“Community is Necessary for Ministry”
Grace Community Church – 7/25/10
I. How does community enable ministry?
- Mary is given a tremendous, but difficult, ministry of becoming the mother of Jesus (v. 26-38)
– Angel greets Mary à Mary tries to reason through this paranormal event
– Angel promises the birth of Jesus à Mary is skeptical
– Angel answers her question by showing how God is working in Elizabeth à Mary is humbly recipient
Why did God use one set of relatives to be the mothers of both John the Baptist and Jesus?
– I’m convinced it was for Mary’s benefit.
– God, in his grace, allowed Mary to have a partner in this unique ministry she was going to undertake. No one is going to understand or believe what you are going to go through Mary. Not just the miraculous conception, though that is certainly going to raise the eyebrows, but the knowledge that the son you raise is not a normal boy. He’s set apart, holy, the son of God. And even though Elizabeth’s situation is different, there are enough similarities that she will be uniquely able to relate to Mary and support her.
How are we benefitted from seeing God’s work in the lives of others?
- Mary visits her relative Elizabeth, and receives encouragement and strength (v. 39-45)
Is this really what God is doing? (A question we all ask, too)
Elizabeth is filled with the Spirit and speaks into Mary’s life. (v. 41-45)
– The fact that Elizabeth is filled with the Spirit is not to be overlooked: she is speaking God’s message to Mary.
– This is interesting, right? Mary has already received the same message from the angel (from the word angelos, lit. “messenger.”) but now God is speaking it to her again. What do you think her response is going to be? Before when God spoke to her through the angel, her response was a mixture of skeptism and mellow acceptance, right?
(But look at Mary’s response now…)
- After this encouragement from Elizabeth, Mary bursts forth in her bold song (v. 46-56)
It is only after the words of Elizabeth (rather than the words of the angel) that Mary bursts forth into her famous Magnificat, the song that astounds readers to this day because of her boldness, wisdom, and strength.
It is a person, an old lady who will soon be using both a walker and a stroller, is the one who causes the truth to click for Mary, rather than an impressive angel.
Why? Is it just quantity of times hearing it? It could be, though I think it’s more likely the fact that this was a real person in front of Mary who was experiencing just a bit in front of her the same unmistakable work of God in her life.
– This is the best of Christian community. When we are able to point to what God has done in our own life as an encouragement and challenge to those right behind us.
(You might think of this as an overly idyllic picture, though. I want us to get here, and I think it’s possible, but we’re going to have to look at some barriers, too.)
II. What are barriers to experiencing this sort of life-giving community?
- Self-pity (1 Corinthians 12:14-17)
v. 12-13 – Paul speaks of the real, which is also the ideal.
v. 15-17 – The members of the body that disenfranchised are engaged in bitterness, and it impairs their participation in the life of the body. It alienates them.
– Self-pity can be extraordinarily tempting in the church. “If I were that age (older or younger), if I were that personality, or that temperament, or had that wealth, etc., then they would like me, but they don’t, and they should.”
– And in the world, that’s true, some people are lynchipns, some aren’t, so we assume that the church is the same, and sulk when we don’t feel valued.
– Look at the result in v. 17 – We rob the rest of the people with our bitterness, and break community.
- Self-pity happens to be a specialty of mine. In our family, and maybe in yours too, we’d say that one was throwing a “pity party,” and my mom would ask a playful, perceptive question: “Am I invited to the pity party?” I never really understood the question as a kid (I thought she was just being difficult, as mothers are prone to be to young boys), but I think I might now. No one was invited to my pity party, because self-pity destroys community. Self-pity = self-focus.
Why is the gospel seen in how we respond to this barrier? (v. 18-20)
You could make a strictly worldly argument against self-pity: others have it worse than you, self-pity is damaging to the relationships you have, and it doesn’t accomplish anything, etc.
– But that’s not the case Paul makes in v. 18-20. Instead, he focuses on what self-pity misrepresents about God. God is the one who has brought the church together, not any of us. Do you ever think about the reality that it is these people, these normal, human people, that God has chosen to sew you together into a single unit with?
– So, what’s the antidote to self-pity?
Get rid of the self-focus
- b. Unresolved conflict (Matthew 18:15-18)
(I want to read you the most disobeyed verse I know of in the Bible: v. 15
- Notice what it doesn’t say: “If you sin against your brother…” It could, and that would be good advice, but it actually talks about what to do when you are the one who has been hurt.
(When you are hurt, who do you want to talk to?)
- Go and tell him his fault
– I don’t want to tell him, he’s not going to tell me what I want to hear.
- Between you and him alone
– This gets you out of the realm of the honor/shame.
Why is the gospel seen in how we respond to this barrier? (v. 21-35)
– It is a wicked thing to be forgiven much and not forgive others.
– We can’t program Christian community, but we can help you take a step to put yourself in these relationships.