Gardendale Nazarene

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Archives for February 2019 | Pastor's Blog | Gardendale Nazarene

Mediate the Presence of Christ

Some of my favorite memories from my days in seminary was the opportunity to spend time with my great uncle, Milton. I didn’t know Milton and his wife, Tommie, growing up because Milton was the District Superintendent of South Africa. By the time I was in seminary, they had retired to Kansas City.

I enjoyed sitting in the living room with Milton and hearing his stories of life in Africa. See, Milton and Tommie, were serving in Africa during the Apartheid. Milton was tasked with bringing together Nazarene churches of British descent and Afrikan descent. These two groups were politically at odds with one another and there stood their district superintendent to bring them together in Christ.

He told me one night he had two 'uniforms’ he wore while he was in Africa. One uniform was a clerical collar. The collar told all whites he was clergy and placed a hedge of protection around him wherever he went. The second uniform was a black dress shirt and a bright white tie. This outfit performed the same function in the Afrikan churches. He had to keep the two outfits with him at all time, because as he put it, “They were my bullet-proof vest.” This ‘uniform’ was a reminder to the people that God was present. When they saw someone in this ‘uniform’ they knew God was there.

I think about Milton's 'uniform' when I think about Paul’s words in Colossians 3:
  • Colossians 3:12-14 NLT- Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony.
We, too, are to put on a uniform. This outfit is tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, forgiveness, and love. We might not be in the dangerous environment of Africa during the Apartheid, but the Gospel also calls us to put on new clothes. Don’t ever think you are not the presence of Christ whereever you are, you are. The minute people know that your heart is singing the name of Jesus, you are marked.

We have a priestly role in the world. This is not just for pastors. It is for all people- moms, dads, husbands, wives, single, divorced, widowed. It is for bankers, nurses, doctors, accountants, teachers, plumbers, electrictians, executives, builders, professional drivers, cooks, servers. These lists could go on, but the point is- it is our job to mediate the presence of Christ to other people.

How do we do this? We do this first by putting on our ‘new clothes’ as described by Paul. We do this when we live out the Gospel because we know that it is true. We mediate Christ when we intercede for other people. We are the presence of God to other people in the midst of their pain and suffering. We do this by living life together.

May we clothe ourselves as God's holy people that He loves!

A Covenant-Keeping Forgiven People

This Sunday, we are moving our series on Cross-Shaped Faith into Paul’s epistles. This week, we will look at one of my favorite Pauline passages, 2 Corinthians 5:11-21. Today, I’d like to look at a bridge from the Upper Room in John 13 to Paul’s writings to the Corinthians.

There were two major points in last Sunday’s sermon:
  • Christianity requires a unique act of cleansing to have a relationship with Jesus (John 13:8b-10). Christ's death brought forgiveness and salvation.
  • Foot washing is an enacted-parable of servant love, mandatory for disciples of Christ to replicate (John 13:14-15).

Forgiveness is the requirement for participation in this new life with Christ. It is the start of transformation into Christlikeness. But Christ did not merely die to forgive sins. He died to create a covenant-keeping forgiven people, a people devoted to this crucified and resurrection Lord. This new community is to embody His servant love. Look again at Jesus’ mandate to the disciples, “If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example that you also should do just as I have done to you” (John 13:14-15).

We’ve talked about cross-shaped faith having a vertical and horizontal dimension (faith comprises a vertical relationship with God and horizontal relationships in our love of neighbor). Don’t miss the vertical dimension of the cleansing forgiveness of the Christ and the horizontal act of foot washing.

As we move into 2 Corinthians, Paul is working hard to show the church in Corinth that they are this community of forgiven people and this changes everything in their lives. As Paul writes, “...those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.”

It is my prayer that as His community; we hear Paul’s call to action this week. May the message of salvation through Christ be visible in our midst!

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