical Trust and Irrational Peace
God is Present and Active in ALL Situations
26:22 – “To this day I have had help from God.”
Remember: Paul’s life was not “easy” (See 2 Corinthians 11:24-30)
Dedication to Developing & Living as Servant-Leaders for Christ (Community AND Church) Learning/stretching/serving/modeling If we are going to call ourselves BELIEVERS, we must also be DOERS (In truth, Believing includes doing) “… repent, turn to God & do deeds consistent w/ repentance…” And:
4. Invite Others to Join You
– Point people to the Christ who is your primary commitment
Tell your story of Chang-ed/-ing Thinking/Direction/Behavior
“Repent, Turn to God & Do Deeds Consistent with Repentance . . .
. . . Become Such as I Am…”
It may seem crazy to you, but you are an example for others — Of how to:
Follow Jesus, Walk through these holy days, & Be a fool for Christ
NOT because you/your life are perfect but because of what Christ is doing
By the Grace of God, as you & I Obediently Turn to God in Christ & begin to be Transformed by the Spirit, Back up our decision with a radical re-orientation of life, we become invitations to real life It is all as practical as how you choose to handle the holidays… In one issue of USA TODAY, people gave suggestions on how to keep the holidays meaningful. Two were bold enough to be examples for Christ:
Diane: Christmas morning our twins know they can’t come downstairs until we have all prayed together. Even at 16 they still jump on our bed, & we give thanks to God for the gift of his son.
Carol: talks with her son often about the Nativity. She also affirms her brother, who begins Christmas morning with his wife & three daughters by sharing a birthday cake for Jesus & singing ‘Happy Birthday, Jesus’ together.
Never be afraid to be “Out of your Mind” for Christ. As Madeleine L’Engle has written:
This is the irrational season
when love blooms bright and wild.
Has Mary been filled with reason
There’d have been no room for the child. A Cry Like a Bell, 58
We May Be out of Our Minds But, As Followers of the Christ Who Is with Us,
Let Us Live Life in Obedience to Christ & Invite Others to Be like Us.