Adapted from Amanda Diekman’s sermon on September 8, 2013 for New Member Sunday at Durham Church on Colossians 3:1-17.
Dearest new members,
Welcome to Durham Church! Maybe we should have told you this before you made all of those lovely promises, but there are some things you need to know about us.
First – and I know that this will come as something of a shock – we are not perfect. We hurt each other’s feelings. We say the wrong thing at the wrong time. We don’t show up when we should. We exclude other people when we are not even trying.
You are joining a family of broken folks. But there are a couple of upsides to the fact that we are not perfect:
- This is a place where you can trust others with your imperfections.
- This is a place where your mistakes don’t have to be shocking and shameful.
- But by far the best upside is that we are walking with Jesus, who teaches us how to live with one another, even when we are broken.
We don’t have to get cleaned up and perfect to belong to Jesus, but Jesus wants so much better for us than where we are right now. And slowly but surely, we start to want better for ourselves too.
We talk about sin and brokenness here at Durham Church because we are so desperate to see healing. Colossians 3:5 says, “put to death the parts of your life that belong to the earth,” which feels scary until I remember that Jesus’ whole message is about life after death. So all we can say is, “It is not I who live but Christ who lives in me.” We confess sin honestly and expectantly — looking all the time for signs of the resurrection.
Members of Durham Church, we are sin-filled people, but because of Jesus, we are on the road to healing.
The second thing is that you need to know about joining Durham Church is that we take this community life seriously because belonging to Jesus means belonging to other people. Not belonging to the people we choose, but belonging to the people Jesus chooses. And have you noticed that Jesus always seems to choose people who are hard to love?
When I was pregnant with James, I had a hard time relaxing and getting ready for sleep at night, and so I learned guided meditation. A soft comforting woman’s voice told me to imagine I was walking down a long hallway toward my “peace sanctuary.” In my mind, the hallway was long and bright, full of windows and fresh air, and then shining down at the end of this lovely path was my peace sanctuary!
When I visualized that door opening and my peace sanctuary so lovely, all ready for me, you know who wasn’t in my peace sanctuary? All of y’all. No one else would be in my peace sanctuary with me! This was just for me. My own peace sanctuary.
Maybe it’s because I am an introvert. Maybe you would love to have your peace sanctuary filled other people to talk to all day long. But they would at least be the people you chose to be there.
I am not sure that any of us would create a peace sanctuary filled with other broken people. Especially the ones we don’t choose.
But when we are walking with Jesus, walking toward the Kingdom of God, there are also all these other people, people who you would never, ever, ever, ever invite into your peace sanctuary with Jesus. But belonging to Jesus means belonging to other people. That’s why we take our community life so seriously here at Durham Church.
Colossians 3:11 says, “In Jesus, there is no longer Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.” I had to look a bit more into the words “barbarian” and “Scythian.” In those days, “barbarian” was a derogatory word, a racial slur for the lowest class people in their ancient society. “Barbarians” didn’t speak the same language as everyone else and were considered unfit for social life. Josephus, a Jewish writer in those days said, “they are little better than wild beasts.” But if barbarians sound bad, Scythians were the lowest class of barbarians.
For Jews, the most shocking person to belong to in Jesus would be an uncircumcised gentile. For gentiles, the most shocking person to belong to in Jesus would be a Barbarian. And for Barbarians, the most shocking person to belong to in Jesus would be a Scythian.
So whoever you are most afraid to be with, that’s who’s waiting for you in your peace sanctuary.
Belonging to Jesus means belonging to other people, especially belonging to people who we would never choose.
Durham Church – we are a community of people who may not choose each other but who’ve chosen Jesus, and chosen to share life with all the people who come with him.
The third thing that you need to know about joining Durham Church is that we firmly believe that God’s Kingdom is breaking its way into the hard places of the earth and creating beauty from all of this mess.
And there really is a lot of mess. In the past year and a half, we’ve gotten involved in social issues like the debate over immigration reform and the decisions of the North Carolina legislature through Moral Mondays. We’ve just started a reconciliation and re-entry team that accompanies a man who is coming out of prison. We’ve had countless conversations about race and discrimination and violence and addiction. We have a long way to go, but we are learning to walk faithfully in our time, refusing to hide from the realities around us. So what can keep us going when all of these issues are heavy and hard?
When we are standing in the dead places of our world, our main job is to look for resurrection. As new members of Durham Church, you need to know that we are driven by beauty. We are seeking new creation all the time.
Colossians 3:12-14 says, “Clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience… And over all this, put on love, which binds it all together in perfect unity.” As we love one another, God’s new creation is breaking into the mess.
We witness new creation in our life together. We witness new creation in quality relationships, the kind built by listening well and putting others first. We witness new creation in our tears – weeping when others weep, and when others are laughing, we laugh until tears roll down our cheeks. We witness new creation in the silent still moments because new creation requires patience, being willing to go slow and to wait so that we can all go together. We witness new creation in acts of forgiveness, when mistakes don’t sever relationships and when grace is stronger than failure.
Dear new members of Durham Church, here is what you need to know about us because this is now about you: We are a broken people, but thanks to Jesus, we are on the road to healing. We walk this journey together because Jesus calls us and commands us to walk together. We are driven by beauty and seek new creation every single day.