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We are a Jesus-focused, inclusive community of faith that strives to live as Jesus lived in real, everyday ways. Come Thrive Go. Salt House is a Church on Seattle's Eastside located in Kirkland, Washington. 

Location: 11920 NE 80th Street, Kirkland, WA 98033.

UNITY

Sermons

UNITY

Jason Bendickson

January 29, 2017 / UNITY / Sara Wolbrecht / Ephesians 4:1-6 (The Message)

            Friends, how are you?  Good.  I got back late last night from leading a women’s retreat out on the coast for a Lutheran church from Mercer Island – we were on the coast at Seabrook and I got to sleep in my own room with no small children around. And walk on the beach, and get a massage.  I also spoke and led a retreat which was a lot and wonderful.

            And being there, I was so struck by how good it felt to be together in community – though not my usual community, but to help facilitate the connections of those women with each other and God. And then to look forward to being with y’all this morning.  I’ll tell you – given what is unfolding in our country right now, some difficult decisions being made, folks feeling voiceless and hurt and afraid – I am so grateful for community.  For you all.  That we have a place to come and listen for God together, to walk alongside one another (as we discussed last week), to be people who weather the transitions of our country, as well as to bring all the complicated things we’re feeling in the midst of our own change and challenges and transitions – I am grateful.

            And do you feel how we are aligning with a sweet spot what God is doing in us and our community? For we are spending our January and February talking about the power of community – we’re calling it Force of Nature. Examining the landscape of the power and beauty that comes together in community.  A force, indeed. Isn’t this just what we need right now?

            This journey in community sets us up to then launch our version of small groups, we call them Thrive Teams, by March 1st.  These teams will be – as we’ve discussed, groups that embody the relational balance that Jesus shows us, spending time nurturing Jesus’ and our three great loves: connecting with God, with each other, and in mission beyond ourselves and our comfort zone.  We call it Up, In, and Out. These Thrive Teams will coalesce around an area of ministry, responsibility, leadership in our community.  And in just a few minutes, we’ll hear about another one of those team opportunities, an invitation to join that team.

And to get us there, today we are going to BE community together in a fabulous way – by turning to scripture together, to listen together for God – and to speak and respond as community to what we hear.

Let me explain what this will look like.  We’re going to do that by using an ancient practice – it’s a contemplative approach to reading scripture which we have tried here before – and every time we do, I think, Man!  We need to do this more often!

            It is something we’ll do together as a large group, but really a practice designed to do on our own or in smaller groups.  Did you hear that?  This is something we can use on our own to experience and hear from God.  In the morning when we wake up, as we wait at the bus stop, during our lunch break – it is a great practice.  We’re doing this today with the hope it may be something we take away and try later.

It is a practice that was first used in the 3rd Century (you know the 3rd C, just a few years back) initially practiced by monastics, by folks we would call monks who lived away from the world in intentional community and with a particular ear toward God.  And through the centuries, this practice became much more widely used, and it was formalized into four steps in the 11th century. 

This practice is called Lectio Divina (leave up). The Latin “Lectio” means word or reading.  And “Divina” means holy, sacred, divine.  And so what we’re about to try is called Divine Reading, or Holy Word.  Lectio Divina.

Lectio, the process uses repetition – reading through the text many times listening for a word or phrase that gets our attention, then prayerfully reflecting on how that word or phrase connects with our lives.

Lectio, and listening to Scripture and contemplating it in this way, affirms two things.  First, it reminds us that we believe Scripture to be God’s LIVING word. It has a pulse and breath and continues to speak to us in fresh, alive ways – it’s not just a static, ancient text. It keeps flowing.  And second – Lectio affirms that we are also changing, living in transition, we are always being made new.  God’s word will speak to us in new ways TODAY because WE are in a different place today than we were five years ago or even last week.  There is always a fresh word to hear in the midst of the rhythm and reality of our lives.  So that’s Lectio Divina.

So friends, let’s get ready to rumble.  To Lectio.  Let’s get comfortable and ready to listen. I recommend closing your eyes and just listening for the words – though this is a longer text.  So if you are a more visual person, pull out that bulletin insert and on the back you can follow along with the words.

And get comfortable in your seat.  Roll your shoulders back.  Please become aware of your breath – and continue to feel the air flowing in and out. 

Our reading is from Ephesians, last week we heard from Paul’s second letter to the Jesus-followers in Corinth, and today we’ll listen to a text from Paul’s letter to the Ephesians.  Paul writes while he is in prison. (We’re using The Message version, so you’ll hear this passage a little differently than usual).

The first step in Lectio is READING (leave up).  Our first time reading is to just hear the text.  No agenda. (This is actually a good time to listen with your eyes closed).

Let us pray.  God, we let our breath slow down, we settle into this space, yet we also attune our ears, minds, hearts to you, with great anticipation that you are here – and we are listening now as we turn to scripture…Amen.

Ephesians 4:1b-6 (The Message)  While I’m locked up here, a prisoner for the Master, I want you to get out there and walk—better yet, run!—on the road God called you to travel. I don’t want any of you sitting around on your hands. I don’t want anyone strolling off, down some path that goes nowhere. And mark that you do this with humility and discipline—not in fits and starts, but steadily, pouring yourselves out for each other in acts of love, alert at noticing differences and quick at mending fences.

You were all called to travel on the same road and in the same direction, so stay together, both outwardly and inwardly. You have one Master, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who rules over all, works through all, and is present in all. Everything you are and think and do is permeated with Oneness.

            Now this next time through, we listen for a word or phrase that touches our heart, that gets our attention. That’s what we listen for – one word or phrase.  Do not expect lightning to strike, just something that shimmers for you.  When the word or phrase is found, gently recite it, repeat it and reflect on it during the silence that follows.       

            Ephesians 4:1b-6(The Message) - Sara

(Silence) If you are willing, I invite you to share out loud the word or phrase that has touched your heart.  Just the word, no commentary yet.

…Thank you for sharing.  The next step is REFLECTION (leave up). We each ponder the word that has touched our heart and ask where the word or phrase touches our life today. As we do this, do not be afraid of distractions. Memories or thoughts are simply parts of ourselves that, when they rise up during lectio divina, are asking to be given to God along with the rest of our self. Embrace those things that come up, listen to them. Continue to repeat your word while holding it in dialogue with God, listening for WHY this word grabs our attention today, as we hear the text again, this time read by Thomas, with silence after.

Ephesians 4:1b-6(The Message) – Thomas

(Silence) We’ll have a chance to share what we’re hearing in a moment, after our final reading.

The third step is RESPONDING (leave up).  The third and final reading is for the purpose of experiencing Christ "calling us t respond." What is God in this text calling us to do or to become today or this week? God is always inviting us into transformation, into seeing our lives in a fresh way.  How are we invited to be or to do or to see things differently?  We listen for our response, as we hear the passage a final time.

Ephesians 4:1b-6 (The Message) – Sara

 

While I’m locked up here, a prisoner for the Master, I want you to get out there and walk—better yet, run!—on the road God called you to travel. I don’t want any of you sitting around on your hands. I don’t want anyone strolling off, down some path that goes nowhere. And mark that you do this with humility and discipline—not in fits and starts, but steadily, pouring yourselves out for each other in acts of love, alert at noticing differences and quick at mending fences.

You were all called to travel on the same road and in the same direction, so stay together, both outwardly and inwardly. You have one Master, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who rules over all, works through all, and is present in all. Everything you are and think and do is permeated with Oneness.

            And now we make space to share, for those who would like to.  You do not have to worry about sounding smart or insightful or being articulate – you can be brief. I’ve noticed in my experience, our own willingness to speak up of how we’re experiencing God – God always uses it to speak to someone else.  And in the week that we have had in our country, I know many of us are hungering to hear words of grace from God spoken by others – this is a great way to practice that.  So let’s see together: what word/phrase spoke to you and what have you been noticing about it? How are you invited to respond?  (For this part we’ll use a mic so that we can be sure everyone can hear).

…Thank you for sharing, friends.  For sharing your experience. I want to invite Sean Mobley up to share about his response, what he hears in this text – and how it relates to where we find ourselves as a community. 

 

Sean Mobley- Welcome Team

 

Thank you, Sean.  We see this Thrive Team, the welcome team, being vitally important to where we find ourselves as a community.  We practice radical inclusivity here at Salt House – which we define as meaning you don’t have to be, look, say, act, believe or do anything to be here. To be on the road, to be enfolded in community. You are welcome regardless of what boxes you would check about who you are and what you believe.

What is so remarkable is to hear how this text absolutely affirms that radical inclusivity. The phrase that got my attention is: run!—on the road God called you to travel.  That what he encourages here is rooted in a calling we have as Jesus-followers. And he isn’t referring to the specific calling or vocation that different folks have – this one to be a teacher, this one to run a small business.  He is referring to the even more basic “calling” of the gospel itself, this way of Jesus as the center of their lives and the path that they’ll travel.

And throughout the New Testament, we hear this same message – this invitation into Oneness, into “Christian unity” (that’s the official phrase). And I find this so refreshing given so much of the rhetoric we hear in politics, even in religion.  It reminds me of so much of what we talked about this past fall – our whole Sunday morning series on Becoming We, about how we love our neighbor and developing a more expansive way of seeing each other and the world.

Which is why I love this text and how it captures what oneness is, because – did you notice? – oneness isn’t about being the same or agreeing on everything. But it’s captured in this image of traveling together in the same direction, on the road God calls us to travel. A way that is in the footsteps of Jesus – this life of love. Our oneness is in the yes we have said and continue to say to the life of God as we walk down the road.

Which means there’s room on this road for all kinds of people and all kinds of perspectives. I feel it as a huge affirmation for who we try to be here at Salt House. 

Do you feel how remarkable that is?  That this is who we get to be together?  So if this is something that stirs you – I wonder if there is a team you might want to be part of starting in March.  

            As we finish our time in Lectio together, the fourth and final step of Lectio Divina is to REMAIN.  To simply rest as the Beloved of God in the presence of God.  To hold what we have heard spoken through the bible, spoken through each other, as a word of grace and hope for us.  For God most certainly speaks through us as a Force of Nature.  So as we finish this holy time together, let’s continue to hold that kind of space for each other as the band comes up.  Let’s pray as we remain with God, together: