“Mind, Body, Spirit – Sermon 1”
Luke 8:26-39, Philippians 1:1-8
Sermon delivered by Pastor Daniel Mejia
St. Matthew’s United Methodist Church
January 4, 2015
This week I heard some devastating news. For some of you it will not register as important, but for many it’s almost too terrible to say….U2 frontman Bono may never be able to play the guitar again after injuries he sustained in a bike accident last year. Bono said that he had left the hospital with a titanium elbow following the crash that took place in New York’s Central Park this past November and left him requiring five hours of surgery. In a letter to his fans Bono reminded all of us that, “As I write this, it is not clear that I will ever play guitar again. But the band has reminded me that neither they nor Western civilization are depending on this.” Pheww.
In many ways Bono can count himself fortunate for many reasons, most importantly that he is alive and that he has supportive band members that want him to take care of himself first; so that they can remain strong as a unit.
Today, on the first Sunday of the year, we begin our journey to become stronger as a unit. Bill Hybels, the founding pastor of Willow Creek Church, once wrote that the local church is the “hope of the world, because we steward the message of Christ.” In other words, We, with capital W, have the capability and responsibility to bring great change to the world starting in our communities.
This morning we begin our series on Becoming A Better We with an emphasis on becoming a stronger, more faithful community of believers. I don’t know how you perceive yourself in your walk and journey to be like Jesus, but we are not just individuals who come here every week or every two weeks; we are all part of a unit called “St. Matthew’s” brought together by God’s grace.
We are a bunch of individuals with different talents and tasks, but together, when we are truly together, we become a better “We.” Almost like a piece of glass with many different colors, when we are put together we form a beautiful stained glass that reflects the richness and beauty of God’s diversity.
In order to become a better We, and understand our togetherness, “We” need to stop for a moment and consider Us. This morning we need to pause for a moment and look first at ourselves to make sure that we are ready to be part of a larger picture, a larger landscape, a larger plan, a larger stained glass, organized and put together by God for God’s purposes. Initially it may seem contradictory that in order to become a better “we” we need to start and address the “I”, but Seattle pastor Eugene Cho says that if you don’t know who you are as an individual you risk a life of burnout, shortcuts, and the possibility that your good intentions can harm others.
Then the question before us as we enter in 2015 is: what is forming you now in order to become a better I? What is shaping you? What dwells in you?
United Methodist Bishop Will Willimon writes that … “many in our society are in pain. Not because something bad happened to them when they were five. They are hurting because they are wandering like lost sheep, in a desert. They are confused. It’s not that they are sick, rather they are ignorant. They simply have not taken the trouble or not had the opportunity to think through the faith. They confront the complexity of life with bits and pieces of insight cobbled together from here and there… or they try and live in an adult world with the faith that they received as a ten year old or rejected as a fourteen year old.” (Willimon, Pastor, 205)
Strong words that are hard to hear but important to know. Yet, the good news is that we don’t have to remain in that place of uncertainty. I would like to suggest that this new year we allow the Word to become flesh, to re-shape us, and re-form us. I’m suggesting that we allow the Words of Christ to dwell in us, re-forming us into God’s masterpiece of creation, created to do good work.
Did you know that the Bible is the most shoplifted book in the world? I wonder at times if the people who stole the Bible knew that it condemns stealing? I wonder if at times we find ourselves in the same predicament; not that we stole a Bible but that we don’t fully know what it says and what it could mean for our lives if we really began reading it. C.S. Lewis once said, “We need to be continually reminded of what we believe.” The starting point is reading and feeding on God’s Word. And here’s what you will learn: You are a child of God. You were created, out of love, by love, for love. You are a masterpiece of Creation, the handiwork of God, created for good works. Created to change the world. That’s who you are… formed and created by Christ.
I want to invite you to create space to read the bible. Make time everyday for reading and reflection on God’s Word. Here’s something to remember. Throughout the centuries God’s Word has been and is the primary way in which God speaks to us. On rare occasions God may choose to deliver a message directly to our consciousness, or, even rarer, to deliver an audible message to us, but always the basic way in which God speaks to us is through God’s Word. In the early stages of the Methodist movement that swept across England bringing a revolution of compassion and social change in the mid 1700s, its founder John Wesley made it clear that if God was to bring transformation and life into the church, Bible reading and meditation would have to become an utmost priority.
The words we read, the words we hear, have great power over our minds and emotions. I don’t need to remind you of the negative and sometimes permanent effect that bullying can have on all of us. Mean words and half truths will certainly shape our minds and actions if we are not careful and intentional in changing who we hear. The Apostle Paul told the church in Philippi, “Be of the same mind, love each other, be deep-spirited friends… Don’t sweet-talk your way to the top. Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead. Don’t be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand. And Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus.” (Phil 2:1-5)
Becoming a better “We” begins with a new mind, not just any mind, but the Mind of Christ. In a culture of sound bites and TV pundits of all kinds, in a culture of instant opinions and tweets that influence the masses, more than ever we need to create space for God, for the Word of God to feed our mind and our thoughts. We need to create a space to allow the Word of God to dwell in us…This means reading and learning the Words of Jesus, which is reading and learning the love of Jesus. It is time to take action. It is time to stop being satisfied with just watching from the sidelines of life and faith as life passes by. It is time to allow Jesus, the incarnation of God’s Word, to become the guiding Principle and Person of everything we do as individuals and as a congregation.
If you are not already doing so, I would urge you to begin the spiritual growth process of “reading and writing”: a process used by the saints of the church throughout the churches’ history. That is a method of reading a small portion of the bible each day, meditating on it, and writing in a journal your reflections upon the passage. May I suggest that you begin with the gospel of Luke.
Liturgically we are about to enter the season of Epiphany, a time when we remember that the light of Christ was revealed to the world. It’s a season where we acknowledge that the light has come into the darkness creating a Way for us to see. It’s a season where we can allow God’s Epiphany, Jesus, to create in us an “Aha” moment so that we begin to see the changes we need to make in order to become a better Me, leading us to become a better We.
As we talk about becoming a better We, and we look at renewing our minds we need to understand that while the Bible is God’s Word, I’m also talking about Jesus, the Word, that can be poured over us like a mighty river moving in our hearts, creating a space for eternity. It’s about us thinking about Jesus, following Jesus, listening to Jesus and relying on Jesus alone that lets us begin to understand what God intends for the whole of creation. We begin to understand that if we allow Jesus to pour onto and into us, we will be changed. We will see more of what God sees and understand how we are to better serve God’s purposes… And we will see that our God pours out an invitation to the table.
Stop. Imagine this forming you. You are always invited. Even if you don’t think you belong. Even if the sound byte has taught you something else. Even when those around you don’t give you words of love and grace. This Word made flesh, invites you to be transformed. Come and renew your mind with Jesus. Amen.