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Ben Fleming: Begin Again, Acts 2:42-27

October 24, 2022

Audio Recording

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Ben Fleming: Begin Again, Acts 2:42-27
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Sermon Transcript:

:00 You're listening to a live recording from Westside Church in Bend, Oregon. Thanks for joining us.

00:06 We are in part three of a series where we're celebrating this legacy and this engagement that we get to have together as a community. And, Evan talked about in week one that this is not just the church that we attend, but this is the church to which we belong. And Steve talked about last week, that we are mandated to love our city. And if we find ourselves loving Jesus, professing Jesus here in this place in time, then we must, we must love our community. We can't live in the land of criticism and cynicism and profess to be followers of Christ, loving our city when we're just living in those negative spaces. So we're called to love Bend in central Oregon. Amen. And, man Bend is easy to love in the fall. I gotta say check it out. First day of fall I put on boots and flannel, cuz I'm basic and that's just who I am.

00:59 but if you haven't noticed, and if you haven't been to Costco, I might inter, I might inform you on this. Christmas is coming. we just went right past Halloween again, I think this time we just went past Labor Day and it just kind of keeps creeping up all the time. And we've been talking about in the last couple weeks the importance of this community garden. We actually wanna start a real community garden here on campus. That's gonna happen. We're gonna break ground on that sometime in the next year, but even more so, we want that to be a metaphor for who we are as a community because a community garden only works if people are actively cultivating the soil and watering and then picking. And it only works if people are eating and then you go through the cycles of it. A community garden is incredibly valuable in this way.

01:45 And so what we have to do in order for this incredible legacy and the church payoff and a rethinking of how we're gonna use our facility, the only way that this really works is that if we're all in this together and there is a depth to our faith that maybe didn't exist before. So with Christmas coming, it leads us always to the, the age old debate and the one that I'm about to win right now because God is on my side. the debate between the artificial tree and the real tree, Okay, some of you, unbox your tree and there's lights on it. and this is the work of the enemy, okay? . I like to go into the mountains and grow my beard extra long and chop a tree down and throw it in the back of my pickup and the smells and all the stuff, right?

02:35 And me, and me and a lot of the people on staff. By the way, if you're feeling attacked right now, I would say the majority of the staff is actually like artificial trees is the way to go, Ben, you just need to chill. But I have the microphone. And but I do think about Christmas decorations. I think all of us probably have, some artificial decorations no matter what, right? And we even use them all over the city. That's how we decorate. And for a season, these things, these artificial things, they really pop and they look incredible and beautiful and they look wonderful in our homes and all of that. But the thing is, even those things that last forever, the color stays with them. They could continue to pop. If we left them up in the city until February or March, all of us would start to go, This is kind of ugly actually.

03:23 And it doesn't make any sense. Why are we leaving these decorations up? But real trees, of course. And I want to talk about specifically fruit trees today. They last of course all year round cuz what are they meant to do? They have the freedom to bear leaves and to bear fruit and then to enter into fall and to lose those leaves and lose that fruit and gather sustenance and water and then produce the fruit again. A fruit tree, a real tree, a planted tree makes sense and is useful in every single season. And I wanna encourage us today to resist iterations of our faith that might pop, they might be nice shiny objects, but they're not actually built to last throughout the year. They're not, they don't have staying power. They don't always make sense. But in stage, instead, we as a church and as a community together, we can celebrate this today, that we are a people that want to be someone that can maintain ourselves and our faith throughout all the seasons.

04:24 That we, we can go through the difficult things and we can lament and we can celebrate. And ultimately we can have a faith that is not just based on our feelings at a specific moment in time, but through our traditions, through our encouraging of one another. And through our care for our city, we can be of value to the kingdom of God far beyond all of our years in this room. So what I wanna do today is go through a few basic things that lead us again into this real depth of relationship and faithfulness with God. Because no matter what, when it comes to this facility and it comes to the vision, the direction of our church, we're trying to fulfill the words of Jesus when he says in Matthew chapter 11, Come unto me all who are weary and are heavy laid in and I will give you rest.

05:12 We want this facility to be a place where the only prerequisite for you to enter into participate into what God is doing here is simply that you have come to a place where you need rest. Again. You need Jesus, you've been broken and even buried by the ways of the world. And you need a fresh start, a new inspiration. We can be that place together. And so one of the main scriptures that we often use, and I'm gonna use again today, comes from Acts chapter two. How do we find a template for how we should all behave in community together in this new vision and direction of Westside Church and Westside Community Center? Well, the author Luke, describes the early church in this way. In Acts chapter two, verse 42 says, All the believers devoted themselves to the apostles teaching and to fellowship and to sharing in meals, including the Lord's Supper and to prayer.

06:04 A deep sense of awe came over them all. And the apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders and all the believers met together in one place and shared everything that they had. They sold their property and possessions and shared the money with those in need. They worshiped together at the temple each day, met in homes for the Lord's Supper and shared their meals with great joy and generosity, all the while praising God, enjoying the goodwill of all people. And each day, the Lord added to their fellowship, those who were being saved. So within this scripture, we find the template for how we would like to function as a church. So here's a few ways that you can jump into this new vision for yourself, for your family, and for West Side as a whole. Right now, starting today, you can participate in baptism is number one.

06:53 This is, spiritual discipline. It's a spiritual tradition. It's part of the Christian Church. Even Jesus himself was baptized. And I want to encourage you to be baptized with us if you haven't yet been baptized. What this is, is a public confession of faith. It's a public confession of a decision that we've made inside our own hearts and own souls. And we make that confession in front of a greater body of believers so that we can hold ourselves accountable to that faith. Then we can celebrate together. Now, I don't know about you. I I've grown up in the church. And so there's some of these things, especially after like you become the person that is putting some of these things together. once you start actually filling up, the little grape juice glasses for communion, you start wondering if this is a real important thing cuz it's a lot of hustle.

07:42 And then when you start filling up the baptism with a lot of water and you're trying to navigate the logistics of how do we get all this water in here, the camera's in the right spot so that everybody can see and make sure that this person doesn't slip and drown inside this bin of water. You start going, What is the significance of all this? Anyway? It just seems like a lot of work. Well, of course the significance is not just the water or the bins or the grape juice or the bread in and of themselves. It is the confession and the story and the remembrance that goes along with all of them. A church that is baptized is a confessing of faith church. And a church that is doing baptism together in a public space is a celebratory church. A church that regularly participates in joy.

08:28 I think church sometimes can become a little bit of a stuffy atmosphere. It can become just a purely traditional atmosphere. While tradition is great, I wanna make sure that we are a people that are interested and willing in celebrating the victories that have happened within the body of Christ and within the body of our city and our community. And I think west side can be that of people that are willing to clap and cheer and scream and enjoy and encourage and build up one another is a church that, that has been participating in the baptism and the confession of faith in a public place. Baptism creates joy. A second thing that you could do, I told you we're gonna get real practical today. You can join a volunteer team. Hello, Somebody is getting excited, is been a salesman or is he a pastor? We'll find out at the end of the episode.

09:19 Again, any of these things, if you look at them just on their surface can look like filling a practical job and checking a box. But there's something spiritual that happens when we gather together, we create teams and we create communities. Friendship happens, deep work happens. I think about, a guy in our church named Brant who has a PhD who's helped us as a staff big time. And I showed up to high school in junior high camp and Brant was there and he was a cabin leader. And I was like, Bra, I gotta be honest with you, this is a waste of your intelligence. You know, I know that there's a bunch of 16 year olds in there that are taking two hours to do their hair and you have a doctorate, . And of course Brant stuck it out not just for that weekend, but now as a regular volunteer within the life of our youth community.

10:07 And those particular boys have maintained a group and a relationship with Brant where he gets to speak into and build up and encourage them in their lives. And honestly, I cannot think of a greater call for the church than to care for the youth of our community and for our church itself, and to build them up. Also, when you become part of a team, it takes you out of a a normal critical mindset and it actually gives you the mindset of the athlete, of the performer. Have you ever attended a game or a sporting event or maybe a play or a or a concert and maybe you're the kind of person that I am that gets a little bit critical with things. It's easy to wear the jersey of the team that you love with the name on the back that belongs to one of the players on the field.

10:56 But it's an entire thing altogether to be an active participant in what is happening, to dig your hands into the dirt and begin to grow the garden yourself. When we allow ourselves to not just be viewers, but active participants in what is going on in the life of this community, our attitude changes. We begin to see the needs and we begin to actually meet those needs in a practical way. The third thing is this. Community groups. so much serving and celebration happens in community groups as well, but community groups are also essential for healthy life rhythms and education. One of the reasons that I love community groups and one of the reasons that makes community groups difficult is that there are people in them. . Oh, people come on, I like quiet places. The community, there's a reason you guys, they made those AirPods that just go in your ears and there's noise canceling.

11:51 They made those for me. I can make the world quiet at any time. And community groups, you're drawn into conversation and perspectives that maybe you've never lived out or you've never considered before. And all of a sudden we begin to grow and to learn in many more ways than just one community groups give us the opportunity within a group to develop relationships and to care for one each other, one another. But even more than that, it gives us the opportunity to change our mind. If you haven't changed your mind in a long, long time, I would like to say that you're either the second coming of Christ or you are living in insulated and immature lifestyle that is unwilling to grow. If you haven't changed your mind, gotten a new perspective, perspective in a long time, I encourage you, well, whether that's you or not, to join a community group because these, this is where the life of the church truly happens.

12:46 It's where we reach out to our community in smaller groups and into our neighborhoods and boroughs in a way that is meaningful and long lasting. It's not just something to do during a weeknight, but it's a way of life that we contend is extremely important here in the life of the church at West Side. It's important to laugh and cry and wonder and wander together. Community groups is where we bear each other's burdens. Finally, the fourth thing is this, giving, develop an active giving lifestyle that doesn't just help us transcend and, and help our community together as a church, which we do. there are bills to pay here. There is plumbing to be fixed. I believe that, we've been even working on some stuff here this morning as you guys have been walking in and out. There are things to be done that are really, really practical.

13:34 And there are those things that as we give together, that we get to contribute to, to help create affordable housing in our area, to help the homeless population in our area to help those who need food to those who need mental and emotional health. Your money always works better together and we can use that money as the church to accomplish some really massive big goals in our city. But even more than that, a generos, a consistent generosity in giving lifestyle creates a generous person, a generous family, and it passes down a legacy of generosity. Regular giving allows you to see that this life is far more than just you or me, but it's about the collective in the whole. And when we give together, that means we live and we participate in this life together.

14:26 One of the things that happened to me and, inspiration happened to all of our staff, really all at the same time. It really was a God and a move of the spirit to create Westside Church and Westside Community Center in which we hope to help the physical and emotional and spiritual needs of our city in all kinds of ways. But one of the ways that I got inspired is I was walking around the facility with one of my friends. I have more than one friend, but this was one. And, and he's, he's not a Christian, not a church guy, anything like that. But he's really good friend to me and he's like, I just wanna see where you work. And I was like, Well, it's a church, Ryan, and and it's not like a European church. We don't have like pool stuff to look at.

15:08 And we just, and he's like, No, we just wanna check it out, wanna walk around. And I was giving him the tour, I was walking 'em all the way around the building and I was struck as I was walking around just how stinking quiet it was. Embarrassingly quiet. Oh, he said, Well, what do you do with these rooms? Well, this is where on Sundays we keep the children . And this is the room around Sundays. We keep the youth and this is where on Sundays we keep the cookies. And he was like, You guys use this stuff during the week. And I was like, sometimes when the mood strikes us . And since then a lot of movement has happened. We do have head start neighborhood impact, educating preschool children in our kids' classrooms five days a week every single week. We do have the free food market.

15:52 We have a lot of movement happening. But even more than that is what we're hoping for. Whether the doors of the building are open or not, we hope that this can become a backyard, a place of inspiration and development of passion for our city and our community and especially our neighborhood. And when we do this, when we participate in those four ways that I just expressed, and when we gather together to, to create this shared new vision as Westside Church, this is the best part. This is what will happen to all of us, okay? This is a transformation and faith that we're looking for. We will begin to bear the fruit as a real tree that is growing all throughout the year. We'll begin to bear the fruit that looks like this. It looks like love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. These are the fruits of the spirit that the Apostle Paul said is anybody engaging with the spirit? Anybody that is actively following after the way of Jesus, this will be the fruit of their life.

17:03 Notice that the fruit is not domination, it's not control, it's not success, it's not financial stability. The fruit looks like love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. When I was growing up, I went to a Christian school and we had, they called it independent studies where we would work by ourselves on a workbook and then we would check our work at the scores table. Ace education, somebody shout out nobody. Okay, . And so what I would do is I would finish a certain unit and I would go over to the scores table and I would put it, I would put my, my thing, my paper on the scores table. And then I would put the score key, the answer key next to it. And I would have to mark red the pieces that I got wrong and I would have to go back to my desk and I would have to fix them.

17:56 And so you would see my answers up against the real answers in real time. Put 'em right next to each other. And of course, what I would do being a smart third grader, is I would bring my pencil instead of a red pen and I would cheat. So I didn't have to go back and forth. I would make little adjustments. Well, I guess this just should have been the answer. And this should have been, if you're wondering what faith should look like, what the result of it should be, it's not about creating this city that we live in and this community that we live in. It's not about turning them into enemies and trying to dominate and win and own the people around our building in our church.

18:41 Jesus never guarantees that to be success. Paul never guarantees that to be success. Actually, the early followers of Jesus, most all of them ended up dying in a very torturous manner, killed by the state itself. But what Paul is saying right here is if you really want to know if you're walking in the way that you're supposed to hold these two things up next to each other, hold your soul up next to these words, these fruits of the spirit. Hold up your churches next to these fruits of the spirit and ask yourself of, is that what we're producing?

19:21 Well, you might get taken advantage of. People are gonna use you guys as a community center. You might end up with stains on the carpet. You might end up with real big problems. People might come, graffiti, the thing that you create and you put up. You might have problems, you might have issues to come in to deal with and to clean up. You might have to deal with insurance. And we are saying to our community, Let's do it. Let's bring it on. I don't know any mother and father that loves desperately their children who after they are grown up, don't miss a little bit the juice stains on the carpet.

19:54 Let's get a little bit roughed up. Let's make some messes. Let's care deeply for our community. Amen. Okay, we're gonna celebrate this moment together. we're gonna dedicate the church and we're gonna have just kind of a little ceremony and prayer time here to end it. But before I invite everyone up, I wanna read this last passage. Scripture, Pastor Evan talked about the story of Joshua taking over leadership for Moses, with the Israelites looking for the promise land. They had already crossed the Red Sea in a miraculous moment. And the Israelites thought, this is God is surely on our side. And then they wandered and wandered and wandered. And now Joshua takes over the leadership as they look for the promised land. And it says this, when all the people had crossed the Jordan, because the people had actually crossed through another body of water, the river Jordan, and God had parted the waters again.

20:44 Lord says that Joshua now choose 12 men, one each tribe and tell them, Take 12 stones away from the very place where the priests are standing in the middle of the Jordan. Carry them out and pile them up at the place where you will camp tonight. So Joshua called together the 12 men. He had chosen one from each of the tribes of Israel. And he told them, Go to the middle of the Jordan in front of the arc of the Lord your God. And each of you must pick up one stone and carry it out with your shoulder. 12 stones in all one for each of the 12 tribes of Israel. We will use, we will use the stones to build a memorial in the future. Your children will ask you, What do these stones mean? Then you can tell them, They remind us that the Jordan Rivers stop flowing when the arc of the Lord's covenant went across.

21:23 And these stones will stand as a memorial among the people of Israel forever. I'm gonna invite Steve and Evan to come up and the band is gonna come up and we're gonna sing in celebration here together in a moment. But I love what Joshua does. He understands that this legacy that the people of Israel are attempting to build goes so far beyond him and the people that walk with him right in these moments. And he says, In order to remember all that the Lord has done, what we have to do is stack up these stones so that this story will surely grow on with our children and our children's children. And now we're talking about it here today. What the Lord has done, what God has done at Westside Church is such a beautiful and incredible testament to his faithfulness and his love and his grace.

22:14 The people who put literal blood, sweat, and tears to this place we honor and we thank them today. And at the same time as we create these memorial stones, we build these memorials. We look forward to a future where God's faithfulness doesn't wane as grace doesn't go away, but we even continue to build up and to find ways to have more of an influence for the, for the sake of Jesus Christ in our city. We create a way to find more people that we can help with no strings attached. We find more of a way that we can help people physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually, that this can be a safe place where they can encounter the good deed of the people of God as well as the good grace of Jesus Christ himself.