************ Sermon on Luke 6:12-19 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on February 13, 2005
"Prayer, Community, and Ministry"
[This message is indebted to an article by Henri Nouwen entitled "Moving from Solitude to Community to Ministry"]
Topic: WitnessingThis little girl, we would have to say, was a witness for Christ. Are you?
A little girl, while traveling with her mother, made the acquaintance of an aged man. The child said to her new friend, "I got a grandpa; and he's a good man, and loves Jesus. Do you love Jesus?" That simple question led the aged man, who was a skeptic, to give his heart to Christ. "No one," said he, "ever took that much interest in me before, to ask the simple question that the child put to me; and I am now in my eighty-third year."
Let there be no doubt about it, my brothers and sisters, that we are all called to be Christ's witnesses. All of us are to be witnesses, no matter what our other calling, profession or labor.
Topic: WitnessingLike him, you are a witness for Jesus Christ, but you nurse the sick, teach children, milk cows, drive truck, watch prisoners, make hay, or repair cars to pay the expenses.
A generation ago there was a wealthy man in the midwest who was an outstanding Christian layman. People used to ask him what he did. He would reply, "I am a witness for Jesus Christ, but I pack pork to pay expenses."
We are at the start of Missions Emphasis Week. We all know that we need to sing the songs of Zion in a foreign land, that we need to bring the message of Christ to a hostile culture, that we need to be witnesses to Christ, that we need to make disciples of all nations, that we need to make the most of every opportunity (as we heard this morning) and take advantage of the "kairos moments" the Lord gives us.
Tonight, I want to ask "How? How do we go about doing this? How do we engage in the ministry the Lord has called all of us to do?"
We are told this evening that ministry begins within the context of prayer and community. That was the case with Jesus in our Bible lesson. And, that was also the case with the early New Testament church. Ministry, witnessing, evangelism begins within the context of prayer and community.
Our Scripture reading is a beautiful story that moves from night to morning to afternoon. Jesus spent the night alone in prayer and meditation with God. In the morning, He gathered His apostles around Him and formed community. In the afternoon, with His apostles, He went out and preached the Word and healed the sick.
Notice the order – from prayer to community to ministry.
So often we want to do things in the opposite order. If something doesn't work, we go to others and ask for their help. And, if that doesn't work, then we start praying.
But the order that Jesus teaches us is the reverse. It begins by being alone with God in prayer and meditation; then it creates a fellowship, a community of people who support us; and finally this community goes out together to heal and to proclaim good news.
Prayer, community, and ministry. That is the pattern by which God acts and speaks through us. That is the pattern God uses to make great things happen. That is the pattern through which we become the hands and mouths of God.
A The opening verse of our Scripture reading tells us that "One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God" (Luke 6:12).
A quick look through the Gospels tells us that Jesus spent a lot of time alone with God in prayer and meditation. Is there any space or time for that in your life?
Why is it so important that you spend time alone with God in prayer? It is important because that is when you listen to Him Who says He loves you. To pray and to meditate is to listen to the One Who calls you "My beloved daughter," "My beloved son," "My beloved child." To pray is to let that voice speak to the center of your being.
Who am I? Who are you? I am the beloved, the one loved of God. And, you are too.
That's the voice Jesus heard when He came out of the Jordan River: "You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased" (Luke 3:22). That's the voice Jesus heard when He was on the Mount of Transfiguration: "This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!" (Mt 17:5).
But there were many other voices speaking too – loud voices. These voices said, "Prove you are the beloved. Do a miracle. Change stones into bread. Test God and jump from the temple. Grab power without going the way of the cross."
But Jesus said, in effect, "No, I don't have to prove anything. I am the Son He loves."
Because Jesus listened to the voice of God He was able to walk right through life. People were applauding him, laughing at him; praising him and rejecting him; calling "Hosanna!" and yelling "Crucify him!" But in the midst of all this, Jesus knew one thing – "I am the beloved; I am God's only begotten." He clung to that voice.
When you pray and meditate, that same voice speaks to you telling you, assuring you, that you are loved.
As was the case with Jesus, there are many other voices speaking to us too – loud voices. They say: "Prove that you are the beloved." "Prove you're worth something." "Prove you have a contribution to make." "Make a name for yourself." "Accumulate power and wealth – then people will love you; then people will say you're wonderful, you're great."
As with Jesus, we have to pray and listen to the voice of God. And, when we do we can deal with success and failure, prosperity and poverty, health and sickness, life and death, rain and drought, summer and winter.
Perhaps you are acquainted with Rembrandt's painting "The Return of the Prodigal Son." The father holds his son and touches him. He would hold his daughter and touch her too if she was the one who had run away. And he says, "You are my beloved. I'm not going to ask you any questions. Wherever you have gone, whatever you have done, and whatever people say about you, you're my beloved. I hold you safe in my embrace. I touch you. I hold you safe under my wings." Knowing that, being assured of that, we can endure anything – can't we?!
B Jesus, then, spent the night in prayer. Alone. With God. Meditating. Contemplating. Being reminded that He was and is God's beloved Son.
We too need to pray. We too need to spend time alone with God. We too need to meditate and contemplate.
Take a passage of Scripture. Or even one verse. Think about it for half an hour. Let it fill your being, your thoughts, your heart, until the words are written on all your inner holy places.
This is not easy to do, is it?! The trouble is, as soon as you sit and become quiet, you think, Oh, I forgot to do this or that. I need to call so and so. I have to put this on the grocery list. I need to finish my homework assignment. Or, you spend the time thinking and dreaming about being with a guy or a girl. It is not easy to sit down and listen to God. But, like Jesus, we need to take the time.
A time alone with God is where ministry begins. That's where it began for Jesus. That's where it begins for us.
A What did Jesus do after He spent the night praying and meditating? The Bible has this to say:
(Luke 6:13) When morning came, he called his disciples to him and chose twelve of them, whom he also designated apostles ...After prayer, after solitude, comes community. Jesus formed a community of 13, including Himself.
Why did Jesus form this community?
Strange as it may sound, Jesus needed community.
Remember the Garden of Gethsemane? Jesus wanted and needed the community of his 3 closest friends to be with Him – to help Him through His darkest hour. He wanted them to support and encourage Him. He wanted them to pray for Him. He wanted them to keep watch with Him.
Look also at Paul. He never traveled alone. Barnabas was with him or John Mark or Luke or Timothy or Silas. He had problems with John Mark. He had an argument with Barnabas. He could have said, "Forget this community stuff. From now on I'm traveling alone. It is easier that way." But no! He always took someone with him. It was more than not wanting to be alone. He wanted Christian community. He needed Christian community. If anyone could have been a "Lone Ranger" Christian, it was Paul. But he knew better. And, what did Paul do in every town and city in which he gained converts for the Lord? He established a community of believers.
B If Jesus – Almighty God, without sin, perfect in every way, knowing all things – needed community to do ministry we certainly do too. And if Paul – the first among all apostles – needed Christian community to carry out his ministry we certainly do too. None of this Lone Ranger stuff. None of this trying to be a Christian without the church.
The Bible commands and encourages us to seek community with each other so we can grow and develop and mature as believers. The Bible commands and encourages Christian community so we can support each other and encourage each other. The Bible commands and encourages community so we can pray for each other. The Bible commands and encourages us to seek community so we can engage in ministry.
Topic: FellowshipOr, consider this example from the Sequoia trees:
A few winters ago, heavy snows hit North Carolina along Interstate 40.
Next to the highway stood several large groves of tall, young pine trees. The branches were bowed down with the heavy snow -- so low that branches from one tree were often leaning against the trunk or branches of another.
Where trees stood alone, however, the effect of the heavy snow was different. The branches had become heavier and heavier, and since there were no other trees to lean against, the branches snapped. They lay on the ground, dark and alone in the cold snow.
Topic: ComfortLike the pine trees of North Carolina or the Sequoias of California we need the support and encouragement of a community. To survive in a hostile world we need community. In order to do what the Lord calls us to do, we need to be part of a community.
The Sequoia trees of Sequoia National Park tower as much as 360 feet above the ground. Strangely, these giants have unusually shallow root systems that reach out in all directions to capture the greatest amount of surface moisture. Seldom will you see a Sequoia standing alone, because high winds would quickly uproot it. That's why they grow in clusters. Their intertwining roots provide support for one another against the storms.
As a community, of course, we can do far more ministry than any of us can do as individuals. Do you know what community does? Community acts like a kind of sound amplification system. Our church's amp can take a whisper or a small, still voice and turn it into something loud and big. That's what community does to our ministry. By myself I give $300 a year to the Free A Family program of CRWRC. But in the church I am part of a community that raised $53000 for CRWRC and tsunami relief. By myself I give $300 to Faith Promise. But in the church I am part of a community that has given almost $60000 to Faith Promise. By myself I cannot support a missionary in Haiti or Japan or Honduras. But in the Christian Reformed Church I am part of a community that supports well over 400 missionaries.
A Jesus spent the night in prayer and meditation with God. In the morning He chose twelve to form a community with Him. In the afternoon He began to do ministry. Listen to what our Scripture reading says:
(Luke 6:17-19) He went down with them and stood on a level place. A large crowd of his disciples was there and a great number of people from all over Judea, from Jerusalem, and from the coast of Tyre and Sidon, (18) who had come to hear him and to be healed of their diseases. Those troubled by evil spirits were cured, (19) and the people all tried to touch him, because power was coming from him and healing them all.
B Jesus has given us a big job to do. He has given us an awesome responsibility. How can we possibly live up to what He expects?
I want to tell you this evening that within the context of prayer and community we can do ministry. Within the context of prayer and community we can sing the songs of Zion in a foreign land, we can bring the message of Christ to a hostile culture, we can be witnesses to Christ, we can make disciples of all nations, we can make the most of every opportunity and take advantage of the "kairos moments" the Lord gives us.
My brothers and sisters, there is no need for us to be scared. There is no need for us to feel overwhelmed. There is no need for us to feel swamped. All that we have to do is be like Jesus. Jesus spent the night alone in prayer and meditation with God. In the morning, He gathered His apostles around Him and formed community. In the afternoon, with His apostles, He went out and preached the Word and healed the sick.
Be like Jesus and there is no end to what we can do.
You can e-mail our pastor at: Pastor, Trinity United Reformed Church
Back to Index of Sermons Page