Sunday, July 30, 2017

[Matt's Messages] "I'm So Glad I'm a Part"

“I’m So Glad I’m a Part”
Gospel Roots (1892-2017)
July 30, 2017 :: John 13:34-35

We’re going to take another short break from our study of Galatians to return to our reoccurring sermon series that celebrates our 125th anniversary as a church.

We call these messages, “Gospel Roots.” Where we return to the foundational values and principles that have shaped our church family for the last 125 years, and we hope will shape us until the Lord returns.

Each month, we’ve looked at a different facet of our church’s life over the last one and a quarter centuries: The gospel itself–Jesus Christ and Him Crucified. Singing the gospel in worship. Sharing the gospel in evangelism. Being devoted to prayer. Being devoted to the Scriptures: “Where stands it written?” And, last time, being devoted to the Great Commission–sending those people whose pictures are on our fridges to take the gospel to the whole globe.

Well, today, I want to talk about another important set of people. And they might be on your fridge. But they aren’t far away.

In fact, they are right here in this room today.

They are us.

Our church family.

When you saw the sermon title this morning, I hope you broke out in song (at least in your head).

The sermon title is “I’m So Glad I’m a Part.”

How does that line end?  “Of the family of God.”

Bill and Gloria Gaither wrote that song about 47 years ago.

Our hymnal only has the chorus, anybody know how the first verse goes?

You will notice we say “brother” and “sister” ’round here;
It’s because we’re a family and these folks are so near.
When one has a heartache we all share the tears,
And rejoice in each vict’ry in this fam’ly so dear.

Today I want to talk about loving one another as a church family.

Loving one another as a church family.

Another word for that is “fellowship.”

“Lanse Evangelical Free Church exists to glorify God by bringing people into a life-changing relationship with Jesus Christ through worship, instruction, FELLOWSHIP, evangelism, and service.”

We accomplish our shared mission by sharing life with one another community.

The church is all about people. It’s all about relationships.

It’s all about loving one another.

Just like Jesus told us to. Do you have John chapter 13 in front of you?

John 13 is the night before the Cross. Jesus is in the upper room with his disciples, and He’s just told them that He is going away, and they cannot come with Him.

But He is going to leave them with some instructions.

Some very important instructions. John 13:34.

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

So what do you think is in the mystery box today?

For each of these Gospel Roots messages, we’ve had at least one artifact that focuses our mind on an aspect of our church’s history.

Today, I have all of the church family directories since I became the pastor here in 1998. Maybe somebody’s kept all the ones before that, but I haven’t.

This is the one you sent to me when I was candidating to be your pastor almost 20 years ago. Under Pastor, it was blank, and so I wrote my name in when I got here.

It’s all marked up. There are little notes for me to figure out who everybody is. I added cell phone numbers as I picked them.

I had to write in some names that weren’t here until about half-way through the year.

Ken and Dawn.
John and Marilynn.

Their names are included in this one from 1999!

I have 2 for 2000. This one with a snazzy cover drawn by my wife. It’s got little logos for worship, instruction, fellowship, evangelism, and service. My copy is just falling apart from using it so much that year.

And then we did a photo directory later in 2000. It’s got baby Robin in the front of it.  Awww.

A lot of people in there.

We don’t use these as much any more because most people have their “contacts” saved on their phones. We aren’t as dependent on a directory, as long as we have the correct information, like Vera’s new phone number.

Here’s another artifact that gets at what I’m talking about.

These photos may not be on your fridge, but they are on the wall out there outside of my office.

Since 1999, we’ve taken a church family photo once a year.

And this October, we’re going to take 2017 at our special event the first weekend in October. And we want all of you to be here and be in that picture!

The faces change. Some come and go. But the point is that we are a family.

There are lots more pictures than that, of course, of our church family. I’m sure we’re going to put a bunch of them out in October.

Think about all of the precious people that have been a part of our church family since 1892!

Here’s one from the third decade of our church’s life.

From left to right: Esther Leafgren, Mrs. Rudberg, Henry Nelson, Rev. Lundmark, Lard Danielson (a founding member), Andrew Leafgren, Charles Dahlgren, Gust Nelson (a founding member), Walfrid Johnson, Oscar Nelson, Axel Nelson, Sameul Emanuelson, Charles Freeman.

Here’s the whole Sunday School in 1932.

I’m so glad I’m a part of the family of God!

So many precious people!

And we are joined together to each other as a family.

Ephesians 3: “I kneel before the Father, from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name” (vv.14-15).

The Bible uses many metaphors to describe God’s people, God’s community. The Body of Christ. The Bride of Christ.

But also, the Family of God.

Young Timothy was told, “Do not rebuke an older man harshly, but exhort him as if he were your father. Treat younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, and younger women as sisters, with absolute purity.”

And how often does the New Testament talk about the brothers and sisters in Christ? Over and over and over again.

The disciples of Jesus Christ were to envision themselves as part of a new community a new family brought together by our elder brother, Jesus Christ.

Not just adopted, not just given a new birth to our heavenly Father, but included into a new family and joined to each other.

Joint-heirs with Jesus. That’s Romans 8:17, co-heirs with Christ.

I think that Jesus is alluding to that new family reality in verse 33 when he calls his disciples, “My children.”

And he tells them that he’s going away.

And when the parent goes away, what does he tell his children that he’s leaving behind?

Behave yourself, right?  And specifically what do you tell your kids to do with each other while you’re away?  Get along, right?

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”


As a church family, we love each other because Jesus told us to.

If anyone asked you what the pastor said today, tell them the message was simple.

“I guess we’re supposed to love each other because Jesus says so.”

Look around the room right now.

Go ahead. Look around.

These are the people that Jesus is telling you to love right here in John 13:34.

Tell somebody that you love them, right now.

People might come to our church because of the preaching or because of the music or because of the great children’s programs.

But they stay because of the love of a church family.

Last Sunday, Shasta wrote this on social media and she gave me the permission to share it with you today:

I have been feeling pretty down about Jossy going to the nursery at church, knowing that it is for ages three and under. I didn't want her going there just because she is unique and may not seem older than three. It made my heart sad.

It can be difficult being a parent of a special needs child and figuring out how to best "fit in." We are so, so proud of her and how far she has come, but sometimes there are blaring moments of feeling sadness and defeat. Nursery versus children's church versus not going to church at all and avoiding the decision completely has been one of those blaring moments for me. I know that this sounds silly and ridiculous, but this was a complete reality for me.

Two weeks ago, it was Family Bible Week at our church. We decided to try Jossy in a class this year. To my amazement, she did fabulous (I knew in my heart she would). Today, was an even bigger milestone, she attended children's church with same age peers and she did amazing again.

I am so, so thankful to be a part of such a wonderful church. My fears were immediately relieved when she came out of class today happy. Every single person in our church is supportive, encouraging, and willing to walk on this journey with us. I am thankful that God has provided us with this church family and a place that I feel safe and comfortable to venture out more on this journey. Today, I was able to listen and absorb the message. For the first time in a long time, I didn't feel scared or sad about what was happening. My mind was in the right place. I was content and my heart was happy.

I have known for the past four years that this journey was given to us for a purpose, a reason. Whether it is to teach me, my family, or others something, there is a reason. I know many things along the way have been part of His plan, today was part of His plan. I am thankful that my heart is still moldable and willing and able to be changed. I am so very, very blessed.

Well done, Fam!

I am so proud of you.

We love each other as Jesus commanded us.

We care for one another and try to meet each other needs.

Here’s another item for you that speaks about this church.

Recognize that?

I love the mailboxes back there in the foyer. We want everybody to have one.

Write each other notes! Put cards in each other’s boxes. Tell people that you’re thinking about them.

And my favorite thing about those mailboxes is when they have one of these on them.

This is a casserole dish!

It is not a historical one. It’s just one from the kitchen back there.

I love it when the mailboxes are covered with these.

You know why?

It’s because you’ve been loving on each other!

Somebody was in the hospital and you made a meal.

You brought a dish to a church family meal and meeting.

You made a dessert for Family Bible Week or a funeral luncheon like we had this week.

These are signs of family life.

I love it when our church building gets that run-down lived in look. Like a living room.

Cindy might not like it, but it says to me that we have come together.

Thank you, hospitality team, for making and serving all of those years. 125 years of church family meals! That’s a lot of deviled eggs!

Thank you, Coffee Ministry team, for the last few years of serving us after church each week.  I love to see people hanging around and talking after church!

Thank you, Deaconnesses, for leading the charge to take meals to people in their homes.

When our first child died a stillbirth in April of 1999, there was a steady stream for like two weeks where a different family showed up on our doorstep with a dish like this.

We were so sad and sorrowful. But you were there and you brought us food.

Funny story. I don’t know if I’ve ever told in the pulpit, but one of those weeks, each lady brought us the same dinner. It was stuffed shells.  “I hope you like stuffed shells!”

You didn’t know everybody brought the same thing.

It made us laugh. I now I can’t eat stuffed shells without feeling loved by you.

How many people here can tell a story about how this church family was their family?

Our Link Groups function like that. Our Sunday School Classes have. Our various prayer groups during the years.

We love each other as Jesus commanded us to.

Now, let me ask you a question. Is that easy to do?

No, it really isn’t.

Sometimes it is. Sometimes it’s easy to love.

But often it’s very hard to love others.

I’m going to tell you a secret.

I am sinner.

And so are you.

This room is full of sinners.

Our entire church family is made up of sinners!

And sinners can be pretty hard to love at times.

Do you know 1 Corinthians 13? The love chapter?

“Love is patient, love is kind,” and so on.

Do you know why Paul wrote that?

It’s because the church at Corinth could not get along!

They had to be reminded what love looked like!

1 Corinthians 13 sounds great when it’s read at a wedding, but it’s really hard work.

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.”

That’s hard to do!

And how many times have we failed to do it?

I know that I have failed to love you all many times.

There are people who are no longer a part of our church because they felt that I failed to love them. And some of them were right. There faces are on those pictures. I have failed many times.

The hardest times that this church family has ever gone through were times of church conflict and even a split or two.

Some of you still have emotional scars that hurt from those times.

We have not loved each other perfectly.

We have not always obeyed this command.

But we keep at it.

We repent and apologize where we know we are wrong.

And we forgive, and we release bitterness and we practice patience and long-suffering with each other. And we hope for restored relationships in the future.

This love thing is hard, but we know that Jesus commanded us to do it.

And we know that Jesus showed us how to do it!


Do you ever wonder what is new about the new commandment?

“A new command I give you: Love one another.”

I don’t think that’s the first time that God’s people were told to love each other!

But that’s what Jesus says.

I think the key is the next sentence.

“As I have loved you, so you must love one another.”

We have not just a new commandment but a new example.

Jesus has just washed their feet. John says that he showed them the full extent of His love. In just a few short hours, they would see love like never before!

Jesus was on the way to the Cross.

“As I have loved you, so you must love one another.”

Jesus showed us how it’s done.

“[Jesus] is patient, [Jesus] is kind. [Jesus] does not envy, [Jesus] does not boast, [Jesus] is not proud. [Jesus] is not rude, [Jesus] is not self-seeking, [Jesus] is not easily angered, [Jesus] keeps no record of wrongs.  [Jesus] does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. [Jesus] always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. [Jesus] never fails.”

Yes, it’s hard, but Jesus has shown us again and again the way forward.

Think about this.

We don’t love each other because we like each other.

I like you guys...most of the time.

But the love that this is calling me to do for you is not a natural love that comes from lovability either my lovability or your lovability.

This kind of love requires the death of Jesus Christ and the resurrection of Jesus Christ to empower it. And to be the example that shows me how to do it.

Think about it.

Our church family is not a family by kinship and DNA.

We don’t love each other because we are one race.

We aren’t one race. We are multi-ethnic. And I hope we become more multi-ethnic over time.

We aren’t one political party. Some of you are Republicans. Some of you are Democrats. Some of you are Green Party. Some of you are Independents. We are all kinds of political stripes.

We aren’t one in one category of finances.

We aren’t in one school district.

We don’t all like the same music.

But we’re family.

We’re blood family because of the blood of Jesus.

We have Jesus Christ in common.

We aren’t “blood,” but we have “The Blood” in common.

And that’s why love each other. Because Jesus loved us first.

And He tells us to love each other as he loved us.

We were lovely?  Were we lovable?

No. We were stuck in our sin. We were rebels against His glory.

We were decidedly not lovable.

But He loved us anyway.

So next time you are struggling with loving me, and I know you must from time to time, just think, well Jesus loved me. I guess I can try to love Pastor Matt one more time.

And I’ll do the same for you.

And you do the same for the person sitting on the other side of church, too.

And they’ll do it for you.

This is what Paul said to the Colossians. Chapter 3.

“Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace.”

And you know what that will do?

It will show Jesus to the world. V.35

“By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another."


The gospel empowers our love and it is preached by our love for one another.

We love each other to show Jesus to others.

Jesus doesn’t say that people will know we are His followers because we said so.

Jesus doesn’t say that people will know we are His followers because we have a bumper sticker with a fish symbol on it.

Jesus doesn’t say that people will know we are His followers because we live clean, moral, upstanding, lifestyles.

Jesus says like the song Amy Jo played for the offertory, they will know we are Christians by our love.

When they see us forgive each other and bear with each other and be kind to each other and be patient to each other, when we don’t deserve it[!], then the world will say, “Those people show me what Jesus is like. And I want to know more about Him.”

It’s not good enough to just be friendly.

It’s not good enough to just say that we love each other, though we need to do lots of that.

The Apostle John says, “Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.”

Because that’s how the world will know that our gospel is truly good news.

Love one another.

Here’s something else that new about the new commandment.

The stakes are new. They have never been higher.

“By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”