Partnership in the Gospel – October 23, 2023
Jeremiah 31:7-14, Philippians 1:3-11
October 23, 2022
“We’re all in this together.” That was the “marching song” during the pandemic. Do you remember? We were faced with a danger that caused us to “shelter in place” and distance ourselves from each other, and we comforted ourselves with the idea that we “were all in this together.” And that was a good thing! It’s something we don’t always remember in our individualistic society.
Do we still feel that way? “We’re all in this together.” I’m not so sure. I think some of that unity has waned. And my sadness lately is that, with the elections coming up, people are more divided than ever. And my prayer is that someday we will come to an understanding that unity does not always have to mean unity of opinion, but rather mutual respect and even love for those with whom we disagree. You’ve heard me say that before, many times! (That’s my marching song!)
Well, Paul would tell us that has always been the case, or should be the case in the Church. “We’re all in this together.” And that means that we are of one mind, even if we don’t agree on everything. We forbear one another in love. We uphold and upbuild one another. And we work together to promote the kingdom of God! And that’s what he says in this wonderful greeting to the Philippian church. And he’s speaking of the whole church.
Hear again these words from the beginning of his letter. “I thank God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer for you making my prayer with joy, thankful for your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now.” (Philippians 1:3-5)
I read that part a couple of weeks ago, and I noted that Paul was filled with pride and gratitude for those people. I also said that I’ve been having similar thoughts about all of you. I’m grateful for our “partnership in the gospel.” Like Paul, I believe that God works through all of us, all of us working together. And when that happens, like Paul, “I am sure that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 1:6)
“Partnership in the Gospel.” That’s the phrase that jumped out at me this week from the pages of the scripture. Actually, it jumped out from my “computer screen” of the scripture! I mentioned before how that’s the way the Holy Spirit often works when you read the Bible. Things jump out at you!
So, do you feel like partners in the gospel? Do you feel like God works through all of us? You included? That’s a good thing to think about, especially at Stewardship time. Because it’s too easy to forget. And somewhere along the line, too many people in too many churches have forgotten it. In too many churches there are people who just “go to church,” but have forgotten that “they are the church!”
As you think about that, as you think about “Partnership in the Gospel,” let me remind you of some things I’ve said before. The first is, “Worship is not something we go to and watch someone else do!” Do you remember that? “Worship is not something we go to and watch someone else do!” Worship is something we all do when we come here. Sometimes that’s hard to remember in our entertainment-oriented society. We sit and watch many things, don’t we? And often we expect to be entertained. And if we’re not, what do we do? We go on to something else, don’t we?
As much as we like doing virtual services, and as much as that’s helped the church – especially during the pandemic – there is a the danger there, because it is like watching television. And it’s too easy just to watch. If you’re watching now, I encourage you to think of, not just watching, but actually worshipping as you do.
The other thing we need to be careful about is that we shouldn’t let virtual services take the place of Christian fellowship. Remember it’s always easier to be God’s people when we’re with God’s people. As I said a couple weeks ago, when people say to me that they’re faith is not strong or meaningful to them, my question is, “how much are you putting into it.” I would say the same with worship. If you feel like you’re not getting anything out of it, you should give thought to what you’re putting into it.
Worship is “interactive.” That’s a modern term that means, we do something along with what is happening. The opposite of that is “passive” entertainment, where we just watch. Worship leaders – whether that’s me or anybody else up here – lead everybody in worship. When we lead a prayer, we don’t just pray, we say, “Please pray with me.” And it’s our hope that you do. When the band plays, or when the organist plays, we lead you in musical worship. And I believe music is very worshipful! But some people say, “I can’t sing.” Well, even if you don’t sing the hymns or the songs, follow along while others do. Mouth the words with everybody else, say them in your mind and concentrate on their meaning.
“Worship is not something we go to and watch someone else do!” I’ve also said a similar thing about the Church in general. And by that, I mean everything we have here – the program, the building and grounds. The thing I’ve said is, the church isn’t something that “happens” because “somebody else” makes it happen. The church is something that happens because we all make happen! That’s where Paul’s words come into this. We are “partners in the Gospel.”
We’re going to be recognizing our church leaders in a couple of weeks. But we need to remember that our Church leaders don’t just “run the church.” Our Church leaders lead all of us in being the church. Do you see? The job of the Trustees is not to do the work of the church. The job of the Trustees is to see that the work of the church is done!
Do you see what I mean in all this? It’s all about “partnership in the Gospel.” I think we need to be reminded of these things from time to time. And Stewardship time is a good time to do that! Because, as I said earlier, too many people in too many churches just “go to church, but they’ve forgotten that they are the church.”
As you know, I often have a song running through my head! Does that happen to any of you? Well, the song that’s been running through my head on this one is the old Avery and Marsh song, “I am the church, you are the church, we are the church together. All who follow Jesus, all around the world, yes, we’re the church together.”
Eternal God, our Heavenly Father, help us to feel you leading each one of us in “being the Church.” Give us a true sense of being part of your kingdom here on earth, as we look forward to your heavenly kingdom throughout all eternity. Help us to know the joy of being in fellowship with you and with each other. For this we pray in Jesus’ name, and for the sake of his kingdom in our midst, Amen.