Luke 10:36-37 NIV84 - “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” 37 The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.” Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”
In the story of the Good Samaritan, our Lord Jesus reminds all of us that the Mission of the Church is a Mission of Mercy. We are in the Business of Being A Good Neighbor. We GLORIFY JESUS by being MERCIFUL to others.
But, what does it mean for us to be a Good Neighbor to our Community? Is it enough to keep the lawns mowed, the buildings painted, and the trash picked up? This is our neighborhood. Many times I have been told how Dr. Patten shared with you to “bloom where you are planted” and the importance of serving here, where we are, in the Fruitvale.
Priorities are NOT what we SAY are important, but what we actually DO! A priority is what we expend TIME, ENERGY, and RESOURCES to DO. Unfortunately, most Christians define their Christianity by what they don’t do; Christ wants us to define our Christianity by what we do!
Luke 6:31 NIV - Do to others as you would have them do to you.
God does not call us to simply come and pray, to enter His House and Worship, or to sit and listen to a message. He calls us to Go and Do. To reach out in love. To meet people where they are and reach them with the Love of Christ that is expressed in the most practical of ways: A cup of cold water, the bandaging of a wound, the payment for recovery, the grace and dignity of caring.
Beloved, to do this, we must see one another differently. We must see the Lost differently. We must somehow, by the Grace and Ability of God, get past the pigmentation of our skin, the origins of our forefathers, the cynicism of our politicians…and stop allowing our humanity to be robbed from us.
A Spirit of Division and Destruction has been unleashed in our Land, and the Body of Christ must respond and minister in the Opposite Spirit. We must behave differently to each other than the world is…we must feel differently about one another than the world does…and to do this, we must begin by SEEING EACH OTHER DIFFERENTLY.
In the story the Lord shared about the Good Samaritan, the Priest, the Levite, and the Samaritan were all presented with the EXACT SAME SET OF FACTS, BUT only the Samaritan SAW the man with the Heart of God. Only He SAW the man correctly. Only He looked passed the cultural biases and ethnic bigotry…only HE SAW CORRECTLY. By the Grace and Power of the Holy Spirit, may we, “Go and do likewise.”
Ephesians 4:16 NLT - He makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love.
According to the National Congregations Study, a collaboration of Duke University, the University of Arizona, the University of Chicago, and the Hartford Seminary, found that the current state of church participation in America accentuates the challenges lying before us…
The great danger is that Christianity in the United States is rapidly approaching the same status that it has in Western Europe: an acknowledged part of history, but IRRELEVANT TO THE DAILY LIVES OF THE AVERAGE PERSON: a museum honoring the past, but not a light illuminating the future. For example: in the United Kingdom, the vast majority of the citizens are “Christian” in so much that they are members of the Anglican Church; and what that means for the average person is a Christian Christening, a Christian Wedding, and a Christian Funeral…a ceremonially Christian life, but no impact upon their daily lifestyle.
For over seventy years in this city, God has given to the Patten Community several wonderful opportunities and unique challenges. We are a church, but more than a local congregation. We are an Academy, but more than a school. We are developing a Higher Educational Leadership Institute, but more than just an Scholastic organization.
So as it was when Dr. Patten would speak of the “threefold cord (Ecclesiastes 4:12),” so it is now. We are still a “threefold cord,” with “each part doing its own special work (Ephesians 4:16).” The ministries of the Church, the Campus, and reaching our Community are more needed today than at any time in our existence. Today, we are committed to celebrating all that God has and is doing, but with great anticipation that the relevance and beauty of the Gospel will be declared in our city through all of the ministries of the Patten Community of Faith.
Acts 17:17 NIV84 - …He reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and the God-fearing Greeks, as well as in the marketplace day by day with those who happened to be there.
By the time the Apostle Paul visited Athens, Rome was certainly the center of the Empire and the Political Hub. However, Athens was a highly cultured, educated, religious, and wealthy city that was very proud of its history and arts, and it was considered an intellectual center. Paul faced a very challenging audience in Athens.
As was his practice, Paul went into the synagogue to reason with those who would have had a value for, and understanding of, the Scriptures. First addressing those with similar culture, familiar and shared values, and a common language in order to foster communication and present the Gospel.
The ministry in the “synagogue” is valuable, and likely the most productive place to start the ministry in a city or region. But, we must also take the NEXT step and like the Apostle Paul, we must make it a point to step out of the comfortable surroundings of our “synagogue” and daily enter the market place to reach those who would not have had a value in, or reference to, the Christ of Israel.
Obviously, the modern Church Gathering, whether in a Cathedral, a tent, or a house, is like the ancient synagogues: an Outpost of Light within the Darkness, a Place of Worship, Learning, and Fellowship. However, it was never intended to be an isolated castle hidden behind moats and barriers. The Life of the Church and its Ministry is not simply somewhere we go, but it is something we are to BRING into the marketplace of our lives and community.
Our ministry to the Bay Area communities has many parallels with the mission of the Apostle Paul to Athens and Corinth. In many ways, our modern secular community views itself as the Athenians did so long ago; and unfortunately, many have deemed Christianity to be irrelevant, and even further they are no longer neutral regarding our Faith, but are in open opposition to it. Then need has never been greater for us to get back into “the marketplace day by day.”
1 Corinthians 11:26 AMP - For every time you eat this bread and drink this cup, you are representing and signifying and proclaiming the fact of the Lord's death until He comes [again].
On the night before He was slain, the Lord Jesus transformed the Passover Meal. More than a celebration of “yesterday” or a “ritual” observance, or even a foreshadowing of “tomorrow;” Christ made it a Communion Table in which He invited His disciples to partake of His fullness and life. It was here that the truth of our salvation, pre-figured in the deliverance of Israel from Egypt, would be fulfilled. As He broke the unleavened Passover bread and took the cup with them, He reinterpreted the practice that had been going on for centuries, applying it to Himself: the ultimate Passover Lamb.
There in the Upper Room was the last time the Passover would be celebrated before its prophetic elements would be fulfilled. The next day at Calvary, the Lamb would be slain, His blood spilled, and His body broken that there might come - as it had in Egypt long ago - protection from judgment and death, and deliverance out of the bondage of slavery.
“This do in remembrance of Me,” is a fundamental text we often consider at the Lord's Table. It is engraved on communion furnishings in churches everywhere. In every passage where Jesus was instituting communion, He says those words. But for many people, that call to remembrance is interpreted as almost being downhearted and melancholy; as if Jesus is telling us, "Remember only my agony." Instead Beloved, His suffering should remind us that His VICTORY was actually assured on the Cross!
I will readily admit that many times, I do not feel victorious. It is especially during those seasons, when the days are unpredictable, when life is fragile, and seasons of suffering can be excruciating, it is particularly at those moments that we should come to this Table of Remembrance. To remind ourselves that the Son of God has paid every price, defeated every Foe, and assured us of the final victory.
Today we will be going to the LORD’s TABLE to remember His Victory. As we do, please consider that every time we partake of the Bread and the Cup, we “are representing and signifying and proclaiming (1 Corinthians 11:26 AMP)” deep and unalterable truths about our Savior that each one of us has personally “received from the Lord.”
Dr. Tobey Montgomery