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Steve Mickel: A Community Center, Jeremiah 29:1, 5-7

October 17, 2022

Audio Recording

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Steve Mickel: A Community Center, Jeremiah 29:1, 5-7
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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 I'm so excited about this message. I've been kind of eager to speak it, and so let's just dive right in. Last week, Pastor Evan challenged us to think about Westside, not just as the church we attend, but the church to whom we belong, the sense of ownership, a sense of taking a, a, a step of identifying ourselves. Yes, this is my church. It's not somebody else's church. It's not Steve or Evans Church. It's my church. It's the church that I go to. And for men out there, it's not my wife's church. This is my church. You know, this is the church I wanna dig my roots into. This is the church that I wanna belong to. And, and last week, because of God's grace and the generosity of his people, we celebrated the legacy of this church to the payoff of our loan and becoming a debt free church for the first time in our history.

00:56 Isn't that great? Yeah. So amazing. And we're leaving an inheritance, for the next generation that goes beyond just a building or a piece of property. It really, we're leaving a legacy and inheritance of God's love in the way of Jesus for the next, for future generations to embrace and enjoy just like we are enjoying today. And so today, I want to introduce you to a vision, that we begin kind of talking about last week, of who we're going to be as we move together into the future, and specifically how we're going to use this space, that we meet in every single week for God's glory. as we continue to become more and more like Jesus, what does that mean? for a piece of property like West Side and for a facility like this, it's gonna require us to change, the name of our building.

01:45 So we talked a little bit about this last week, so let me show you. This is the new name. We're still getting the sign done. That's just, that's not actually the sign down below if you're winning. I didn't see that as I drove in West Side Church and West Side Community Center. I believe that, over the next several years, our city will come to know us, not just as a church, but, but as a church that meets in a community center even beyond that, I think they're going to recognize that, that because of the way we utilize our facility, they're gonna be thinking about this property as West Side Community Center, even before they think of it as a church. And why is that important? Well, almost two and a half years ago, we challenged our church to become a church for the city.

02:27 Some of you that were here, you might remember that vision of how God was calling us into proximity with our neighbors, with our city, with our region, that the, the life and love of Jesus would flow out of us into every part of society, into every corner of, of our, of our wonderful, area. And we began to dream then, of what a church for our city might mean regarding the use of our facility. And so since then, several things have been happening that maybe you're not aware of. Partnerships that been, that have been going on now, some for two or more years. But we partner with organizations and we provide facility space for several things. Head Start, some of you might know Head Start. It is a preschool, for low income families offered by Neighbor Impact. And we, and they approached us and was right at the right time that we were starting to dream differently about our facility.

03:19 And so Monday through Friday, they meet in this hallway right back here, every, all day. 75, at least 75 young people are in our hallway, . And I'm not even allowed, The staff's not even allowed back there because we haven't been cleared, you know, by Neighbor Impact. And I just love that they're in our facility, that they're using this space, for, for, a real need in our community, in our city. Awaken Soul Care is an organization that provides counseling and, they do it here on our campus. dhs uses our facility for several different classes, one of which is suicide prevention classes, American Red Cross, whenever there's blood drives, we're one of the spots in town. Police training exercises, Cancer support group meets her, basketball teams on occasion will use our gym for their practices. Nonprofits raise money in our facility.

04:10 we coordinate several different activities as a church that we kind of own, that we partner with other organizations to do. One is our monthly free food market. the fourth Monday of every month, we provide food. That's Denny. Denny. He always wears really bright colors. I love that. We, we have a group of volunteers that serve every month, our community and low income families come onto our campus and we, and with Dignity, we provide them food and care, that they so desperately need. We do annually a school supply giveaway drive, where we provide school supplies for low income families. Our Giving Tree event, happens annually. We connect with thousands, literally thousands of families, in our region to help them have an amazing Christmas. You know, if we had asked our city a few years ago, if they would miss us, if we weren't here, they honestly would've said, No, I don't, not, not really.

05:10 What do you guys do up there? But today, and I'm not exaggerating, if you ask them today, non-profit organizations, city organizations, would they miss us If we were not here? They would say yes, because we've intentionally been become a vital part of helping our city flourish in every dimension, body, soul, mind, and spirit. But our facility just isn't just used for those outside the walls. They're also used for those inside, those within the church like you and me. Not only on Sunday mornings, but our youth meet on Monday and Wednesday nights. It's actually the funnest place to be in central Oregon is, is in our youth building on a Monday and Wednesday night. They have such a great time. Our children's ministries happen every Sunday where there's real life change taking place. Josh Cordell, our youth and family pastor, almost every single week. And it's not getting old.

06:07 It's not getting old yet, because every single week he sends us a story of a child or a youth that are experiencing the love of God in a fresh new way on our campus, either on Sunday or Monday or Wednesday night. It's beautiful weekly stories of life change that are taking place. Our bilingual service happen is happening right now. I dunno if you knew this. We have a bilingual service in English and Spanish that happens in the chapel during the 10 30 service we've always dreamed of, of having a church that looks like our community, ethnically that we would look like our community, that we begin more and more, to, to, to, to, when people walk in, they feel like, Oh, this could be a place for me. This, I could find myself here. We do bilingual events in Spanish and in English, like our family fun fest, our children's day, just wonderful places of interaction.

06:57 So we're not just segregated, we're interacting, like we're coming together as a family. It's beautiful. Of course, we have discipleship opportunities like baptism. I love this picture of this little girl , like, she's so excited. And if you took a picture of me right at that moment, I would look exactly like her. I get so excited when people get baptized at West Side. It's, it's one of those things. It's like, I'm, I'm, I wanna lean in to the way of Jesus. And that happens often. Our men's and women's groups. every week we have men gathering here on campus, women gathering on campus, and opening up the Bible and learning together and growing together. We have young adult gatherings, both inside our facility and all over our community where young adults are getting together and they're talking about the deep things. How does the scripture apply to their lives today with social issues that they're faced with divorce care, marriage workshops, So many things are happening.

07:48 last, Thursday night, I was invited to Celebrate Recovery. It's a Christian recovery group that meets every Thursday night here on our campus for the last 17 years. Isn't that amazing? Yeah. They gather here for 17 years. They've been, they've been gathering at, at Westside Church, and it's a Christian recovery group. They follow many of the kind of the AA steps as well. But it's, I, I walk into this group and they ask me to share my testimony because I've got some hurts, hangups, and habits as well. And I walk in and I feel so loved. I told them, and I believe this, it's this, it's probably one of the safest spaces that we have in our church is on Thursday nights with Celebrate Recovery, where you can come in as yourself with all of your brokenness and be embraced. These are the kinds of things that are happening all over our campus on a weekly basis.

08:42 So much life happens here. And we, and as we just, as we paid off the building, we're like, What else? God, What else do you want to do through West Side Church, the space that you've given us? couple of ideas I wanna share with you that we're dreaming about, that we're, that we're gonna begin to implement probably over this next year to two years, create an outdoor space. We want an outdoor space where, where we can, maybe it's something that looks like a community patio where people can gather together, and really do community playground, a space to talk and be together. We want to do an actual community garden on our campus. We were dreaming about this for a while, and we were, we decided to kind of go with this metaphor that, that we talked about last week, a community garden, that, that kind of describes a little bit of what we want to do, where we get into the dirt with our neighbors and grow something that's beautiful for our city.

09:32 And, and so we started dreaming about this, unbeknownst to the person that sent us the email that we had been dreaming about this. but we got contacted by a lady in our church who oversees the gardening aspect of oh eight of Oregon State University Cascades. And she says, she just wants to meet with us. She has an idea about a community garden. So we sat down with her, Ben and I sat down with her, Pastor Evan. We, the three of us sat down with her. And we had this amazing just dreaming session of what a community garden might look like for our, for our neighbors and our city, and to provide the food for nonprofits. I mean, it's amazing. So we're doing it. We're gonna do it. And I just love it. Thank you. Amy Jo, Amy Jo's a rock star that, and she's been part of our church, you guys.

10:15 She's been part of our church for like 20 years. About eight, nine years ago, she started dreaming about a community garden, but never felt released to say it until like a month ago. And I just, it's God's timing. It's so cool. we're gonna update our kitchen. If you haven't been in our kitchen for a while, don't, don't go in there for your own safety. and the more, the more we've opened up our facility, the more we see that, oh, people actually want to eat when they get together. And so we're gonna update our kitchen, to be both safe and a little more update updated. We've also, we've dreamed of some other things, a prayer garden down on the lower swell along, Park Road where it's a place that people can walk and maybe a little stream of some kind, and just sit and contemplate life and find peace, find some measure of peace in this crazy Josh Cordell, our youth, and family pastor, he's dreaming about, more parent talks where we invite parents from our community, not just within the church, but but to have relevant discussions about our kids, about schools, about how to live in this crazy world we live in.

11:24 He's dreaming about an after school care partnership with organization like Kids Inc. Pastor Gonzalo, our bilingual pastor, he's been dreaming about hosting English as a second language classes here on our campus. we wanna give space for mental and, physical health counseling offices that we offer to, counseling organizations, use maybe a gym. I mean, some people still work out, I guess. So maybe we could do something like a gym. We've even kind of toyed around with the idea of pickle ball courts. I just, I didn't wanna really say it because pickleball people are crazy. woo. Yeah, exactly. And I knew if I said it pickleball people, You are crazy. I play pickleball, but I do not put myself in your category because you are. And so anyway, we thought they need Jesus to need Jesus to. So maybe, maybe that's something we're thinking about and dreaming about, that the idea is like, how can we create space for people to come onto our campus and see and experience something that, of life, of the life and love of Jesus, that they don't get anywhere else, and that they can come into contact with, Christ followers who love and are gracious and are compassionate.

12:40 And, and these, this is the kinds of stuff we're thinking about. Ben called our campus a backyard for our neighbors. That they would see this campus as a place that they could go to, to gather, to meet, to pray, to rest, to build deeper friendships, to connect with our other people in the community, a place that's highly valued to them. And you might be wondering, as I list all of these things, what does this have to do with extending the life and love of Jesus to our world, our actual mission? Well, if you have a Bible, I want you to turn to Jeremiah chapter 29. And for the two of you that did bring a Bible, this is how you find Jeremiah. And that's not insult. We all, I have it on my phones as well. So I wasn't insulting you. I just, maybe a little bit.

13:20 But, but if you wanna find Jeremiah, just do this like this. Open it halfway, just halfway. You'll end up in Isaiah. Typically, I ended up in Proverbs there, Isaiah. And then go to the right and you'll find Jeremiah and Jeremiah chapter 29. Jeremiah is a prophet who wrote, during the exile of Jewish people into Babylon. So, Babylon conquered Jerusalem and, and sent several, the thousands of Jews to Babylon. And Jeremiah is still in Jerusalem. And he writes to the exiles that are in Babylon and tells them how to live in the context in which they live in. And this is what he wrote in chapter one. chapter 29, verse one. Jeremiah wrote a letter from Jerusalem to the elders, priests, prophets, and all the people who had been exiled to Babylon by King Neba. Kezer. Jump up to verse five.

14:11 Build homes and plan to stay plant gardens and eat the food they produce, marry, and have children. Then find spouses for them so that you may have many grandchildren. Multiply, Do not dwindle away and work for the peace and prosperity of the city where I sent you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, for its welfare. Will determine your welfare. Pray for it, for its welfare, will determine your welfare. You know, exile is a traumatic, must be traumatic and terrifying. I mean, I'm trying to imagine like what everything you knew the way that you live, the way that you shopped, the way that you practiced your faith. Everything in Jerusalem, they just, they, they, they had a certain way to live and they moved to this other land where their, the faith, they don't, people around them don't practice their faith. They don't hold the same values.

15:15 they, you're a, you're a minority, not a majority. it's compared to your background, it's very secular. Does any of this sound familiar? Like today, we live in a post-Christian secularized society, and we, we live in a sense in exile, Paul would call it, we live as foreigners and aliens in a land. So there's a sense that, that what Jeremiah wrote to the exiles in Babylon actually applies more to our faith than maybe you think in terms of our life and how we live as outsiders in a post-Christian, secularized world. And the temptation for those of us who live in exile, who are foreigners and aliens who feel that way in our own nation, is to gather our resources together and go into isolation. Like just kind of build walls rather than bridges and, and just kind of shelter ourselves away from the horrors of what's outside and protect ourselves from the world that we live in.

16:26 And God is calling us, as he called the exiles, to engage with our world in a way that is maybe, maybe feels uncomfortable, that is outside your comfort zone. It's like, ah, you want me to do what? Think about it. I mean, Jeremiah tells them to integrate with their world, like plan to stay. You're not building a campsite. He wants you to put up walls in terms of houses to live in amongst these people. Put your hands, he says, Put your hands in its dirt, grow, produce that, that, that produce, that actually works, that grows in Babylon, not in Jerusalem. I want you to, I want you to grow their food and eat it. It's like, be a part of this land. Be a part of this community in such a way that, that your, your, your fingers are dirty with it.

17:37 Eugene Peterson wrote about this passage. This is your home. This may not be your favorite place, , but it is a place. So dig foundations, build houses, develop the best environment for living that you can see as Westside Church. We're not going anywhere and we're not gonna isolate ourselves, and we're not gonna retreat, and we're not gonna go and we're not gonna go to war either. We're gonna find ourselves as Jeremiah, prophecy to the people of Israel and exile. We're going to plant gardens and eat the produce. And it wasn't just metaphorical. We're going to like be a part of this land. There's something profound isn't there, about linking and connecting that happens when you're on in the ground of a place that's not familiar to you. And there's somebody next to you who has a different set of values than you do, and you are growing the same fruit, food to eat the same fruit to enjoy. You're like in it together. That's what God's calling us to. And he tells Darren, and then he tells the people to marry and have children.

18:55 I don't know if you caught this. Like, like, like, like, so, so he says, So, find spouses for your children. Where, where's he gonna find spouses for 'em? I mean, from the people in Babylon, right? See, we try to isolate and alienate ourselves from this world so much so that we never really integrate with them. Jesus said, Be in this world, not of it. He's like, Don't take yourself out of this world. Don't disengage from this world. I've talked to enough young people, including my children. It's so hard to find someone to walk with through this life in, I'm talking specifically Bend Oregon. And if you're a single guy out there, come on, Step up, bro. Come on, Step up Mary. Find some, find someone. That's my prayer is like, find someone that you can do life with. The struggle is real though. And it's tempting when things aren't working out.

19:55 When things value systems are different and is to, is to tap out. It's tempting to go somewhere else and think about having children. Have you heard anybody recently say, I don't want to bring a kid into this world, Right? And what can happen is if we let that kind of idea fester in our spirits is eventually not that it doesn't take that long, is that we begin to disdain the very people we live with, the community in which we are called to dig and lay foundations in. And our hearts grow hard toward others. Remember, what Jesus, Jesus said something about dusting off your feet. Do you remember that story? He sends his disciples out and he says, Go into the villages and preach the gospel. And if they don't, if people don't receive me dust, the, dust the dust your feet off and go to the next village. You remember that? And I was thinking about that in light of this. I'm thinking like, I talked to a lot of Christians who are like, I'm dusting my feet. I'm done with bend. It's getting too progressive, it's getting too whatever. And they stay.

21:16 And I'm thinking, No, no, no, no, no, no, you have to leave .

21:24 You can't dust your feet off and say, I'm done with this place. And stay in this place because you will not represent the love and compassion of Jesus if you stay. It's only when you're willing to stay in a place that you feel called to, even if it has a different set of values than you have, and dig into the dirt and say, I'm gonna live here. Not only am I gonna live here, I'm gonna die here and my body's gonna be buried in this ground, and my children's body might be buried on the, in this ground, but I'm staying. And like Jesus, who walk down into Jerusalem, weeping for that city, not because of their sin, because of they, they, they're just so liberal. He walked in because he was, had compassion for them, because he saw them as sheep without a shepherd. He had empathy for them.

22:23 So if you, if you, if you're not able to fall in love with the people in this community, then find a community that you can, but don't stay here. But for those of us who are called to dig into the ground of Central Oregon, then let's, let's do it. And let's do it the right way. And what's the right way? Pray for the peace of the land in which you live. That word peace is a powerful, powerful word in the Hebrew language. It's shalom. It doesn't just mean get along with your neighbors. It does mean that, but it means much more than that. It's, it's the idea of flourishing, flourishing, shalon, that wholeness that you would, that you would experiencing flourishing in every aspect of your life. When I, when I, when you greet someone with shalom, it's like you're speaking blessings upon their life and peace and prosperity and, and wholeness in every dimension of life.

23:37 Shalom speaks shalom into your city. Believe for its good work, for its good. Because if it prospers what you prosper. If, if other kids prosper, then your kids prosper. See that he's asking us to work for this. And all encompassing wholeness. It's one of the reasons why when my kids were younger, I volunteered to coach, park and rec basketball. And I love basketball parents. They're awesome . But I loved it. And I loved it because I got to hang out with my son's friends. But I also loved it because I got to hang out with the parents. And I remember we used the gym on occasion to do practices. And when people walked in, they'd never, I didn't realize that so many people had never been into a church maybe since they were like kids. And they walk into our student center and their eyes like, and I, more than one occasion, I, this is a church.

24:43 I didn't think there was churches like this, you know? And just kind of proximity, getting people here actually caused barriers to go down, between what they thought church might be and what it might look like and what it might feel like. And I remember coaching tennis and in high school and, and just loving these kids and occasionally having really deep conversations with them about life and meeting their parents and having to interact with them. And there's just this something like I'm in, I am a Summit Storm fan to my dying day. I'm sorry, Lava Bears. I'm sorry, Cougars. All four of my sons went and graduated. They went through Summit and graduated. I am in there. This is my people. And I, I love Mountain View and Bend as well, but you know what I'm saying? It's like this is my, this is, I've chosen to let the roots of my life and my family life grow deep into the soil of this land.

25:47 And I love Central Oregon. I love its people. I love. Its city council here in Bend. I love it. And I want that, that heart, that we have for our community to, to shower upon you so that it begins to emerge. Because we can't truly be a community, a center for our community without us having a deep compassion and desire for shalom of our city. Wanna invite the worship team back, or at least the keyboards, I guess. I don't think we're gonna have the whole team. But recently Josh and I met with the director of fellowship at Christian Athletes and we talked about hosting, a gathering of coaches in our space. And I was thinking about like, these are not Christian coaches. These are just coaches. Just coaches. Just bring them on the campus and let them do whatever they wanna do. Like meet, you know, you have to have a Bible in every gathering. No, just meet, like do what you're gonna do elsewhere, but do it. Why not do it here?

26:58 I want our space to be open to our community, to different groups, to find wholeness and healing for people to find space who are weary and heavy laden. Jesus said, Come to me all those who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you what rest. What if Westside Church represented Jesus in that way, where the people felt like, if I'm weary or burdened, I can actually find rest in different spaces within West Side Church and Community Center. So we wanna invite your participation to be all in Evan said, not just the church I attend, but the church to whom I belong. And say, I want in on this. I'm gonna give to it. I'm gonna belong to it. I'm gonna be in relationship with it to treat this church facility, not as someone else's, but as your own. Maybe just maybe think of it like a second home, or we live on the west side of bed, third or fourth home, whatever, whatever, whatever number a home you have, right?

28:05 Just think of, this is my home. This is the place where I can go and find safety and, and refuge and I can invite my neighbors and they can also find hope and health and peace and place where I invest my life, my relationships, my kids, and their relationships. It's a place where I belong, a people with whom I belong. And we happen to gather together here on this campus to treat it, to care for it, to tend it like it's your own backyard. So Jesus, as we step into this new season, Jesus, were really sane. We're all in for Bend and Central Oregon for Red Bend and Tebo and madre, for prineville, for sisters, for alfalfa, , for the pine, Sun River. Jesus. Our hearts enlarge. Our hearts enlarge our hearts to not only just be, not only just to feel like we're gonna survive, you know, these hard times, but to actually say, No, no, we want, we want this region to thrive because of the presence of your people here embedded in ground, in the land that is ours with our city, with our community, with our neighbors. Jesus, would you enlarge our hearts to do life with our city?

29:56 And Jesus' name, Amen is here. Great. Josh just ran over from the youth room and he's gonna close our service in just a moment. I wanna mention if you'd like to give to the community center vision, you can do that through our building fund, online or in the, there's I think envelopes in the seat back, just Mark Building fund and all of that. We'll go towards this community center vision. Can I tell one more? One last story, Josh. I did this last and I was thinking about it. this kind of tells you a little bit of like what happens when proximity takes place and people come onto our campus. So the head start kids, I we're not supposed to go in that hallway, but I ended up, I forgot, I ended up in the, in a line of four year olds, as they're walking outside and I'm just walking, I'm kind of in the, I'm like, Oh, what do I do?

30:41 You know, but I, but it was the quickest way to where I wanted to go was the way they were going. And so I got in line , not really. I took, I kept some space, you know, but I just, I just was following that and they were following, coming around this way and they were going outside and I was going to the offices and they get to the corner over here by our nursery and a kid towards the back of the line, looks at the wall and points at a picture on the wall and asks the teacher, the head start teacher, What does that say? I looked at the picture and I had to go back this morning and look at it to see, to exact, to remember exactly what it said. But when you look at it, you go like, Is she gonna answer this?

31:18 His question? Cuz I know what the sign says and I'm not sure it's, if she's allowed to say what it says or not. We're not putting, we're not taking it down for a head start, right? That's not part of the agreement, right? So it, so what does that sign says? And I'll wait for the teacher, and the teacher says, the life of Jesus. And then he says, What is that silence? You know, I don't know if he had, she had a conversation later or not, I don't know, but, and I was just thinking, oh, that's just a small example of the kinds of stuff that happens when people come onto this campus. It might be a sign that says Jesus loves you. It might be an interaction with someone that's gathering here on this campus for whatever reason, another Christ follower. And they, they feel, they feel the love and the compassion of Jesus come through that conversation. Even if we're not implicit about our faith, right? They see it, they feel it, that this place is a place of love. And so I want us to, you know, I just want us to be that kind of a place that says, you know, we don't, they're gonna meet, they're gonna meet Jesus no matter what we do. And whatever reason they're on this campus, they're gonna meet, meet Jesus.