Our Theme and Vision for the Year: Let’s Build Up the Family of God!
September 7, 2008
The Rev. Dr. Anthony J. Godlefski, Pastor
Montgomery United Methodist Church
15"If another member of the church sins against you, go and point out the fault when the two of you are alone. If the member listens to you, you have regained that one. 16But if you are not listened to, take one or two others along with you, so that every word may be confirmed by the evidence of two or three witnesses. 17If the member refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if the offender refuses to listen even to the church, let such a one be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. 18Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. 19Again, truly I tell you, if two of you agree on earth about anything you ask, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. 20For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them."
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, good morning! Our topic and our title for this morning is “Let’s Build Up the Family of God!”
As I look around at our town and the surrounding areas, I have noticed a great need in our midst. All around us, people are isolated. The principal spiritual need in our area can be summed up in one word: loneliness. People yearn for meaningful closeness to others, and ultimately, to God.
There is a great gift that we have here, a great gift that is so precious, a great gift that you are part of, and a great gift that we are all challenged to build up. Friend, we have God’s good community, God’s family, right here at Montgomery United Methodist Church. I am hoping, through this year and the months to come, that we’ll be aware of it, that we’ll cherish it, that we will offer it, and that we will build it up.
Jesus loves us as individuals. He really does, each and every one, and He embraces us in prayer, and is with us. There’s no two ways about it.
But Jesus is passionate about community. Jesus is passionate about the familyhood of the church. How do I know? I know because of this passage in the gospel, Matthew 18, verse 20: “For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.” Where the family of God is gathered, where there is community somehow connected to the church, Jesus will be there.
Isn’t that exciting? Jesus is telling us that things happen when we all get together that don’t happen quite so much when we are alone. Wonderful things happen. What happens?
Powerful prayer happens! Jesus said, get together with someone and pray with him, and there will be a multiplied result. We’ll all be praying together today for Sandra’s brother as he faces a health challenge. Jesus said, when two or three are gathered together, where there’s community, where there is the church family, powerful things happen, and we affirm that.
Has someone ever prayed with you or for you? I remember when I was dealing with a cardiac event several years ago, Pastor Dave came to the hospital and was praying with me. I don’t remember the exact words he used, but I do remember that he was there praying with me, and it was powerful. And I know you were praying for me, this church family was praying for me, and I appreciate that. And wonderful things have happened – I’ve never felt better in my life!
A couple of weeks ago, Dr. James A. Forbes was praying with me, praying for my ministry here and our ministry together. It’s powerful, powerful stuff. Things happen when we’re together as a church family that can’t happen when we’re apart. There are great blessings in prayer coming our way. We’re going to be affirming that.
Several weeks ago, we heard a wonderful, powerful testimony from Dave Lawrence about the power of prayer, and we received it and we appreciate it very much. Wonderful things happen when people pray together. That’s what our community is all about. And friends, that’s what we have to offer – that powerful gift of worship and fellowship together. It’s our principal gift, and a gift we have to share. There are a lot of folks out there that need that. There are a lot of folks who do not have that and whom we can invite to share it.
I don’t know when the moment will come to you, but I invite you to make a personal commitment inside your heart – that when you meet somebody that you can just tell needs the blessing of our fellowship and our experience of worship, you’ll say to yourself, “I won’t be afraid to invite.” I won’t be afraid to invite, because we’ve got a powerful gift to share, and we need to share it. Amen? Amen!
Great things happen when the family gathers. You know, it is a good thing that you send your pastor off for a month to go sit in the benches and worship under other leadership. This is a very enlightening experience. I learn from those times, and I am grateful for them. And I appreciate you all the more. It’s one thing, when I get up in the morning thinking about what I’m going to be saying at church and thinking about what needs to be done. It’s quite another thing when I’m just getting up to go to church. It takes a lot of effort, doesn’t it? I’m appreciating you more and more – you’ve got to get up, get yourself ready, and make sure you get there on time; sometimes other things get in the way. But you’re here, and I praise God for that, and I appreciate it all the more.
But, once you do that, once you get past the hassle of the morning – and if you’ve got children, I’m sure that multiplies the complexity – when you get here, doesn’t something wonderful happen? When you get to the doors, somebody greets you and recognizes you and is glad that you’re here. You walk down the hall and you see folks and shake hands with them. Have you had that experience? You come into the sanctuary, and more folks are glad to see you. Isn’t that a wonderful thing? That, my friends, is the gift of community happening. That’s the gift of God’s family being built up.
My simple invitation to you is that we would build up the family of God. Let me ask you to do this: think for just a moment about the questions, “How can I build up the church community? How can I build up the family of God? What am I doing now to build up the family of God?”
Maybe it’s as simple as coming to church. Because you are here, you’re a witness to the Lord. Maybe you’re supporting the church with your offering, so that family can happen. Maybe you’re part of a team or an effort, or maybe you’re thinking about inviting someone. Think about the question, how can I build up – or how am I building up – the family of God? Think about it, won’t you?
I’d like to close with one more little story about something that happened to me this summer, and I assure you that this really happened, to all our amazement. I went to a little Episcopal church down by the shore. Something drew me to this church. I’d visited there several years ago, but I wanted to go back again this summer. I scoped it out, made sure I knew where it was. I went there for the 9 o’clock service. I got in a little late, I confess, and sat toward the back. The church wasn’t full, about a third of the number of people here this morning. It was a lovely service, and I was blessed to be there.
As the service ended, I was getting ready to leave, and a charming white-haired lady came up to me and spoke. She did not say, “Hi, my name is ---,” or “Hi, what’s your name?” or “Where are you from?” She came up to me, shook my hand, looked me straight in the eye, and said, “Hello. Are you an organist?”
“Well, yes, as a matter of fact. Organ major, Westminster Choir College, Class of ’73.”
“Oh, good!” she said. “Will you play the organ for us next week?”
“Yes, I will.”
“Oh, good! I’ve been praying and praying about it. We have no organist for next week. I’ve been praying that God would send an organist to us, and here you are!”
That’s just the way it happened.
I returned the next week and played the organ for them. They were very grateful. And this community, this sense of the fellowship of the family of God started happening.
The point is this. After that challenge was offered and accepted, a connection happened. There was conversation. There was a mutual caring that began to take place. The “family of God” began to be celebrated. This happened as a new person began to contribute time and talent and be involved. And when summer rolls around next year, chances are strong that, Lord willing, I will attend that little church again.
So, maybe we shouldn’t be afraid to ask folks who are new with us – Will you greet next week? Will you help us usher next week? Will you be involved? Will you sing in the choir? Whatever it may be, invitation and involvement gets family going, and gets community going.
Jesus cares about us and is present with us as individuals – “Lo, I am with you always.” But Jesus is passionate about His community – the family of God. “Where two or three are gathered together, I am there.”
My friends, in the days to come, let’s develop this great gift. Let’s be aware of every conversation that brings us closer to each other and to the Lord. Let’s build up the family of God. God wants us to, because God loves you. I do, too. Have a blessed week. Amen.
© 2008 Anthony J. Godlefski