Participating in God’s Story — God Made the World but We’ve Made a Mess of It: a R
Almost twenty years ago, the world was shaken by and captivated with the deaths of the Princess of Wales and Mother Teresa. Diana Spencer never finished college and was a teacher’s aide before marrying Prince Charles. Mother Teresa founded the Order of the Missionaries of Charity to serve the needy in the streets of Calcutta. The reason the deaths of Princess Diana and Mother Teresa were so impactful is these women lived their lives with a vision bigger than themselves. Princess Diana through her presence with persons dying of AIDS brought compassion. Mother Teresa took the presence of God with her, as she loved the homeless, shunned, and dying.
We are called to be the presence of God in the world and that vision is bigger than we are. God was doing something new in Jeremiah’s day. And God is doing something new our day as well. The new thing that God did in Jeremiah’s day was promise to write forgiveness on people’s hearts and remember their sins no more. The new thing pointed to the Messiah in that the Messiah would make forgiveness available to all. Jesus Christ would be the once and for all sacrifice for the sins of humanity.
Jesus is here and invites us to participate in something bigger than ourselves. I believe that forgiveness is the key to a life lived with a vision bigger than ourselves. Princess Diana and Mother Teresa modeled forgiveness to the suffering by their presence. They brought forgiveness to those who suffered at the hands of institutional abuse and to those who were estranged from their families, friends, and communities. Forgiveness is so critical for our well- being. Will you trust Jesus Christ to be God’s presence in and through you to others?
Jesus Christ is God incarnate, God in human form . . . the living Word of God. The Bible is the written Word of God. The text in 2 Timothy gives us guidance on living life with a vision bigger than ourselves. Paul challenges Timothy and the readers of this text to believe that “All Scripture is inspired by God and useful.” Paul is saying that Scripture is useful, because God breathed these words into existence. The written Word of God “…is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work.” The written Word of God challenge, introduces to and nurtures us in the person and purpose of Jesus Christ, the living Word of God.
The text in Luke demonstrates that our lives are to impart hope to those who are suffering. We are to be like the persistent widow whose faithful endurance of pestering the judge moved the unjust judge to rule justly. We need to keep bothering the system on behalf of those trapped in injustice. We are not to use God for what we want. John M. Buchanan, former pastor at Fourth Presbyterian Church in Chicago, Illinois writes, …we understand that what God knows we need and what we think we want are not at all the same thing.”
Giving is one of the five expectations Geneva has of its members and regular attenders. It is integral for our church identity of “Loving God. Loving Others.” What? – We are participants with God in the salvation story. We are to give of our financial resources. It’s not optional. The Bible teaches tithing that is giving 10% of our gross income and Jesus tells us to sell everything and give to the poor. Yes, giving in gratitude for all that God has done for us in Christ Jesus is the least we can do. Where? – We can give online through http://www.genevapres.org. We can use the weekly offering envelopes we receive after turning in the pledge card and participate in the offering during a worship service. We can mail our financial contribution to the church office. And, we can make Geneva Presbyterian Church a beneficiary in our estate planning. Why? – We want to be obedient to God when it comes to money. Using money as God has ordained is one of the ways we participate in God’s story of “Loving God. Loving Others.”
In a moment, you will have the opportunity to bring your 2017 Pledge Card and the “what’s your ONE thing” brochure forward. Know that the 2017 Budget will not take any income from endowment appreciation or 2016 budget surplus to balance the budget and there is a projected reduction in facility rental income. Furthermore, there are increased costs in the Associate Pastor and Director of Communications positions as well as the communications budget. We need an increase in pledged giving of 15– 41% or $90K – $240K above 2016 pledge giving just to do what we are doing now, let alone the projected increases just cited. Indeed, God is doing good things at Geneva Presbyterian Church. Yet, how our church serves the Saddleback Valley and World in 2017 depends on your giving.
God sent Jesus Christ into the world not to condemn, but to save. It is in trusting Jesus that we begin to live that vision which is bigger than ourselves. Living a vision for life that is bigger than ourselves brings hope and salvation to a world filled with broken people like ourselves. This vision is rooted in persistence and justice. Michael Horton writes, “Every person is now estranged from the good Father, living in a far country in poverty and degradation. Unwilling to be God’s faithful son, humanity has become a slave of sin and death.”  The Bible’s message is simple. Until we respond to God’s electing choice of us in Jesus Christ, we will continue to make a mess of the world God’s created. When we submit to Jesus Christ, we gratefully give our lives to God through worshipping, learning, connecting, serving and giving. And when we do these things on a regular basis, we become “…proficient and equipped for every good work.” And in those good works we are loving God and others.
2 Timothy 3:16a
2 Timothy 3:16b-17
John M. Buchanan in David L. Bartlett and Barbara Brown Taylor, Feasting on the Word, Year C, Volume 4 (Louisville, Kentucky: Westminster John Knox Press, 2010), 193.
Michael Horton, Core Christianity (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 2016), 91.