I have always been a fan of Warner Brothers/Looney Tunes cartoon. Bugs Bunny, Elmer Fudd, Daffy Duck, Taz…the whole lot of them…very funny. (They just don’t make cartoons like that any more! But back in MY day…!) There was one (actually more than one) that featured Hugo the Abominable Snowman. He is the large, hairy looking beast in the picture. In the episode, he wants a bunny rabbit as a pet…and he targets Bugs. Bugs convinces him (as only Bugs can) that Daffy is, in fact, the rabbit. The “climactic” scene comes when Hugo is holding Daffy, who’s shirt makes him look like a rabbit, and he says, “Oh, boy, a bunny rabbit! I will name him George and I will hug him and squeeze him…” Daffy replies, “I’m not a bunny rabbit…” Hugo goes on, “…and pat him and pet him and…” Daffy says, “You’re hurting me. Put me down, please.” Hugo continues, “…and rub him and caress him and…” Daffy shouts, “I ain’t no bunny rabbit!” Hugo looks at him and says, “I’m gonna rub your fur the wrong way, George!”
Three pastors were having lunch together. One said, “I’ve been
having trouble with bats in the attic at church. I’ve tried everything- noise,
spray, cats- nothing seems to scare them away. The 2nd one said, “Me too. I’ve
got hundreds living in the belfry. I’ve even had the place fumigated, and they
won’t go away.” The 3rd one said, “I don’t have a problem. I got rid of
all of mine!” “How did you do that?” “I baptized them and made them members of
the church… Haven’t seen one since!”
Today we continue our current Sunday sermon series Growing
Spiritual Redwoods, based on the book by Bill Easum and Tom Bandy. The
series starts from the premise that “the way we’ve always done it” often
keeps churches from successfully ministering to the unchurched. We will try to
answer some of the questions that confront Christians in this era of rapid and
uncertain change- questions like “Are we committed to Jesus…or to a
particular doctrine?” “Do we see faith as an experience of Jesus…or as a
heritage to protect at all costs?” “Do we believe our purpose in ministry is to
make members…or disciples?” Last week we looked at the fluid
that flows…worship. Today we consider what happens next…what lies beyond the
A girl lost her arm in an accident. She was so embarrassed
that she didn’t want to go anywhere. Finally, she agreed to try Sunday school.
Her mother called the teacher and asked that nothing be done to call attention
to the girl’s missing arm. The teacher agreed, but got sick and had a
substitute lead the class. At the end of class the students were acting out the
old ditty, “Here is the church, here is the steeple, open the doors and
see all the people.” The girl was about to cry when a boy in the class
suddenly dropped down beside her and put one hand against her good hand and
together they demonstrated what a real church is all about. We are the hands of
Christ. We are the feet of Christ. We are the only Bible the careless world
will read. We are the body of Christ, and each one of us is part of it.
who fold bulletins, move tables, restock the pews, work in the nursery and mow
the grass are just as important as those who visit shut-ins and teach Sunday
School. We church folks are supposed to be united. But how can we be truly
united? We do it by checking our egos at the door. Every so often someone comes
to me to complain that the church isn’t meeting their needs. Now, I’m always
striving for more effective means of ministry, but I often suggest to those
folks that their concern is more secular than spiritual. Customers question the
effectiveness of retailers to meet their needs. But we are NOT customers in
God’s retail store. We’re all part of the heavenly choir, singing praise and glory
to God. We HAD an old life that said things like: look out for #1, get all you
can, don’t get mad, get even, win at all costs. But now we have a NEW life that
says things like: find yourself by losing yourself, give all you can, forgive
others as God has forgiven you.
Church isn’t about buildings, budgets and business. It’s not even about people,
programs and progress. Then what IS it about? Simple…Jesus Christ. When the
Church stops taking its cues from Christ, bad things happen. C. S. Lewis said that the model many
of us have in our minds for the church is the same model we have for secular
organizations. That is, we think of the church as an organization that we join.
Then we do what members of an organization normally do- we come to meetings and
pay dues. Maybe, occasionally, we read the organization’s newsletter…if we
have time. But this is NOT Jesus’ model for the Church. Jesus’ intent is that
His people will be joined to His Church in the same way that parts of a
physical body are joined to that body. It’s a living relationship. The body
gives life to its members and they, in turn, are indispensable to the body. For
the person in whom Jesus lives, being actively involved in church isn’t simply
an option…it’s a necessity. Each of us is indispensable. We all have a place
in His family.
12:12-20- Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts
form one body, so it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit so
as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all
given the one Spirit to drink. Even so the body is not made up of one part but
of many. Now if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong
to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. And if
the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it
would not for that reason stop being part of the body. If the whole body were
an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear,
where would the sense of smell be? But in fact God has placed the parts in the
body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one
part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body.
A family went to the movies. The son stopped by the snack bar to get
some popcorn. By the time he got into the theater the lights were dim. He
scanned the theater and couldn’t find his family. He paced up and down the
aisles looking for a familiar face. He finally stopped and said, “Doesn’t
anyone recognize me?” When visitors come into a church they’re looking for
family, companionship, connection. And often they stand neglected in the aisle,
the lobby, the parking lot. Deep in their hearts they’re crying out,
“Doesn’t anyone recognize me?” We owe it to them to offer genuine
love and concern.
Church is made up of children of the Kingdom. It’s not made up of employees of
a corporation. Paul had plenty of political, hierarchical, and civic
organizational models to use to describe the character and function of the
church. But he chose to use the analogy of a body- an organic unity in which
all facets and functions look out for the care and well-being of the whole.
When there’s a thorn in the foot, the whole body stoops to pluck it out. In the
Kingdom of God, winning isn’t the only thing. Jesus invites us to get
lost…lost in service, lost in wonder, love and praise. As God’s children, the
question is no longer whether we’re the losers or the winners. Instead, the
question is: “Are we a healthy part of the body of Christ?”
because you have strengths in one area, doesn’t mean you have strengths in
others. Remember in 1994 when Michael Jordan decided he wanted to be a
professional baseball player? He put on the right uniform. He used the right
equipment. He even played right field. But watching Michael Jordan play
baseball was NOT like watching Michael Jordan play basketball. Fly balls hit
him in the chest. His swing was often behind a fast ball. He called umpires “referees.”
He ended up in the minor leagues. Each of us has strengths. Each of us has
places God can use us most effectively. The secret of a strong and vital church
is making certain that everyone uses the gift God’s given them. We often fail
to use God’s gifts because we’re shy, selfish or just plain lazy. But failing
to use our gifts disappoints God and denies others the opportunity to enjoy
God’s blessings with us. God’s will is that we use our gifts…regardless of
what they are.
When you’re a kid, there’s nothing better than being on the winning
team. Of course, when you’re a kid there’s nothing worse than being on the
losing team. Think of all those great, feel-good Disney-esque movies- they
don’t ever end with the hometown team losing the big championship game. No, the
whole point of these happily-ever-after stories is that the under-dog, scrubby,
gave-it-their-all losers are transformed into top-of-the-heap winners. But for
adults, winning and losing is rarely as clear-cut as it was when we were kids.
But we do have one event in our grown-up lives that still makes us feel like an
instant loser. Nobody wants to lose. Nobody wants to be known as a loser…not
even in church. We love to talk about winning souls for Jesus. And since Jesus
Christ is the head of the church, we see Him as the ultimate CEO, mapping out
successful corporate strategies and takeovers. We want to be winners. But
today’s gospel text reminds us of the force and focus of Jesus’ message and
mission. We need to leave our fantasy Jesus behind and get to know the real
Jesus- the One who came to bring good news to the poor, give sight to the blind
and set the captives free. The real Jesus came for the least and the lost, not
the best and the brightest. He came not for the cream of the crop…but for the
emergence of spiritual redwoods signals a revolution in church organization. The
age of repeatable, predictable church bureaucracy has come to an end. It’s been
replaced by organic organizations that share the common features of the forest:
Emerging organizations are designed to grow. Their purpose isn’t to repeat or
protect a religious heritage that was their original programming. Instead,
their purpose is to expand and thrive in any way that will enhance their life
with Jesus. They are oriented around a core vision of life to the fullest with
Jesus, and that core vision is the only benchmark for self-evaluation.
Emerging organizations grow in the midst of sea of diversity. Their strategy
isn’t to clone themselves in as many places as possible. Instead, their
strategy is to empower whatever works, in order to overcome any obstacle
limiting their life with Jesus.
Emerging organizations grow in constant, creative change. Their spiritual life
is not repeatable or predictable. Instead, their spiritual life is a constant
bubbling of innovation and change, the energy for which is entirely devoted to
enhancing their life with Jesus.
The issue of control dominates the agenda
of the institutional churches that are slowly but surely disappearing in the
new era. That drive for control is fueled by the desire to preserve and protect
the great and glorious heritage of their institutions. These church
bureaucracies are machines. They may be of endless variety, they may be simple
or complex, they may be liberal or conservation, but they are machines nonetheless…and
their aim is control.
Spiritual redwoods are NOT machines. They aren’t
foreign bodies intruding on culture with the intent of controlling it. They’re
organisms…living organisms, and they understand the health of the church and
the health of the community to be one and the same. Why? Because enhancing the
fullness of life with Jesus is all that matters.
Now, you might be saying, “But I’m not a
spiritual redwood yet. I’m barely a spiritual sapling.” Or maybe you’re saying,
“I used to be a growing tree, but now I’m dried and withered, lying on the
forest floor.” Or maybe you’re saying, “The church is irrelevant; it died in 1970-
its roots are dried up and gone away.” If you’re saying these things…here’s
some hope for you. In January, a seed was planted in Israel…a 2,000 year old
seed. The seed, by all accounts, was dead. The tree it came from, a date
palm from King Herod’s palace, had long been extinct. They planted a dead
seed…from an extinct tree…in a desert. They planted it in soil from its
native community and they nurtured it. Five months later, that 2,000 year old
date tree is 14 inches high, and has grown five leaves. Where there was death,
now there is life. That ancient tree is no longer extinct, but growing. And we
can grow too. God isn’t through with us yet. Jesus began his ministry by
announcing the birth of another world. Give thanks to God today and ask Him to
let a new world be born in you.
Thanks for stopping by– I pray you have a blessed day! Please make sure and come back again tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!
The other day the dog told me she needed to go out. And in case you’re thinking to yourself, “She TOLD you? Really? She TOLD you?” Yes…she told me! She has distinctly different behavior, depending on what she wants/needs. “I’m hungry” is different from “I’m thirsty”, which is different from “I want to play” which is different from “I need to go outside”. She may not speak English…but she certainly communicates! And she told me she had to go outside.
As we all know, tornadoes have been touching down EVERYWHERE…or at least it seems that way! The devastation in Joplin, MO is overwhelming. (Here is a link to a CNN video- http://bit.ly/jPne2u. The woman in the video is my 2nd cousin. her aunt, my 1st cousin, lost her life in the tragedy.) The devastation is overwhelming. And when it is so fresh in your mind, it has a far greater impact on how you respond to things.
I am a big fan of the TV show MASH. I watched it regularly and with great anticipation when it was in “first run”. (It was in syndicated reruns for what seemed like an eternity, but you just don’t see it on much any more.) I have many favorite memories from that show, but one of them revolves around a relatively minor character- Dr. Sidney Friedman, the psychiatrist. (By the way, in his 1st appearance on the show, intended to be a “one and done” sort of thing, the character’s name was Milton. When thy brought him back, they decided to change it to Sidney.) In this particular episode, he shows up at the camp at the onset of a particularly bad stretch. They are inundated with wounded and performing surgery for hours and hours. Toward the end of the episode, when everyone is near the breaking point, Sidney gets ready to leave. Sensing the massive amounts of stress in the room, he leaves them with these parting words, “Ladies and gentlemen, take my advice- pull down your pants and slide on the ice!”
(Today we continue our current Wednesday devotional Bible Study, Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Bible. Each Wednesday, we walk through another section of the Bible and see what it’s all about.) Singer/songwriter Randy Newman has a song called Short People. The lyrics include: “Short People got no reason to live. They got little hands and little eyes and they walk around tellin’ great big lies. They got little noses, tiny little teeth. They wear platform shoes on their nasty little feet. Well, I don’t want no Short People round here.” He then adds, “Short People are just the same as you and I. All men are brothers until the day they die. It’s a wonderful world!” Sounds great, huh? But then it’s right back to- “Short People got nobody to love. They got little baby legs, they stand so low. You got to pick ’em up just to say hello. They got grubby little fingers, dirty little minds. They’re gonna get you every time. Well, I don’t want no Short People ’round here.”
of families will be turned to each other. And when Jesus comes, He comes preaching about the family…the family of God. And what is God? God is holy fire- and when it’s dark and cold…don’t we all want to be close to the fire? I pray you have a blessed day! Please make sure and come back tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!