Second in series: 40 Days of Faith
Short banter - A quick second welcome
Today is the second Sunday of Lent SLIDE -- the 40-days in the Traditional Church Calendar that lead up to Good Friday and Easter Sunday, when we remember the death & resurrection of Jesus And, as a theme for Lent, each Sunday from now until Easter, we’re going to be taking a different cue from the Early Church — Discovering how when people centuries ago invested in those churches, they were, more than that, investing in the wider communities and cities those churches were in And then we’ll be taking that to us today. Unpacking how when we invest in BLV, we are, more than that, investing in Lincoln Square, and in the wider Brown Line area, and in our city.
And for today I want to look at another one of those pictures of the early church from St. Paul’s first letter to the church in Corinth. SLIDE He is addressing this new community that is made up of very diverse people, coming from all sorts of backgrounds, religiously, culturally, and socioeconomically. A type of community that didn’t really have precedent in the ancient world. -- people of different status or background existed in the same cities all throughout the ancient world, but congregating together -- this was new.
1 Corinthians 12: 12 Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. 13 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. 14 Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many. 15 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.16 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.17 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? 18 But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. 19 If they were all one part, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts, but one body. 21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” 22 On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable SLIDE This is one of the Bible’s more well-known passages, and a very common interpretation of it is to talk about how we are all different but come together to makeup a beautiful community. Which is true and powerful, but for today I want to highlight how significant it is that these words were written to the type of community this was, one with unprecedented diversity.
The early church made it possible for all people regardless of religious background, culture, socio economic status to feel activated to impact life and the world -- to matter and make a difference.
This was pretty revolutionary in the hierarchical culture of that time.
SLIDE In general, in religious communities of that time there were only a select few who were really activated. The priest and the other religious functionaries were the ones who did everything and everyone else would then be mostly passive participants who depended on the experiences and rituals that these select few facilitated. It was radical to see how these early Jesus communities sought to activate SLIDE everyone as having influence & power That cut against a major cultural reality of the ancient world: an external locus of control. An external locus of control is the belief that what happens to me, is largely out of my control. It is the result of external things. I can’t actually do a much to change my lot in life. So, I should just figure out how to best make due with my current circumstances.
Opposed to an internal locus of control culture, like middle-class America, which believes that what happened to me, my experience of life, my opportunities, are largely in my control. In seminary, I had a professor who said that this was perhaps one of the most underrated legacys in the of the Early Church. That it empowered people to think they could impact the world. That regardless of where they came from, or how much money they had, they could have influence.
Bringing this part of the purpose of the early church to us today,
I am excited to consider what may be possible with a community full of activated people, who see the ability they have to impact the world around them.
And as I think about this, in our culture I don’t think it is hierarchy or a external locus of control that is being challenged. Of course those are still present, it would be naive to say that hierarchy doesn’t play a role in the agency people feel like they have in life.
But, what I see empowerment and activation most pushing against in our current culture is... SLIDE consumerism Consumerism of course influences how we approach material things, SLIDE buying stuff. That absolutely has big impact on our life, how content we are, what we prioritize. So much of our life is being bombarded by messages of you’ll look more beautiful, seem cooler, you’ll be happier, more fulfilled, If you buy this thing But, it doesn’t stop with materialism, We live in a culture that encourages us to look at everything as a consumer. Consumers of experiences, SLIDE Facebook seems like the a constant series of comparisons of the different cool experiences we have had
Millennials spend less money on material things than previous generations, but way more on experiences. I mean I prefer an experience over say, a lamp… But, I am still approaching... brunch, or the concert, or the cubs game as a consumer. I think this finds life in other places, like I find myself to often be a consumer of relationships. SLIDE What is this offering me, what am I getting out of this. Keeping tally with our loved ones to see is whether what we have put in, “paid” is level with what we get out.
Or I have certainly experienced being a consumer of my workplace - SLIDE I remember working in IT Staffing sales and I would find myself evaluating my workplace like a yelp review. Office is in a cool location, but atmosphere is little unfriendly, coworkers weren’t very nice, boss is a little aloof, overall I would say 3 stars. I would constantly complain about what the workplace offered me, how I experience my coworkers, or how I experience my boss. It was a long time before I stopped to think about how I may impact or influence any of those things I complain about. I am consuming it. I had no role to play, it was just happening to me.
We consume our neighborhoods. SLIDE I have the freedom to live almost everywhere, so.. I will see what each neighborhood has to offer me. For the longest time, I really preferred not knowing my neighbors. I just would assess my neighborhood by the convenience or inconvenience in which it offered me access to the experiences I wanted. Honestly, never once thinking about how my presence in an area would have any impact on it. And so almost inevitably we are consumers of our faith communities. SLIDE Do I like the music, did I enjoy the talk, were the bagels good. We evaluate it on our experience.
This is where I think this lesson from the early church is so powerful for us today, that we are all best served when all of us feel activated - when we feel like vital parts to a larger body. When we look for the impact we can have.
And I think in our current culture we need help in doing this.
For me, I remember when I had a shift in how I thought about this, At this time I was really unsure what I thought or believed about god, Jesus, or church. But, I had come to the conclusion that my life was better off living in community.
So, Michelle and I started going to this church and we started getting to know people & joined a small group. But, I was still pretty critical. Every sunday I would drive away with michelle and share my yelp review. This is what I disagreed with in the sermon, I really didn’t like the 3rd song they played, the coffee is too weak. One week, Michelle suggests that rather than leave right after the service we should go out of our way to meet someone new. She suggested that we not just do it that week, but make the commitment to do that every week for the foreseeable future. Which was a good idea in hindsight, because I don’t know if I would've done it, if it had not been a premade decision. And it was awesome, we met a ton of really cool people. It felt really meaningful to be part of what connected these people into the church for the first time. In fact, I know of at least 4 couples that we did this with that are still connected at that church. And so as we kept doing this, I started caring a lot less about how much I liked everything in the service and started spending my energy looking out for who we were going to go and meet this week.
My investment in that church grew and grew, I starting investing my money there, for the first time in my life I started the practice of tithing, setting aside 10% of my income for the church. I starting investing my time in volunteering, and I started investing my energy, I helped lead a small group for new people. And my experience of that church came alive, It began there with how I saw myself within the church community. As someone who had real impact and could really influence how others experienced the community. And then it kinda bleed into the rest of my life. I started to feel like I could have impact on my workplace. And so in that IT staffing job, I stopped complaining about how everyone complained all the time, and instead I would just tell positive stories about my boss, or I would offer to buy my coworkers coffee when we hit the 2pm wall.
And although I still didn’t like the work of that Job, I enjoyed the workplace much more. It played out in my relationships, rather than keeping tally, I thought... how can I say sorry first, or reach out first. For the first time in my life I got to know some of our neighbors, who we had over dinner. It even Impacted how I interacted with service workers. At coffee shops and restaurants I just tried to treat people like they were people, not just the thing that gets me what I want. I actually started tipping more. Saying thank you more, making an effort to look service workers in the eye. All in all, I felt less like a consumer, and in turn felt less cynical, pessimistic, less lonely. I felt more hopeful and alive. I know this sounds cheesy but my heart felt brighter, that just the best way I can describe it.
And so when I think about this church, and think about the impact we could have on Lincoln square,
on this city. I get excited to imagine everyone in this room feeling these same things, by being active engagers with their lives and world, not just consumers
Certainly, the impact we could have on any new people that come into this church is meaningful, but even more than that. The impact we could all have on our families, the places we work, the way we interact the service workers in Lincoln Square.
I dream of the day that BLV becomes known for having people that just make things better. You want to have a better work environment? you should hire someone from BLV. Oh, you want to pull off that service project, we should totally get some BLV volunteers. And even more than that... I dream for you, that you feel less cynicism in life, would find life to be more full of hope, that you would find belief in the impact you can have, that you would be less of a consumer.
That you would become known in your circle of friends as the person to go to in times of need or crisis. In short, I want your life to be better, and I want Lincoln Square to be better for having BLV, but I think that will only happen if we feel activated.
And we’re actually in a really big time right now in the life of this church with ample opportunity for you invest and perhaps feel activated.
Historically, Lent is a season to intentionally lean into spiritual practices
And the spiritual practice that has become a tradition for our church to lean into every Lent is what is sometimes called “Intercessory Prayer” -- bringing needs and desires before God, looking to God to meet those
Not that prayer is convincing a disinterested God, but just that the way life is set-up, people are participators, not bystanders.
Our prayer or lack of prayer matters to how things go in life, just like our actions or inactions matter
If you’ve been with us for Lent before, this means our usual 40 Days of Faith Prayer Experiment
We’re asking you to commit to pray every day of Lent (for at least a few minutes) for 3 things (we have a smartphone Lock Screen Image on facebook and our website to help remind you to pray everytime you look at your phone):
Your Big Ask
What is a need or desire in you that feels outside of your control to make happen?
Prayer for the money to pull off something big is a common one. Other examples are: pray for a new job or a new relationship or improvement in a relationship.
Or something else is great too!
This is six people who you interact with on a weekly basis but who you aren’t close to, that best you can tell don’t seem to be experiencing much spiritually.
And the idea is simple: just pray that they’d find God giving them great things -- meaning in their work, joy in their relationships, guidance in their challenges, etc.
Your Church (BLV)
And let me take a moment to say that I feel INSECURE asking people to invest in this church, I feel insecure because I am the pastor of the church you are investing in. That feels vulnerable to me.
But, the truth is I am encouraging you to do the thing very thing that changed so much of my own life.
To invest in you community here, become more than a consumer.
To see yourself as someone who can make an impact at BLV, and in turn make in impact in our larger area. With that said, the last week of March is going to be maybe the biggest week in our church’s 5 year history, and that’s what we want you to pray for SLIDE Saturday evening, March 24, we’ll be throwing the second annual Brown Line Ball Fundraiser It’s food, open bar, live gypsy jazz music, silent auction, and the Carbon Arc here is going to host it for us. Even more than that, the Davis Theater and Carbon Arc are going to help us promote the Ball, so this has the chance to be a party not just for BLV and friends of BLV, but for the people of Lincoln Square. Our message is: When you invest in BLV, you’re investing in Lincoln Square -- because we exist to make life deeper, fuller, and more connected for the people of our wider community. So pray for the Ball! Pray that the party is amazing. Pray that people in the neighborhood hear about it and decide to come. Pray for the money you need to buy your tickets. Pray about who in your life you can invite. We’d love for all of our Stakeholders to consider buying a set of 5 tickets, and then treating 3 or 4 of your friends to the party But, that’s not all! SLIDE This might be crazy, but the following Saturday, March 31, we’re partnering with the Davis & Carbon Arc again to throw another party (but a very different kind) A community Easter Egg Hunt at the Davis for Lincoln Square families This is a huge opportunity to show a ton of families in our area that we exist and to give them a small taste of what type of community we are So pray for this too! And, then of course, the next day after that is Easter Sunday -- usually the highest attended service of our year
Now all of that sounds big and meaty, and beyond myself. And that is because it is.
All of this. The last week of march, our big asks, embracing our impact and not being consumers. That is big stuff and I am so thankful that Jesus didn’t send out the early church to do this stuff alone, and he doesn’t send us out to do it alone. He comes with us and he empowers us, and he is just bigger and stronger and more creative than we are. As if you would stand with me, I am going to pray that we feel like God is here with us, empowering us? (invite band) (invite to prayer)