Idols Commandments Seeing Believing Fresh Expressions for the 21st Century

A week and a half ago I attended, with many others, the Fresh Expressions Vision Day. As you know, our own John Motis heads this up. You see John is a leader among leaders. He inspires, cajoles, encourages, consoles, supports and equips others for ministry.......John's calling, like all of ours, is to be, to be Christ to the world who does not know Jesus. For those who are struggling with issues of faith, life, and death. Fresh Expressions is designed for this very reason. To show the world that Jesus is alive, real and that one can have a relationship with Jesus beyond the walls of Good Shepherd, churches, dioceses, and congregations of faith. Fresh Expressions breaks down the walls we build around ourselves, the physical structures we consider holy and sacred, and takes us out into the world to places where Jesus Christ is only a curse word, an afterthought, or nonexistent in their lives. Fresh Expressions is where people can meet, talk about their fears and doubts, their life, in safety, no pressure or guilt trips. "Where two or three are gathered together, there I am in the midst of them" Jesus reminds us. So how do we take the living Christ to those who have a deep yearning for something in their soul, that is greater than themselves, as they seek out what they think will give them peace, a sense of completeness, or what their purpose in life is? Fresh Expressions is about a "CHANGING CHURCH FOR A CHANGING WORLD" to quote the leaders of this movement. They ask:" What if the Church got creative about engaging the 21st-century world with the gospel? What if the Church could empower and equip God's people to connect with their neighborhoods and networks"? It is in the Word of God that we find these answers, oral tradition, letters to churches, writings of both the Old and New Testament in Latin, Greek, and Hebrew, accounts written on parchment, discoveries in biblical archaeology, the written Word we call the Holy Scriptures. Paul sensed that the people of Athens were looking for a being larger than themselves when he saw the many altars in the city, especially one which was dedicated to an Unknown God. He knew it was God they were looking for yet they had no knowledge who he is, no identity or name to call him by. This was Paul's opportunity, his opening to the Athenians to speak to them about the living God called Jesus. He spoke to them through examples they could understand, establishing a common understanding of what they all believed. Jesus became a living person to them by telling them about his life, death, and resurrection. Not a god high up in the sky that you cannot know, see or reach. But a living God who experienced life on earth; not only that, but he is the creator of the universe, sovereign, the only living God, who is in control of everything, yet close by and personal all at the same time. God is universal, he transcends space and time, he is beyond the walls we build up, the physical, mental, and emotional, and spiritual boundaries we all surround ourselves with. Paul wanted the Athenians to understand that they did not exist out in the world alone, unfortunately for many today life in today's world is a very lonely place. Jesus is missing from their lives, yet there is a yearning for something greater than themselves. It is in the quote from Acts this morning which says "in Christ, we live, move, and have our being". The Gospel reminds us that if we love Jesus we will keep his commandments. We are God's offspring, we are not orphans. We become part of this family through our baptism, the washing away of the sins committed in the past, bringing us into a new relationship with God pure and undefiled. We are saved through faith in Jesus Christ, God's only Son, imparted to us through our Godparents, parents, the church, and then our own vows at Confirmation. Even as we get ready to observe Jesus' ascension into heaven and the promise of the coming of the Holy Spirit we know that Jesus is alive and well inside each one of us. It is through God, in his son Jesus, which brings order into this world. It is through us, in our relationship with Jesus, that we are able to love as God loves, not only in our churches but to the world at large. This is what Fresh Expressions is all about, churched, unchurched, semi-churched, those who once believed and who have lost their faith. John the Gospel writer wants us to sense and experience the presence of God in the world and in the Holy Spirit, not only through the Body and Blood of Christ we receive each week, but to remember that this Sacrament was given to us out of God's love for us, even though we are sinners redeemed through Jesus sacrifice on the cross and his resurrection. To be infused with God's love through his Body and Blood is to take part in God's love, is to share God's love to the world. More and more we are being changed, transformed from living in this world to living in the next. The Kingdom of God gives us freedom to live in the world but not of the world. It is a way to show the fullness of God in our lives by caring and showing his love to all we meet. It is when we show that God is working within us, in all his fullness that people can see and know what it means to part of the Kingdom of God. I believe there is a deep yearning for God in our communities and it is through this non-threatening movement called Fresh Expressions that Jesus' genuine love is seen and experienced. What does God in Jesus look like to them? It's going into areas of our communities where we might not ordinarily go getting to know the people who live there. It's about going into areas we feel comfortable in going to and getting to know the people where they are in life. It's about ministry at race tracks, tattoo parlors, dog parks, dinner church, community gardens, housing developments, on the streets in your city, to name a few. It's about listening, loving and serving, building a community where ever God calls us to be. Fresh Expressions is not out to be like the local church or to replace the local church, it is to be involved in the midst of life in connection to the local church. We are all interconnected through Jesus Christ and his church, we need each other as the church to be the church out in the world. All of this suggests there is a deep yearning for the living God. We all want our lives to make sense. We look for a better understanding of ourselves than what we see on the surface of our lives. We have been given a taste of heaven through our worship each week through music, Scripture, prayer and sacrament. Fresh Expressions is an opportunity to take the church into the world, and to give them that foretaste of heaven we receive each week. As our lessons suggest it is being God's offspring into the world to give to others kindness, gentleness, understanding, taking the living Christ to all those who yearn for someone greater than themselves who we call Jesus. Amen.