Our new vision: "MCC Austin will be a Church Without Walls"
I delivered these words during the Sunday services as a reflection on our new vision.
These past few weeks, I've been reflecting a lot on what it means to be a "Church Without Walls." I've been thinking about "walls" that I see around me on a daily basis, here at church, at work, in our community and even in my own heart.
There have been some amazing walls built throughout history. The Berlin Wall divided a city. The West Germans called it Schandmaur, the "Wall of Shame." It was rebuilt at least three times each time bigger, stronger and more repressive. The Berlin wall was the first of it's kind, it trapped people in their own country.
Anyone remember any Bible stories about walls? The israelites marched around the city of Jericho 40 times and after that last time, they blew their trumpets and the mighty walls came tumbling down.
Throughout Christian history, the church has been the creator of many walls. Walls between people and God. Walls between people of different races and faith traditions. And even walls between families.
Jesus came to show us that there is no wall between us & God. He came to teach us that if we are truly following Him and wanting to live Spirit-led lives, that we must realize that God didn't create any walls between any person here on earth. We must realize that when we are building walls or reinforcing existing ones that we are not fulfilling the potential that He has created us with.
We are called not only to be a "Church Without Walls"...
We are called to be people without walls...
We are called to have faith without walls...
We are called to have love without walls...
In the fifth chapter of Matthew, Jesus said,
"13"Let me tell you why you are here. You're here to be salt-seasoning that brings out the God-flavors of this earth. If you lose your saltiness, how will people taste godliness? You've lost your usefulness and will end up in the garbage.
14"Here's another way to put it: You're here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We're going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. 15If I make you light-bearers, you don't think I'm going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I'm putting you on a light stand. 16Now that I've put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand--shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you'll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven.
48"In a word, what I'm saying is, Grow up. You're kingdom subjects. Now live like it. Live out your God-created identity. Live generously and graciously toward others, the way God lives toward you.
There is incredible power in the statement that our vision is to be a "Church Without Walls."
And you must know that this is by no means an easy calling. We're not going to wake up tomorrow and have all our walls magically dissappeared. Some of us are professional wall builders. Some of us have literally had to build walls for our physical safety. I would offer that most of the time our walls aren't built for truly wise reasons, but they are built out of fear, out of not wanting to leave our comfort zone, out of not understanding people who are different, out of not wanting to acknowledge the "God-created-ness" of those who we might consider to be our enemies.
For many of us, we have an enormous task ahead of us as we work to dismantle our walls. Maybe one of our walls says that people who don't believe like we do or who aren't even Christian really don't have a genuine God-experience... that our way is the only way. Maybe one of our walls was built to keep us from being emotionally wounded as those we love reject us because of our God-created sexuality.
Walls create an "us" & a "them." Anytime you have the experience of feeling like you are an "us" and this other person is a "them," you are being called into an awareness of your walls.
In Luke 10, a religion scholar asks Jesus. "Teacher, what do I need to do to get eternal life?" Jesus answered, "What's written in God's Law? How do you interpret it?"
27He said, "That you love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and muscle and intelligence--and that you love your neighbor as well as you do yourself."
28"Good answer!" said Jesus. "Do it and you'll live."
29Looking for a loophole, he asked, "And just how would you define "neighbor'?"
30Jesus answered by telling a story. "There was once a man traveling from Jerusalem to Jericho. On the way he was attacked by robbers. They took his clothes, beat him up, and went off leaving him half-dead. 31Luckily, a priest was on his way down the same road, but when he saw him he angled across to the other side. 32Then a Levite religious man showed up; he also avoided the injured man.
33"A Samaritan traveling the road came on him. When he saw the man's condition, his heart went out to him. 34He gave him first aid, disinfecting and bandaging his wounds. Then he lifted him onto his donkey, led him to an inn, and made him comfortable. 35In the morning he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, "Take good care of him. If it costs any more, put it on my bill--I'll pay you on my way back.'
36"What do you think? Which of the three became a neighbor to the man attacked by robbers?"
37"The one who treated him kindly," the religion scholar responded.
Jesus said, "Go and do the same."
As we embark on this journey to truly become a "Church Without Walls," I want you to know that I believe this vision is going to transform this church and that it will champion the light & love of Christ in our community and in our world like we can't yet imagine. But remember, this isn't about "us & them"... it's about realizing we ARE them and they ARE us. As we explore our individual walls and begin to take them down, brick by brick, we are going to have moments of miracles as we realize our walls have simply been keeping us trapped, not protecting us. We are going discover the immensity of God's love for us by being God's love for others.
At MCC Austin, we are a "Church Without Walls" and even if it takes marching around our walls forty times or a hundred times, we ARE going to see the walls come down and the light of Christ will shine brighter than ever from this place.
Nathan, your sermon reminds me how much of a great teacher i think Christ was. You don't even have to be a christian to see this.
Wow, Nathan, a powerful sermon. Amen.
Very good. There are things that we need to hear periodically to remind us of how we should be living our lives. My Pastor always stresses that we shouldn't just hear or read of Jesus's teachings, but that they are worthless to us if we don't apply them in our lives.
I just want to add a little something else. The story of The Samaritan and the victim of the robbers was explained to us by my Pastor in one of his sermons. A while back he was doing a series on love, and he used the Samaritan story to make a point. While I had heard the "Good Samaritan" story many times throughout my life my Pastor added something that I never heard before, and frankly, never really thought about.
Back in Jesus's time Jews and Samaritans were enemies, much like Palestinians and Israelis today. Without going into great detail, the point that my Pastor wanted to make was that we need to help and love everyone. As difficult as it is, we can show true christian character and love, and break down the walls (as you mentioned, Nathan) by being there to help and show love to our enemies, not just our friends. The Samaritan showed this unselfish love to his enemy and we need to do the same to make this world a better place. I know that it is something that I have to work on in my life as it does not come natural to me to help someone who has hurt me.
That was awesome! It brought tears to my eyes...:o
Thank you all for your kind words.
I'm working on launching my website to begin my ministry to other churches. I'd love your feedback on it!
Thanks Corey! :) I'm scheduled to get some better pictures today. And I want to get my blog off of myspace soon.
Right now I'm watching Bishop Pearson's 2004 azusa/inclusion video on www.higherd.org :)
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