True Presence

October 17, 2010

Michael Maloney, Lay Speaker

Montgomery United Methodist Church

 

(Abbreviated version)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, good morning!

 

God is glad you are here this morning and so am I…

 

Our topic on this beautiful Sunday morning, Laity Sunday, the 21st Sunday after Pentecost, is:

 

True Presence…

 

Today, as each and every Sunday – we are reminded of the great treasure before us – before our time – The great treasure beyond us, beyond our time...

I speak of the great treasure found within the pages of scripture – that of One Scripture. We once again read of rich storytelling – that of disciples, that by disciples, that for disciples – that which transforms us, one word at a time, one verse at a time, one page at a time…

The theme for today - laity Sunday is:

Disciples Transforming the World: Through Presence

Laity Sunday focuses on the celebration of the ministry of all lay Christians – the laity.

 

Laity Sunday recognizes the servant hood of all believers. Servant leadership is a concept that was modeled perfectly by Jesus when he washed the dust from his disciples’ feet.

On this Laity Sunday - We find ourselves in the Season of Pentecost.

To fully understand the awesome power with us this morning – we must understand Pentecost – the birth of the church. Last week – Rev. Dave and Pastor Tony officially dedicated our new stain-glass windows – truly a most special addition to our church here.

They represent the story of the life of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

I’d like you to turn your attention to the fifth stain-glass window on your right for a minute:

 In the FIFTH picture panel we celebrate the season of Pentecost.

In Pastor Tony’s words:

 

Jesus has risen to Heaven, and the Disciples are alone and fearful. They are in the upper room surrounded by fear, they are trapped in the closed door of their own fear. But then Pentecost comes. The Holy Spirit comes in the form of a descending dove. The light of the Spirit of God bursts forth upon the Disciples. They are filled with courage and enthusiasm and come bursting out of the room with their arms upheld and speaking in many languages. They go into the town of Jerusalem…[1]

 

Rev. Dave went on to talk about – among other things - Remembrance – How coming to church on Sunday is about Remembering

 

20 centuries ago, the laity gathered at the foot of the cross of Christ. They were present.  HE was present.

And here this morning - we are gathered at the foot of the cross. We are present. HE is present.

Laity means “The People of God.” Each and every one of us represent the laity, each and every one of us are the laity – “The People of God.”

Laity is the same as disciple – they are one and the same.

As we gather at the foot of any cross – in any church – we gather with laity – we gather with other disciples… We gather with family - in His Name in His presence.

>In THE ESPISTLE this morning – we see and feel the presence of the Apostle Paul Coaching Timothy -- "Continue in what you have learned ...” all Scripture is inspired by God for training in righteousness.

Proclaim the message ... do the work of an evangelist." This week's reading from II Timothy offers perhaps the strongest "hang tough encouragement" anywhere in the New Testament. Remember the foundations you have from your upbringing, from me, from Scripture itself.

Through Paul - We Remember    

 >In THE GOSPEL this morning – we see and feel the presence of Luke the Evangelist as he continues to give the account of the life and ministry of Jesus of Nazareth "When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?" 

Through Luke – We remember
       >In THE LITANY this morning

Through baptism, Jesus Christ calls us into the covenant

    and makes us ministers of Christ’s righteousness.

 

There is one door into the church – and it’s not a door you swing open with a handle.  It’s not the door we walked through this morning. It is baptism and through the Sacrament of Baptism, we are initiated into Christ’s holy church.

Baptism signifies God’s initiative in the process of salvation. In baptism God initiates a covenant with us, announced with the words, “The Holy Spirit works within you, that being born through water and the Spirit, you may be a faithful disciple of Jesus Christ.”

As the “Body of Christ” in the world, baptism commissions us to use our gifts to strengthen the church and to transform the world.

Through Baptism – Through The Presence of The Holy Spirit – We Remember 

Water - the symbolic significance in and of water:

Water symbolizes many things for the Christian. God's care and concern, God's provision, God's Word, God's salvation.

We are mostly water - human bodies are made up of approximately 60% water.

Water is required to live. Water is required to live in God’s Kingdom – it physically represents The Spirit within us.

Perhaps we ourselves indeed have a good handle on all of this this morning…. 

But do those around us? That’s discipleship - transforming through presence – our presence... Reaching out – helping others - Making these things known. Making a difference beyond the scope of our individual circle – our individual churches - our individual lives…  

The General Rule of Discipleship

To witness to Jesus Christ in the world and to follow his teachings through acts of compassion, justice, worship, and devotion under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

 

If we attended church every Sunday each year – that’s 52 hours in that year.

What about the other 8,708 hours in that year?

It comes back to today’s reading in Timothy –

[3:14] But as for you, continue in what you have learned and firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it,
[3:15] and how from childhood you have known the sacred writings that are able to instruct you for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.

I’ll close this morning with the graceful words of a graceful laity leader Sandy Jackson -

How as disciples does our "presence" transform the world? I believe we help transform the world when we are present with others. When we reach out to the community, our co-workers, fellow students, our families, in Christian love, we are using our "presence" to transform the world. We can do this by -- sitting among -- developing relationships with - strangers and acquaintances.

Our ability to be present with others comes through our confidence in who we are as children of God -- our self-assurance that God's presence is with us. In order to do this well, be confident or self-assured, we must practice the presence of God in our lives -- not just in church. Brother Lawrence, a seventeenth-century monk, said, "We should establish ourselves in a sense of God's presence by continually conversing with Him." In our conversations with God we become "present" and God is "present"; if not, there is no conversation. When we practice the presence of God in our lives and in our being, we learn to become present with others. And by practicing the presence of God, we are more able to "support the church," not only in worship, but also through discipleship, by our genuine "presence.”[2]

I invite you to read all that she has written for laity Sunday on the GBOD website…

This morning – I invite you to Continue in what you have learned

I’d like you to turn your attention to a different set of windows in front of you

A dedication of these windows – (our eyes…)
Jesus has risen to Heaven, and the Disciples now know they are not alone. We are in Christ’s Church surrounded by love and the truest of fellowship. We are not afraid. The Pentecost has come. The Holy Spirit has descended like a dove upon us all. The light of the Spirit of God bursts forth upon each & every one of us here this morning. We are filled with courage and enthusiasm and will walk out of this Sanctuary this morning with our hands extended and speaking many words to those who will hear us – to those who need us. We will go into the township of Montgomery - and beyond…

All God’s People in All Places, And in All Times, Are Called to Love And to Serve.

 

The Presence of the Holy Spirit – The Presence of Christ is not just here

(temples…)

The Presence of the Holy Spirit – The Presence of Christ is here

(entire body…)

Seeing that – Remembering what we physically carry with us

in everything we do - everywhere we go with everyone we meet

 is the ability, our ability,

to transform others, to transform the world we know today,

 through Presence – through our presence…     

True Presence…

 

© 2010 Michael Maloney

 

[1] Let There Be Light, Part 1 2010 Anthony J. Godlefski

[2] Sandy Jackson Copyright General Board of Discipleship. www.GBOD.org Used by permission.