Community Service in the Park
August 14, 2016
Text: James 4:1-10
ConnectedGood morning! Are there any visitors with us this morning? Where are you from? Could I have ashow of hands what churches are represented here this morning? Any one from CelebrationChurch? Church of Christ, Fertile Lutheran, any others? With all the different variables ofschedules and responsibilities that pull us apart- what are the chances that all of us happened toshow up here together this morning?It seems anymore that when you read the daily news, watch it on tv, listen on the radio, all wehear about is what separates us.- how disconnected we are, and not just disconnected, but evenhow hostile we have become to each other as a nation, and as a world.Why is that? What is it that separates us? People once blamed things they had no control overlike mountains and oceans and slow communication for separating us. Now we can get on aplane and can be almost anywhere in a matter of a few short hours. We can communicate withvirtually anyone – anywhere. We text, e-mail, post on Facebook and Twitter and a host of othersocial media, and yet we still seem to be just as disconnected if not more.Some have hoped that the answer is to become better educated and gain more information aboutissues and others so that we would be able to understanding each other more- and that wouldbring the world together. But ironically, the more information we get and the speed at which it isshared, information seems to have had the opposite effect. The more information about people’sopinions and stands on social issues and religion have divided us even more than mountains oroceans ever did in the past.Even those of us who follow Jesus- have allowed traditions and ways of worship to separate us.And yet God created us to be connected- to be in close fellowship- to be connected with himselfand others.When we turn on our computers or smart phones we see the words- “searching for a connection”and it continues searching until it finds a connection. That is true, not only for cell phones andcomputers, but for mankind as well. From the moment we are born, our hearts and souls startsearching for someone to connect with to give us meaning and purpose and value until we findone. Problem is, not all connections are the right ones.Dr. Henry Cloud- wrote a book called: “The Power of The Other”, and in it he boils acomplicated issue down to something more manageable. He talks about four choices mankindhas.
The first is to simply choose to be disconnected from everyone and go through life isolated fromeveryone- both from God and others. Isolation not only chooses to not connect with anyone, butis an attempt to hide their hearts from others. As a result, there is no giving or receiving- nodependence on anyone. Isolation attempts to avoid ever having to be vulnerable to anyone withthe idea that at least they will not be hurt– but in the process, they miss the experience of a rich,full life that God intends us to have through being connected.What would drive anyone to choose an isolated life? There are any reasons-fear of rejection- fearof what others might think of you- fear of not measuring up to someone’s standards or even yourself-imposed standards- and unresolved hurts and grudges held.Then there is choice number two- that of seeking out any relationship- even if that meanschoosing a relationship that is not healthy- a relationship that makes you feel inferior, bad or notgood enough and that there must be something wrong with you. It is a lie of course, and with anylie comes there is a real feeling of being trapped.Then there is choice number three- seeking a relationship with things that make you feel good.There maybe people involved, but bottom line, it is all about things. We call the obsession ofthings addictions. We are aware of the addictions that socially considers unacceptable like drugsand alcohol and gambling and sex. But there are also socially acceptable addictions such aspower and prestige and success and work that can be just as damaging if sought after for thewrong reasons. And the common denominator of all those things is that they may make you feelgood and important for the moment, but they do not last, nor do they bring us together but rathertear relationships apart- alienating and dividing us even more.What is it that divides us? The bible says that the reason for being unconnected, divided,separated, is because of sin. Listen to what James says in chapter 5:1-3. “What is causing thequarrels and fights among you? Isn’t it the whole army of evil desires at war within you” Youwant what you don’t have, so you scheme and kill to get it. You are jealous for what others have,and you can’t possess it, so you fight and quarrel and take it away from them. And yet the reasonyou don’t have what you want is that you don’t ask God for it, and even when you do ask, youdon’t get it because your whole motive is wrong- you want only what will give you pleasure.”Thankfully there is a fourth choice- a relationship where you can be your true self that Godcreated you to be-to be in an authentic relationship of giving and receiving from each other,mutually invested- a fullness that can only come from being connected with God himself.Jesus said: “I came that you might have life and have it abundantly.” But we have to remove sinthat has come between us and God and others. It is called repentance-confessing our need for asavior and then living for him.To repent means to turn around- to change goals in life. Sincere people may implement a plan tobecome more disciplined, more obedient to do what is right, vowing to put forth more effort ontheir part- to serve more and sacrifice more- even try to pray harder and strive to get more faith-all good things we should do- but even if our goal has changed but our game plan of getting there
hasn’t changed, it is doomed to fail if the whole plan depends on our own effort- our ownstrength, our own success.The apostle Paul was once relied on his own strengths and abilities- but met Jesus Christ on theroad to Damascus-and he had been set free and could now confess that he was weak- but whenhe was weak- then he was strong- because it was when he admitted that he needed help- that heneeded a savior- that is when he sought the Lord- and others- and that was when he was able toget through things. Not by his strength- but by God’s. It is in surrender to God- confessing oursins-and trusting and believing in what God has said in His word.Think about gravity for a moment. It keeps us in the seats you are sitting on- and enables you towalk. Gravity is a strong force and holds us firmly in it’s grip and that is a good thing. For arocket to leave the pull of earth’s gravity, it takes great force and effort. They tell me that theamount of force and the speed that it takes to leave the pull of the earth’s gravity called “escapevelocity” is 25,000 miles an hour.Sin is a powerful force on our lives and we need to escape it’s grip. Sincere people try to do thatby exerting great will power and force. But- ironically, it is not in doing- but in resting that setsus free. The difference between other religions and Christianity can be found in the words: “do”and “done”. Other religions give us a “to do” list that is impossible to fulfill and tell us not tocome back until it is done. Christianity on the other hand, proclaims that the impossible hasalready done for us- finished in full once and for all by God’s own son, Jesus Christ on the crossand the empty tomb.The good news of the gospel is that God so loved the world that he gave his only son- thatwhoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. We are saved by grace, notworks. It is a gift of God- and nothing we have or can do can save ourselves, lest anyone shouldboast it was their own doing. It is in surrender to God that brings us close to God. “Humbleyourselves before God” James wrote- “draw near to God, and He will draw near to you.”That means surrendering your strengths and will power and pride to God and trust Him. To beconnected with God means being willing to be real- to take our masks off that we hide behind-and confess our sins and desire to draw close to God.God has put a desire in all our hearts to be connected with him and others. In closing, I want toask you three questions. Where is your heart this morning? Jesus said that where your treasure is,there will be your heart also. We who are followers of Jesus sometimes lag behind and follow ata distance. What is holding you back from following close? What is your game plan of gettingthere? Jesus simply invites us to draw close- rest in what He has done- and then follow by grace.Pray.