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Evan Earwicker: Life. Love. Jesus., Matthew 28:18-20

October 8, 2023

Audio Recording

The mission of Westside Church can be summarized as Life in Community, Love for our Neighbors, with Jesus at the Center. Pastor Evan breaks down each one as we look to the future of our church.

Westside Church Podcast
Westside Church Podcast
Evan Earwicker: Life. Love. Jesus., Matthew 28:18-20
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Sermon Transcript:

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

Looking back in the Gospels, we see this moment after the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus, where Jesus is standing with his disciples, who are likely visibly still shaken from the events that they have experienced and witnessed.

They walk with Jesus for three years. They were like his crew. They were his guys. They think he's going to become King and they're going to be sitting on his right and his left. They go to the Last Supper, right? And Jesus is like, hey, I'm going to die. I'm not going to be with you any longer. And they're like, I don't understand that. But hey, when you become King, who's the best of us? Who can sit on your left and right? And Jesus must just be like, shaking his head, like you'd not understanding. And then they go through the events of that weekend and Jesus is betrayed and condemned and crucified and they're watching and their hearts are being torn out. And then rumors on Easter Sunday morning, of course, that Jesus is alive. And so can you imagine the roller coaster of emotion, not a stable, steady, consistent experience that his disciples have had. And then Jesus stands with them upon this mountain and he says this to them in Matthew 20 818. He says, all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.

And therefore you go and you make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I'm with you always to the very end of the age.

And I have to think that if Jesus had started with this statement to them at the very beginning when he saw them from the shore and he called out to them, Come, follow me, if he had started with these instructions, it would have been absolutely overwhelming to them. It would have felt like too crazy of a task. But now that they've seen what it looks like to follow Jesus through the ups and downs and the chaos and the craziness of all that they've walked through, maybe they heard these words and said, I don't know. It sounds pretty impossible, but anybody who can predict his own resurrection and then follow through I think I'll take his word for it.

I think maybe he will be with us to the very end of the age. I think maybe he will go before us and help us and assist us and comfort us in the task at hand. And so we stand in their shadow or on their shoulders, if you will. We hear the call of Jesus to go into all the world, make disciples of all nations.

This is kind of the foundational point where Jesus gives us what we should be marked by as churches, not only in the first century, but all the way to the 21st century. So I'm going to look at how this looks in our context, in our day, in our moment, in our generation. So, Jesus, we ask, would you speak through me today as we look forward to what Westside will continue to be and will be in the future in this city and for this community?

We ask you, Jesus, would you be present at the heart of everything we do in Jesus name? Amen.

Well, we have a mission as a church, and this has been our mission for many, many years, and it will continue to be. I want to put it up on the screen. It says, Westside Church exists to equip men, women and children, to extend the life and the love of Jesus in the world by helping them know Jesus and become more like him. That's a solid mission statement that really keeps us centered around this idea that we're focused on the life and the love of Jesus and it's really beautiful. And then we took that and about a year, year and a half ago, we said, what would the church look like if we really embodied this, if we carried this out, if this became what we did, what would our church look like? And so we wrote this vision for what we see our church being in the community and to the community. And this is what we wrote. We said, our vision for Westside is that we would be known as an authentic church with shared leadership that is Jesus focused, community oriented, strong in outreach, multigenerational empowering of women, friendly to the non churched and the decurched and leaning in to Spirit led discipleship. We want to be a church that looks like our city. A Jesus focused community representing our neighborhoods, many generations, ethnicities cultures. We envision a community deeply connected to the life of the Spirit of God. Prayer, discipleship, practices in the way of Jesus. We look forward to a future where women and men serve, lead and teach side by side under the lordship of Christ Jesus with authenticity and vulnerability. And we envision a future where Westside Church has a reputation for abundantly and generously, loving and serving people everywhere, always. Is that cool? It's great. Problem is, you're not going to remember it.

Does it ever make it to where we know, like, this is what our community is and will be? It's difficult when it's that long of a statement. And so a few weeks ago, I was really sick. Really, really sick, and I had a dream, and it was Saturday morning several weeks ago, and I have this dream. And in the dream I'm sitting at my desk and I have a notebook in front of me. And on the page of the notebook is written our tagline, our slogan that goes underneath the name of our church. And you might have seen this in the atrium on the banners out at the street. What's our three word slogan? You know, it life, love. Jesus. Right? So in my dream, I'm sitting there with a notebook and on the page is written life, Love, Jesus. And the fact that I'm working in my dreams is something that my wife would say is poor boundaries, but we'll deal with that in a second.

I write down in the notebook in my dream these phrases that filled out this slogan of life, love and Jesus. And then I woke up and I remembered it. And you know, when when you have a dream and you actually remember it, it's like it feels like you won the day, right? Like, all right, I finally remember what I anyway, so I took out my phone and I opened the notes app, and here's a screenshot I took this morning of that note, and you'll see it 05:46 A.m. On September 16, 2023, I wrote this life and community, love for our neighbors, Jesus at the sinner. And I thought, looking at that today, I'm like, I think they could remember that.

But this idea that we have these three things, they're not the only things we'll ever care about, but these are formational to us as a community. These form and shape the decisions we make and the places that we will go as a church in the years ahead. Life and community, love for our neighbors and Jesus at the center. In our current moment in our society, in our nation, in the way that we interact with each other, it's easy to think that we will be marked as someday. Historians look back on our moment in our generation.

It's easy to believe that they'll look back and think, man, that was a divided people.

That we will be marked by our divisions, that people will be blown away by how angry and argumentative we were in different factions over politics and religion and social issues and on and on the list goes. It seems like in our day and age, everything is divided.

But some very smart people would propose this.

That what we will be marked by is not the political divisions in this current moment, but by the bigger, the macro effect of what has happened as we have transitioned from an industrial age into the digital age and now creating technologies that even those who are creating them aren't quite sure what they are doing or how they work.

And you say, oh, is tech that important? Well, here's the thing. Technology, we've seen this over and over again has a profound effect on the way that humans interact with one another. And if you need an example of this, look no further than a little fun site called MySpace in the late 90s, early two thousand s. It was just a fun place to hang out and show your friends what kind of music you like. Fast forward to what social media has done in how we relate to one another, the effect it has on the mental health of young people, especially young girls, the ways that it has created and exacerbated the divisions that have created I don't want to overstate it, but absolutely insane factions among us in advancing not only the convenience of the world around us and the productivity of our efforts, but also accelerating the epidemic of loneliness fueled by a HyperSense of individualism that is crushing us. Why have a two way conversation face to face when I can announce my opinion on some comment section and then just watch it go?

Why learn something from our elders when chat GPT can tell me the answer very, very fast, much more efficiently than talking to some of you?

And maybe we haven't seen the full effect of what's coming, but I'm telling you, we are in a moment of profound change in how we relate to one another.

And technology has made all these promises, right, that we can do more and we can know more and information is coming at us rapidly and we have all access to all the things and the ways.

I'm not anti technology, but I'm saying we would be fools to think that technology is not changing how we relate in community.

And what I suspect will happen, and this is actually very encouraging, is that the promises of technology will hit a reality, that it is not feeding this human soul like it promises it would, and people will begin to crave and already are craving real connection in community, communities that are healthy and that hopefully look like this.

And I hope this is true and I pray this is true, that the generation that is coming up and the generation that will follow when faced with the hollowness of technological age will turn again to find real connection and community in places that are centered around the person of Jesus.

I think there is a hunger for that. But I think the presentation that churches like this one, like me, the presentation we've given, has missed communicating with the right spiritual language, the need and the solution that is found in Jesus. I think we've got to do a better job assessing the world that we live in and meeting that need for connection and community with the message and the announcement that Jesus offers that in places like this. The thing about community only over technology, and I understand right now we have people watching online, and this is not to make you feel bad that you're not in the room. We want to do a better job of connecting and communicating and making you feel more and more connected to this space.

But I know this when our relationships go from face to face and human to human into this technological space, this online space, what it gives us the ability to do when we are offended or annoyed or disagreed with, is that we can unfriend and unblock those that we disagree with. You know what I'm saying? And online, we have this amazing ability to perfectly curate and seek out online tribes and communities that perfectly agree with everything we think, whether or not that's healthy or good.

And if you don't like what I have to say, easy, I'll block you, and I don't have to see you.

And in community, in a place like this, in a church, we have the unfortunate reality that you can't block people to their face. Well, you can, but it's very rude.

And so what do you have to do in relationship, in community, you have to forgive.

If you can't block, you have to forgive. And Henry nowan talked about this, and he said that forgiveness is the cement that holds the community together. Forgiveness means that I continually am willing to forgive the other person for not being God and for not fulfilling all my needs.

Every time you get deep enough into a conversation that you move past talk of the Weather, you will quickly find that people are not God. People are not perfect people disappoint you and offend you and are rude to you.

And in spaces of authentic community, we have to deal with that. And how do we deal with that? In a Jesus way, we learn the power of forgiveness.

I was reading an author who was writing about an experience he once had visiting a church, a community in Lexington, Kentucky. And he was remarking on the makeup of the group. In this church, there was several generations represented. Different ethnicities were present in the church.

There were clearly all levels of socioeconomic income.

And then what was really striking to him and this is around 2020 was that it was clear that in this community, there was even differences of political opinion all coming together in this church, in this community. And they were having meals together, and they were seemingly happy together.

And so he was talking with the leader of the group, and the leader said this, and this is what he quoted in his book. He said they've heard rumors speaking of the people in the church coming from so many different backgrounds, they've heard rumors of a new political order that has broken into the world, offering the kind of life that can go on forever, eternal life. And while everyone else is rushing to prove their enemies wrong before they wreck the world, jesus has given us the gift of time to wait together, knowing that someone else has already saved the world.

You see, when we put the burden of saving the world, saving our society, saving our nation, when we put that burden squarely on the shoulders of Jesus, it removes it from having to be on your shoulders that I don't have to protect the world from you as much as I would like to.

Instead, we realize that Jesus has borne the weight of the world. He has saved the world. And now our job is not to go out and fix everybody. Our job is to announce the kingdom that is at hand.

This is what Jesus did.

He showed up and he's healing. And all the time he's saying the kingdom of heaven is at hand, the kingdom of heaven is here. And then he gives us the job to continue in that mission. And as soon as we get it, we're like, great, we're going to clean up around here. Jesus, nice try, but we have some ideas for how this place is going to look. No, our mission is the same as Jesus. We come and we announce God's kingdom. His reign, his rule is at hand.

And that is profound. The effect it will have in the world that we live in.

Life and community requires we forgive one another for the humanity we will inevitably find when we move beyond talk of the weather, David Brooks said in an interview recently that culture changes when a small group of people find a better way to live and the rest of us copy them. And I would propose that the better way to live in our digital world when there's so much division and strife is to live in a forgiving community. And if we can model that, that will have a profound effect. So much more than our best placed comments on Facebook. Amen. Okay, sometimes I have to say amen to myself because I not sure if I'll get any others. Number two, love for our neighbors. Love for our neighbors.

I won't spend much time on this. I think we'll unpack this more in future messages. But there's this moment in Luke chapter nine where Jesus is walking through Samaria with his disciples. And it would be hard to understand but for the disciples and for Jesus in the world he grew up in, samaritans were really reviled and despised.

They were seen as other than they were seen as not a lot of animosity and hatred between the Jewish people that Jesus was hanging out with and these Samaritans. And so Jesus walks through the village of Samaria and tries to go in the synagogue and they kick him out. They don't want him. And this really offends the disciples. And so on the way out of town, the disciples turn to Jesus and they say, jesus, we have a great idea. You're going to love this one. Let's call down fire from heaven on these guys.

And Jesus rebukes them. He says, that's not what we're about. And then remarkably in the next chapter, right after the disciples had wanted to call down fire on the Samaritans and Jesus had been rejected, he sits down, he tells them the story. It's a parable about a man who is on his way to Jericho and he gets robbed on the road, thrown in the ditch. And people come by and there's a priest that comes by and there's a Levite that comes by and they're like the respectable protagonists usually of stories, right? So everyone is listening to Jesus and expecting that these guys are going to come in and save the day and show compassion on this poor man that's been beat up and left on the side of the road to die. And in Jesus'parable, the big twist is that the people who are supposed to help don't.

And then a Samaritan comes by, the Reviled. Disgusting Samaritan walks by and the Samaritan stops and the Samaritan loads up this broken man onto his donkey and he takes him into town and he pays the bill for his lodging and checks up on him. And the hero of the story, to the amazement of everyone who is listening to this parable, is that disgusting Reviled. Samaritan. And Jesus asked this question in Luke 1025. So which of these three do you think was neighbor to him who fell among the thieves? And the guy who is asking these questions says, well, he who showed mercy on him, he won't even say the Samaritan. He says, well, guy who showed mercy.

And Jesus said, Go and do likewise. And this is what is crazy. Jesus picks the most reviled caricature that he can think of. And the disciples would have been well aware of how much they disliked that kind of person. And Jesus says he's the hero of the story and you could learn a thing or two.

And I think about our community and the way that we have an opportunity either to dig in and pick fights with those outside the community or we can model what Jesus did here and say we're not better than anybody, but we are saved by grace. That gives us no right to fling insults. You hear what I'm saying? Like there is a way we exist in community that if Jesus is here, will affect how we interact with those on the outside. You say, well, those on the outside disagree with us. Exactly.

And so we have a job to do to model the heart and the compassion of Jesus. When others in religious bubbles would like to say, let's call down fire from heaven, we take on the heart of Jesus that says we are neighbors and so we love those on the outside. It's profound, the effect this will have as we live this out in the days ahead. And then finally, Jesus at the center. Jesus at the center.

We spent about six weeks this year walking through the Book of Colossians and I want to read a piece of that book in just a moment. But Jesus at the center of everything we do sounds like an obvious, like, duh, like we're Christians in church, right? Wouldn't Jesus always be at the center? You'd be surprised.

And I'm not here to dig on other churches. I'm just saying that it's not a given that we will naturally default into keeping Jesus at the center of our community, that this is something that is easy to drift away from, that many times pet grievances or ideals actually come into our community and life that actually go above the place that we place Jesus at. And we are called to keep Jesus the center of everything we do.

And Paul addressed this in Paul's day. There was these teachers that were coming in and they were kind of blending talk of Christ and Jesus with these ideas of Greek philosophy and gnosticism and all these things. And so he says this in Colossians 260 says, and now just as you accepted Christ Jesus as your Lord, you must continue to follow Him, let your roots grow down into Him and let your lives be built on Him. And then your faith will grow strong in the truth that you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness. Don't let anyone capture you with empty philosophies and high sounding nonsense that come from human thinking and from spiritual powers of the world rather than from Christ.

For in Christ lives all the fullness of God and human body. So you also are complete through your union with Christ, who is the head over every ruler and authority.

And I think there are temptations for us to put really good things first in line, doing good works in the community, that's wonderful. It comes secondary to our love and devotion for Jesus in his presence, attending church, coming to programs and events. I'm glad you do. Makes my life better when you show up.

But it's secondary to our love and devotion for Jesus, and in fact, his presence is the only reason we gather.

Studying the Bible where's our women's Bible study attendees? You in the house today? Come on. Yeah, we love studying the Bible.

Tuesday mornings sometimes it's an overwhelming amount of women's Bible study attendees. It's intimidating.

It's a great choice to say, I hope you studied the Bible. I hope you love the Bible.

Studying the Bible is secondary to our love and devotion for Jesus. In fact, as important as the Bible is, the cornerstone of our faith is not the Bible.

Somebody's going to clip that, send it out and I'm going to get emails back, I know it.

Don't get mad at me, get mad at Paul, because in Ephesians 220, he says, together this community, together we are his house, built on the foundation of the apostles and the prophets. He's speaking of scripture there. But then he says, and the cornerstone is Christ Jesus himself.

We love our Bibles, but we love it because it reveals to us the cornerstone of our faith, which is Jesus Himself. And there's this moment when Jesus is talking with the Pharisees, the religious leaders, and they are feeling so offended because it seems like Jesus is claiming audaciously that he is greater than those who wrote scripture, moses and Abraham. And they turn to Him, they say, are you saying that you are greater than Abraham? It's a loaded question because they're asking, are you saying that you are a bigger deal than all of our traditions and thousands of years of how we've understood and interacted with God? And Jesus has the nerve to respond this way? He says before Abraham was I am.

I am the first and the last. When every Bible study has finally ended that sounds like I don't like them. When every Bible study has concluded still standing is the person of Jesus. And so we love the Bible and we uphold the Bible, and we take a high view on the Bible, which means we have to take it for what it is trying to do, which is to reveal Christ to his church.

And so that's how we read it.

He is the cornerstone, the foundation stone of our community.

In ancient times, the cornerstone had to be laid first.

They would construct these buildings. The foundations were made of these stones that Masons would come and they would carve them. But they had to start with the most perfect stone, the most square stone, and that stone would be leveled and placed and with incredible care, because from that stone, everything else would be measured up, too. And the recipe for a foundation that would fail would be to not have a cornerstone and kind of go willy nilly with the foundation.

We've been attending this church for six months, and now we find out the pastor uses Wikipedia for his sermon prep. Great.

Wikipedia says over time, a cornerstone became ceremonial, a ceremonial Mason stone or replica set in a prominent location on the outside of the building.

You see, the old ways of setting foundations weren't needed anymore because of things like concrete and modern building. And so the cornerstone idea actually got moved to just this facade that would hang on the outside of the building that would try to communicate something but have no real purpose. And here's what I want to tell us. We can never allow the cornerstone, that is Jesus Himself to move from being the heart and the center of our community to being just something on the outside, the facade that we want to portray to the world, but it has no effect on how we live and interact with one another. Jesus has to stay and be returned to his place as the cornerstone for the foundation of our community.

And we'll leave Him up on the banners. We're not taking him down, but God help us if Jesus on a banner is the only Jesus we know that we return to this understanding that everything good that we will do as a community, in relationship, as a church will come. When we are built on the foundation, our cornerstone that is the first and last Jesus himself.