First, Read the Instructions!

    Apr 26, 2015

    Passage: Romans 12:5


    Christmas Eve and the kids have gone to bed and are supposedly asleep.

    My brother Davey and I would lie awake listening for the sounds of Santa. I don’t know about your memories, but in our house the sounds of Santa were often strangely accompanied by expletives! The presents were brought out and placed under the tree, then the gifts that needed to be assembled were brought up from the cellar and the fun would begin. Why, because the Santa in our house never read the assembly instructions!

    Ever try to put something together without reading the instructions? I have, too many times to mentions. But I’ll mention one. A garage in a box. 12X20 feet tubular steel construction covered by a fitted tarp and secured to the ground with screw in stakes! My son-in-law from Argentina assisted. That day I learned to swear in Spanish! (The instructions were in English, French and Spanish!)

    Of course you have. Most of us try to do lots of things before we read any instructions. Men travel cross country without maps. The only time I turn on my GPS is when my wife isn’t with me and I miss a female voice commenting on my driving…”Recalculating…Turn right in ¼ mile…500 feet…Turn right NOW!...Recalculating!

    We have children and raise them, often without anything but verbal advice from family and friends and sometimes strangers in movies…”Can’t you keep that kid quiet?”

    We get married without instructions. Although ministers try to give us pre-marital counseling; most of us are deer caught in the headlights and yes them to death. I have a friend whose father gave him one sentence of advice before he was married; “Be gentle, son.” My father reminded me to be kind. Not bad advice, but both of them needed a little explanation, don’t you think?

    If you want to get a driver’s license, you study for the written test and test drive with an instructor or very anxious parents. You have to read the instructions and know them before the govt. will allow you to drive a car. But all you need to get a marriage license is one witness.

    Just one more thought before I get to the point! I’ve been aware for some time of a phenomenon in our country that states that “good behavior is genetic or something akin to it.” We naturally obey laws and treat each other with respect and know the right thing to do and in our hearts want to do it. Therefore, there is no need for any kind of formalized training in moral behavior. It just comes naturally. No need to have religious training, no need to read the bible, no need to belong to a church or even attend one. People, left to our own devices, will want to do and be able to accomplish the right thing. I read last week that the percentage of NON’S in our country almost equals the # of Roman Catholics….22%! Across Europe, the churches are empty on Sundays.

    Now the point. You and I are in church! We are here for a reason. We are drawn or driven here by either reason, faith, family pressure or crises in our own lives or in the country’s. The churches were full for months after 9/11. But what keeps us here? What fates cause us to accept positions of responsibility? What forms us into leaders, teachers, deacons, elders, regular worshippers?

    What drives us to bring our children here for baptism and instruction and confirmation? It’s our faith and hope that are given definition by the Bible. It is our love for them that is given definition by the Bible. We are following the instructions that we’ve either read or been told about by some other authority we trust, that the Bible says, “Baptism is the way we receive our salvation.”

    The Presbyterian Church of Madison has core values, and each is explained by a Bible verse. The Instructions were read and interpreted and it was decided that, “yes we do that and it is who we are.”

    INTERGENERATIONAL FAMILY: Every age and stage has a vital contribution to make at our church.

    We decided that Romans 12: 5 described why we decided to have this as one of our core values. “So we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are members one of another.”

    This was written by Paul the Apostle to the church in Rome, and it was further explained to the church in Corinth. The church is the body of Christ! The church is Jesus continuing Christ’s presence in the world until God feels it is time to bring it all to a conclusion.

    Jesus was a pretty “together” person. He was not conflicted, not easily rattled. He knew his own mind and what he believed and was not ashamed to break the rules if they were a misinterpretation of God’s will. And when he did this, he was willing to defend his actions by reinterpreting the INSTRUCTIONS! Jesus knew the book of instructions by heart and then he let his heart lead him.

    The church as described by Paul took into account all the stories he knew of Jesus’ acceptance of others and reflected the depth of God’s love for even the wayward; for Paul called himself the “chief sinner”.

    The church is a family that holds every person regardless of differences as sacred, both within and outside the body of Christ. We model Jesus for the greater community, bringing to it the truth of family, acceptance, love, hope and faith.

    I always wanted to be the complete man. I wanted to be an athlete, a poet, a lover and a leader. But I mistook perfect for complete, and so I almost gave up trying. My giving up was not a depressed slide into debauchery. It was more a procrastination that offered me an excuse for giving up. I might have become a Forrest Gump running and running with no specific destination…..many do. But instead, my church family reached out to me and loved me. They encouraged me, counseled me, offered opportunities to engage in leadership and studied the Bible with me, and I found myself on the path to completion. I believe that the church saved my life. It wasn’t any one person, but many loving together to complete the whole. When I look back on it, I can understand that they felt that they needed me to complete them. They needed me, and together, hundreds of us, we were the body of Christ…one complete body being Jesus in the world. I didn’t have to be and do all, but I was needed to get it done.

    We are able to see and accept the importance of every individual without whom we would be incomplete.

    Can we say to every person who is seeking a Christian fellowship, “We need you to be complete?”

    Can we communicate to the world that we are the body of Christ, finding a place for everyone, and yet we are not perfect. Can we communicate that we strive for perfection in one area alone; loving one another as God loved us and gave up His Son for us.

    When we seek to continue to grow as a church, we first read the instructions…Corinthians, Acts, the Gospels, the prophets and the psalms……If we don’t, we depend on the Constitution of the PCUSA, and we become a very well organized association without a vision beyond continuing.

    I can go on and on, but I hope you get the point. We have the instructions we need to be all that God desires us to be. Being the body of Christ does not and will not come naturally. We have to commit our lives to Christ and read the instructions and then apply them with faith, hope and love.

    Our values are good and honest and Biblically based. But they are just definitions in a newly branded brochure, if we do not live them. And they will fade and die if we do not continue to read the instructions. Because as beautiful as they sound and as wonderful as they may be. It is very difficult, it is hard to live them without going continually to their source for inspiration and understanding.

    Let’s commit to Bible Study and Prayer together so that we may continue to live toward being complete.