This Lent, I decided to do a sermon series. I picked 4 texts that we’ll look at over Lent that highlight primarily what God is doing through the outsider. This week we looked at the “book” of Philemon, which is comprised of one chapter, 25 verses long.
One little problem: Sunday morning I forgot my iPad at home…which had my sermon on it. So even if blogged my typed sermon this week, it wouldn’t do a lot of good, because they were probably different. So I’ll just summarize the main point:
We conversed together and shared ideas as a congregation – writing them on a whiteboard – about the notion of “brotherhood” and “sisterhood.” What does it mean to be a “brother” or “sister” – particularly in the Christian sense?
We then talked about the notion of welcome – specifically Christian welcome. Paul asks Philemon to welcome back Onesimus just as he would welcome Paul. Only one thing: Onesimus was Philemon’s slave. Paul asks Philemon to welcome back his runaway slave as a brother in the faith.
We then thought about Christian welcome as something more than a handshake, brewing some nice coffee, smiling nicely and asking a few things about someone – and stopping there. Christian welcome binds the outsider, the slave, the one apart to us as brother or sister – just as God binds us to godself in Jesus Christ on the cross. God binds us together in love.
The sermon went pretty well I think….I appreciated people’s participation. But I discovered during the course of the rest of the worship services and my day, the sermon continued…..my congregations continued writing the sermon, telling the story of God’s welcome, of Christian brotherhood and sisterhood.
- One lady – who is not a “member” – helping one of the older members – who doesn’t walk so well – walk down steps from communion.
- An older lady, a “member,” asking a 6-year old girl who was visiting our congregation for the first time if it was ok if she kneeled next to her at communion.
- A mom, with child and due in 3 weeks, was trying to deal with her other child who was crying. And one of the “members” of the church got up and asked if she could help and played with the little girl – all of this in worship.
- During the sermon, when I asked for responses on brotherhood and sisterhood from the congregation, two little hands shot up first – and as soon as I made eye contact, they shouted out their answers!
- An answer given by a teenager about brotherhood/sisterhood: “we fight. We don’t always get along. But I guess he’s still my brother.”
- Later, at confirmation that day, three boys kicking a 4-square ball around outside, totally not following my directions at all for “holy conversation”….laughing and enjoying time playing together.
That last one means a lot to me…..because the other part of that story is that each of those boys are dealing with some major personal and relational issues – and I have to believe, bound together by the kicking of a ball, God was present. God was bound to them in love in a moment that was safe and that they felt like they belonged. It was Christian welcome and brotherhood at its finest.
I’m sure there were other moments during yesterday, moments of brotherhood and sisterhood, moments of Christian welcome that I missed. But judging by the ones I witnessed….God’s people wrote one heck of a sermon yesterday.
And I think, knowing them like I do, they’ll keep writing that sermon…especially for those who have not yet heard about God’s wide welcome, one that binds us together in love.