Faith Church

America the Beautiful – Sermon from 7/3/2016

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Let me be clear about a few things before I begin.  This is not a political sermon, and by that I mean it will not tell you who you should vote for or against or what side of the political aisle you should be on if you are a true follower of Jesus.  There are people who love Jesus on both sides of the aisle.  This is also not a sermon on national pride – although I take pride in our nation.  America is a beautiful place for many reasons. The physical beauty of our country is clear to see, but all nations have beautiful scenery.  The freedom of our nation is a beautiful thing and a blessing for us all, but again, many nations enjoy similar freedoms.  The people of our nation are beautiful in spirit but there are beautiful and inspired people around the world.  When I talk about America the beautiful I am not implying we are better than all other nations, but it is our nation and I hope we will work to keep it a beautiful place to live.

While America is beautiful, we have the potential to become a pretty ugly place during the next 128 days.  That’s how long it is until the presidential elections on November 8.  Presidential elections can get messy, even downright ugly.  One side will talk about their opponent having an explosive temper which would make them a reckless and dangerous leader and the other side will portray their opponent as an elitist who spent a life in politics and excels at drawing upon their family name.  And just in case you think I am talking about our two current nominees, I’m not.  I’m talking about Andrew Jackson and John Quincy Adams and the presidential elections of 1828.

Those were the issues that came up during that election, so you can see, ugly elections are nothing new.

But this year is shaping up to be ugly because there are deep divisions not just between the right and the left but even on the right and the left.  We are finding less, if any, common ground on which to stand even among those with whom we agree.  In dialogues and conversations we seem to have few common ideas, dreams and visions on which to build.  Social media and the ease of commenting on everything anonymously not only adds to our division but helps makes things ugly because it gives people the opportunity to say things that they might never say to a person face to face.  Like many of you, I have seen all kinds of pictures, stories and memes that don’t try to honestly discuss the issues we face but simply put down the other side in harsh and cruel ways.  I don’t know about you, but when I see all of this – and at times from people I respect – I begin to lose hope.  Is mean spirited mudslinging the way we will treat those with whom we disagree?  Is there another way?  Is there a better way, a more beautiful way?

As Christians living in America we must not conform to what we see around us but live lives that will transform our world.  Jesus calls us to be salt and light and the aroma of life and hope and peace in a world that is dying.  Today I want to offer a different way, a way of living during this campaign season that will help keep America beautiful.  If we can follow 5 simple lessons that come from our faith, we can help make sure America is a beautiful place for everyone.

These 5 lessons come from the book of Colossians where Paul is reminding the people of God how to live as a beacon of light and hope in the world around them. He is telling them how to be beautiful.  Colossians 3:13-17, 23-24.

There are 5 themes we can pull out here that all speak to how we need to live during these next few months and the first is to have an attitude of humility.  Colossians 3:13-14.  Be humble.  Bear with one another.  Forgive as we have been forgiven.  When many around us are going to be shouting about why they are right and everyone else is wrong, we need to be gentle and humble.  This doesn’t mean we can’t hold strong opinions and it doesn’t mean we can’t advocate for our views, but we need to do it in ways that honor and respect the other person.  In Philippians 2, Paul reminds us that we need to reflect the humility of Jesus and we do this by considering others better than ourselves.  I would be happy if as a people we would just treat one another as equals and not as enemies.

An attitude of humility requires us to see everyone as a valuable person created in the image of God.  Regardless of people’s political positions, social views, sex, creed, color and orientation, we need to see everyone as people of sacred worth and be willing to treat them that way.  An attitude of humility means being willingness to see that at times everyone is right at times everyone is wrong – even ourselves.  Everyone has strengths and weaknesses, joys and sorrow, gifts and brokenness and we need to value all that we see in each other.  If we find ourselves really struggling with people who view things differently than we do, we need to ask God to forgive us and open our eyes so that we can see them the way God does, as his creation and loved children.

It is only our humility and love that will allow us to have a spirit of unity that will hold us together.   Colossians 3:14-15.  One of the truly beautiful things about America is our unity in diversity.  While we are all different, we have always found ways to come together as one body, one nation.  Today there are so many things that divide us and force us apart that as Christians we need to show the world a better way, which is to live at peace with one another despite our difference.  We don’t all have to agree; in fact at times our disagreements on issues can lead to greater clarity and wisdom because it is when we challenge one another that we all grow.

Proverbs 27:17 says, as iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.   If we aren’t willing to stay close together, we can’t sharpen one another.  If we aren’t willing to respect one another, talk to and listen to one another and if we aren’t willing to remain as one body or one nation, we can’t learn from one another or share with one another or grow together as a people.  Let me also say that it is diversity that often creates beauty.  Think about stained glass or mosaics or even the colors of creation.  The beauty comes from diversity being held together as one.

To remain together we need to develop a language of love.  Jesus said the words that come out of our mouth flow from our heart, Matthew 15:18.  If our words cut others down, what does that say about our heart?  Perhaps more than anything we need to watch our words during this campaign season and use a language of love.  The Bible makes clear that our words are important and powerful and that we need to guard them carefully.  Colossians 3:16, 4:6

Ephesians 4:29 – Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up.  

Ephesians 5:4  - Nor should there be obscenity, foolish tlk or coarse joking which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving.

James 3:8-10 – No man can tame the tongue  It is restless evil, full of deadly poison  With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father and with it we curse men who have been made in God’s likeness… this should not be.

1 Peter 3:10 – Whoever would love life and see good days must keep his tongue from evil and his lips from deceitful speech.

Matthew 12:36 – I tell you that all people will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken

God makes clear that we need to watch our words and not allow our language to destroy one another.  We are living in a culture where people feel free to say all kinds of evil things because they can tweet or comment anonymously, but God always knows and God hears and God weighs our words and the heart from which they come.

We might not think that our words have power, but to God, words always have power.  When God speaks – things happen.  When God speaks, worlds are created.  When God speaks, people are forgiven.  When God speaks, God keeps his promises.  Words have meaning and consequences for God so we need to evaluate what we say and season our words with salt and use a language of love.  Again, this doesn’t mean we can’t hold to our political views, but can we share them in ways that help bring understanding?

Our words need to bring peace and they can if we are willing to share our different ideas in ways that foster dialogue and bring us together.  We won’t all agree on politics, economics or the social issues we face, but can we all agree to listen to one another and respect one another?  If we can live together despite our deeply held differences, then our nation will be a beautiful place.  God says that unity always bring beauty and a blessing.  Psalm 133:1

Along with a language of love we also need to have a heart of thanksgiving.  When we become frustrated and bitter, we need to stop and give thanks.  When we feel like we are being pulled into a pit of hopelessness and despair, we need to stop and give thanks.  It doesn’t matter what you give thanks for, just find something because once we start to give thanks – the spirit takes over and shows us more and more to be thankful for.  Look at Colossians 3:17
This weekend we can give thanks for our freedom to disagree and our freedom to worship.  Can we give thanks for the freedom that comes with forgiveness and our freedom to gather as families and communities with safety and security because of so many men and women in our military and in our police force are willing to serve.  We are blessed and we need to give thanks for all those blessings.

Let me lift up one thing that can always help keep a heart of thanksgiving.  No matter the outcome on November 8, God is sovereign.  No matter how bitter the contest becomes, God is in control.  No matter what happens in the world around us, God is present and is a constant source or help and strength.  Psalm 46:1-7.

And God is sovereign over all the rules of the world.  While we may doubt this when we see evil rulers gain a foothold, the Bible tells us that God is still in control and is sovereign over all leaders.  Listen to what the Prophet Isaiah says about rulers – Isaiah 40:21-24.  In these past few months when I have begun to feel hopeless and helpless in our national elections, I have reminded myself that God is in control and that God always has been and always will be and for this I give thanks.  Giving thanks lifts our heads and our hearts and allows us to move forward with joy.

The last thing we need to do during these months to keep our nation, community, church and homes beautiful is have hands that serve.  Colossians 3:23-24.  Whatever we do, we need to keep serving.  Whatever we do we need to keep working for the Lord and working to make our families and communities beautiful places to be.  The great thing about serving is that it gives us a sense of accomplishment and control.  While it is important to vote and I encourage everyone to vote, sometimes we think, what does my one vote really accomplish?

When so much seem out of our control working for the common good and to lift others up gives us a sense of control.  We can do something to make America and our world a beautiful place to live.  When we serve God through the church we are making the world more beautiful because we are drawing people to Jesus.  When we serve at VBS we are adding beauty to the lives of children and families.  When we serve on a mission trip to Clearfield we are adding beauty by giving hope to a family who has lost so much.  When we serve in the community we not only lift our own spirits but we lift up the lives of our friends and make our neighborhoods beautiful.  Serving makes a difference in us and others and the world around us and it ensures that our world remains beautiful.

While our community and nation may get ugly, we can be a beacon of beauty showing the world a different way and a better way to live.  During these next 4 months I invite you to commit to these 5 principles that can make all the difference in our lives and keep America the beautiful a truly beautiful place to live.

Next Steps
America the Beautiful

Commit to living beautiful lives during the next 128 days by embracing these 5 principles.

1. An Attitude of Humility – Colossians 3:13
• Ask God for eyes to see yourself honestly.
• Ask God for eyes to see others the way God does.
• Pray for people on the other side of the political and social spectrum and seek opportunities for dialogue.

2. A Spirit of Unity – Colossians 3:14-15
• Read Proverbs 27:17
• Who has God placed in your life to sharpen you?
• Who can you sharpen?
• Commit to staying in fellowship with one another.

3. The Language of Love – Colossians 3:16
• Read a passage each day to remind you to guard your tongue and use words that build up and not tear down.
• Matthew 15:18 Colossians 3:16 and 4:6
• Matthew 12:36 Ephesians 4:29 and 5:4
• James 3:8-10 Titus 3:2

4. A Heart of Thanksgiving – Colossians 3: 17
• Begin and end each day by giving thanks to God for one specific thing.
• Thank God for being sovereign and in control.
• Read Proverbs 19:1, Colossians 1:16, 2 Peter 3:9

5. Hands of Service – Colossians 3:23-24
• Serve God in the church by helping at VBS.  ALL are invited to serve on the first night.
• Sign up to be part of a team serving in Clearfield.
• Serve at the food-bank, Faith Centre or Soup Kitchen.

Sunday Morning

8:15 am: Traditional Worship Service with Nursery
10:45 am: Contemporary Worship Service with Nursery and Children’s Church

512 Hughes Street Bellefonte, PA 16823

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