Skip to content
May 8 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

May 8, 2022

Welcome and Opening Prayer: Nancy Lopez

Good morning!  In honor of this special day, I would like to celebrate all of you, in every way you that you mother, nurture, and support the growth and well-being of a child, another creature, of creation itself.
May the Lord be with you. 
Thank you, Jim, for reviewing the historical robustness of contemplative Christianity last week.  We do have a rich history and some treasured books, authors, and practices that we can lean in to.

Lately, I’ve been thinking about how we all seem to be experiencing separation, and I think I’ve found a connection point.  Whatever happened to humans in the biblical story of Adam and Eve, one thing I think we can agree about is that we do feel separated:  alienated from God, isolated from other people, and even say to myself, “Get it together, Nancy!” Ken Wilber calls this the great optical illusion of separateness. 
Personally, I picture this is the great shattering of the mirror that was meant to give us a true reflection of ourselves, but now we see everything with only a disconnected shard of glass.  We are made to reflect the image and likeness of God, to see ourselves in the faces of our neighbors, friends, families, even our enemies, to know that we are connected to all of creation, and to know wholeness even inside ourselves.  It is said that we mostly see ourselves through the trance of our personality.  Have you ever asked yourself, “Who am I?”? 

So, this is where I see a contemplative opportunity for connection. As we are present to God in silence and stillness, we can enjoy a True mirror.  We take a long, loving look at The Real ; we gaze at Beauty and Truth.  From Ignatian Spirituality, I read something I loved; I quote, “When we take a long, loving look at the real, we see the vast landscape of divine mercy, grace, and fruitfulness into which our single lives are planted. We contemplate our experience within God’s larger gaze, which shines over every moment of every day. In the safety of that loving gaze—as God takes a long, loving look at us—we can grow courageous enough and hopeful enough to look honestly at this moment, this problem, this hurt, or this dream. As God contemplates us, we can contemplate ourselves and know that we, even here and now, are loved and beautiful.”  So, my thought is that, by the Spirit, we are charged with literally re-membering ourselves by the grace of God, by the gaze of God.  This is our practice now.  But there will be even more:  from 1 Cor. 13:   For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.  Our journey, as I see it, is from a Shattered Mirror to a Reflective Mirror to then–Face to face.

Today’s Prayer comes from Thomas Merton’s (Jim recommended him to us last week).  It is a Prayer of Unity from his Asian Journal : 
Oh God, we are one with You. You have made us one with You. You have taught us that if we are open to one another, You dwell in us. Help us to preserve this openness and to fight for it with all our hearts. Help us to realize that there can be no understanding where there is mutual rejection. Oh God, in accepting one another wholeheartedly, fully, completely, we accept You, and we thank You, and we adore You, and we love You with our whole being, because our being is in Your being, our spirit is rooted in Your spirit. Fill us then with love and let us be bound together with love as we go our diverse ways, united in this one spirit which makes You present in the world, and which makes You witness to the ultimate reality that is love. Love has overcome. Love is victorious. Amen.

Morning Talk: chuck smith, jr.

And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him Colossians 3:17

Intro: Paul begins this sentence with a three-letter word: “AND”

We have made our way through his list of virtues,
– we have seen how he wrapped the virtues in love
• we paid close attention to what he said regarding:
the word of Christ and the peace of Christ
• now we come to the last verse in this section of Colossians,
◦ where the climax of his thought begins begins with AND
– Paul hasn’t finished all he had to say, his thought is incomplete
• AND there is something else that is too important to leave out

I remember discovering how this verse is relevant to worship

I had combed through the entire Bible studying worship
– I read more than a dozen books on worship; mostly theology
• in the previous verse Paul coached the Colossians on the use of music (to teach and counsel each other)
◦ for first fifteen centuries of church history,
◦ theology was ingrained in the hearts and minds of believers through hymns
(an ever deeper knowledge of God deepens worship as well)
– anyway, one day as I read Colossians 3, it occurred to me, Paul is saying,
• “Make your whole life a continuous act of worship”
• it is another take on what he says in Romans:
I appeal to you therefore, brothers [and sisters], by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship (Ro. 12:1)

This is Paul’s A-N-D – the capstone to his message about putting off the old self and putting on the new self
– for Paul, the outcome of every truth, every revelation is worship — and his thoughts about God take him there on occasion
Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!
“For who has known the mind of the Lord,
or who has been his counselor?”
“Or who has given a gift to him
that he might be repaid?”
For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen (Ro. 11:33-36)
• the word “worship” covers every sort of interaction with God
◦ including prayer, praise, receiving his word, and doing his will
◦ everything comes back to God as our service of worship
– the most important word in scripture regarding worship is this:
God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth (Jn. 4:24)
• is it alright if when I worship I follow a written liturgy? Yes
◦ can I worship God with music? Yes
◦ can I worship God by lighting candles or incense? Yes
◦ can I surround my worship with sacred art? Yes
◦ can I keep a holy Sabbath as a day of worship? Yes
◦ does worship include a sermon and offerings? Yes, yes, yes
• but all these forms of worship have been relativized
(you see, the answer to each question could also be, No!)
◦ what is essential is that we worship in spirit and truth
◦ the where and the how are subordinate to spirit and truth
• if someone has to ask, “How do I worship in spirit?”
◦ the answer is,
“You cannot know, because you cannot see the kingdom of God unless your are born again;
unless you’ve taken your first drink of living water, first bite of the bread of life. It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all.”
◦ once God’s Spirit has us, then all of life can be worship
So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God (1 Cor. 10:31)

In our verse, Paul specifies “whatever you do” as “in word and deed”

We live in a time when people use words loosely
– we have become casual with rules of grammar
(we ask, “Can I have that last cookie?” when the proper way of asking the question used to be, “May I have that last cookie?”
• and we are too free with insults and profanity
• we also have a strange new vocabulary shaped by our computers and hand-held devices
– when my dad was a child, if he had told his mom that he googled a friend,
• she would have washed out his mouth with soap
• some people worry that computers are becoming too human
◦ maybe we should worry, humans becoming too much like computers
◦ our decisions are driven by calculations and computations rather than common sense and compassion
◦ with computers, the only reliable language is mathematics

There are times when our words really matter
– when the wrong word can break a heart–or a spirit
• in most conversations, I ignore incorrect grammar
(if someone uses a double negative, it don’t make no difference to me)
◦ but what I admire is when a person’s speech is nurturing
◦ if insightful, perceptive, positive, gracious, lovely
Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person (Col. 4:6)
• we do not say kind words by accident
◦ but angry, hurtful words can slip out accidently
◦ this does not go well with God
I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned (Mt. 12:36-37)
– David wrestled with this challenge in Psalm 39:
I said, “I will guard my ways,
that I may not sin with my tongue;
I will guard my mouth with a muzzle,
so long as the wicked are in my presence” Still, he slipped (Ps. 39:1-6)
• Paul suggests another way to guard our words
do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus
• if you’re interested in reading more on the nurturing and destructive power of words, there is a wealth of wisdom in The Proverbs and James chapter 3

Of course, our words are not our only form of communication

Our deeds speak for themselves,
– and sometimes others don’t hear what we say because actions are so loud
– there has some confusion regarding our deeds that I would like to clarify
• Paul is adamant in Romans and Galatians that we are not saved by our works
◦ God doesn’t accept us because we’re righteous enough, or pious enough, or good enough
For it is by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works (Ep. 2:8-9)
• I’ve heard preachers draw a absurd conclusion, one that I’ve even read it in commentaries
◦ “Good works are good for nothing”
– some Christians use this as excuse for not doing anything to relieve suffering in the world
“Why worry about their poverty, their illness, if they have shelter, or food and water if their souls are going to hell?”
• there is no place for that reasoning in the Christian mind
Jesus: let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven (Mt. 5:16)
• Paul, Peter, John – all fully agree with Jesus’ teaching
For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them (Ep. 2:10)
[Jesus gave himself for us] to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works (Titus 2:14)
The saying is trustworthy, and I want you to insist on these things, so that those who have believed in God may be careful to devote themselves to good works. These things are excellent and profitable for people (Titus 3:8)
So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin (Jas. 4:17)
Beloved, do not imitate evil but imitate good. Whoever does good is from God; whoever does evil has not seen God (3 Jn. 11)

There’s a part of this verse that we tend to misunderstand

In the name of Jesus – the way Bible uses “name” is foreign to us
– it doesn’t mean we say his name or label our good works with it
• 2 Kings and 1 and 2 Chronicles refer to the temple as a house for the name of the LORD
(Did they build a house for God’s “name” to occupy?)
◦ if a person’s name was spoken, it brought them to mind
◦ think of the name of one of your friends –
can you think of that person’s name without seeing his or her face?
• to say God’s name was to invoke his presence — he was there
◦ that’s why the first words Jesus placed in the prayer he gave his disciples was
Hallowed be your name (or, Let your name be revered)
– they used the word name the way we use the word “person”
• we could say, do everything in the spirit of Jesus
◦ as his representatives, with his love, and his attitude, and his grace
• and the whole while, giving thanks to God the Father through him

Conclusion: Something in the Book of Joshua has always perturbed me

Towards the end he makes his famous announcement:
. . . if it is evil in your eyes to serve the LORD, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD
(Jos. 24:15)
– the answer from the people is immediate and adamant:
Then the people answered, “Far be it from us that we should forsake the LORD to serve other gods . . . . Therefore we also will serve the LORD, for he is our God.” (Jos. 24:16-18)
• this is a high point in Israel’s history
• what perturbs me: Joshua pours cold water on it:
But Joshua said to the people, “You are not able to serve the LORD, for he is a holy God. He is a jealous God; he will not forgive your transgressions or your sins.” (Jos. 24:19)

Whenever we feel ready to follow Jesus, whatever the cost;
when we think we’re ready to speak only the words of Jesus,
or do only the work of Jesus,
we would do well to hear Joshua’s voice in our ears:
“You are not able”
So, before we leave here,
determined that whatever we say or do will be in the name of Jesus
We need to confess, “I can’t”
then allow Jesus to tell us,
“I know. But I can, and I will”

Leave a comment