ENGAGE: CONNECT. GROW. SERVE. #1 – CONNECT – SERMON RESOURCES
ENGAGING THE PRACTICAL TIP
In a time when we find ourselves displaced, friendless, and wandering, we are all looking for a little connection at some level. Whether in our personal, social, work, or church relationships. We want to be known because to be loved is to be known and to be known is to be loved.
Our lives are better when we do life together. Right after Jesus is baptized and tempted in the desert, the very first thing we observe is Jesus gathering a group to do life together with.
The empire tells us that we if don’t look out for ourselves, no one else will. Jesus calls this a lie. And Jesus offers us a gift–an invitation to live life in community with him and his Father. Many of us have been trained and conditioned by fear to be selfish and possessive holding tightly onto what we think will give us life. Jesus knows there is a better way to live, so he resists the empire’s invitation to go it alone. Instead, he gathers a faith network to share his life with, and in doing so, he makes space in his relationship with God that allows those he invites to look in on what a life infused by the ever-present, ever-speaking, ever-loving God looks like. Those of us eager to experience the kind of life that Jesus experienced would be wise to follow his lead and discover what he knows to be true, we are changed and transformed as we increase our trust in God and share our lives with each other.
Faith networks become the places in our lives where we share ourselves with others. Often they become the places where we find welcome and acceptance, where we experience loyalty and friendship, and if we are lucky we can also find hope, forgiveness, and restoration as well. As we cultivate faith networks, we nurture space for welcome, acceptance, and loyalty. As we experience welcome and acceptance, we are willing to invite others into our stories, allowing us to be fully loved as we are. When we cultivate faith networks, we discover that those we are sharing our lives with, are willing not only to celebrate our joys with us, they are also willing to sit with us in our sorrow
Jesus leaves behind, a “witnessing community,” not a creed, a book, or set of rules. And in this “witnessing community,” our burdens are carried, we are welcomed and accepted, we can confess our sins and be forgiven and receive our healing and restoration.
LOWER YOUR DEFENSES
We have a couple of takes on the practical tip this week. If you listened to the sermon on Sunday, did you feel a nudge from God to take some kind of step to foster your connection with others? If so, take a few minutes and sit with God and imagine those people who come to mind with whom you might connect with more. Picture yourself and each person in the presence of God for a minute or so and then move on to the next person. Notice what you felt, heard or saw. Were you inspired to connect with any person or group in particular? If so, take a moment and present this possibility to God. Unless you have a sense that you shouldn’t move forward on this, write down a concrete action to take in the next week to foster your connection with this person.
If you didn’t feel a nudge to foster a connection with others, but filled out a card with some personal anecdotes and handed it to Pastor Donnell or filled out a prayer card, you might take a few moments and sit with God about this. How did you feel while you filled out the card? Did you sense any love by another or God? Did you have any reservations or did any past memories arise? In either case, present these to God and ask him to join you in considering how they affected you and how you are now. Note any sense of how God is being toward you during this time. Is he saying anything or inviting a response from you? Do you have any requests to make of God in these areas of your life? If so, share them with God.
You might close your time of prayer with gratitude for the faith connections which you have had in your life.
Feel free to share your experience with others who have also tried this prayer exercise by commenting below or emailing: firstname.lastname@example.org.