Here is my challenge as a pastor: I am called, in many ways, to create spaces in which people might feel unsettled.
And, this is a weird calling.
Because, truthfully, I don’t like being unsettled. I don’t like being provoked. I don’t like be convicted or confronted. But, what I also know is that this is what the Gospel does: It unsettles and convicts us.
And, nobody enjoys this.
Now, there are always those people who want the “harsh truth” and more “conviction.” But, they want that for other people, not for themselves. Because, truthfully, being unsettled, challenged, and convicted – if it’s actually happening –is not an easy or welcomed thing.
But, it is a needed thing.
Because, the work of the Gospel and the Spirit is one of conviction. It’s one of challenge. It’s one that unsettles us, so that we will embrace a different way of living – one that looks and loves more like Jesus.
Jesus says, “When the Holy Spirit comes, he will come and convict us.” (John 16:8). Not to make us feel dirty, worthless, or bad. But, to confront us with the ways in which we have unthinkingly adopted the ways of the world around us.
Paul says, “Do not let the world mold you into its own image.” (Romans 12:2) And, Paul says this because we get shaped, molded, and formed by the world – which is why we need to become unsettled at some points. Because, we need to be formed differently.
All of this brings me back to what I started with – that my calling is, in some ways, a weird one. Because, while maintaining the gentleness, humility, and grace of Jesus, I’m also called to create spaces in which the Holy Spirit can unsettle us, speak to us, challenge us, and even re-direct us.
Archbishop Oscar Romero writes, “A church that doesn’t provoke any crisis, a gospel that doesn’t unsettle, a word of God that doesn’t get under anyone’s skin, a word of God that doesn’t touch the real sin of the society in which it is being proclaimed – what gospel is that?”
And, he is right.
So, here is my challenge today: Pay attention to what unsettles you.
Let’s not seek to unsettle and convict others, but to pay attention to the activity of the Spirit in our own lives. To lean into that unsettling and uncertainty. To pay attention to where conviction, and even self-righteousness, rise up. Because, as I have been paying attention to my own life, that’s often where the Spirit is actually working.
And, if the Spirit is working there, that’s where we need to be working too.
On Sunday it was my last official Sunday as Plattsville’s lead pastor. A position I have held for over 4 years, and one I have loved every single minute of it. Plattsville is a really unique and special church. They have something special within them about how they practice grace, how they show love, and how they support.
So on Sunday for my final sermon here, I re-preached the passage I preached for my first sermon here: Philippians 1.
Here in Philippians Paul is writing to a church he deeply deeply loves but has been called away from. And he writes this:
“Every time I think of you, I give thanks to my God. I always pray for you, and I make my request with a heart full of joy because you have been my partners in spreading the Good News about Christ from the time you first heard it until now.”
I unpacked this passage a little bit and why Paul was so thankful to the Philippian church.
Paul was so grateful to the Philippian church because of how they supported him. Paul was in prison and in that day and age meals weren’t covered or provided. You needed to rely on others for your daily sustenance and support. And the Philippian church were part of daily providing for Paul.
Paul was also deeply welcomed into the Philippian church family. All you need to do is to read his letter and how often he mentions them as dearest friends, brother and sisters, or partners in God’s grace to get that these are just people to him – they are his people. They are his family. He loves his church because they welcomed him.
And lastly, Paul loves the Philippian church because they have been his partners in sharing God’s grace. Paul makes that explicit in the first few verses, and keeps on mentioning it throughout his letter. He loves the church because of what they did together.
And on Sunday I shared with you all that I love this church for the same reason. That you supported me, that you welcomed me, and together we partnered with God in the business of God’s grace. I shared story after story after story of how you did that. And that bcause of how you supported, welcomed, and partnered I am eternally grateful.
That was my main point really: that I’m grateful to each and everyone of you, because this is a special church. I challenged each of you to commit to this place, because this is a special place.
And to close I ended the same way I started almost 5 years ago with these words:
Paul writes, ““Every time I think of you, I give thanks to my God. I always pray for you, and I make my request with a heart full of joy because you have been my partners in spreading the Good News about Christ from the time you first heard it until now.” I actually believe that this passage is prophetic for us. Meaning that I believe it will be true for us. That, like Paul, in years to come, when we’ve been living out this grace business for a while, I’ll be able to say to you like Paul did to the Philippians. Plattsville church every time I think of you, I’m filled with thanksgiving. With joy, with excitement. It’s never a struggle to pray for you, and my prayers to God are always filled with joy at the amazing privilege and honor it is to be your pastor. This is because you and I have joined in this grace business of God together. We’ve jumped in with two feet, supporting one another, loving one another, and deciding that from day one we would be about spreading the Good News of Jesus Christ
And that’s exactly what happened.
Big Idea: I am so grateful for you.
I’ll always consider myself part of this place and your pastor.
Paul loves Phillipi because of how they supported him, welcomed him, and partnered together with God.
When someone is hurting, you don’t get to take the focus.
Being changed by Jesus and changing lives with Jesus.
You have a special place in my heart.
This is a church that supports one another, journeys together, and is about God’s grace.
Adult Discussion Questions:
What stuck out to you from the sermon? How have you been welcomed here, supported here, or partnered together in sharing God’s grace? What are you thankful for in this place? Are you willing to commit and see what the future God has for you?
Challenge for the Week: This place rocks, and you should commit to being here.
“The church does not need brilliant personalities but faithful servants of Jesus and the brethren.”
But I think that is the temptation that the church has fallen for. That being big, having brilliant personalities, and preachers, that this is what will save the church. Bonhoeffer disagrees, and so does Jesus. What will save the church is people serving faithfully like Jesus to the world around them.
So to talk about this obviously we needed to talk about the TV show the Bachelor. You might not think that serving has anything to do with the Bachelor, and well you may be right, but here is what we learned on Sunday.
I believe that the TV show “the Bachelor” highlights a lot of our contemporary culture’s values and beliefs. The show has real people saying things that I think give us insight into some of the cultural waters we live in. And one thing you will notice again and again if you ever watch the show is how naturally selfishness comes out. People will say things like, “I just need to explore all my options”, or “I have to follow my heart, and so break yours”. Or even the whole premise of the show isn’t really to find love, it’s not to be rejected leaving without a rose.
So what’s the point? Well it’s pretty simple. Selfishness is deeply rooted in our culture, it is often celebrating in our culture, and it’s actually killing our culture. No world, culture, neighbourhood or friendship can survive the black hole that selfishness creates.
So how do you break selfishness? That’s what we looked at for the rest of Sunday, examining Philippians 2.
In Philippians 2 we read that we must have the same attitude of Jesus. Paul says get rid of selfishness and all its forms. Stop trying to impress people, making yourself out to be great. Focus on humility, don’t just look out for your own interests, look out for others.
And Paul then says, “be like Jesus”. He is seeking to ground this advice of rooting out selfishness in the practice and life of Jesus Christ. Jesus did not seek to grasp his rights, follow his own desires, but instead emptied himself and served others. This is to be our model as Christians. We are to give, to serve, and to empty ourselves.
In essence, Paul says serving others kills selfishness, and moves us in the direction of Christlikeness. Serving others must be at our centre, because it was and is at Jesus’ centre. Our world may be trapped by self-interest but we don’t need to be. We can live differently because of Jesus, we can live like Jesus. We can serve, sacrifice, give, and break selfishness in all its forms. We can love the world, and change the world by serving the world.
The question is, will we?
So we ended with a pretty specific call and challenge. To actually serve at least weekly, intentionally. The truth is that unless we plan how we will serve, life will get busy and make the choice for us. It is far easier to watch the Bachelor than mentor a youth. It is far easier to Facebook than to serve in a soup kitchen. It is far easier to watch a movie than it is to serve your community. But it is not better. So my challenge was simple – find a way to serve at least weekly. Weekly is really the minimum. It is something we should be doing daily with our lives. But weekly is a good start.
So that was the challenge and it’s a challenge I think we need to do for our lives. To be like Jesus, serve, kill selfishness, and love the world.
Big Idea: Serving others is the thing that kills selfishness
The church does not need brilliant personalities but faithful servants of Jesus and the brethren. Bonhoeffer
Selfishness is killing our culture.
We have accepted the belief that following our hearts fully is admirable and courageous.
Our culture says “That you are the most important and what you want is the most important. And that your job in life is to gratify your own desires”. David Foster Wallace
Greatness isn’t about yourself it’s about what you give, sacrifice, and how you serve.
Serving others is the thing that kills selfishness.
If you are truly serving it will be an inconvenience to you.
Sometimes serving is hard, but it is never wasted.
If you don’t plan how you will serve, you won’t.
To change a life, give of some of your life.
Adult Discussion Questions:
What stuck out to you from the sermon? What was challenging to you? What was new? Do you think that selfishness is a problem in our world? Where do you see it? Now where do you see it in your own life? How can serving help to break self-interest? When have you served and been changed through it? Where can you start to serve weekly now? Is there a place in your church, community, neighbourhood? When will you start?
Discussion Questions for Young Families
Teach your kids about the importance of serving. Choose a place to serve together. Maybe it’s to make cookies for neighbours, to go to a soup kitchen together, to go to the Gleaners, or other places as a family. Find a way to serve and go about it, make it happen, and see how it starts to change you.
Challenge for the Week: To intentionally serve weekly.
A few weeks ago we had an amazing guest speaker – John Cressman – share his heart about journeying with others. John is a member of our church, pastor, and amazing leader. So if you didn’t get the chance to hear his sermon about being “stretcher bearers” its well worth the time to check it out here!
Hi Everyone – here is the audio in case you missed it from our Family Pastor Andrew Epp preaching. He always does an excellent job, and shared with us a bit of his love of rap in this sermon! Be sure to check it out if you didn’t get to hear it!
Hi Everyone – I’m just getting back from Germany and from Preaching a Week up at a Camp.
So here is the first sermon from when I was away preached by our Family Pastor Andrew Epp. I’ve only heard great things, and I’m looking forward to listening to it and catching up. Hope you get a chance to listen to it, if you missed it too!