Look to God

Scripture:
Philippians 2:1-13 – Imitating Christ’s Humility

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, 2 then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. 3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, 4 not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.

5 In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:

6 Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
7 rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
8 And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death–
even death on a cross!

9 Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.

12 Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.

The word of the Lord.
Thanks be to God.

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MBCC Goes Camping!

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We were getting excited in anticipation of the weekend retreat at Big Basin National Park.  It had been a very long time since our last camping trip, and our first with a three year old, so many questions arose: Was the tent going to work?  How far are the bathrooms?  Will we disturb our neighbors with toddler crying in the middle of the night?

Despite our doubts, we packed up our car.  Within an hour and a half, the scenery changed from city to suburban highway, then to windy roads among giant redwood trees.  The setting of the great outdoors was refreshing and set the scene for a weekend of communing with our church family.  On Friday afternoon, people began to set up campsites, and it was exciting to see everyone in a totally different context—under the redwood trees, instead of in a formal church setting.  We got ready to roast hot dogs and marshmallows, and while we had to make sure all of our food was secured in bear lockers so we didn’t attract any animals, we did attract a lot of hungry mosquitoes.

We began our Saturday morning with a devotional moment where we reflected on the upcoming day and how “play” fit in with worship.  Each person received a chunk of homemade play dough and we were encouraged to allow our hands to freely shape the dough as we reflected on the words of a devotional prayer and bible passages.

The theme of play continued after the morning meditation and took a more physical form.  About 25 people gathered in a circle and engaged each other in about seven or eight well-planned games.  We learned fun facts about each other, got to run through the clearing to avoid “seaweed,” danced, and sang.  In the afternoon, as some of us took naps, the more intrepid members of the church went on a six mile hike!  We heard that a couple of our campers “accidentally” fell into a stream.  The kids explored and played, climbing trees and rocks.

On Saturday night, we continued getting to know one another while preparing hobo pockets, and eating S’mores!  Our family was not able to camp a second night, so unfortunately we missed the morning church service in the woods.

For our first camping adventure with a small child, we were very glad that we were able to experience it with our church family. Tyler loved running around with the other kids, and it was a hospitable experience for those of us who are not expert campers. The weekend was an opportunity to spend time with our church family in a beautiful setting. The trip enabled us to strengthen connections with those we were familiar with and develop new relationships with people we those who we did not know. Spending time together renews our relationship with the church. We look forward to future MBCC retreats!

-Cathy & Christina


Acceptance

Scripture 

Romans 15​:1-13
New International Version (NIV)

15 W​e who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves.
2 E​ach of us should please our neighbors for their good, to build them up.
3 F​or even Christ did not please himself but, as it is written: “The insults of those who insult you have fallen on me.”
4 F​or everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope.
5 M​ay the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had, 6 s​o that with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

7 Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.

8 For I tell you that Christ has become a servant of the Jews on behalf of God’s truth, so that the promises made to the patriarchs might be confirmed 9 and, moreover, that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy. As it is written:
“Therefore I will praise you among the Gentiles; I will sing the praises of your name.”

10 A​gain, it says, “Rejoice, you Gentiles, with his people.”

11 A​nd again, “Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles; let all the peoples extol him.”

12 A​nd again, Isaiah says,“The Root of Jesse will spring up, one who will arise to rule over the nations; in him the Gentiles will hope.”

13 M​ay the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

The word of the Lord.
Thanks be to God.

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Finding Sanctuary in a New Place

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I realize that a building is just a building. “The Church” is the people – the life coursing through a living room, the streets, the world; but whenever I enter a place of worship, I love to pause for a moment and imagine all of the things it has witnessed. How many prayers of confession, baptisms, and choruses of How Great is Our God have these walls absorbed? How saturated must these cross beams be – radiating holiness and liturgy, hopes and fears, sin and grace, laughter and tears. While a building is just a building, there can be no denying the weight of tradition and the power of sharing space and humanity.

That is what I love about church. No matter if you have been a member of a congregation since before its first days or whether today is the first time you have been within 2000 miles of this place there is something shared, and safe, and stable about being here. Being in a “church” is a way to physically step into historical prayers. To walk around and feel the unique but communal experiences of joy, heartbreak, peace, doubt, faith, and community that so many before me have encountered, here.

I am so grateful we worship a God that can be accessed everywhere from a wifi-filled coffee shop bustling with YPs to the corner of a forgotten street in a desolate ghost town. I am bursting with excitement for progress being made toward equality and love and for communities learning the unforced rhythms of grace that have long been hidden under tradition and ritual.

But I am also not willing to let all of that tradition go. Like a beautiful old sanctuary – dark cedar beams, rich red carpeting, and warm glass windows – I cannot ignore the mysterious way a place like this makes a deep place in my soul come to life. So let’s not do away with these shared words, prayers, and hymns. Instead let’s dust them off, hang a few new banners in the rafters, and learn to see them in a new light.

The Church still has so much work to do in order to reconcile its past sins, and it can often be disheartening to see the ways in which a place that brings me so much joy, and comfort, and peace can be so hurtful to the people I love and care about – the very people Jesus intended the Church to be for. But having the opportunity to hang those banners and listen to the beautiful outpouring of love and trust during worship on my first Sunday at MBCC was so encouraging. No community is perfect. We have all fallen short. However, I am so excited for the opportunity to spend my summer with this group of people, in this city, doing this work.

-Hannah Sikes, summer intern


What is Church?

Rev. Dawn Hyde

Intro to Scripture Reading
Our scripture passage today describes the earliest Christian church. We pick up reading at the end of Acts 2.  To refresh our memories, a lot has happened in Acts so far. Jesus ascends into heaven in Acts 1.Then Pentecost – the coming of the Holy Spirit and the birth of the Christian church – happens at the beginning of Acts 2. 

At Pentecost, Peter raises his voice and begins to explain what is happening. He explains why people are speaking in various languages and then he continues on to explain Jesus of Nazareth. 
“A man who we saw performing miracles and wonders. A man, who we crucified…
But God raised him up and freed him from death.”

The people listening to Peter are “cut to the heart” and ask what they can do in response.
Peter says, “repent and be baptized.”

So those who welcomed his message were baptized and that day three thousand persons were added.
Hear now the word of God for you…

Scripture: 
Acts 2:42-47
New International Version (NIV)

The Fellowship of the Believers

42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. 46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.

The word of the Lord.
Thanks be to God.

Sermon:
Today we begin a new sermon series on church. This month, we’ll explore questions like: What is church? What can we expect from each other in the church community? And when must we look instead to God?

So, first we’ll explore the concept of church. What is church?

Well, churches are a lot like non-profit organizations in that we seek to do good in our community. Churches organize events and fundraise for mission activities. We help those in need. 
Churches are also a lot like social clubs. We get together and hang out. We laugh. We eat. A lot. 

So what sets us apart from other organizations? 
[pose to congregation] 

What do you think makes church unique?

  • we worship
  • we’re grounded in God. Our thoughts and actions are of God.
  • sing
  • pray
  • communion and baptisms
  • we are intentional about our fellowship being inclusive for others
  • we do mission/service out of our faith. 

When a new organization is formed, it’s important to articulate what it does and why it is needed. 

Our scripture passage is doing just that for the church. It describes what set the first Christian church apart from all other organizations. 

Four basic things:
(1) Teaching
(2) Fellowship
(3) Breaking of Bread
(4) Prayer

It’s important to note that these early Christians did similar activity as Jews. They still went to temple courts. They “broke bread,” which was a customary way to begin a meal in the jewish tradition.

The unique difference is the centrality of Jesus’ death and resurrection

When they shared teachings, those teachings were about Jesus’ life and ministry. His death and resurrection. And when they broke bread they repented of their sins and turned to Christ for forgiveness. When they prayed, they prayed to Jesus. 
These early Christians went to the temple courts, but they also began to gather and worship in their homes. At each gathering, they did these four core things:
(1) Teaching
(2) Fellowship
(3) Breaking of Bread
(4) Prayer

As we think about this first church gathering in people’s homes, focusing on these four practices daily,  I wonder how far we have come today… Do these practices still look the same?

Today instead of walking into someone’s home for a meal and sharing scripture and prayer, most of us go online to shop for churches. In fact, most people who come to our church find us on yelp, reading about other’s experiencing and then coming for themselves to check us out.

And in addition to these four core practices (teaching, fellowship, breaking bread and prayer), here are a lot of other things we fit into being church.

For us in particular, we like this homey space. With a fireplace and bright colors. Warm, intimate. We like music – a variety of music – as a way we express our prayer. We like technology and bulletins to keep people connected and prepared for what is coming next. We like having our candles to light and offering so that we can give back to those in need. 
We like our coffee and tea….

But all of these things exist to support what is key in worship. What is key in church – an intentional connection to God. 
A connection that happens through 4 practices Christians have been doing for thousands of years…you guessed it:
(1) Teaching
(2) Fellowship
(3) Breaking of Bread
(4) Prayer

These four practices have become the core essentials of the church. The “marks” of a true church. 

And we do all of them on Sunday.

We teach during the sermon.
We fellowship by greeting each other and sharing dinner afterwards.
We break bread in communion every Sunday.
And we pray, lots. All throughout the service. 

We do all of these on Sundays when we come together as a church….but the challenge is to bring this into our daily lives. 

Beyond Sunday…how are you dwelling in scripture? In the teachings of Jesus?
Beyond Sunday…how are you fellowshipping with the community. Nurturing relationships with those God has called? 
Beyond Sunday…where and when are we breaking bread together? Not just meals with each other, but intentionally remembering who Christ is and what he has done for us…together?
Beyond Sunday…when do we pray? On our own, with those around us, for those around us?
—-

The honest truth is that we’ve fallen a bit from these earnest early Christian worshippers. We’ve relaxed our standards of reading scripture, praying, breaking bread and fellowship to once a week in worship together. 

And we’ve suffered.

We all have. Because these practices aren’t for God’s good. They are for our own.

When we seek to engage with Christ’s teachings, breaking bread, fellowshipping and praying daily, our spiritual life flourishes. We become intimately connected with our Savior and with one another.

These early followers were so eager to be together, to remember the story, to hold on to the power and love they felt in Christ… that they practiced these things every day. Every single day, in order to hold close to each other and Christ. 

The question for us becomes, how do we fix this? How do we get back to the basics?
…..

We practice. 
We find more ways to get together beyond Sunday and support each other in these four practices.

Look around the room.
I challenge each of us to find someone to have coffee with…or lunch. Start small. Start simple. 

Before you leave this sanctuary today, get someone’s contact information. Their email address.  Set up a time to meet during the week. 

I promise you all four of these practices – breaking bread, teaching, fellowship and prayer – can all happen in a 30 min meeting in a coffee shop. 

In this challenge, the particular goal is to be specific about our intention. 
We’re not just getting together for coffee or a meal to get to know each other and enjoy each other’s company – as important and worthwhile as that is…

We are getting together to glorify God. 

So when you get together:
– Open a bible. It will make a difference, I promise.
– Say a prayer. At some point. Out loud. To each other. 
– Pray for each other, lift each other to God. 

It’s in these practices – praying, reading scripture, communing over a good beverage or meal…. that our faith is enriched. We are enriched.
It’s in practicing these four “marks of the church” that we truly know we are alive.
——

I left the Clendenin’s house Monday night after small group with such joy in my heart. Together, we shared a meal. A delicious meal. We embraced Beth and Dylan’s hospitality. We got to hang with their kids before they went to bed. We prayed for the meal and for our time together. After we had eaten, we opened the bible. To 1st Kings. To the story of Elijah becoming known as a prophet and the miracles of abundance he was able to share in the name of God.

As we reflected on the scripture together, the words took on such deeper meaning. We learned from each other what it means to trust in God in our times of need. We pondered why we don’t share what we have with those in need…opening ourselves to the miracles of God.

The Holy Spirit moved in that space to include personal sharing of our stories. Many of us shared how we came to faith in Jesus Christ. Where God has showed up in our lives that has given us new life and hope…

I left that gathering thinking…THIS is church. And I want more of it. Like every night, I wish I was connecting to God and to my community in this way.

Growing up in a Christian household, it was important to my parents that we share a meal together each day. It didn’t matter the time – usually shifted as we grew older and juggled more extracurriculars with my parent’s work schedules, but without fail… I remember being around that table. And before we could begin, we took turns to pray. 

Prayer and being together set the meal apart from the other meals in my life. This one was sacred. With family. With people who know me most intimately and love me no matter what. This meal is with people who are promising to love and support me. Showing me, through their presence and relationship with me, what Christ’s grace and forgiveness and love looks like. 

It wasn’t a perfect meal every night. You can be sure of that. Many nights my sister stormed off in tears, upset that we had joked too far, my parents argued with each other, showing us that even the family you choose can be hard company to keep. My siblings and I rivaled with sports and school and social lives…and yet, when I look back on it, I realize they were the best embodiment of Christ’s love and acceptance for me. Even as imperfect as it was.

Still, to this day, we all speak the language of prayer. It’s not weird for us as siblings or parents to open a bible together and share a story or offer to pray for each other in times of fear and need. We trust each other. We support each other. And it’s all based off of faith. Off of the spiritual practices given to us in Jesus Christ. 

This church – Mission Bay Community Church – has the ability and the power to be Christ’s light and love for each other. We have the ability to do this for each other beyond when we are together like this on Sunday…

But it takes some work. Some scheduling of meetings and making time. Some intentionality and overcoming embarrassment to pull out our bibles in the coffee shop and close our eyes to offer a prayer. 

What I promise you is that this challenge is worth it. The challenge to practice your faith will only end with more intimacy and connection with God for you. 

So, let’s get back to the basics of church.
Teaching 
Fellowship
Breaking Bread
Prayer

And see how God grows your discipleship. 
Amen.

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