Sermon on January 22, 2023

SYR
Andreas Latossek
Church at the train station, Frankenberg
Our vision as a community

This sermon is translated from German into English. You can find the original video here

 

Good morning, I’m happy to see you.
This morning I want to take you a little bit into what’s on my mind. It is why we are here in Frankenberg and why I work as a pastor in the first place.
At the beginning of every year we talk about these topics and we want to pause and consciously focus on what is important in life in order to sort our priorities for the new year. Because we lose sight of them so quickly in everyday life.

I brought three challenging quotes with me:

  1. Lessing: The slowest, who does not lose sight of his goal, still goes faster than those who wander around without a goal.
  2. Mark Twain: As soon as we lost sight of the goal, we redoubled our efforts.
  3. From the Bible, Proverbs 29,18 : Without revelation, i.e. without vision, a people becomes wild.

Maybe you know that from your life. If you don’t have any goals, if you lose yourself in small things and don’t have a big picture of where you’re actually supposed to go, then you’ll bobble along, you have no drive, and some might lose hope and joy. You ask yourself: “What am I even here for?”

 

Last week it was about you personally, about your life, what you live for and what God says about it.

We looked at the fact that God created you for a relationship with him, that he longs for fellowship with you and that our life only really flourishes in fellowship with him when we experience his unconditional and infinitely great love, when we feel it ask how God intended life and that it gives him glory when we walk together and that we pass on his love and his invitation to be able to live a relationship with him to other people and show people what it means to be with To live Jesus when we take them by the hand, so that they themselves invite other people and take them by the hand. This is what the Bible calls discipleship. We don’t do all this because we want to sell something here, but because we believe and hopefully experience for ourselves that this is the best thing that can happen to you.

 

Today we want to think about why we as a community are actually there, what community is.

And if you’re new, this is a great way for you to understand what’s important to us and what makes us different. Community, ekklesia , is the Greek word for it, translated: the called out. In those days that meant people from a town or village who were called out, sort of like our politicians actually, to think about what’s best for the town and its people, and then go back and do that. God now takes this word for his church.

 

In Ephesians 2:19 let’s read:

So you are no longer strangers and homeless; you are now a citizen of God’s people, even of his family.

So church is not a building I go to. It’s also not an event I go to. Church is a spiritual family to which I belong when I begin to walk with Jesus. She is my new home.
You are no longer homeless, writes Paul.
Church forms a warm community in which life is shared, laughing and crying together, celebrating and mourning together, cheering, encouraging and correcting each other.
And it’s so important to have that family that elsewhere Paul exhorts people not to leave church because you can’t survive long by faith alone.

 

 

When someone begins to live with Jesus, then they belong to the global family of God, but we always see in the Bible that this is expressed in smaller communities.

That’s why Paul doesn’t write, don’t leave the church , but don’t leave the assembly , don’t leave the meetings of this fellowship.
There are certainly different forms for such a community, it doesn’t have to be the way it is here with us. It’s different in other countries, there are different forms of church, but they all always report to local leaders. A community like that in a “vacuum” doesn’t exist in the Bible. We see this also in the next Bible passage.

Where is God’s truth found? In the church, and I would like to add, in the church that really has the Bible as the Word of God as its foundation:

This family is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of truth. 1 Timothy 3:15

It was God’s purpose that through the Church the powers and authorities in the unseen world might see the full depth and breadth of God’s wisdom.

Ephesians 3:10

God wants to make his wisdom, his truth and also his love visible in this world through the church. Sometimes church doesn’t look like that, but we also read that church is like a bride, Jesus is the bridegroom, and he himself forms his church.

 

And then Jesus says: Where two or three are gathered in my name, there I am in the midst of them.

Matthew 18:20

Have you ever thought about what that means? The Holy Spirit lives in the people who believe in Jesus and is already there.

Is not this enough?

No, there is a special promise to the church that Jesus is present, so that’s an extra one. This means that there is something special about what constitutes the congregation and community of Christians.
This morning I would like to remind ourselves of this value and this position of the church in God’s eyes, in order to make it clear to you what a privilege it is to belong to God’s church!

 

Now we’ve talked about vision before, and when it comes to church, then we have to ask God as its inventor what vision he has for his church.

And that’s where we first come across a very big picture. It is reported in Revelation 7:
Countless people from all nations stand in heaven before God’s throne and worship him. And we read of God’s purpose that He wants all people to know the truth that God loves them, that there is forgiveness for their sins and the opportunity to reconnect with Him and live a life of trust in Jesus and to walk with His guidance and that God wants all people to be saved.
This is his wish for this purpose he appointed the congregation. And he gave her an assignment. We heard about it last week:

Matthew 28:19-20

Therefore go and make disciples of all nations: baptize them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, and teach them to obey all that I have commanded you.

 

We have formulated this as a community in a vision that we know and can also check whether we are on the right path:

We are a church in which as many people as possible get to know Jesus and are happy to follow him together.

And our values, which should shape our community culture, how we deal with each other:

  • God in the center
  • Based on the Bible
  • love for people
  • Together on the way
  • Relevant
  • Only the best for God

 

So it’s about two things:

  1. It’s about God, that we follow Jesus.
He is in the center. We do everything for his honor and do our best for him. Because he gave his best for us. Jesus gave his own life on the cross, you are worth that much to him.
We’ll keep that in mind when we celebrate communion together.
We conform to how he wants life to be because, as the creator, he knows what is best for us, even when what we find in his word, the Bible, is not in keeping with some of our times.
But as a congregation we want to orient ourselves to the Bible as the authority in all areas of our life, our faith and also our congregation. It is the basis of our faith today as well.
It is not primarily about knowledge, but God’s word is alive.
He speaks to us through it. He guides, corrects, encourages, comforts and thereby changes us
Jesus did not say in the so-called Missionary Commission: Teach them everything, but:
Teach them to obey all that I have commanded you . Matthew 28:20
So it’s about taking God’s word seriously and living it. It is also an expression of our love and trust towards him.

 

  1. It’s about people.
We are on the road together. I spoke earlier about church as a family. We are a colorful bunch and totally different. And like in a family, there is sometimes friction. Then it is important to treat one another with mercy and forgive one another.
What unites us in all our differences is that we follow Jesus and have a mission.
Jesus said: By your love for one another everyone will know that you are my disciples. John 13:35
People sense if we passionately love Jesus and each other.
Are we really interested in him and in each other?
Sometimes we passionately advocate some fringe issues. The color doesn’t suit us, or the music doesn’t suit us, and then we start to have passionate discussions.
I wish for this passion when it comes to Jesus. When such side issues become so important, we lose focus and that is always the case when Jesus and his mission are not the focus.

 

Our mission means that the church is not about you first.

Of course, the small groups are also about you
Worship is about you.
Senior afternoon is for you.
The children’s program is for your children.
Everything serves to help us grow together and in our relationship with Jesus.
But the church belongs to Jesus and He wants other people to come into it, so church is for others first. People will notice if this is the case, if they are just a number, just filling a space, or if we really care about them, love them just as Jesus said and did and therefore integrate them into our community .
Paul writes: For the love that Christ has shown us determines everything I do.

 

This love should drive us in everything we do.

And we make love all week. Mother Theresa once said: At first I wanted to convert everyone. But then I started loving everyone, because love converts whoever it wants.
Without love, we read in 1 Corinthians, everything is nothing. Christ will not ask us, as Mother Theresa also said, how much we have achieved, but how much love there was in what we did, and it is nice that we are on the road together. But around us, in Frankenberg and the surrounding area alone, there are almost 20,000 people who do not yet know Jesus.
Your family, your friends, your neighbors and work colleagues whom Jesus loves, whom he wants to save and his love for these people, his heartbeat for these people should drive us to love them too and to make them known to Jesus.
We really can’t be satisfied with the fact that we have it nice and comfortable here, that we have each other.

What does that mean specifically?

  • It is our wish, when Benjamin is here soon, to invest more and more in young families, children, teens and young people.
  • The plan is for Anni to open a children’s lesson parallel to the Fischkids, because we have so far had a gap between the toddler group and the Fischkids in terms of age and we would like parents to bring their children to Fischkids and if they have younger children also for them find a point of contact.
  • We’re thinking about when it’s time to open a youth club.
  • We want to start small family groups.
  • And I’m always happy when there’s life here on a Sunday morning.
  • If there’s a child crying or screaming in the back, it doesn’t matter, you’re welcome, just like everyone is welcome and it’s better than dead silence, isn’t it?
  • We want to encourage people to join, regardless of their age group, and it’s good that we have a broad base, but that’s where we want to invest in particular.
  • We dream that the community center will be full of people, and especially people who don’t know Jesus yet, that every Sunday there will be people who are interested in Jesus and who are invited.

But we don’t do all this to make any program. I think it’s important that we keep checking what we’re actually doing, because we can offer so much and we’re happy about how nice it is that we lose sight of the most important thing or don’t have time for it anymore , and these are the people around us.

And for that, I just want to remind ourselves of a few points.

  • We said the first 10 minutes are for our guests.
  • I understand that you want to hang out with your friends afterwards, whom you haven’t seen all week, and that’s a good sign.
  • But if we think again, the congregation isn’t there for us and we still stand together for an hour afterwards, then let’s look at the first 10 minutes after the service, who’s new, who I maybe just don’t know yet, and consciously reserve the time for these people.
  • And then we believe that community lives from integrating people into our small groups, having hobbies in common.
  • Yesterday we had a game night where almost 20 people were there
  • Just add people to the things that we enjoy doing anyway.
  • We have lunch together once a month.
  • And in the last general meeting we said that we simply want to invite someone to our home once a month, whether after the service or during the week or let us invite them.
  • We called it Pasta Sunday, but it’s not tied to Sunday. ” Pasta Sunday” stands for not making a lavish meal, not cleaning the whole apartment beforehand, but about spending time together. If I invite once a month and am invited the next month, then I have minimal effort every 2 months, but if everyone does that, then our togetherness grows, then our relationships grow.
  • The most important thing in all of this is that we pray for God to work. It doesn’t matter whether we do it privately, at prayer meetings, in our small groups, at 24-hour prayer or at special events. Because it is God who works, and without prayer we can leave it right now.

I believe that we have to understand and learn this again.

 

We were at a meeting for all employees of our association last week and heard encouraging stories.

In one church, people started a small group for their friends. The first attempt failed, but they were not discouraged. On the second attempt, they prayed 4 months beforehand and then started with a barbecue party. 30 guests were there. They then invited them to the small group. 2 have come. Only 2 we would say. Now, after 3 years, they have 8 small groups and last year celebrated several baptisms, where people have decided to live with Jesus, and some of them are now leading a small group for their friends again. And not just anywhere, but here in the middle of Germany.

 

 

 

We talked last week about how God gave each of us this assignment personally.

Church consists of many people, God has given each of them this task.
We are all different and live with it in different ways. Each of us has a different environment. But we can’t just delegate that job to the church and say someone else, the pastor, whoever, will do it for us.
No, it depends on how you let God use you, how you are open to people, how you love Jesus and people, how you introduce people to him and invite them, how you reach out and integrate people and how we all do this together.
And I understand when some say now, I’m not so good at it, I’m just having a hard time, I have so little time or some people find excuses or try to suppress it as quickly as possible.
And yes, it costs something. Jesus took his own life for love of you. That’s what we’re going to celebrate in the sacrament in a moment, how much He loves us. And he loves the others too.
It is first a step of obedience to live like this because Jesus tells us to and because we want to do what Jesus tells us to do. But I can make you feel very bad this morning, and maybe that will have an effect on you too, but it won’t carry through. It lasts maybe a week, maybe two weeks and then that’s it.
But if we want to have this heart, this passion for Jesus, for other people, for each other, and if we want it to be so important that it drives us to prayer, then it needs more.

 

In Ezra 1: 5 let’s read:
So they set out to meet all those whom the Lord had moved to build his temple in Jerusalem.

 

It is about a completely different situation, namely about the people of Israel, who have been in captivity in Babylon for 70 years. They were already comfortably settled and now there was an opportunity to return to their land and build the temple. Only a part of the whole people set off.
And who set out?
They were the ones that God had moved.
And folks, we need that touch of God, His heartbeat, that we’re touched by His love for us, that we’re saved forever. What a gift, and how undeserved it is that I was allowed to recognize this and my neighbor not yet, and that we feel how God feels about the people around us who do not know him, that we too are on our way , not to build the temple, but to build God’s church.
We read earlier that love drives us. Not a guilty conscience, but the love that God has for me and my love for God and for people. And believe me, people will feel that difference. This love of God grows when we seek his closeness.
And perhaps this morning you will find that you are no longer so conscious of this love of God, or that you no longer love God so passionately, or that you are no longer so conscious of God’s gaze for other people.
Then it is good not to run away from God or to find all sorts of excuses, but to run to God with that very thing and say:
God I wish you would break my heart to make it beat like yours.
That I feel your love, first for me and then also for the people around me.
I want to put myself at your disposal and let myself be used, with all my weaknesses and all my incapacity. I want to be used for everything you want to do through me. For that one person we wrote down last time.

Imagine if each of us has one person on our list this year to pray for and invite, we were 140 people last Sunday and if that’s similar to the 30 to 2 I was talking about, then 10 people start a life with Jesus, and it increases year by year, then something big comes into being.

I don’t care about the size of the community. Some say times are changing and use that as an excuse. Yes, maybe at some point it will look completely different, we will take care of people who have no money and nothing to eat.
Maybe someday we will only be able to meet in small groups.
It’s not about the form, it’s about people getting to know Jesus. The Bible says that every time a person takes that step, there’s going to be a party in heaven. And we can already be part of it here.

 

So I invite you to ask yourself at the beginning of this year what is your next step:

  • Is it the step to say: I understood today what Jesus is about. He loves me and I want to be part of his family.
  • Is it to say that I would like to publicly confess this decision that I have made again and fix it in baptism
  • Maybe it’s your turn to say it’s a privilege to belong to the church. I want to be more committed again.
  • Or is it my turn to say I want to be a part of God’s great plan for His church. I want to get involved and work together.
  • Or that you say: Jesus, I make myself available to you again. I lost your heartbeat for me and other people. Please give it to me again. please move me I want to take what you say seriously and live how you want to live.

 

We’re going to sing hymns now before we’re about to celebrate communion together, and these hymns are prayers and you can make them your prayers or use the time to hold your heart out to God and let him touch you and tell him what you are feeling is on the heart.

 

Amen