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hey south friends uh I’m here with my friend dana um dana welcome thank you for being willing to do this thank you we’re gonna sit down and just talk about this idea of how church christian community is centered around relationship and dana your story is just so fascinating in terms of how you came to be a part of south so when we start there it’s 2020 we’re in the middle of a pandemic or right before one I think it was um and you ended up at south how did that happen what did that look like well so I had been praying and searching for community before the pandemic hit and I like you I’m a seven I’m extroverted I really love and need community and I’m not extroverted

and so I I crave being around people and I think I think we all do we all create connection on some level and so I visited several churches and I I ironically the coffee shop we’ve been coming to the coffee shop the boys and I for years just to come and sit and have coffee and meet friends um and so I had never come to south and so I was like I had googled it and looked online and there was this thing called sisterhood and so I was like well what’s that that sounds really interesting and so um I decided just to show up so one wednesday I showed up and um ruth nichols was speaking that night ruth nichols what a great person to know ruth is someone everyone should know yes so she knocked my socks off with her talk about her story right and so coming to sisterhood um as I left you know here I’m in a and I don’t mind being in a room full of people I don’t know but it’s still a slightly uncomfortable yeah you’re new to a place where other people know each other and so as I was leaving I had my mug which had my texas tech sticker on it and so ruth was like oh texas tech how do you know texas tech and so turns out that we had a connection there and so she just started talking to me and I just felt so loved and it was very warm and so then I decided I would come to church on sunday and dan was speaking that sunday dad another great person to know another great person to know so so then I came and then the next week everything shut down so you make this great step of getting involved in a new community yes and everything’s shut down right and it’s it’s sometimes when you’ve had something like that happen it’s hard to try again I think isn’t it it’s when people lose relationships it’s hard to try again we’ve been through this pandemic there’s people at south that are probably asking questions like do I even know who comes here anymore anytime you’re asked to do something a second time it can be harder to believe it can work out well and yet that wasn’t the end of the journey for you it was not no what happened next yes so then I then everyone went online with sisterhood so I continued to attend wednesday nights and then I met grace and sarah bulaski and just amazing women that basically I think it’s that that idea of kindness and and what I’ve learned about friendship is reaching out so it’s sending a text or it’s saying hey can you go for coffee hey can you go for a walk and during the pandemic it was much harder right so just having that connection that face to face even if it was on video was amazing and there’s a little bit of a risk there isn’t there in doing those things and reaching out and yet so often when you do you find that the other person on the other end was longing to be reached out too yes and that there’s a joy there and I think um the pandemic brought a certain level of vulnerability too and I think that that there’s some beauty in that I think we all it’s kind of like renee brown talking about that level of the more vulnerable you are then you you create a deeper level of connection with wow yeah that’s that’s powerful that’s yeah man we could just stop there but you you you got involved with the food pantry from that right and ready you still do regularly yeah so that was the next step was that I I uh you know in the the newsletter I think I signed up you know it was new new to south and so I signed up and then I got an email saying there was I signed up for south cares I think and I got an email and it might have been from dan saying that we need extra volunteers in the food bank I was like that’s perfect I can go and be in person with people and you know I I love hugs and and being around people so uh so I showed up to the food bank and then I met sharon who is just a doll a love and michelle and aaron and all of the people in the food bank that has just just filled my soul it’s been an amazing place to serve so and so you’ve got to serve alongside them you’ve got to get to know them yeah how have you seen yourself grow during that season right well I think I’ve I’ve learned I was telling sharon this the other day actually that you know I think we learn how to be a friend from other people who are good friends from people who show up and who exhibit kindness and it’s kind of like this place of of you know really connection it’s that you know relatedness and connection of of reaching out and just really accepting somebody for who they are and regardless of their age or their generation or their work or their color of their skin or whatever it may be that you know that you just and I think that’s what Jesus would do you know it is it’s kind of that reflecting back to um just showing love right it’s just being kind and showing showing love to other people and so I felt that here knowing that you’re loved enough that you can take off the mask you don’t have to pretend you can be yeah yourself so we’re going to talk in the next few weeks about uh how relationships enable us to step into this season of growing and then we actually get to go out into the world to love those in the world around us and and just thank you for doing that dana and thank you for being part of of who we are here at south of course thank you

well hey good morning south hopefully the lights will turn on thank you all right I’m yvonne one of the pastors here and I have lauren with me who knows that today is rally day

that’s right who likes free stuff so if you’re online I am so sorry you should be here in person to get that free stuff but you can still sign up online to serve with us because rally day is all about rallying together as a family of believers to serve this community and to serve those beyond so lauren’s got some free paraphernalia who wants free stuff

all right you better shout for it she’s throwing awesome okay all right anybody over here wow good job jonas all right we’ve got a few more water bottles

yeah good catch excellent

okay one more hat who wants the hat I had some requests for hats after last service

I love it all right well rally day is a day that we just wanted to throw some amazing fun things at you but ultimately this is a time for us before the fall season to really rally together to to serve this community and many of you are coming back to church in person and we’re so excited for that and that also means that we would like to open up our kids ministry to both services which requires quite a few hands to disciple those little ones and minister to them as our next generation so we need people to sign up for place positions like kids ministry and also over this pandemic we’ve lost a lot of our welcome team volunteers and so if you are willing to just stand out and get to know our community through loving smiles and and getting to know people’s names and looking out for the people that are showing up for the very first time these are simple ways that you can help us create in a great experience on sunday mornings and of course there’s plenty of other opportunities for you to serve even more so in your gifting and who God has called you to be for this time so you should have received a menu when you came in and on that menu up in the left hand corner is a qr code and that qr code will send you right to our online form and you’ll notice this year that we’ve added a few questions that have to do with your strengths and ways that God has uniquely made you and we want to have a little conversation with you when you sign up so you’ll be getting a phone call from one of us and connecting and really trying to find what are ways that you can use your gifts and skills and talents and your unique identity to be to serve this church and to make us stronger because we are so much stronger when everyone is living within that gift and and serving the lord in that way and of course if you are new for the first time we are so excited and you that you can serve with us but if you’re not ready to do that we also would just love to give you a welcome meet us at the back um welcome desk in the back we’ve got a little gif first time gift for you and um would love to just get your name and information so that we can connect further now laura’s going to tell us about how you can connect with community yes so we’re rallying to serve is all about being able to give life to people group link which is next sunday make a note in your calendar next sunday group link is where you get to be given life from other people because you’re doing life together in a small group a small community where you tell stories about what you’ve been through and you get to relate with the story that someone else is going through maybe right then so next week and through september 18th 12th through september 12th you can find out about groups that are starting this fall at south and sign up to be able to start meeting with people and that will start next sunday put a link in your calendar another way you can rally with us and we know that so many of you do is through giving and you can find out more about giving on our online website as well as downloading that app and that’s going to be a really great place for you to know what’s happening continually theresa will send notifications and that will be a great place to find out more as the weeks come unfold in this fall but obviously those of you who give regularly you allow us to do all the things that God has placed on our heart to do to help people live in the way of Jesus with the heart of Jesus so we just want to again thank you for those of you who sacrificially give week after week to help God continue to move in his kingdom in this area in littleton all right let’s pray

together lord Jesus thank you for the friendships that are in this room because of you and thank you that we can experience family relationships because of you Jesus thank you that we get to be a part of south a part of littleton as a body because of you I pray that you would create a heart of worship in us for those whose hearts are hardened and that you would bring encouragement to our hearts for those who need it this morning and in your name amen

good morning friends how you doing today great to see you my name is alex I’m one of the pastors here if you’re visiting we’re really glad you’re here really hoping to get you connected you’re joining us in the third week of this series called what if we if you’re joining us online later at some point but it’s really great to see you as well before we jump into this we’re going to read a passage from a book called romans written by a guy called paul um but just uh just before we get into that my wife and I with our kids are going on vacation uh this week just uh after minnesota for a few days and we were going to drive nice road trip I love road trips with the family and now we are not because the car broke and my wife is delightedly happy about this fact uh so much so that I’m beginning to get a little suspicious I’m like checking the fuel tank for sugar and stuff like did you have to break it so well you did a really good job but now we’re flying so we’re off to minnesota where we will hopefully catch some fish but because it’s minnesota even if we don’t catch fish mosquitoes will definitely catch us and because it’s because it’s minnesota they’re big enough to carry you away as well so hopefully we come back romans chapter 12 verse 1 if you’re following along in a text in front of you therefore I urge you brothers and sisters in view of God’s mercy to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice holy and pleasing to God this is your true and proper worship do not conform to the pattern of the world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is his good pleasing and perfect will for by the grace given to me I say to every one of you do not think of yourselves more highly than you ought but rather think of yourselves with sober judgment in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you for just as each of us has one body with many parts these parts do not all have the same function so in christ we though many form one body and each part belongs to all the others we have different gifts according to the grace given to each of us if your gift is prophesying then prophesy in accordance with your faith if it is serving then serve if it is teaching then teach if it is encouragement then give encouragement if it is giving then give generously if it is to lead do it diligently if it is to show mercy do it cheerfully and then these are the two verses we’re going to land on today love must be sincere hate what is evil cling to what is good be devoted to one another in love honor one another above yourselves man there’s a lot in that so let’s pray and we’ll get into this passage uh Jesus as we take this text we believe that you breathed on this book and it became alive would you breathe on us and bring life to us in new ways each of us are on different stages of a journey and we come to you just as we are we love the fact that you accept us in this place and yet you love us too much to leave us there for whatever you have for us we open up our hearts amen so for the last three weeks we’ve been jumping into this series we’ve been talking about this this is wrestling with this question what does a church of Jesus look like and now on one hand how it looks across all of time and then on the other hand that’s how it looks specifically in this context in this area in this place for this specific community at this time so for the last two weeks we’ve wrestled on this big sort of macro level as you walked in you may have seen we have a big thing and a wall that says living in the way of Jesus with the heart of Jesus that is something that could be true of any church anywhere hopefully that’s just how we choose to express it but then we wrestled with this question well how do you take the teachings of Jesus and boil them down to something in particular wherever you are in terms of your faith journey you may believe that Jesus is who he said he was or you may just think you know I’m not really sure right now but even if you’re not sure he’s still one of the greatest moral teachers ever to live and he taught for three years and so there’s all of this stuff to sort of examine to to come to grips with what what is the centerpiece of what Jesus taught and when he was asked the question what’s the centerpiece of all the law all of the rules he said love God with all your heart with all your soul with all your mind and love your neighbor as yourself love God and love your neighbor but as we’ve wrestled with these things for the last couple of weeks they’re maybe not quite as simple as they seem on the surface love God with all your heart with all your soul and your mind it began as like almost like an ethical imperative this is something that you should do you should work at doing and yet as we wrestled with it what we said is really loving God begins with knowing God loves you you can never really love God in the way that he would long for you to love him without knowing you are loved exactly as you are with all of your brokenness all of your failures all of your struggle all of the things you don’t like about yourself the God of the universe right now says you are loved and accepted like that and then love your neighbor well that sounds easy on the surface but as we wrestled with what Jesus really meant by love your neighbor what we said is this it’s it’s not just love the neighbors that you like it’s not just love the neighbors that help you redo your fencing it’s not just the neighbors that help you by mowing your grass it’s love the neighbors that do the opposite of those we have this one neighbor that we have a tension relationship with he has these huge dogs that bark at our kids all the time and and every now and again when you’re working on that part of the yard suddenly you’ll just have this moment where the fence will quake as this 130 pound dog hammers himself into this fence and scares the life out of me and my kids and yet these are the neighbors that were called to love the ones with the tension not the ones without the tension love guard and love your neighbor on the surface sounds easy and yet it has its challenges and now we get to move on to to to well a more and not more interesting part but an equally interesting part we’ve looked at what the general church looks like but now we get to wrestle with what does God have for us at south over the next few months how do we figure out living in this particular community at this particular time yes we are a Jesus people we don’t believe Jesus just came into the world to teach we believe he came into the world to do something very specific nothing short of redeeming us and this whole world around us but what kind of community in amongst that are we called to be what what are our needs and and how do we shape that and so in conversations with elders with different stuff people over the last few months this is something that came out what if we became a Jesus people who are relationally connected deeply formed and outward reaching it starts with the fact that we need relationships it’s supposed to happen in that crucible and yet there’s this other step from there that those relationships make it possible that you and I could actually become different people the deep soul work that needs to happen the deep issues that we wrestle with those may actually start to be shaped and if that word formed seems unusual to you may be formed or formation is language you’re unfamiliar with this isn’t new language this is bible language paul talks about in one of his letters he says my heart aches it is he’s restless until christ is formed in you there’s this longing in the pages of the new testament to see us become different people and yet where we see that happens is in the language or the the process of relationships and there’s maybe a possibility as we are changed people then that leads us to be people that actually are compelling in the world around us Jesus was compelling to those around him even those that hated organized religion and when we become like him the implication is maybe we become compelling people as well people that ran from church or its equivalent of the time ran towards Jesus and what if we became those types of people other language that you might use around this is that this is supposed to be a place where you are known and know so you can grow and you can go and that is something that can be true for all of us and then here’s the tension as much as that is true aren’t relationships just difficult at times sometimes all of us would say starting new relationships working on old relationships fixing broken relationships is something that we struggle with doing as I think about places I’ve lived around the country I have some wonderful relationships back in michigan where I did ministry for five six years in new york where we also spent some time doing ministry back in england where I have some deep early relationships and some of those people have moved all over the world now and I miss the relationships they they are painful to lose now I’m glad that I have them I’m glad that I made those trips and and if I had never moved from england to michigan I would never have built those deep friendships there had I never moved again I would never have built the next one but but it can be hard at times to think about starting again and maybe this is particularly relevant to us in this season as we come out of a pandemic where we may say I’m missing some of my old relationships now I have this thesis about church relationships it’s it’s this I think we find that group within a church now south say south is about 400 or so people we have a couple of services you cannot really know everybody well in that size of group so what generally happens is this and I think it’s fairly healthy you find your niche you find your group of people your tribe and you get to sit with them and you get to enjoy them and have relationships with them and you never really look up and notice that you don’t know most of the people in the room well and that’s fine that’s good but sometimes there’s this moment where suddenly you realize your little tribe has it’s disappeared for whatever reason maybe it’s just we’re a transient society maybe it’s one thing or another and then suddenly that absence makes you look up and there’s this feeling of I feel like I’m in a room of strangers it can be hard when you go through that to say I want to do relationships again especially as most of us have some hesitancy at different points in our life it tends to vary from person to person but the truth is all of us have been through times where relationships are hard I have this recollection of being about 16 17 years old which is about the time in my life I found relationships the hardest I just didn’t know where I fit and I struggled to make those connections that I wanted to make and so I made some strange decisions at this time one of those decisions will sound irrelevant when I first say it but it is relevant to the story I decided to stop washing my hair just stopped now apparently there’s this theory that if you don’t wash your hair for six weeks it will start washing itself but before that you have to go through what’s called the sheep phase where you literally smell like a sheep and I I tested this to the utmost and so I have this recollection of this moment I’m walking back from college towards the bus and it pours with rain and so I make a dash and soaking wet climb onto the bus and sit there for a couple of minutes and then start to think wow this bus smells worse than usual

this bus smells kind of like sheep and it took me a couple of minutes to realize that the bus didn’t smell it was me that smell I was the thing that stank and so I had to sit there for 20 30 minutes for just this experience being I’m the thing I’m the problem I don’t fit I am the outcast now that that story that 20 minutes that 30 minutes is really a it’s a microcosm for what that period in my life looked like I don’t feel like I fit I don’t feel like I’m wanted I feel like I’m the problem for me it was a brief period for some of you you might say it’s the whole of your life but there’s just this this experience of I don’t know how to make relationships in this time I feel like an outcast we even have created places which the philosopher mark orger would call non-spaces places where there are lots of people and yet it’s a place where I am neither known nor no airport concourses supermarkets are these places there is lots of activity lots of people and yet you go get to go about your life with this vague anonymity now some of you would be honest and say I love that truth you’re the guys that celebrated when they put those self-checkout things in the supermarket you’re like no I don’t have to talk to anybody and this is wonderful you’re the people that if the checkout guy or girl knows your name you’re like I’m finding a different supermarket this is intolerable I didn’t come here for a relationship I came here for anonymity and yet there’s this tension because we sometimes chase after this thing of not being known or known and yet most of the bible writers across the spectrum would say relationships are necessary and important whether that is right back in the beginning where God says of man it is not good for man to be alone or a passage like this in proverbs 27 17 as iron sharpens iron so one person sharpens another across the spectrum there are these different writers that say relationships are inherent to being human there is a tension between how much we want to do them and yet they are necessary they are important and the same is true of the passage that we’re going to jump back into now this romans 12 passage but before we get that let me just check the time because I feel like I overran in the first service I got about two thirds of the way through I’ve got I’ve got a third left to go and it was closing time now the good news is you guys are the second service so I’ve I’ve recalibrated and I’ve shortened everything no I haven’t I’m just like you guys can’t go anywhere there’s no service to follow you’re stuck we’re pushing through people panera bread will be here at one um there’s this truth as we look at different passages of the bible that as westerners one of the things we’re very good at at times is knowing specific verses within the bible we can pull out pick out some of our favorites especially because around the 10th century some kind person went through and put addresses across the bible they gave us chapters and verses that weren’t there initially so we might say something like I love jeremiah 29 verse 11. it says God knows the plans he has for me plans to give me a hope and a future now that’s fine and true and yet that verse has context historical context that is important and we often miss it because we zone in on those very detailed passages so before we read romans 12 again what I’d love to do is give you a challenge as you go home if you like reading the bible try reading romans chapter 7 and romans chapter 8 before you read romans chapter 12. in romans chapter 7 this this pastoral letter that paul writes to this church in rome there’s this moment in chapter seven where he starts to talk about how broken he feels he says the things that I want to do the good things I want to do I just I don’t get around to doing them and the the bad things that I’m determined not to do those are the things that they end up doing he starts lamenting his human condition wretched man that I am who will free me from this body of death and then in chapter eight he starts to celebrate this idea that well who will free me Jesus will life in the spirit that is what has created this new way of living and he starts to celebrate there is now no condemnation for those that are in christ Jesus for the law of the spirit of life has freed me from the law of sin and death this passage is transcendent in romans chapter eight it hits these incredible heights and then in chapter nine he starts this debate about the relationship between the church and the nation of israel it feels like a tangent and I say that as a guy who loves tangents listening to me preaches like being on a golf cart with someone who just changes his mind about which direction they’re going I love to just swing the wheel and go off in another direction and it feels like paul does that at times as well and so he jumps into 9 10 and 11 this big discussion and we can feel kind of lost kind of out of touch this feels maybe like it belongs to a different age but then in chapter 12 I would suggest he comes back to this idea of life in the spirit but not just the big spatial language but he starts to talk about well what’s life in the spirit look like practically what does it look like for a church a Jesus people community to live that kind of life try reading seven eight and then jumping to twelve and just see how it illuminates some of this passage but here we go back to the start verse 1 therefore I urge you brothers and sisters in view of God’s mercy to offer your buddies as a living sacrifice holy and pleasing to God this is your true and proper worship do not conform to the pattern of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is he’s good and pleasing and perfect will as some of your versions if you have a version in front of you it might say this is your spiritual act of worship this is your reasonable act of worship it’s talking about how life in the spirit enables to to live this relationship with God to know him to to worship him fully how it leads to this change this renewing of your mind and then he goes on to talk about the community in general for by grace given by the grace given to me I say to every one of you do not think of yourselves more highly than you ought but rather think of yourselves with sober judgment in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you for just as each of us has one body with many says here members it may say parts and those members do not have all the same functions so in christ we though many form one body and each member belongs to all the others he starts to sketch out we’re in this together and you are needed you have gifts you have skills that other people don’t have you and I each have a part to play we have a different gifts according to the grace given to each of us if your gift is prophesying then prophesy in accordance with your faith if it is serving that serve if it is teaching then teach if it is to encourage then give encouragement if it is giving then give generously if it is to lead do it diligently if it is to show mercy do it cheerfully and all the time he’s building this picture of what a Jesus community looks like it involves this worship and knowing of the God of the universe but living together recognizing our different gifts and parts to play and then he’s going to move from talking about what we do to how we do it love must be sincere and this passage it’s like this staccato be especially when you read it in the original language even great commentators on the book of romans say I don’t know where he got all these ideas from there’s so many things that he’s going to ask us to do and it feels like he pulls them from all different sources love must be sincere hate what is evil cling to what is good be devoted to one another in love honor one another above yourselves never be lacking in zeal but keep your spiritual further serving the lord be joyful in hope patient in affliction faithful in prayer share with the lord’s people or in need practice hospitality it’s boom boom boom boom boom and I cut it off half way there’s another whole list that just keeps on going and it can leave you with this feeling of paul how can I do all of this stuff there is so much stuff that you’re throwing at me what am I supposed to do to apply this whole list to my life and so today we’re just gonna land on verse nine and verse ten love must be sincere love must be sincere when he chooses to say this he picks up on a word that Jesus uses all the time as Jesus is talking to the religious leaders of his day he has a lot of tension with them and and this is one of the phrases he uses you hypocrites woe to you teachers of the law and pharisees you hypocrites you are like whitewashed tombs which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of bones of the dead and everything unclean in the same way on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness Jesus uses this phrase hypocrites which in greek is is hippocrite it means quite literally one who wears a mask an actor a performer a stage player somebody who isn’t real somebody who’s fake somebody who is covered up around four miles from the town that Jesus grew up in was a big town nazareth this town that you may have heard of is maybe 200 400 people in the first century and just down the road there is a big town on a hill it’s maybe where Jesus got his image of a city on the hill cannot be hidden and 25 000 people lived in this town for the first century this is a large community it makes nazareth look insignificant and within this community is a theater now when we read in the bible that Jesus was a carpenter well that could have been true and yet the word techtan doesn’t really just mean carpenter if you look at pictures of the middle east there aren’t a lot of trees to do woodwork with but there’s an awful lot of stone so the probability is that Jesus was an engineer a stone maker a carpenter many of these things rolled into one as he trained with his father it’s quite possible that Jesus father or Jesus himself may have helped build this theater just a few miles away in his early years although it’s a little bit dangerous to go on the track of saying Jesus may have done this when he was little there’s this whole group of people no word of a lie in england who believed Jesus sailed to england when he was a young man and it’s very important to them and they even wrote songs about it and it’s almost certainly not true and yet it’s dangerous to go down these tracks but it seems a little bit more likely that Jesus traveled to a town four miles from his house than 4 000 miles across the mediterranean ocean so we’ll go with it but this theater whether he went there or not whether he helped build it or not this is the place that he pulls this language from of hippocrite these are people that wore masks greek acting centered around masks when you were seated so far back from the stage it was the only way you knew which character was which and what emotions they were showing in a particular time so I bought you some masks uh now it’s harder to buy masks online than it used to be because if you search for masks you just come up with medical masks and stuff these are harder to get but these are like you can see the different emotions that they show and I’ll put one on for you just because it’ll look weird um there we go look at that my kids wore these and it was terrifying um and so these were the type of masks that we they would wear and it would allow the people at the back to say oh I kind of know what is going on on the stage it was necessary for them to wear masks for what they did when Jesus pulls this word what he says is you wear masks in everyday life you cover up who you really are and you pretend so when paul picks up this language of hippocrite he adds a no to it and and hippocrates he says when you love it must be done without a mask it must be done without a mask you cannot pretend and love well in dan eliot’s favorite translation of the bible the new living translation it says simply this don’t just talk about it really love each other it seems a Jesus community at its heart in paul’s minds accepts people as they are wherever they are whatever they look like and relationships start with that kind of acceptance and yet I wonder whether there’s a different emphasis on wearing masks that’s relevant for us today one that poor may not have recognized there’s this movie that came out in 2010 it’s a documentary called catfish some of you may have seen it the the guy that directed it nev falls in love with someone online as they begin to chat as they begin this relationship she starts to send him pictures of herself and he starts to look at a social media profile and it’s incredible she’s beautiful she’s a model she’s also a photographer and a director she paints and she writes poetry and she writes music that’s beautiful and she starts to send him these different things and he’s falling massively wildly in love with her and his brother and his friend said you know what we need to film this because when they get married one day we can show this whole process and the relationship working out and then he starts to get suspicious starts to wonder about some of the things he’s been sent he notices that most of her friends on social media have only existed for just a few weeks starts to google some of the lyrics of her poetry of a music and finds that most of the stuff is already online done by somebody else somewhere some of the songs she’s sent him are sung by apparently her but with a different name and so his friends say to him we’ve got to drive and we’ve got to go and see her and so they drive from new york all the way to michigan to to meet this woman and she opens the door and she doesn’t look like a picture and she hasn’t painted anything and she doesn’t write poetry and she lives at home in a relationship that’s full of struggles she looks after her two kids that are disabled and she she isn’t what she put on social media and he doesn’t say anything she invites him in and they chat and they interact and it’s not till the last day that he says well look we’ve got to talk about this you’re not you’re not who you said you are and of course she breaks down and she starts to talk about just her struggle with life and and really what seems to be at the heartbeat of it is this she doesn’t believe she will be loved for who she is when we ask the question if Jesus and paul both suggest that life is needs to be lived without the mask and while paul suggests that we must offer love in this sincere way without mask I would suggest that love is this two-way relationship and it must be received without a mask as well and if we ask this question why do we wear masks I would say that we live in suspicion that there is a me behind the mask that others would despise or even reject when I mentioned that earlier story that garden story that really grounds all of our stories when we think back to this adam and eve characters that were told about this is what we are told about their relationship after the fall the man and his wife heard the sound of the lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day and they heard from the lord God among the trees of the garden but the lord God called to the man where are you he answered I heard you in the garden and I was afraid because I was naked and so I hid I don’t know what you believe as individuals about the bible in general and this particular passage you may believe it’s a hundred percent true and that God made the world in six days you may have tensions with it but but what I would say about this is that we see that regardless of how each of us think of it as individuals it is always true of us humanly we by nature hide from God and from others because we live in suspicion that there is a me behind the mask that others will despise or even reject our struggle with masks is not just that we cover up and we don’t offer sincere love to others but but it’s that we don’t believe that we are worthy of the love of others

shakespeare apparently said this all the world’s a stage and all the men and women merely players when we take that word that idea of an actor is one who wears a mask that is true of so many of us so much of the time we wear masks and yet we live in this tension of needing relationships if we are honest this is river dave river dave lived as a hermit in I think it was connecticut for 30 years build himself a little house on the side of the road with logs he cut down for himself started to grow his own crops and saw as few people as possible until his house burnt down could no longer live the life he used to live and news cameras got hold of it all these people tried to come and help him and he started having to interact with different people and this is what he said about this process maybe the things I’ve been trying to avoid are the things that I really need in life I grew up never being hugged or kissed or any close contact I had someone ask me once about my wife did you really love her and the question kind of shocked me for a second I I’ve never loved anybody in my life and I shocked myself because I hadn’t realized that and that’s why I was a hermit now I can see love being expressed that I never had before maybe the things I’ve been trying to avoid are the things that I really need in life for a man who did solitary for 30 years we live in a suspicion that there is a me behind the mask that others would despise or even reject and yet we long to be seen and valued for our authentic self we long to be seen and valued for our authentic self it seems like in paul’s language of of love must be sincere he would say to us whether you are the person giving love or receiving love wherever you are in that two-way relationship it seems like he would say it’s okay to take off the mask now teresa iraq communications director would love me to emphasize that this is not medical advice just so you know this is the metaphorical mask and I am not qualified medically to tell you whether or not you should wear a mask in public just to be clear love must be sincere it is done without a mask hate what is evil cling to what is good be devoted to one another in love paul in this passage somehow manages to use almost every greek word for love possible and there are a few of them he talks about the divine love of God he talks about brotherly affection he talks about the commitment to family all in just a few sentences and it seems that he wants us to know that love is inherent to this Jesus type community it is the center piece of all of it and it must be done without a mask it is done without a mask but isn’t there a tension in that passage heat what is evil cling to what is good so often we see the brokenness in us and in others and yet we’re told to keep clinging to each other in spite of it when we remove the masks when we allow people into that kind of relationship it is possible that some of the stuff that they will see and that we will see will not be the most beautiful and yet this is the life that we are told to live a Jesus community accepts people as they are while also believing that God has a new story for each of us to move into there is this beauty in this Jesus who accepts people exactly as they are and yet has new things for them has the possibility of transformation and it seems like a Jesus community well that requires the same sort of faith and so as the worship team come back as we sort of start to close out the service service I guess my question for us is what brave steps might you need to take this season it may be that it is just simply believing that there are new relationships to experience it may be just believing there are new friendships to step into it may be serving in a way that you haven’t served before to do what dana did and make this journey from connecting to serving to building these friendships around her that she needed and seeing this transformational formation that goes along with it in this place I know and am known I would suggest that does this risk that post-pandemic churches become those non-spaces that we talked about where we would say here I neither know nor am known and yet a Jesus community requires us being a place where I can say I know and I am known and yet that takes some awful risks at times maybe the things I’ve been trying to avoid are the things that I really need in life let’s pray together God as we wrestle with whose south is in this season as you shape us as a community as a and as individuals it may require some brave choices it’s okay to lament the relationships that were and yet there is a new season for new relationships that require stepping into them bravely not easy not comfortably not with no cost

God you would you speak to us would you comfort those who are afflicted who are scared who are uncertain who feel that taking off the mask might reveal just too much may you provide them the safe spaces that they need to do that it doesn’t need to be with everyone but it needs to be with someone

for those of us that are comfortable comfortable in our current relationships in our safety may you afflict us may you push us into new things to welcoming in those that are outside

may this be a space where we know and are known

that begins with us knowing you and walking with you for those of us outside that Jesus story though we know we are welcomed in exactly as we are no strings attached thank you Jesus for the way that you loved us and gave your life for us

amen