WE ARE THE CHURCH, RIGHT?
Luke 5: 1-11
February 6, 2022
Pete Townsend wrote one of his band’s most famous songs in the same year that I graduated from university … a song that younger folks might think is merely a theme for their investigative television show CSI … a song reaching number 14 on the charts that repeatedly mentions the band’s name … a song whose opening guitar riffs meshed with clear percussion rhythms immediately brings recognition to those of us who have heard the song hundreds of times. And then, Townsend sings, along with John Entwistle and perhaps many of us, “Who are you?” Who, who, who, who? Who are you? Who, who, who who.” A little later in the song they sing “Come on tell me who are you? I really want to know.”
So, friends this morning as we prepare to come to the Table of the Lord whether in person here at St. Paul’s or online from your personal corner of God’s world … who are you? Who do you tell people you are? Do you mention immediately … or perhaps after evaluating the circumstance of who can hear you and where you are at do you pause and think and then say … I am part of the church of Jesus Christ or perhaps is that too trite of an answer or one of personal embarrassment?
Now, I know we celebrate, all of us celebrate … almost with exuberance to the point of bragging when we talk about being part of this incredible loving church family called St. Paul’s but we are the church of Jesus Christ, right? It goes beyond these walls … our faith and our connection is not to a church in West Deptford but to the God of Creation. We wouldn’t be here at St. Paul’s without Jesus Christ so don’t you think that your corner of God’s world wants to know or should know how God’s love works because here at this church love works … God’s mission is happening?
Don’t you think that your small segment of worldly connection needs to know that people like you and like me live our lives connected with God’s love in a specific relationship that claims and celebrates that there is a familial relationship with God, Son, and Holy Spirit that extends to every corner of the world. It connects you and me to people like Richard Prince in Uganda, Maria Vargas in Puerto Rico, and Sergei Nikolaev in Moscow all of whom participated in a World Communion Sunday here, specifically for us at St. Paul’s, a couple of years ago … and each of whom prays for this church and lifts up Logan and Kathie in their personal prayers … does that bring joy and identification to you each day knowing that Christians in Uganda, Russia, and Puerto Rico know about this place called St. Paul’s but more importantly consider us their Christian brothers and sisters even though they have never set foot in this church?
What about those hungry individuals in Monrovia, the capital city of Liberia on Africa’s west coast, who were fed by the people of St. Paul’s not because we had ever met them but because we had a loving connection to them through a man, Eli Gbayee, whose love of his home nation was shared from here one Sunday not that long ago. Do you think that they were glad that through our financial gifts we raised money to give them the essential gift of food that they could not afford? Don’t you think their church leaders connect the dots to this little church in West Deptford and still on occasion say THANK GOD … WE ARE THE CHURCH … of JESUS CHRIST not of Monrovia, not of Moscow, not of Kampala not of Ponce and not of West Deptford … and that there is something truly special to celebrate in that truth and more importantly for us to identity ourselves in that global connection. We belong to God and Jesus Christ and that does matter.
Late last night, I was reading some posts from a clergy online fellowship group and the topic of the Lord’s Table came up … a pastor who I do not know said that she always includes Paul’s words from First Corinthians that I shared today before we paused for our prayers of silent confession. Paul wrote about Christians as individuals who are also essential parts of the Church of Jesus Christ … WE friends, are that church right? It is our essential membership in life. Today as we approach The Table of the Lord we each have the opportunity to honestly and earnestly renew and reenergize our faith, our commitment, and yes our membership in a global church in which we are taught by Jesus Christ to “make disciples of all nations … teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And, surely, I am with you always to the very end of the age.”
With today’s technology … we can reach all the nations; we have had people from every continent except Antarctica worship with us here in West Deptford since the pandemic began.
If you and I are the church then every single post we make on social media has the potential to reach every corner of the world with the messages we believe are important. So, are you posting words and memes as if belonging to the church represents who you are? Is Jesus with you in those words and memes? Can someone easily identify your allegiance to Jesus teaching in what they see from you in this world … what if someone in Australia without faith somehow sees your post … will they sense Jesus Christ or God or will they see the world? Do you share information about this incredible church so that those searching for an online church or an in person church can find St. Paul’s or is posting about the church you call your own something you want to keep a secret from the world or perhaps you don’t want your friends to know that you have a church.
Here’s what Paul wrote about the meal we are sharing today, “After giving thanks, Jesus broke the bread and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this to remember me.” He did the same thing with the cup, after they had eaten, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Every time you drink it, do this to remember me.” Every time you eat this bread and drink this cup, you broadcast the death of the Lord until he comes. Each individual should test himself or herself, and eat from the bread and drink from the cup in that way.” Friends, are you connecting to the covenant God has made with us through Jesus Christ? Is today’s sharing in the Sacrament essential, refreshing, renewing, reenergizing, and yes even a test of faith for you … will you be allowing those moments to do that for you because you believe you are part of THE CHURCH of JESUS CHRIST or will it just be a moment in time …
It’s an important question … WHO ARE YOU? WHO, WHO, WHO, WHO are you? In our Gospel lesson of the day, Jesus preached from Simon Peter’s fishing boat to people who had gathered in the marina but then he had a lesson for the man whom we have come to know as Peter and for the brothers, James and John, who were Peter’s business partners in the fishing industry. Jesus took them fishing but then Jesus took them full circle to what mattered … to God … to being identified not as fishermen but as THE CHURCH of GOD whose responsibility was and is still today … to fish for people, to bring strangers, neighbors, co-workers, friends, and yes even family members to connection to God through God’s love … through Jesus Christ … and Jesus said “DO NOT BE AFRAID!”
Peter didn’t think he could go into the world for God and build God’s church … he attempted to beg off, “Leave me Lord, for I am a sinner!” But Jesus declared … you can do it! DO NOT BE AFRAID!” In the Psalms we remember that “The Lord is my light and my salvation, whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?”
So, are we the church of Jesus Christ and if we are, do we accept that role in life that we need to be actively sharing the message of Jesus from His Ascension by receiving the Holy Spirit and going into every corner of our small section of the world for God and for God’s church? And, to do it with the joy we know comes from having God with us … God’s love embracing us? “Rejoice always,” Paul reminded us. “In the Lord!”
In Luke as the end of His time on earth was approaching Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. LET NOT YOUR HEARTS be TROUBLED … neither let them be afraid.” DO NOT BE AFRAID … Jesus words from the beginning of His ministry until his final instructions to all people of faith … “WE ARE THE CHURCH … I am the church .. you are the church .. we are the church together” and it’s about time we started living like we are.
Friends, as we move forward into the year 2022 it is time for renewal … it is time for a reenergizing … it is a time for courage in faith. We need to be people willing to share our faith stories …
One of our dear friends who worships with us online asked me if at least once a month they could hear from a member of our church family who would be willing to stand up during worship to tell the world and this church family why or how they believe in Jesus Christ. So, can I get 12 volunteers today who will sign up to take on that faith sharing over the next year? One Sunday a month for however long your story is?
Do you realize how many of the great heroes of faith from the Bible were afraid and did not want to take on the tasks God had for them to do? We already heard about Peter but we remember Joshua and Samuel and David and Isaiah and so many others. Isaiah heard God tell him, “FEAR NOT, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”
And, Jesus told Peter after instructing him to go out fishing for people … after telling Simon Peter that Peter, James, and John three fishermen in their family’s businesses that they needed to live as if they were the church of God … to fish for people who needed to hear the message and experience the love and light of Jesus Christ and to change into people not only saying “God is real” but being willing to reflect God’s teaching in their daily life … the church of Jesus Christ, which is made up of many small associations of Christians we call churches around the world but as the song this morning said, YES, “We are the church together! All who follow Jesus all around the world!”
That is who I think we are ready to show the world … that together with the psalmist we “give thanks to the Lord with our hearts and praise God and thank God for God’s loyal love and faithfulness.”
Today, before you eat the bread and drink from the cup pray quietly with me a simple prayer from today’s Psalm, “Lord, let me live again! Save me with Your love! Your faithful love lasts forever Lord! Don’t let go of what Your hands has made in me!”
And, then go out into the world showcasing WHO YOU ARE … the world really needs to know and I believe wants to know WHO CHRISTIANS are because the message of Jesus Christ has been hidden all around the world by those who claim the name but live for the world … be renewed! Reenergize! And live by sharing the story! We are the church all around the world …. We are the church together! AMEN
Lord, let me live again! Save me with Your love! Your faithful love lasts forever Lord! Don’t let go of what Your hands has made in me!”
Christ our Lord invites to His table all who love Him, who earnestly repent of their sin and seek to live in peace with one another. Therefore, let us examine ourselves, as we take a moment of silence to confess our sins before God.