For the past several weeks we have been reading and watching "The Call" by Adam Hamilton, senior pastor of Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, Kansas.
As we continue our look at Paul’s life, we next consider how Paul continued his second missionary journey.
>> As before, we see that we, as Paul, are called to go into the world to spread the love and word of God with the good news of salvation in and through Jesus Christ, that others may receive the gift of life and become followers of his Way.
I have enjoyed getting back deeper into the book of Acts and some of the letters in the New Testament, as we journey with Hamilton back over the life and ministry of the Apostle Paul (who had earlier been know as Saul of Tarsus). We have considered his mission to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ far beyond the borders of Judea, Samaria and Galilee, to the reaches of modern day Syria, Turkey, Greece and elsewhere, eventually taking him to Rome as well
In the process, we have been considering our own spiritual journeys and the call that Jesus has made upon our lives. Further, while doing all this, we of Church of the Open Door have been further considering, by way of our annual Charge Conference, our call to mission and ministry as a congregation.
In this chapter of his book, Hamilton tells not only of Paul’s journey and mission which would establish church communities in places he visited, but also later letters which he would write which would "demonstrate his pastoral concern for the church and reveal the issues that the church – and Paul – was facing."(p145) Further, as does the book of Acts, his letters to the church in Corinth "offer us a window into the challenges, concerns, and conflicts faced by the early church and show us how Paul addressed them." (p.147)
Like Paul and the early church, it is all too easy for congregations and larger bodies of faith to get wrapped up in disagreements and divisions, all too often fueled by our own human perspectives and egos. While these may be a natural part of the process of spiritual growth and understanding, and even serve God’s greater purpose, God calls us to remember and focus upon that greater purpose and plan to which we are all called.
Paul wrote: "Now I would remind you, brothers and sisters, of the good news that I proclaimed to you, which you in turn received, in which also you stand, through which also you are being saved, if you hold firmly to the message that I proclaimed to you—unless you have come to believe in vain. For I handed on to you as of first importance what I in turn had received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures. . . " (1 Cor. 15:1-4) Indeed, as Paul earlier in his letter describes some of the many spiritual gifts given by the Holy Spirit, it is so that we may further the work of Christ as his body now on earth. He shares what he calls "the most excellent way"(1 Cor. 12:31b) It is the way of God’s love.
Let me share with you again those words of 1 Corinthians 13, from the Contemporary English Bible (CEB) translation.
"If I speak in tongues of human beings and of angels but I don't have love, I'm a clanging gong or a clashing cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and I know all the mysteries and everything else, and if I have such complete faith that I can move mountains but I don't have love, I'm nothing. If I give away everything that I have and hand over my own body (as a martyr) to feel good about what I've done but I don't have love, I receive no benefit whatsoever.
Love is patient, love is kind, it isn't jealous, it doesn't brag, it isn't arrogant, it isn't rude, it doesn't seek its own advantage, it isn't irritable, it doesn't keep a record of complaints, it isn't happy with injustice, but it is happy with the truth. Love puts up with all things, trusts in all things, hopes for all things, endures all things.
Love never fails. As for prophecies, they will be brought to an end. As for tongues, they will stop. As for knowledge, it will be brought to an end. We know in part and we prophesy in part; but when the perfect comes, what is partial will be brought to an end. When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, reason like a child, think like a child. But now that I have become a man, I've put an end to childish things.
Now we see a reflection in a mirror; then we will see face-to-face. Now I know partially, but then I will know completely in the same way that I have been completely known. Now faith, hope, and love remain—these three things—and the greatest of these is love."
The special Native American Ministries Sunday worship service here last week helped me to remember and celebrate my love for Native American peoples, and my first calling into ministry many years ago, even before being baptized with water by another person into the organized Christian Church. And it gave me an opportunity to recall the question Jesus, my Savior had asked, "Do you love me?" And to recall words of Jesus, that if I indeed loved him, "Take care of my sheep." "Feed my lambs." "Feed my sheep." (John 21:15-17)
I spent most of this past Thursday morning in meditation, prayer and fasting, and the afternoon in administration of ministry, connecting with people on Facebook, texting and email, and watching this week’s DVD session of The Call. I went to sleep in prayer, and woke in the middle of the night to write most of these words as the Spirit led me.
For, as helpful as it is to have a vision and set goals, it can be all too easy to get weighed down or stuck in survey-taking, planning, number taking, and report making. And as helpful as computers and other electronic devices may be in the process of these things, including communication – let us remember that it is the people (all of God’s children) – and the message (new, abundant and everlasting life in Christ that is of utmost importance. (John 3:16, John 10:10)
It must be God’s Spirit leading us.
Although all of life is sacred, created by God – YOU, and every other person, are what matters most to God. God’s LOVE – that is why Jesus came to this earth in human flesh and blood!
That is why he called Saul to be an apostle (one who is sent out) to the Gentiles. That is why he calls each of us who would follow him into the world!
As we sang at the close of worship last Sunday, may we so live and walk together, as One in the Spirit, one in the Lord, so that others may know we are Christians . . . by our love.
> So, where are you? Have you heard the call of Christ upon your heart and life? If not, hear it now. If you have not yet, I invite you to place your trust in him, and receive the gift of new, abundant and eternal life Jesus offers.
. . . And if you have not yet discerned the call of Christ in ministry and mission, please speak to me about your interest.