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good morning friends my name is alex one of the pastors here if you’re visiting we’re really glad that you are and first little personal business I would like to give a little shout out on video uh happy birthday shout out to my gorgeous little now six-year-old gigi georgiana uh I yeah give her a clap on video she she was supposed to be here at this service but I guess they got caught up and they’ll be at the next service or something like that but it happens when you’ve got three kids uh but she gets to share her birthday with you guys today a little bit she uh it’s not always easy having a pastor as a father occasionally it comes around that your birthday is on a church day and uh it just feels a little different and yet she didn’t complain once and she is sweet and she is sassy and if elena thought she was getting a doormat younger sister she did

not get that in gigi because she tells you exactly what she wants when she wants it and so if you see her when you’re walking out give her a happy birthday and she’ll be thrilled uh she also asked me to hide presents in the church for her um so if you’re feeling you know mandatious or whatever the word is then you can go find some presents and you could take them but you’d break the heart of a six-year-old child and I’m sure none of you want to start your new year with anything like that we are talking about hindsight is 2020 we’re unpacking the weird pandemic year that we just all walked through now we’re still there right we’re still walking through how we process everything that’s going on in the world around us but at least this time we had a little warning at least this year we walked into it knowing it was coming last year we

were learning as we went along and it was a year that just took a lot from us to keep going so as we started to think through teaching series for the start of the year originally what I wanted to do was this was just give you uh some topical practical things that I thought would help us get through 2020 2021 in a more positive way than maybe some of us did in 2020 but as we as I read this book philippians it just hit me that this letter it’s a lockdown letter it’s a letter that could have been written to a group of people just like us to give you a refresh from from last week if you want here this p is where um where philippi is this town in what is now greece and paul the guy writing it he’s writing a letter to them to let them know situationally this is what I think you should do this is what I want you to know this is what I want you to learn about Jesus

and who he is paul is in one of these three places and he’s stuck in a prison cell he’s not going anywhere he may never get out of prison he may be locked down forever his court case may go badly he may be killed maybe he’ll be let go but he’s locked up in house arrest he’s separated from those that he loves and he’s living through these crazy politically volatile times where nobody quite knows what’s going to come next does it sound like a time that you are familiar with it probably does and then this church philippi facing uncertain finances not sure where the money is coming from experiencing persecution as a group of people they are not liked not valued right now and then they’re trying to learn the way of Jesus there’s all of these different things going on and this letter that was written a couple of thousand years ago could have been

written to people just like you and I and yet the central message in amongst everything going on is this because of God’s good grace we can choose joy at all times because of God’s good grace we can choose joy at all times would you like more joy in 2021 than you had in 2020 everyone I think whether whether 2020 was a great year or not you’d still say yes more joy is something that I’ll take send me some more joy and so we wanted to look at these practical principles that we could put into place from this book philippians so last week we started with the idea of living in gratitude if we can take gratitude as a focus for this year that it just makes everything better now before we move on for those of you that like to know where we’re going those you like to have a little path ahead here are our passages for this week camera phones at

the ready write them down if you’ve got shorthand if you have an identic memory then just look at the screen and you will be fine but you have three seconds one two three and you’re done so this year this week sorry not this year but this year as well this week we’re going to start somewhere maybe a little unusual because we’re not going to start in philippians I’d love to give you this passage to start with before we get to philippians chapter two as what I’d call an umbrella text for the next two weeks it’s got a principle that Jesus teaches that I think will just help us understand what paul will talk about in philippians and amy just read a passage that’s very similar uh here we go again it will be like a man this is the kingdom of God Jesus is talking about going on a journey who called his servants and entrusted his wealth to them to

one he gave five bags of gold to another two bags and to another one bag each according to his ability then he went on his journey the man who had received five bags of gold went at once and put his money to work and gained five bags more this guy’s doing well so also the one with two bags of gold gained two more but the man who had received one bag went off dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money after a long time the master of those servants returned and settled accounts with them the man who had received five bags of gold brought the other five master he said you entrusted me with five bags of gold see I have gained five more his master replied well done good and faithful servant you have been faithful with a few things I will put you in charge of many things come and share your masters happiness the man

with two bags of gold also came master he said you entrusted me with two bags of coal gold see I have gained two more his master replied well done good and faithful servant you have been faithful with a few things I will put you in charge of many things come and share with your masters happiness notice it doesn’t matter how much they were given it’s simply a matter of what they do with what they were given then the man who would receive one bag of gold came master he said I know that you are a hard man harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seeds so I was afraid and went out and hid your gold in the ground see here is what belongs to you his master replied you wicked lazy servants so you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed well

then you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest this is a parable that Jesus taught Jesus taught mostly in parables parables are stories the word simply means to throw something alongside so Jesus would take something that was really well known to the people listening and he would place it alongside an important spiritual truth and they would go away but the parable requires you to work because it’s very rarely just about the thing that it’s talking about the para Jesus parable is centered around resources and it’s centered around how we invest them wisely originally in the original language it was called the para parable of the talents or the word talents was used now because of talents again you get the confusion in english people thought it was just about the

gifts and abilities that you had and then other people started to say well it’s clearly about money but in actual fact it’s about both Jesus is massively interested it seems in how we take the resources that we have given and what are those resources you’ve been given time you’ve been given energy you’ve been given skills and you’ve been given wealth and he’s massively interested it seems in how we take those resources that have been given to us and how we use them we get to invest them wisely and here’s a confession moment I am a hopeless investor of money at the start in the middle of this year with a little down time a little boredom in terms of the pandemic I decided I was going to take some of our savings and I was going to begin to invest them in stocks and shares so I got this little app that you can get on your phone it’s called

robinhood and you get to do it yourself and it doesn’t cost anything so I started to take some money and I started to invest it and yet it seems that I’m not very good there are stocks that I have bought that are now worth half of what they were when I bought them and I’m still holding out for the fact that no it’s going to recover it’s going to bounce back I generally am too cowardly in terms of investing to jump on great opportunities that I think I see so I just don’t and then I get to watch with deep frustration as a stock that I could have bought for a certain amount of money is now five times what it was when I originally wanted to buy it I’m not a good investor I have this cowardly streak and I’m not always the wisest now fortunately there’s some good news here because I am not allowed by my wife uh all by my good conscience to

manage most of our money there’s a retirement fund that I’m slowly putting money into and there are people that apparently are much better at this than I am because that seems to go up consistently whereas mine seems to hover somewhere around this flat or red line there’s wise people that get to invest my earthly resources for the future now that’s good news but but here’s the bad news for most of the resources God has given you for your time for your energy for your giftings and even for the most part for your money other than just putting it away for retirement no one can manage your resources for you that’s on you people can give you advice people can give you wisdom but in actual fact you have to learn to manage them yourself God gave them to you and said do something with them don’t bury them in the ground putting stuff

aside hiding it away very rarely seems to work I remember as a child deciding if I ever got sent to my room which happened periodically just as a punishment I would hide some food in my room I’d just take some different food that I would have during the day and I just hide it under the bed and just keep it there for such a rainy day as punishment day and yet when I came back to it it was never good it was covered in mold covered gone stale all those different things typical teenagers room right but that’s a principle you have gifts you have things to invest and yet you have to learn to do it yourself I have to learn to do it ourselves so that’s a blanket thing a principle for the next two weeks as we move into philippians you’ll see hold that intention for a while just hold it there thinking about how you might learn to invest things and then let’s

move on last week we talked about live in gratitude let’s see what paul has for this church in philippi and for us this week this is chapter 2 starting at verse 1. therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with christ if any comfort from his love if any common sharing in the spirit if any tenderness and compassion then make my joy complete by being like-minded having the same love being one in spirit of one mind do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit rather in human in humility value others above yourselves not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others and we’ll move on to verse five in a little while but let’s stop there because man that’s a dense rich passage let’s focus for a second on this if any comfort from his love if any common sharing paul lands in the second part of

philippians on this word queen o’nea he’s going to talk to us about community the word at its heart has this sense of what is shared in common he has a group of people in this church in philippi and he wants them to know you are a group of people called together you are a community of people think about them for a second we talked about how they were trying to learn the way of Jesus but you might add they are trying to learn the way of Jesus as a community of people doesn’t that make it a little more complicated I actually sometimes wonder is it easier to try and follow Jesus stuck in a room by yourself there’s no one to rub you up the wrong way there’s no one to knock off your edges there’s no one to irritate you you’re just there and it’s you and Jesus and he’s perfect and you’re not but but that seems okay and

yet God called us to follow him in community this is a group of people trying to do that together paul is deeply concerned about the health of their community it seems that that when you read what he writes they live and die by community I would just start here if you’re uncertain about following Jesus if you’re watching online if you’re just jumping into church for the first time outside of following Jesus I would say just this broadly speaking community is a good thing community is good this is a small town in pennsylvania it’s called rosetto in the mid sort of like 2000s they started to do scientific research into this town because they couldn’t understand why nobody died of heart problems in rosetta there were not a single case of a man under 55 having a heart attack there was no heart disease in anyone under the age of 65 they just

couldn’t understand why this town was different to every other town around it and then they started to do some history some sort of searching back and they found that almost every person every family came from this town back in italy they had been in community for years together and when you went to roseto and walked down the streets of this small pennsylvania town that looked like just all the others there was something different people lived in multi-generational homes people would stop and talk to each other on the streets people would check in on each other there was this community spirit that was thriving in rossetto that wasn’t in the other towns around it and when they looked there was no difference in diet in actual fact this group of people their diet had changed remarkably from moving from the mediterranean

to america it had got worse by all scientific standards and yet something about this community was thriving community for them was good and even outside of the Jesus story we see this principle in the bible this is a book ecclesiastes two are better than one because they have good return for their labor if either of them falls down one can help the other up but pity anyone who falls and has nobody to help them just as this broad principle it seems like community is good so as a principle from philippians even outside of following Jesus I would say do this in 2021 choose to gather where it’s approved by the government of course now that’s a joke where it’s shouldn’t go there where it’s approved or where it’s sorry where it’s healthy you’ve got to be wise in this time but think about that think about how you can choose to gather even

when it’s not as easy as it used to be it seems like community and gathering is what we as human beings are made for community it is good but I’d like to nudge that a little bit further we’ll get to the Jesus story in a couple of minutes but even outside of that again faith community it seems like is a good healthy thing faith-centered community is better there’s all this research that’s been done into these fascinating parts all over the globe these are the five blue zones there’s one in california one in costa rica one in italy one in greece one in japan and these are areas where people live to around 100 years regularly and they do it in good health now they have good diets the sunshine all those different things but one of the things they couldn’t ignore was this every single one of them has strong faith communities at the heart of

everything that happens there this was a piece of research that gallup did recently they asked people how was your mental state in 2020 versus 2019 talk to us about how you feel talk to us about your emotions talk to us about depression all those different things and across the board everything was down male 1 down 8 8 points female down 10 points republican down 15 points independent down 11 points democrat down one points white down 10 points non-white down eight points the only thing that seemed to change that was this if you said you attended a weekly religious service your mental state had improved even in the midst of pandemic even in the midst of all of the craziness it seemed like something had gotten better you were able to process everything going on better than if you didn’t community is good faith community is

even better but you know where I’m going with this for those of you that have been following church for a while because my nudge now is I would suggest that Jesus centered community is different to all of those other communities there’s something about a community that’s following Jesus together that is best if you would like to put it that way but my question is this well what is different about Jesus centered community because firstly most of us that have been around church for a while have probably seen ways where we’ve seen the Jesus centered community be really toxic or at least a community that claimed to be Jesus centered be really toxic we’ve probably been through experiences where we’ve been like oh the church does not seem like it’s functioning as it’s supposed to this seems to be kind of broken kind of messy and

yet the the narrative of the bible as we read through these different writers is that now this story is the significant story and this is the type of community that you’re supposed to tap into and that’s what paul is talking about he’s not just talking about any other type of community if any common sharing coinonia in the spirit he’s talking about koinonia pneumatus community of the spirit if you want to write that down the what that we’re talking about is that shared in common is spirit this is a community united by the fact that they have this common experience of this spirit of God that lives within them this is a Jesus centered community empowered by anne that’s not right ah I’ll definitely get an email about my poor grammar they’re a shared experience of the spirit that is what this community that paul is writing to is centered on and

then look at how that sort of affects their behavior as we move on shared in the spirit if any tenderness and compassion then make my joy complete by being like-minded having the same love being one in spirit and of one mind do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit rather in humility value others above yourselves not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others there’s something about this community that shapes them in a very particular way now just a little bit before we move on there about what it is exactly to understand how we might understand this idea of being a community centered around the spirit this Jesus community that we’re reading about comes from another community so paul think about this he always has this in mind and this community that this community comes

from is a community shaped by law all of the Jesus story comes from this old old jewish story and all of the oldest christian communities were jews who had chosen to follow Jesus now their understanding of identity was centered around everything that was external it was what you did it was laws that you had put in place it was yvonne talked to us about circumcision and I think we only need one sermon on circumcision for the next year and so we’ll leave it there but there were these markers that said this is how you identify someone who is part of this community so a way to understand this is like the school spirit idea so I brought this with me I was going to wear a sucker shirt but it was a bit cold I was a coach in michigan for a while and so I was given like all these school spirit jackets and stuff like that and this on the external level

was your identity you got to see which team you were on based on the shirt or the item of clothing that you were wearing but think about that process for a second for the first year that I was coaching I actually didn’t really want to be there the only reason I’d signed up was because I thought it might be good for my real sort of passion which was helping people to follow Jesus so I thought if I coach sucker I get to meet all these students that are not following Jesus and I’ll be able to have an influence on them and I’ll be able to lead them down that journey so every time we sort of played soccer I was kind of indifferent to the result on the field now that would change eventually but even when we got towards the playoffs I’m like I’m kind of done here this is getting cold it was in now november in michigan time it’s freezing at this point I’m stood

there shuddering on the the sidelines and there’s a big part it’s like if you guys could just lose then I wouldn’t have to come out in the cold again and my days would qualitatively improve and so that was the first year and then as the thing started to get hold of me as the passion started to increase all of that changed I was willing to stand out in the coldest weather with the hope and we we got pretty good we won a couple we won a state championship went to a couple of finals and it was a fun thing to be involved in but do you see the change there there was a a change from the external thing I was always wearing all of the gear to something that began to happen inside of me where I actually genuinely got this co go chiefs mentality that was actually really important this external and this internal for years and years and years

religion had been defined by what was on the outside 617 laws to obey circumcision process to go through people knew who was in and who was out by everything that was on the outside but if you didn’t change on the inside nobody really knew you could just go through the motions and it was fine what changes with this Jesus centered community is suddenly the outside it’s important there are markers there are things that you can tell there’s a way of Jesus that you can see outside but it all driven by something that’s changed inside it’s all changed there it all begins there it’s this transformation process this idea of metamorphosis it is a spectacular as a cocoon turning into a butterfly a caterpillar’s process of breaking down its body and and it’s as spectacular as that there is something that has changed in the moment that you chose to follow Jesus we’re told that you moved from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom

of light now all the outward process it takes a while it’s gonna be shaped over years and years and years but it began internally didn’t begin externally that’s what paul sees this community has been shaped at and because of that they can be centered around we before me not just me before we there’s this community attitude there that is about the other that is just so important and then he goes on to unpack this fascinating hymn the most people that read this think that this was something that communities of christians would have got together and sung together years and years ago in your relationship with one another have the same mindset as christ Jesus who being in very nature God did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage rather he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant being

made inhuman likeness this is what this community is centered on it’s centered around a genuine willingness to put others before yourself and he takes as example the fact that Jesus the son of God he did that someone said to me once the reason they chose to follow Jesus was this the story was upside down it didn’t make sense every other story was about God’s seeking honor God’s wanting to be above everyone else and the Jesus story was the one that was different it was the one that said I’m gonna make myself lower what a fascinating reason to choose to follow Jesus and and this was his incredible way of phrasing it greater love has no one than this to lay down one’s life for one’s friends this is the shaping of paul’s Jesus centered community but then he’ll go on to say something else something that speaks to what our role

might be and helps us get back to that earlier question of how do we choose to invest the resources God has given us this is romans chapter 12 in this way we are like various parts of a human body each part gets its meaning from the body as a whole not the other way around the body we’re talking about is christ’s body of chosen people each of us finds our meaning and function as part of his body but as a chopped our finger or a cut-off toe we wouldn’t amount to much would we so since we find ourselves fashioned into all these excellently formed and marvelously functioning parts in christ’s body let’s just go ahead and be what we were made to be without enviously or pridefully comparing ourselves with each other or trying to be something we aren’t participation in Jesus center community requires contribution not just

consumption you have something to bring paul’s language of the body is is fascinating he talks about the fact that you may think of yourself as just a toe but if you’ve ever lived with a broken little toe you know just how difficult and painful life is for a while there’s something that you have that essential and if you come just to consume that’s fine for a time but you’re missing some of the point it’s about contribution not consumption this is burning man festival I’m sure that none of you have ever been and if you went you’d probably feel deeply uncomfortable it’s this festival that’s held out in the desert every year and the craziest stuff happens I would not recommend you go in I would not recommend you just googling images from burning man or anything like that because you’ll be in dangerous territory but I would love you to read their

mission statement because I read it and it just it blew me away this is how they see community you participate here you belong here and you participate you’re not the weirdest kid in the classroom you are here to build a community that needs you and relies on you and I read it and I was like they stole our idea like that’s what the church is supposed to be about and they just stole it and took God out of it which again they can do what they want that’s fine but that’s what we’re supposed to be about that’s our idea the idea that you come and you participate that it doesn’t matter if you feel like the weirdest kid in the room the fact that you’re needed here this is a community that relies on you now that’s what we’re supposed to be like but I guess my question is is it because I think churches have a tendency very quickly to move to this

idea of well the past is important the worship leader is important the guy running sound eric thank you is important all of those those things the things that we see are important and yet the story that paul would give us the construction that he would give us is no it doesn’t matter you can be as insignificant as you think but but you’re not this is a community that needs you and relies on you that’s life-changing language you are wanted here and you are needed here and so what do you do when you feel like communities aren’t shaped in that Jesus way what do you do when you walk into a community you’re like I see lots of floors and and if you’re new to south you will see some floors some floors that some of us that have been longer here longer we’ll we’ll kind of start stop noticing them after a while well I think you get to ask yourself this

really important question am I a thermostat or am I a thermometer see my tendency is to go places and if I’m not careful I tend to think that I’m there to be a thermometer I’m there to take the temperature to check how everything is going to see if it’s all good and yet it took me a while to realize well actually God called me to be a thermostat when I saw a community that wasn’t functioning well that wasn’t up to the right temperature I was there to help change that there’s this wonderful story about a an organist called billy preston one of the great organists of all time just incredible player used to play the hammond organ for so many different people and he’s one of the few people to be credited on an album with the beatles it just didn’t usually happen the beatles did their own thing and and yet billy preston is but more than that billy

preston saved the beatles at least for a couple of years in about 68 things were so bad between this famous four musicians that they were considering splitting up and in the middle of a big blowout in a recording session george harrison walks out the building he says I’m done with you guys and he goes off to a club to have a drink and to calm down and he runs into billy preston who he’s been friends with for some years and billy and him get talking and he says you know what come back to the studio with me and hang out with the guys for a little bit and the story about billy preston is this not only was he an incredibly talented musician but he was just the most gregarious person you could imagine he brought joy into a room just by who he was and just being with him as a five-some now instead of a foursome just changed everything again at

least for a couple of years so much so that they beginning they began to talk about adding him to the beatles he was going to become the fifth beatle but there was something about billy preston he was he was a thermostat not a thermometer he walked in and he changed the temperature of the room paul will spend time in philippians outlining what a real Jesus-centered community looks like it’s a community that’s structured around we before me not me before we it’s a community that’s about contribution and not just consumption and yet our tendency I think as followers of Jesus in the west in 2021 is this we go to places and we say is this going to give me what I need I would suggest that isn’t the question that we’re called to ask the question we’re called to ask is what can I bring and what can I give you’re called to be a

thermometer a thermostat not a thermometer and so I’d love to close this I’m going to invite aaron and the team to come back on stage and I’d love to to close us by getting you to ask a couple of questions if you’re not following Jesus right now or you’re on the fringes or you’re uncertain about what faith looks like for you here’s a great question you can ask how will you choose or how will I choose from your perspective how will you choose community this year how will you choose to build community that can do that ecclesiastes thing when you fall down it will pick you back up how can you choose to enter into a life that is better because you have community around you where will you find it and if you’ve decided that south is a place that you want to be if it’s a place where you feel happy with what you get to consume but you don’t

find a space yet to contribute my question for you is this what is your part to play on the journey for self you have all these gifts all these resources that God has given you you get to choose to invest them wisely how is God calling you to invest this year if you want options I could give you loads we have welcome teams that need new people and you get to stand on the door and smile and be friendly and because you’re wearing a mask no one will even know if you’re smiling or not so if smiling is beyond you you get a pass on that one for a while as well we have a children’s ministry that is starting back up that it just is is a gift of an opportunity I when I used to run youth ministries I always used to say to people this do you realize the privilege I’m giving you I wouldn’t let just anybody do this in having you do this I’m giving you

the possibility that in years in the future God people will come to you and say do you realize you were the reason I first took my first steps following Jesus the same is true of kids ministry there are opportunities galore but you are called to contribute not just to consume what is your part to play on the journey of south in 2021 let’s pray Jesus thank you for your present thank you for a community that is centered around you community is good faith communities are better but a community centered around you is best God we have sinned the ways that the church appears broken at times help us to be a healthy community we thank you for paul’s care for this church that he’s distant from he’s deeply passionate that they follow you in healthy community help us to do the same help us to take the same attitude of Jesus help us to take

that attitude where we put others before ourselves help us to center ourselves around we before me help us to contribute not just consume where we’re unsure of what our giftings are maybe we take journeys of discovery this year or we find out where we are called may we step in and try new things thank you that you’ve been present with us as we’ve sung and learn and that’s the most important thing you present amongst your people amen

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