Sunday, April 25, 2004

There's Going To Be A Wedding

Intro: This coming week is a significant one for the United Methodist Church.

1. On Tuesday evening in Pittsburgh, PA, the United Methodist Church will begin its Quadrennial General Conference. 2. This two week adventure in church government is responsible for setting the tone and path of the church for the next four years. 3. I would ask you as a church to pray for our denomination. Like so many large churches, there are important issues coming to the surface that will need to be addressed by this body that will help determine who we are as United Methodists. 4. It also seems appropriate that we spend some time thinking what it means to be a church. 5. Not just a a local church - but the larger church, the church both here in Garland, in Rochester, New York, and around the world. 6. During the next few weeks we will look at several of the images used in scripture to describe the church - for example, we will eventually look at such phrases as "the family of God" and "the temple of God" - today we will begin by looking at the church as the Bride of Christ.

Read: Ephesians 5:21-27

I. If the church is the Bride of Christ, then Christ is the head. Ephesians 5:23

(Ill.) This week we learned of the death of the CEO of McDonalds Corporation. Jim Cantalupo had dies while attending a meeting of McDonald franchise owners in Florida. At that point McDonalds had no leadership - nobody was in charge. But the Board of McDonalds knew the importance of having leadership in place - The next day they elected Australian Charlie Bell to be the new chair of McDonalds.

(Ill.) Somebody must be in charge. I suppose if you or I were to read the discipline of the Wesleyan Church we would come to the conclusion that it is the pastor. The Discipline of the United Methodist Church, we would find that the leader of a Methodist church is the Lay Leader. But I really think they both have it wrong.

A. Paul makes it clear that Christ is the head of the church. B. Need to be careful here - it would be tempting to let our broken relationships. It would be easy to say, "Look, I am the boss of my family; therefore, Christ will be boss here." C. Listen again to Ephesians 5:23 - "For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior." D. There are two errors that can be made here:

1. Christ is not a dictatorial or abusive head of household.

(Appl.) The Recovery Devotional Bible makes the following comment: Many have taken verses 22 to 24 our of context, ignoring verse 21 ... Such people have used these verses to justify either the husband's right to dictate the wife's behavior, or the wife's obligation to accept abuse from her husband. Neither behavior is acceptable, either by those in recovery or by Biblical standards. Paul assumes throughout the passage that both husband and wife were loving, sensitive, and submissive to each other. Without mutual love and respect, the equation breaks down.

2. The other error is to make Christ merely a figurehead - he is the head of the church. We are Christ's church - we must never assume that it our church, we belong to Jesus Christ.

II. If the church is the Bride of Christ, then the church must be submissive to Christ Ephesians 5:21-23

(Ill.) A lot of you play Euchre when you get together. Now, everytime I sit down with you I have to be retaught the rules. But that is no fun - so I have decided to do something different. I don't want to tell you how to play, so you can continue playing by whatever rules you want. But to make my life easier, I thought that I would just use my rules. It would save so much time, you would never have to teach me the game again. We could get started and begin playing as soon as we sat down. I wouldn't have to learn new rules. I mean by playing by my rules, I wouldn't need to learn and forget and learn and forget. I would just have to know one set of rules - mine. Life would be so much easier than for all of us. I don't think so. Somebody has to be in charge. Somebody has to set the rules.

A. And in the church, that person is Christ. Now, if Christ is in charge, there are two things we need to do. B. First we need to listen to our leader - not much different than listening to each other.

1. Begin by deciding to listen 2. Find a quiet spot to listen - evening, morning, after everyone is gone for the day 3. Read you scripture - choose a portion, or use The Upper Room or other helpful maerial 4. Restate what you read - in your own words, either on paper or on the computer, if you are into journaling, or out loud.

(Ill.) In a counseling session you would be asked to set opposite each other and restate the other's thoughts. "I heard you say ..." Do the same with God. Put it in writing if you have to, say it out loud if you have to. 5.Pray - ask God whether you understood. And ask what he wants you to do about it.

C. We have to listen -

D. But there is another step - we also have to obey.

1. Knowing what God wants is not enough 2. We must also be willing to do what he wants 3. You know that I have a firm conviction that as individuals we need to obey - but the same is true of the church. 4.The church has the same responsibility to listen to Christ as we do individuals

E. Let me remind you of one thing. This all assumes that Christ loves us and we have learned to love him.

(Ill.) It was a hard lesson for me to learn. I had become a Christian in college-but for many of those years it was only in my head. I understood what it meant to be a Christian. It made perfect sense. But it would be nearly 20 years before I understood it in my heart. I heard others talking about loving Christ, but I would just nod my head and smile. It was good that they had a real affection for their savior, but I never quite understood what it was all about. Fifteen years ago at a Memorial Day camp I began the process that allowed me to understand what it meant to love God and for him to love me.

F. Joyful obedience. whether its the church or the individual, will be rooted in God's love of us and our love for Him.

Conclusion: There is going to be a wedding.

1. When we place our lives at the foot of the cross, when we decide to place our faith in Christ, we know that we are going to part of that wedding 2. The church is the Bride of Christ - as such we will recognize Christ as our head, we will desire to be submissive to him. 3. If you are not yet sure what your relationship is to Christ, if you are not yet sure that you will be present for the wedding, then find one of the leaders of the church or find me and we would be more than willing to help you find that relationship.

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