Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Starting Place

Last week in my sermon I talked about how we get to where we end up in life.
This week I want to talk about the start of life, the beginning of things.
Sometimes we hear that it is the end result that really matters.
But today I want us to think about the importance of where we start.
The foundations of what makes us who and what we are.

For the next six weeks I am going to be preaching on the book of Ephesians.
It is a book of the Bible that talks about the importance of the relationship of Christ in the Church.
It should be no surprise that before Ephesians talks about the moral implications of being a disciple of Jesus.
Before the author (probably not St. Paul) talks about what the Church should be doing, or should be about.
The author tells us about God’s saving action through Jesus Christ.
The author sets the tone of the foundation of what comes after.
The starting point for everything is God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Jesus Christ for the Church is the foundation of all we do, and from the grace we experience and know in Jesus comes everything else.
It is the foundation of why we do what we do.
God before time and space made all things, redeemed all things in Jesus Christ, and brings us into relationship by the Holy Spirit.
The foundation, for people of faith, of everything flows from God.

It is important than whenever we talk about what the Church might be or do we start from this point.
We are children of God, heirs of the promise of salvation.
We are loved by God and given grace to live for others.
It is the starting point of everything that we do here as people of faith.

We don’t do the things we do because we are good people.
We don’t do them because we are morally superior to others.
We do them because we know God’s grace and want to share it with others.

I was thinking about this a lot this week because I had two experiences that reminded me of the importance of being grounded in the foundations of our faith.
This week my wife and I were invited to go see the Mormon Tabernacle choir in Boston by leaders of our local Mormon Church.
Before the concert we attend a reception, and we got to meet Clayton Christensen a renowned Harvard Business professor.
At the reception he gave a speech about why he thought faith was important.
He told a story about a Chinese economist who came here to study democracy and capitalism.
Professor Christensen and he became friends and before he was to leave he invited the Chinese economists over his house for dinner.
He asked him what surprised him about America.
The Chinese economists said he was surprised at the importance of religion in American life.
That in order for a democracy to work people have to be willing to do the right thing most of the time, and that wouldn’t be possible without religion.
I don’t know if I totally agree, but I found the idea very interesting.
And it speaks directly to the idea that we need to have a good foundation in our lives a grounding that helps us know what the right thing is and then the courage and conviction to do it.

The second thing that happened to me is that I have been invited to be in a group of community leaders.
The group is made up of business, political, religious, and non-profit leaders in NH.
We will be meeting with presidential candidates to talk about the widening gap in inequality in our country.
Some people also call this the opportunity gap.
In preparation we have read a book called, “Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis” by Robert Putnam.
This week we met with Robert Putnam in his home town of Jaffery, NH.
He gave all sorts of statistics and stories that show this gap.
In that meeting he talked about the importance of religion in people’s lives.
He said that religious people are nicer than other people.
They give more money.
They contribute more of their time towards serving their communities.
And they do care more than other people about the people experiencing poverty.
And in the past they have provided a place for kids to have mentors and have helped them to improve their lives.
That kids who go to Church regularly are more successful in later in life.
They use less drugs, have less premarital sex, and are more stable.
It is true that church people are not perfect, but it also nice to know that indeed going to Church does produce something in our lives.
There is something to the foundation that is built early in our lives.

And both these stories are about foundations.
They are about what we use to build ourselves up as people.
And when we build our lives on the foundation of Jesus Christ, we see in our lives the fruits that flow from it.
We see the strong house that is built because at the base is something we can count on, something that is strong.

We are about to start Family Promise.
It is a program for Families experiencing homelessness.
It is a good program, and one I believe in strongly.
But make no mistake we do this not because we are trying to do something nice for someone else.
We do this because the foundation of our lives is God.
God who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places.
God who has chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before him in love.
God who sent Jesus Christ to died for our sins, the one who taught us what it means to live a godly life.
Jesus Christ who has made known to us the mystery of God’s will.
And to follow Jesus means to care for all of our humanity, to care for all of God’s children.
To care that they have a home, a place to rest, a place to thrive as we thrive.
We do it because at the foundation of our lives is God we know through Jesus Christ.
We do it because we want to show others the power that comes from knowing Jesus Christ.

I read a quote this week that said, “People don’t need a church, they need the people of the church to be the church.”
That is exactly what we are doing in Family Promise.
We are being the Church for others, and showing the grace we received through Jesus Christ.

Five years ago when we started to organize Family Promise the Concord monitor wrote a story about it.
They called me to ask some questions about the program.
One of the questions they asked was did I think it would be difficult to get churches to be part of Family Promise.
I said, “No I don’t, because I couldn’t imagine a Church that followed Jesus Christ that wouldn’t want to help homeless families.”
I still believe that if Jesus Christ is the foundation of the Church than the Church acts and does the things that Jesus Christ would do.

Where we start matters.
The foundation of what we build our life on matters.
The foundation of what we build our church on matters.
Today we celebrate with the author of Ephesians that our life, our church is built on Jesus Christ…. “To the praise of his glorious grace that he freely bestowed on us in the beloved.”

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