May 21, 2023 Seventh Sunday of Easter
Readings: 1st Peter 4:13-22; Acts 1:12-14; John 17:1-11
Becoming (One in Ministry)
So today we finish up this series of Becoming, today’s focus is One in Ministry. Being one in ministry means to understand one another from their point of view and you being understood from yours. You see we all have different understandings of the same subjects based on our history.
Over the past six years I have referenced and explained things from the viewpoint of fire and EMS. I am sure there have been times when I’m explaining things or using that as examples when you did not quite understand what I was talking about. There were probably times when my examples caused you to question how does that fit in with the ministry of the Gospel. Yet by the end of the worship service, most of the time, you understood how it did complement ministry and gained new enlightenment about being a first responder but also being a Disciple of Christ. I will not be presumptuous saying that every time you are able to gain enlightenment because there are times I do tend to talk in circles. However, it was my way to explain the gospel to you through a way that made it the most easily for me. In all fairness it may not have been the best because you do need to gain knowledge or there is no understanding. It does help in reaching those in the field of first responders because there are those who do not attend church.
Let me ask you, have you ever visited a culture that you were not familiar with? You may have gone on vacation somewhere that you haven’t been before and encountered something strange, only to find out it was common. I was reading in the commentaries for today that an individual had gone to the Gulf Coast for a vacation. There were reports that a hurricane was heading right for them, and they debated on whether to leave or ride it out. They chose to stay put as the category of the hurricane started declining. The now tropical storm made landfall, they witnessed something flying through the air and sticking to everything it touched. Not wanting to venture outside during the storm they were left wondering what the substance was. It seemed to have the consistency of cotton so they were left deducing that it might be seeds flying, or maybe some industrial spill during this storm that was churning up the substance. As it hit the windows, it had the consistency of froth and so they remained clueless until after the storm. After it had passed, they started talking to people from the area only to find out that it was seafoam churned up as the water hit the sand driven by the wind. Everyone else knew what it was but they were clueless, not being from the area.
When I started working in the ER, terms were being thrown around, even though I had been in EMS for so many years, I had no clue what people were talking about. Not until I asked someone to explain it, was I able to gain an understanding because I was willing to listen before making judgment.
Each one of us, no matter how hard we try to be open to other ideas, we are still limited to what we can understand because of our perspectives. Those perspectives limit our vision of the world. We are limited by our gender, our social status, our personal history, our family history, and what we have experienced in our lives. We are limited to evaluate the stuff that happens around us because of what we personally know. I would be willing to bet that there are quite a few of us who have never seen seafoam flying in the air before. Therefore, we too would have been just as bewildered. I knew what it was as I read only because I have seen the foam before.
The same holds true for ministry. We are limited to our understanding of the Gospel through Jesus Christ by how we have experienced life. What we believe about Jesus is limited to our vantage point. If we limit ourselves, or have been limited to a tiny circle, then our vantage point is extremely small and for whatever reason, be it intentional or unintentional, are incapable of seeing the larger picture. Therefore, we can only elaborate on what we truly know or have experienced. The Bible Study group have been seeing some of this in the series the Chosen. Nicodemus is trying to understand the miracles of Jesus. Mary of Magdala is trying to understand how she was changed. Matthew witnesses a miracle and is completely bewildered. Simon is used to being in control and does not understand why he can’t fix things and why God has not rescued the Israelites.
It is crucial for those who is involved in leadership of the church or anyone who claims to be a disciple of Christ, to take the responsibility and seek to understand someone else’s viewpoint. We are more likely to gain someone’s respect by willing to listen to what they have to say so that we can see their perspective, not necessarily must we agree with it, just be able to understand where they are coming from. By doing so demonstrates Christ like love. Jesus always met people where they were. If Jesus did have to rebuke someone, he did not do so until first listening to what they had to say. We are called to be in relationship with Disciples of Christ even if they have viewpoints that differs from ours. We must never forget that we are in unity with one another, and in ministry because of the Holy Spirit that is, for the lack of a better word, the glue that holds us all together.
The Gospel passage morning is the final conversation Jesus has with the 11 disciples, because Judas has already left to betray him. He is still sitting around the table with those disciples, and the conversation is about to come to an end. We read that Jesus closes this time with a prayer that he will continue to glorify God, then He prays for his disciples, lifts them up to God and finally prays for those who do not know Jesus yet. He does this knowing fully of the events that are about to come which include His horrific death. We do not see Jesus praying for himself directly, nor does he pray that he does not have to go through the events that are already set in motion. We do read that Jesus blesses his disciples and commissions them to continue his ministry in the world, and Jesus also prays for the world.
Jesus carried out his ministry so perfectly, yet he commissions the disciples even though they are not perfect, they are not Jesus. They are limited to their perspectives from their history and lifestyle that have now been altered by the Christ, because they listened to their teacher. We read so many times that the four Gospels contradict each other yet remember the four individuals that wrote them have a different perspective that was controlled by their history and lifestyle. Even though, Jesus still commissioned them to take care of the people that God had given to him. Now Jesus gives those very same people to his disciples. The same holds true for us, as Disciples of Christ and believers in what He held true, as did His 11 disciples, we are not perfect, but we have still been commissioned to take care of the people God gave to Christ. We cannot see firsthand the perspective that Jesus had, but we are still commissioned to do the job. The 11 disciples were not equipped to do the job single-handedly that Jesus did, only by working together as a group could they even think of accomplishing the daunting task. Again, the same holds true for us, we cannot do this single-handedly, we need to rely on each other and the Holy Spirit to guide us. The Holy Word as it has been told, about Jesus is the best tool that we must learn the perspective of Jesus. By listening to each other and discussing with each other is the only way that we can gain a more well-rounded perspective of what Jesus intended. Not only did God and Jesus send us the Holy Spirit and the Holy Word but he also sent us each other to combat the ways of the evil one. It will take all of us working together as the whole body of Christ to be able to see and reach the world along with the people created by God that have yet to know him. The men’s breakfast devotional talked about seizing the opportunities to speak the Gospel with all that we meet.
So as Christ prayed for his disciples of then, those in the future, on that night before he was about to leave them, allow me, in the example that Christ has set, pray for you as I am preparing to start another year with you. So, I ask you to please stand, with your eyes open and arms reaching towards God, receive this prayer for you:
Gracious God the father and Jesus His son I have revealed you to these people at Hope UMC, whom you have given to me out of the world, with the help of the Holy Spirit. They were yours; you gave them to me, and they have obeyed your word. They have now received everything that you have given me so far, and those words did come from you. I have given them the words you gave to me, these past five years, they have accepted them. There is no doubt that those words came from you, and they believed that you sent those words to me. I do pray for all the people here at Hope UMC, I am not praying for the world, but those here you have given me because they are yours. All that I have been given is yours and all that you have has been made mine. Glory and happiness have come to me through them, while I remain here at Hope UMC. I am following your lead in this place through you, so Holy Father I ask that you protect them by the power of your name, oh God, through the name that you gave your son Jesus the Christ, and we all know that you are one, so we all gathered here today, have become one with you. While I have been with them, I have done your bidding to protect they and have kept them safe by the name you gave your son Jesus Christ and the words that you have spoken to me. I am still here in their presence so that we all may enjoy the full measure of your joy together. I will continue to give them your word that the world does not want to hear, and the world may even hate them for it, because they are not of the world. My prayer is that you protect them from the world and protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world even as Jesus was not. Sanctify them by the truth and your word is truth. As you have sent me to them, I now send them into the world to preach what they have been taught. Those words they had been taught so far are sanctified by you that they too may be truly sanctified. In the name of Jesus, I pray Amen.