Renew

Services

Sunday - 9:15 AM Sunday School, 10:30 AM Worship Service

by: Denise Robinson

11/17/2021

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The 4Rs: Renewal

Romans 12:1-2, 9-21; Ephesians 4:17-21

This morning we continue with our sermon series, The 4Rs, with a look on what it means to be spiritually renewed. When it comes to stewardship, we are called to be caretakers of Christ’s church, to strengthen it, to grow it, and to support it. Stewardship is about living out our faith for the purpose of meeting the goal Jesus left for us – to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. But how can we make disciples and transform the lives of others if we aren’t disciples and if our lives aren’t transformed? The answer, of course, is that we can’t. Two weeks ago, we focused on the importance of spiritual rest, of letting go of our fears, our doubts, our baggage and handing it over to God. Last week, we focused on the importance of spiritual restoration, of seeking out healing by reconnecting with God through prayer, worship, and a way of reading Scripture called Lectio Divina. We practiced last week with a few verses reminding us to rejoice, to remember that God is near to us, and that God offers us peace that will guard our hearts and our minds. Today’s sermon challenges us to answer the question: How has my life been, and how is my life being, transformed by Christ?

Most of you know I’m not a cook. Or a quilter or knitter or sewer or whatever. Well, I’m not a gardener either. A few years ago, I grew tomatoes all over my backyard, but that was because someone gave me several tomato plants and I just went out by my deck, dug holes, and plopped the plants in the holes. Never caged them, watered them, weeded them, or anything. I gardened by the saying: survival of the fittest. My neighbor next door was furious because she carefully planted her tomato plants, tended them, watered them, fed them, no doubt talked to them, and then they got some strange fungus and died. I shared my wealth and invited her over to take all the tomatoes she wanted, but I think she was a tad resentful. I know that intentionally growing things is supposed to take commitment and hard work. Except growing weeds, of course. I have lots of weeds. They take no effort at all to grow. The effort comes in getting rid of them. 

There’s some similarity when it comes to our spiritual lives. Weeds grow freely. Weeds like fear, anxiety, depression, doubt, anger, discontentment. These kinds of weeds take over and choke out our spiritual growth. Just like with any garden, we need to get rid of the weeds before we can plant. The last two weeks have been about getting rid of the weeds in our lives; this week and next we turn our focus to planting seeds that will take root and bloom and grow our spiritual faith. Today, our seeds turn into seedlings as we are painted a picture of renewal. 

Jesus talks about renewal in John 4 when he meets the woman at the well. Using imagery of water, he says: “Everyone who drinks from this water will get thirsty again. But whoever drinks from the water that I will give him will never get thirsty again. The water I will give will become a well of water springing up within you for eternal life.” Jesus is the source of renewal that strengthens us when nothing else will, that takes what has been planted within us and gives it an opportunity to grow. But if Jesus is the source, how does this renewal take place? Romans 12 and Ephesians 4 both tell us that renewal begins in our minds. Why the mind? In the secular world, we tend to conform to societal values and expectations. If I allow it to, the world will tell me what to wear, how to talk, what to believe, how to look out for my own interests. Following Christ begins with changing our mindset. As Ephesians 4:22-24 says: “You were taught to put away your former way of life, your old self . . . and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds . . . to clothe yourselves with the new self, created according to the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.” As we put away the old and take on the new, our lives are transformed. 

The process of renewal doesn’t happen immediately. It happens slowly: moment by moment, second by second, hour by hour, day by day. 2 Corinthians 4:16 reminds us to not lose heart, to remember that inwardly we are being renewed daily. It’s kind of like our gardening example. You can spend a lot of time getting the garden ready: tilling the ground, getting rid of the weeds, planting, fertilizing, and watering the seeds. That’s a good start. But you can’t do that and then come out months later to reap the crops you planted. The weeds will have come back and the plants will have died from the summer heat. Growing good crops means you’re out there every week pulling weeds, sometimes watering daily, perhaps keeping the rabbits away that want to eat what you’ve planted. 

Likewise, it takes effort to live for God. Like with so much else in our lives, as time goes by it’s easy to lose our zeal, our excitement, our sense of joy. Our faith becomes a matter of habit that barely sustains us, let alone enticing others to faith. We need a metamorphosis, “that process of transformation from an immature form to an adult form.” We need to discover, or rediscover, a hunger and a passion for God. Early Methodists greeted one another with the question, “How is it with your soul?” Over the last few years, I’ve been asked, and I’ve asked others, that question. A few rated their personal walk with God as great and some rated theirs as poor to non-existent. But most people answered with statements like; “It’s okay, I guess.” It seems to me that too many Christians are living bland spiritual lives, rather than transformed lives. And it shows. Not just to us, but to others – including those outside the church who are looking at us to see if we’re different. We know when we’re in a rut, but it’s hard to just snap our fingers and get out of it, isn’t it? We need a renewal process, a way to keep working on being transformed. Thankfully, we’ve been given some reminders to help us out. 

First, the Bible reminds us who we are. We are children of God. We are related, through adoption, to the Creator of the world. And God loves and cherishes each person here today. The story is told of a couple who had adopted a child after trying, for several years, to give birth. To their surprise, a short time after the adoption, the mother discovered she was pregnant, and she gave birth. One day when the two children were several years old, a neighbor came to visit. Observing the children at play, the neighbor asked, "Which one is yours?" "Both of them," the mother replied. The neighbor persisted. "But I mean, which one is the adopted one?" The mother answered, "I’ve forgotten." As God’s children, we are full sons and daughters; God forgets the adopted part, and we are fully loved and accepted.  

Second, the Bible reminds us what that means. As children of God, we are blessed. Our sins are forgiven. We have the peace and joy of knowing that we are loved. We are free to love God and others, remembering that God’s love is for all. We have an incredible gift to share with the world: God’s grace is available to everyone and God’s desire is that everyone be with him for all eternity in a place where there’s no hate, no oppression, no anger, no injustice, no pain, no death. That’s what Christ came to offer and that kind of promise changes lives. 

Third, God promises to be with us every step of the way in this renewal process. I don’t know about you, but I can’t change myself by myself. I can try, I have tried, but it doesn’t work. Oh, maybe I succeed for a few hours, or even a few days, but then I fail. With God’s help we transform our weaknesses into strengths, remove our limitations, and break barriers of impossibilities. With God’s help our minds, and our lives, are transformed and we step into our calling of stewardship. Stewardship isn’t about your money, it’s about your life. It’s about giving to God the best of who you are and what you have received. Stewardship is about who is in charge of your life. It’s a lifestyle and it’s a commitment to Jesus Christ. 

This week I did another one of my scientific surveys, AKA Google searches, looking at how we spend our time. From the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average times spent in primary activities in a day are: sleeping, between 8-9 hours (averaged 8.84 hours); personal grooming, about 40 minutes; eating, an hour and 15 minutes; household activities (housework, food prep and cleanup, lawn and garden care, paying bills), about an hour and 30 minutes; shopping (either in-store or online), about 45 minutes; running errands or helping other household members, about an hour; work or school, about 4 hours (remember, these are averages, so it factors in all ages and employment situations); leisure time (watching television, participating in sports or other activities, going to the gym, spending time on social media, talking on the phone, answering emails), just over 5 hours; time set aside for religious or spiritual activities: only 7% of people surveyed said they spent any time at all and of those, the average amount of time/day was just over 5 minutes. Let that sink in. How are our minds going to be transformed, much less how are we going to transform others, if our commitment is 5 minutes a day? 

Well, if Christ is our source for renewal and the mind is the place for renewal, what does renewal look like? It may start in the mind, but it takes place in action. This is Romans 12 from Eugene Peterson’s The Message: 

“So, here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what God wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you. Love from the center of who you are; don’t fake it. Run for dear life from evil; hold on for dear life to good. Be good friends who love deeply . . . Don’t burn out; keep yourselves fueled and aflame . . . Don’t quit in hard times; pray all the harder. Help needy Christians; be inventive in hospitality. Bless your enemies; no cursing under your breath. Laugh with your happy friends when they’re happy; share tears when they’re down. Get along with each other; don’t be stuck-up. Make friends with nobodies; don’t be the great somebody. Don’t hit back; discover beauty in everyone . . . Don’t insist on getting even; that’s not for you to do. “I’ll do the judging,” says God. “I’ll take care of it.” Surprise your enemy with goodness. Don’t let evil get the best of you; get the best of evil by doing good.” 

Why should this matter to us? Because it goes to the very heart of the Gospel. It’s the message of Christ, and Christ left us to spread that message by giving us stewardship of his church. That means all of us. If you are a member of IUMC, from the youngest member to the oldest, you are responsible for Christ’s church. If you’re not a member here but are a member of any church, you are responsible for Christ’s church. If you are here today and not a member of any church, but you call yourself a follower of Christ, you are responsible for Christ’s church. You don’t get a pass; you don’t get to opt out. If you are here today, and you’re not a member of any church and you do not claim to follow Christ, then you deserve to see Christ’s church in action. A church that loves genuinely, stands against evil, extends hospitality, blesses instead of curses, lives in harmony, and serves God. We’re human and we won’t always get it right, but today we remember our calling to be renewed – and my hope is that we, all of us, individually and as Christ’s church, will today renew our commitment to that calling.  

The 4Rs: Renewal

Romans 12:1-2, 9-21; Ephesians 4:17-21

This morning we continue with our sermon series, The 4Rs, with a look on what it means to be spiritually renewed. When it comes to stewardship, we are called to be caretakers of Christ’s church, to strengthen it, to grow it, and to support it. Stewardship is about living out our faith for the purpose of meeting the goal Jesus left for us – to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. But how can we make disciples and transform the lives of others if we aren’t disciples and if our lives aren’t transformed? The answer, of course, is that we can’t. Two weeks ago, we focused on the importance of spiritual rest, of letting go of our fears, our doubts, our baggage and handing it over to God. Last week, we focused on the importance of spiritual restoration, of seeking out healing by reconnecting with God through prayer, worship, and a way of reading Scripture called Lectio Divina. We practiced last week with a few verses reminding us to rejoice, to remember that God is near to us, and that God offers us peace that will guard our hearts and our minds. Today’s sermon challenges us to answer the question: How has my life been, and how is my life being, transformed by Christ?

Most of you know I’m not a cook. Or a quilter or knitter or sewer or whatever. Well, I’m not a gardener either. A few years ago, I grew tomatoes all over my backyard, but that was because someone gave me several tomato plants and I just went out by my deck, dug holes, and plopped the plants in the holes. Never caged them, watered them, weeded them, or anything. I gardened by the saying: survival of the fittest. My neighbor next door was furious because she carefully planted her tomato plants, tended them, watered them, fed them, no doubt talked to them, and then they got some strange fungus and died. I shared my wealth and invited her over to take all the tomatoes she wanted, but I think she was a tad resentful. I know that intentionally growing things is supposed to take commitment and hard work. Except growing weeds, of course. I have lots of weeds. They take no effort at all to grow. The effort comes in getting rid of them. 

There’s some similarity when it comes to our spiritual lives. Weeds grow freely. Weeds like fear, anxiety, depression, doubt, anger, discontentment. These kinds of weeds take over and choke out our spiritual growth. Just like with any garden, we need to get rid of the weeds before we can plant. The last two weeks have been about getting rid of the weeds in our lives; this week and next we turn our focus to planting seeds that will take root and bloom and grow our spiritual faith. Today, our seeds turn into seedlings as we are painted a picture of renewal. 

Jesus talks about renewal in John 4 when he meets the woman at the well. Using imagery of water, he says: “Everyone who drinks from this water will get thirsty again. But whoever drinks from the water that I will give him will never get thirsty again. The water I will give will become a well of water springing up within you for eternal life.” Jesus is the source of renewal that strengthens us when nothing else will, that takes what has been planted within us and gives it an opportunity to grow. But if Jesus is the source, how does this renewal take place? Romans 12 and Ephesians 4 both tell us that renewal begins in our minds. Why the mind? In the secular world, we tend to conform to societal values and expectations. If I allow it to, the world will tell me what to wear, how to talk, what to believe, how to look out for my own interests. Following Christ begins with changing our mindset. As Ephesians 4:22-24 says: “You were taught to put away your former way of life, your old self . . . and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds . . . to clothe yourselves with the new self, created according to the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.” As we put away the old and take on the new, our lives are transformed. 

The process of renewal doesn’t happen immediately. It happens slowly: moment by moment, second by second, hour by hour, day by day. 2 Corinthians 4:16 reminds us to not lose heart, to remember that inwardly we are being renewed daily. It’s kind of like our gardening example. You can spend a lot of time getting the garden ready: tilling the ground, getting rid of the weeds, planting, fertilizing, and watering the seeds. That’s a good start. But you can’t do that and then come out months later to reap the crops you planted. The weeds will have come back and the plants will have died from the summer heat. Growing good crops means you’re out there every week pulling weeds, sometimes watering daily, perhaps keeping the rabbits away that want to eat what you’ve planted. 

Likewise, it takes effort to live for God. Like with so much else in our lives, as time goes by it’s easy to lose our zeal, our excitement, our sense of joy. Our faith becomes a matter of habit that barely sustains us, let alone enticing others to faith. We need a metamorphosis, “that process of transformation from an immature form to an adult form.” We need to discover, or rediscover, a hunger and a passion for God. Early Methodists greeted one another with the question, “How is it with your soul?” Over the last few years, I’ve been asked, and I’ve asked others, that question. A few rated their personal walk with God as great and some rated theirs as poor to non-existent. But most people answered with statements like; “It’s okay, I guess.” It seems to me that too many Christians are living bland spiritual lives, rather than transformed lives. And it shows. Not just to us, but to others – including those outside the church who are looking at us to see if we’re different. We know when we’re in a rut, but it’s hard to just snap our fingers and get out of it, isn’t it? We need a renewal process, a way to keep working on being transformed. Thankfully, we’ve been given some reminders to help us out. 

First, the Bible reminds us who we are. We are children of God. We are related, through adoption, to the Creator of the world. And God loves and cherishes each person here today. The story is told of a couple who had adopted a child after trying, for several years, to give birth. To their surprise, a short time after the adoption, the mother discovered she was pregnant, and she gave birth. One day when the two children were several years old, a neighbor came to visit. Observing the children at play, the neighbor asked, "Which one is yours?" "Both of them," the mother replied. The neighbor persisted. "But I mean, which one is the adopted one?" The mother answered, "I’ve forgotten." As God’s children, we are full sons and daughters; God forgets the adopted part, and we are fully loved and accepted.  

Second, the Bible reminds us what that means. As children of God, we are blessed. Our sins are forgiven. We have the peace and joy of knowing that we are loved. We are free to love God and others, remembering that God’s love is for all. We have an incredible gift to share with the world: God’s grace is available to everyone and God’s desire is that everyone be with him for all eternity in a place where there’s no hate, no oppression, no anger, no injustice, no pain, no death. That’s what Christ came to offer and that kind of promise changes lives. 

Third, God promises to be with us every step of the way in this renewal process. I don’t know about you, but I can’t change myself by myself. I can try, I have tried, but it doesn’t work. Oh, maybe I succeed for a few hours, or even a few days, but then I fail. With God’s help we transform our weaknesses into strengths, remove our limitations, and break barriers of impossibilities. With God’s help our minds, and our lives, are transformed and we step into our calling of stewardship. Stewardship isn’t about your money, it’s about your life. It’s about giving to God the best of who you are and what you have received. Stewardship is about who is in charge of your life. It’s a lifestyle and it’s a commitment to Jesus Christ. 

This week I did another one of my scientific surveys, AKA Google searches, looking at how we spend our time. From the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average times spent in primary activities in a day are: sleeping, between 8-9 hours (averaged 8.84 hours); personal grooming, about 40 minutes; eating, an hour and 15 minutes; household activities (housework, food prep and cleanup, lawn and garden care, paying bills), about an hour and 30 minutes; shopping (either in-store or online), about 45 minutes; running errands or helping other household members, about an hour; work or school, about 4 hours (remember, these are averages, so it factors in all ages and employment situations); leisure time (watching television, participating in sports or other activities, going to the gym, spending time on social media, talking on the phone, answering emails), just over 5 hours; time set aside for religious or spiritual activities: only 7% of people surveyed said they spent any time at all and of those, the average amount of time/day was just over 5 minutes. Let that sink in. How are our minds going to be transformed, much less how are we going to transform others, if our commitment is 5 minutes a day? 

Well, if Christ is our source for renewal and the mind is the place for renewal, what does renewal look like? It may start in the mind, but it takes place in action. This is Romans 12 from Eugene Peterson’s The Message: 

“So, here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what God wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you. Love from the center of who you are; don’t fake it. Run for dear life from evil; hold on for dear life to good. Be good friends who love deeply . . . Don’t burn out; keep yourselves fueled and aflame . . . Don’t quit in hard times; pray all the harder. Help needy Christians; be inventive in hospitality. Bless your enemies; no cursing under your breath. Laugh with your happy friends when they’re happy; share tears when they’re down. Get along with each other; don’t be stuck-up. Make friends with nobodies; don’t be the great somebody. Don’t hit back; discover beauty in everyone . . . Don’t insist on getting even; that’s not for you to do. “I’ll do the judging,” says God. “I’ll take care of it.” Surprise your enemy with goodness. Don’t let evil get the best of you; get the best of evil by doing good.” 

Why should this matter to us? Because it goes to the very heart of the Gospel. It’s the message of Christ, and Christ left us to spread that message by giving us stewardship of his church. That means all of us. If you are a member of IUMC, from the youngest member to the oldest, you are responsible for Christ’s church. If you’re not a member here but are a member of any church, you are responsible for Christ’s church. If you are here today and not a member of any church, but you call yourself a follower of Christ, you are responsible for Christ’s church. You don’t get a pass; you don’t get to opt out. If you are here today, and you’re not a member of any church and you do not claim to follow Christ, then you deserve to see Christ’s church in action. A church that loves genuinely, stands against evil, extends hospitality, blesses instead of curses, lives in harmony, and serves God. We’re human and we won’t always get it right, but today we remember our calling to be renewed – and my hope is that we, all of us, individually and as Christ’s church, will today renew our commitment to that calling.  

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