Sunday, February 7, 2016

The Family @ Glenwood

Because of the grace that God gave me, I can say to each one of you: don’t think of yourself more highly than you ought to think. Instead, be reasonable since God has measured out a portion of faith to each one of you. We have many parts in one body, but the parts don’t all have the same function. In the same way, though there are many of us, we are one body in Christ, and individually we belong to each other. We have different gifts that are consistent with God’s grace that has been given to us. If your gift is prophecy, you should prophesy in proportion to your faith. If your gift is service, devote yourself to serving. If your gift is teaching, devote yourself to teaching. If your gift is encouragement, devote yourself to encouraging. The one giving should do it with no strings attached. The leader should lead with passion. The one showing mercy should be cheerful.
Love should be shown without pretending. Hate evil, and hold on to what is good. Love each other like the members of your family. Be the best at showing honor to each other. Don’t hesitate to be enthusiastic—be on fire in the Spirit as you serve the Lord! Be happy in your hope, stand your ground when you’re in trouble, and devote yourselves to prayer. Contribute to the needs of God’s people, and welcome strangers into your home. Bless people who harass you—bless and don’t curse them. Be happy with those who are happy, and cry with those who are crying. Consider everyone as equal, and don’t think that you’re better than anyone else. Instead, associate with people who have no status. Don’t think that you’re so smart. Don’t pay back anyone for their evil actions with evil actions, but show respect for what everyone else believes is good.
If possible, to the best of your ability, live at peace with all people. (Romans 12:3–18 CEB)
There are many passages in our New Testament that center on the nature of the church. I think of Ephesians 4: “There is one body and one spirit…” Or, I Corinthians 12: “Even as the body is one yet has many members, so is the Body of Christ.” There are many wonderful passages in our Bible that remind us what all of this is really about. But I believe this passage that I read a moment ago, from Romans 12, is one of my favorite pictures of the church. Listen to some of the ways Paul describes the church in these few verses:
“Though there are many of us, we are one body in Christ, and individually we belong to each other!”
“Love should be shown without pretending.”
“Love each other like the members of your family.”
“Be the best at showing honor to each other.”
“Be happy with those who are happy, and cry with those who are crying.”
What a beautiful picture of the church! Have you ever seen that picture come to life? I have.

If we were to go around this room, I’m sure most of us have a “Glenwood story” of our own. Reasons why we were first attracted to this family and reasons why we’ve stayed all of these years. Not only in the good times, but in the difficult times as well. And the reasons we have chosen to be a part of this church probably has a lot to do with the words we read from Romans. We’ve seen this beautiful picture come to life in this church, right here in this room! In our own living rooms as this family has gathered together in homes, or in the hospital room as a member of our family struggled, or even at the funeral home when we gathered to say goodbye to someone from this family.

I remember the first time I realized just how special this family is. Let me begin this way: I never thought I would live in Tyler, Texas! I moved to scenic Lubbock, Texas when I was 18 years old. I met a beautiful young woman in college who was born and raised in Lubbock, Texas. We married, and I went off to school. Our goal was to finish school and get back to Lubbock, Texas just as soon as we could! And that is what we did. I began teaching at LCU and preaching at a downtown congregation there. But, after five years of ministry there in Lubbock, we began to sense that something wasn’t right. I began to notice that not every congregation resembles this picture painted in Romans 5. Sometimes members of the church do not love each other like members of a family. Sometimes we are not the best at showing honor to each other. And after a while, it becomes very difficult to live with and lead a congregation like that. But Lubbock was our home. And we never intended to leave our home. So we tried to make it work. For two more years, we tried to love that church so much that it would begin to look more like that picture in Romans 5. I’ll admit that I grew depressed in those months and years. It became difficult for me to even go into that building. It’s hard to describe, but I felt like a cloud settled on top of me when I went through the doors. Relationships became difficult, ministry became virtually impossible, but, we really didn’t want to leave our home.

One day I was sitting in my office at the church building, and out of the blue I received a phone call from a man named Alton Cade. As I’ve reflected on that phone call over the last few years, I’ve come to believe something. I believe God was responsible for that phone call. It is just what I needed. And whether we realized it at the time or not, it was just what my family needed. That phone call led to our first encounter with this church family. And I’ve never loved the church as much I have since I became part of this family. You helped me see that beautiful picture of the church come to life. You helped me find my calling again. And you gave my family a new home. Thank you for that!

You know, the mission statement of our family here is: Graciously helping a fallen world stand up again. In a very real sense, this church did that for my family. You helped us stand up again. And if we were to go around this room, so many of us could tell similar stories about how this family helped them stand up again. Family, I say all of that to say this: We have something so special here, we really do! The Bible teaches that the church has the power to make God become flesh in our world. That is what this church has done for over 60 years. And because we have something so special, we need to share it with others.

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