Sermon recap for June 1, 2020:

Title: Better Together

Passage: Ephesians 4:1-16

How?

  • Pursue spiritual unity (vs 1-6)
  • Utilize spiritual diversity (vs 7-12)
  • Grow in spiritual maturity (vs. 13-16)

*Outline adapted from Tony Merida’s book Christ-Centered Exposition: Exalting Jesus in Ephesians

Thoughts:

I found myself thinking a lot about Pastor Matt’s message Better Together over the last few days.  For a message initially aimed at unifying our local body of Christ at MBC, the larger message of the sermon seems surprisingly appropriate for the events going on in our country right now. Pursue Unity. Utilize diversity. Grow in maturity.  Please bear with me while I try to bring my personal experience to bear on this message.

As I’ve mentioned before, one of Mike’s and my favorite activities is to go estate-saling.  For those who don’t know, going to estate sales is basically like going to a garage sale that encompasses an entire house.  Once, when we were out estate-saling in a very expensive and upscale area of Dallas, we walked into a home, and the woman behind the cash register looked me over. Looked. Me. Over. Have you ever gotten “that look” before?  The look that’s a combination of judgment and suspicion? The look that says, “You don’t belong here.” I suddenly felt very self-conscious. I looked down. I had on an old t-shirt and ratty sweatpants. Definitely not the labels she was used to seeing in this part of Dallas. I tried to shrug it off.  Maybe she was just grouchy and I was reading into the situation. I tried to ignore her gaze as I entered the house and began to look around.

I brought an item up to the register and asked her how much it was.  Her face turned tightened and she accused, “This had a price tag on it. Where’s the price tag?” I shrugged apologetically and left the item with her.  Then I noticed one of her workers following me around the home and watching my every movement.  Was she implying that she thought I was trying to steal something???  Was I being “profiled”???

The color started to rise in my cheeks.  I felt a hot combination of embarrassment and anger. I grabbed Mike’s arm and told him we needed to leave RIGHT NOW.  He didn’t understand, so when we got to the car, I tried to explain my feelings to him.  “Did you hear the way she talked to me???  I think she even had someone follow me around the house!” I remember shaking with anger.  Mike tried to play it off, “Don’t worry about it. What she thinks doesn’t matter.”  But that was little consolation.  It did matter to me.  It mattered because she made a negative assumption about my character and WHO I WAS based on what I was wearing and what I looked like.  The experience left me angry—raging angry.

But here’s the real rub: This is as close as I can get to a personal experience where I suffered prejudice or discrimination. And it is NOTHING like what African Americans and POC (Persons of Color) go through on a regular basis.  I’ve seen first-hand as a teacher how black students are sometimes disciplined more severely than white students.  My daughter’s friend is an African-American student at MIT.  He was stopped and frisked because police thought he was robbing his own dorm room.  The city of Fort Worth watched a young, black woman get shot in her own home by a policeman investigating a potential break-in.  And the nation watched in horror as George Floyd was suffocated to death at the hands of four police officers.  We need the message of “Better Together” now more than ever.  And “Better Together” doesn’t just apply to people in the church—it is how Christ wants us to view our brothers and sisters of different colors.  We need to be better at bringing people of different races together.

So how do we do that?  As Matt says, “Every question is a theological question.” According to rest of Ephesians 4, we must:

  • Put away falsehood (v25)
  • Speak the truth (v25)
  • Be angry and do not sin (v26)
  • Do not let the sun go down on our anger (v26)
  • Let the thief no longer steal (v28)
  • Let no corrupting talk come out of our mouths (v29)
  • Do not grieve the Spirit of God (v30)
  • Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you along with all malice (v31)
  • Be kind to one another, forgiving one another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you (v32)

 

Please note that all of these require action.  Paul doesn’t simply say, “Just realize that the truth is important.” We must speak the truth.  We are called to take definitive actions to help promote unity of the body, and I would also submit, the unity of our country.

If we are not POC (People of Color), we must, at a minimum, acknowledge that we have very little shared experience on the topics of prejudice and racism with our African-American brothers and sisters, and we should do all we can to change that narrative.  One way I’ve discovered is to reach out to POC and listen.  Not “listening to respond” as my one friend put it, but “listening to understand.”  She expressed to me, “POC have been trying to explain our hurt and fears to white America for centuries. However, we’ve also stepped back, or even stepped down, to keep the peace–allowing many to step on us. We have allowed minor victories to suffice just because they were victories. However, we didn’t realize that people were still not understanding.  And white America is not used to all this: all this screaming and shouting, all this demanding, all this violence. You would think this not to be true because POC have protested and rioted before, but it soon ceased because someone put a band-aid over a still seeping wound.”

Another friend who is also a POC mentioned these ideas when I asked what we as a church can do to help the current situation.  She wrote:

  • Make sure you/they are educating themselves about the issues.
  • Look up historic oppressions so you can speak against things that are rooted in hate and ignorance.
  • Check yourself for biases about race and see if they are rooted in hatred.
  • Evaluate the people you are doing life with and intentionally invite people of color into your life to fellowship with you as believers. We are supposed to be “seeking a person of peace” (Luke 10) and “not forsaking meeting with one another.” That should be a diverse meeting of people (Hebrews 10:25).
  • Challenge the people you hear who have biases or say derogatory things to educate themselves on “what is true, what is lovely, what is noble” (Philippians 4:8) about the people who are different from you and celebrate that with them rather than looking for evidence of hateful biases. Remember the big picture– humanity is broken. We ALL have a sin issue & there are sin issues we need to address regardless of race.
  • Intentionally patron black (any minority) owned business and share those businesses with friends.
  • Challenge officers you know to be intentional about living in the communities they work in our truly serving and buying in the communities they work in, seeking the person of peace in the communities they are serving and protecting so that they know what normal crime is in the area.
  • Host community prayer nights for the nation and for race relations; mourn and seek God for wisdom answers and reconciliation.

These are tangible things we as a church can to do to help our community be “Better Together.”  I’ll be bringing even more ideas and resources to you in the future.  Don’t lose hope.  We can help #bethechange that points people to the gospel of Christ.

Noteworthy:

You’ve been waiting for it!  And it has arrived!!!  This Sunday, June 7th, we will be reopening the church for worship services!  We will be a releasing a video with all the details tomorrow, but here is the gist:

We will have 5 options for you to participate in our worship service:

  • 8:45am livestream on our YouTube channel
    • This message can then be viewed any time thereafter
  • 8:45am Regular Service in the “Sanctinasium”
    • Park in the front lot of the building
    • Enter and exit through the front doors (west entrance) of the building ONLY
  • 8:45am Mask Only Service in the Senior High School room.
    • This service will have a pared down worship team (keyboard only) and an emphasis on more traditional songs.
    • Park in the back lot of the building (east/childcare)
    • Enter and exit through the high school doors
  • 11am Regular Service in the “Sanctinasium”
    • This week will feature a “Senior Celebration” with a video and tribute marking the graduation of our MBC high school seniors. Graduating seniors include Max Allen, Sara Austin, Madison Birdwell, Emily Bishop, Megan Clay, Ben deDios, Keila Finnestad, Dean Fretwell, Cait Hullett, Emily Morren, Madeline Reynolds, Caleb & Colby Schuelke, John Seimears, Brant Taylor, Ben Toliver, Braeden Vaughan, Alison Wilkins, and Matthew Zavala.  There will be a table in the foyer where you can leave cards for the graduates, if so desired.
    • Park in the front lot
    • Enter and exit through the front doors (west entrance) of the building ONLY
  • 11am Family Service in the Middle School Room (upstairs)
    • This service is geared toward families with young children
    • Bring a blanket and sit on the floor with your kids because this service is “wiggle-friendly”
    • Worship will be a mix of children’s choruses and adult worship songs.
    • Activities will encourage movement
    • Sermon will be streamed in (8:45am message) but in the future, there may also be a live “kid-friendly” message presented by Matt, Mike, Zeke, or other MBC member.
    • Park in the back lot of the building (east/childcare)
    • Enter and exit through the main east entrance (childcare doors) ONLY
    • ENTRANCE /EXIT PLAN

We have started earlier to give us time to disinfect between services as per the governor’s guidelines for reopening Texas. I have attached a map Mike created to this email which should help explain things even better for more “visual” people, so check it out!

I apologize for the length of this update.  Believe me, I spent a great deal of time in prayer trying to craft the best and most gracious response to recent events.  I do believe that Jesus is the answer to what the world needs.  We, as believers, just need to do a better job bringing the message to them–the message that we are “Better Together.”

In service to Him and to you,
Heather Hogue