October 1, 2017

October 1, 2017: Values

 

Scriptures Used: Philippians 2:1-13, Matthew 16:17-19, Matthew 28:24-28

 

How many of you feel like you just have too much? Too much stuff; too much to do; just too much to keep your life together.

 

Emily and I have been on a downsizing kick this past year to alleviate the feeling of “too much.” We have walked around the house and asked the same questions over and over:

 

  • What do we actually use?
  • Of the things we don’t use or use very much, do we like it or need it enough to find space for it?
  • Of the things we don’t use and don’t really like, do we donate it, sell it, etc.?
  • If we have lots of versions of a thing we like, do we need all of them?

 

This process has been sometimes fun, sometimes difficult, and sometimes, quite frankly, silly. We have debated for hours on the smallest things, but the drive to only have things we like and use has helped us feel more in control of our lives.

 

Downsizing has helped us get away from the feeling to buy more and more stuff. We save money. Our hope is we can use the money we save to travel, be able to afford cars when ours break, and maybe one day own property. We have learned we value simplicity.

 

Simplicity can be hard – it means I have to say “no” to the newest high-def, smart TV that only costs $300. It means I don’t shop unless I really need something.

 

Values are a powerful part of who we are, and you probably don’t think about them much. We don’t notice them until we have to think about them, and we can see how powerful they are.

 

I was listening to a talk a few days ago that said it this way: values are the basic principles we live by, so basic that they are subject to interpretation. Next are attitudes. Attitudes are how we interpret those values. Finally, behaviors are how we act based on those attitudes.

 

Here’s an example: Life is a value. If someone says they value life, we assume their attitude is all life is important – they don’t kill something without a really good reason. In the Godfather movies, Don Corleone the mafia boss values life. It’s his attitude that is different. His attitude is that his family’s life is more important than the lives of other people. When the lives of Corleone or his family are even perceived to be threatened, you can guess where that value shows its boundaries.

 

You may be thinking that seems too simplistic, but it actually does the opposite by showing that we sometimes think certain words, phrases, and beliefs are fairly universal but are understood in a variety of ways. It also means that just because we believe something to be good, it can be exercised in a not-so-good ways.

 

For the next four weeks, we are going to look at some of the basic values that are shared by many, if not all, members of this congregation and ask the question: “Are our values in line with God’s values?” This is important, because, to be a follower of Jesus, we open our lives to following Christ more and more each day, which then affects what we value and how we show it.

 

Today’s reading from Philippians shows us meeting God’s values requires dedication. Paul is speaking from prison. We aren’t sure what got him there this time, but his preaching on the kingdom of heaven was not seen as acceptable or polite to Roman society.

 

The people to whom he is writing, the church in Philippi, was poor and powerless. They managed to scrounge up enough money to ship food many miles away to the imprisoned apostle.  FYI – how a church spends its money is a great indicator on what they value.

 

Paul is encouraging them through this letter to continue to be humble in their living. They were to work together, to be of one mind and one heart, so that kingdom work could be done. If they valued their mission enough, and they committed to working together, God would accomplish great things through them.

 

This is why being involved in a church is so important; it is where we find the same encouragement to pursue Christ. This makes church a value for many of us; however,it is important to know what we mean when we speak of church. Does it mean the same thing to us now as it did then?

 

Jesus only speaks of the church a few times in his ministry (as opposed to the more common kingdom of heaven). Once, in Matthew 16, he tells Peter that he Peter is the rock on which the church would be built. A second reference is the passage I mentioned a couple of weeks ago from Matthew 18 when Jesus instructs that conflicts between two people be brought before the church after it has failed to be resolved personally.

 

The word for church in the Greek is ekklesia. It means a gathering of people. Today, many people understand church to mean both the gathered body and the building in which they meet. Sometimes, they mean the act of worship, “We enjoyed church today.” If we decided to use the word as Jesus did – the assembly of the people – and couple that with Christ’s constant command to “go out and make disciples,” the nature of what we mean by church quickly changes.

 

In so many of his addresses to the Tennessee Conference, Bishop McAlilly has made clear that churches that focus outwardly in how they understand their buildings and their budgets and their ministries fair far better than churches that are focused inwardly. If we value the church as Christ does, we seek to make disciples. We seek to add to our assembly. We seek to ask questions like, “What can we do to make disciples?” instead of “How can we make sure people are happy?”

 

We have done some great work in valuing church as Christ does in parts of our ministry. When we had the pancake breakfast, some of the marching band members asked if they could eat, too. They were handed a plate and encouraged to eat as much as they’d like.  That shows them that Christians care about them being fed. That is a seed planted that they know that Charlotte-Fagan authentically cares about people who come through our doors.

 

We have a number of people who attend Christmas Eve and Holy Week services here because their church home doesn’t offer them. I like that they are always welcomed. That is a seed that says we believe God is bigger than denominations or single beliefs.

 

I also think we can do better. I would like to see people express value in the church by attending Vision Team and Worship Team meetings and speaking up on how we can better engage those around us. I would like to see someone step up and help by being an alternate teacher for our Pre-K/K Sunday School class. Loran told us at charge conference we really need people to value our youth by becoming adult volunteers. We need to have more folks involved in bringing communion to homebound members. I would love to see folks volunteer to hold Bible Study and small groups in their homes.

 

Sign up sheets  for these ideas can be found at both entrances to the sanctuary and in the adult Sunday School classrooms. I ask that you will pray about getting more involved – showing what you value – through these or things that come up in the rest of the series.

 

I hope, by the end of this series, you will find places that you can make your values match God’s and will hold yourself to it. That starts with you.  You don’t have to change everything at once. It’s like downsizing: you start with one decision, then you make another. This process of growing in the likeness of Christ is what Methodists call sanctification. Helping our values line up with God’s makes us better Christians.

 

If you want to find ways to value the church, come talk to me. I am happy to help you find a way. Next week, we will talk about valuing community and how to build a group of people who care about you deeply and hold you up through your life.