The Message: How to Stay Focused on the Source #3: It’s Who We Are; 2 Corinthians 4.3-6

Sermon:          How to Stay Focused on the Source #3: It’s Who We Are
Scripture:       2 Corinthians 4.3-6
Preacher:        Patrick H. Wrisley, D.Min.
Location:        First Presbyterian Church Fort Lauderdale
Date:               February 11, 2018, Transfiguration Sunday

You may watch or listen to the message here.

2 Corinthians 4.3-6

3And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing.4In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. 5For we do not proclaim ourselves; we proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord and ourselves as your slaves for Jesus’ sake. 6For it is the God who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.[1]

One of the highlights of this past week was to stop by the Daddy-Daughter Valentines Dance and seeing all the dads, granddads, and uncles there dressed up with their girls in their finest. A flood of memories washed over me as I walked around the room greeting everyone; I found myself back at the time when my girls were their age; you see, I am a proud dad of two incredible daughters.

One of the memories that came up for me was when my girls both tried to learn how to play musical instruments. Lauren, when she was in second grade, tried to learn viola. Now Lauren over the years has shown to be an extremely talented woman in many, many areas but the viola wasn’t one of them.  She practiced and practiced and just got frustrated and stopped playing because the sound emitting from that viola sounded like squealing cats. Kelly and I were all too happy for her to try picking up some other new talent! Little did we know her little sister, Kate, was watching.

Kate decided that she too wanted to learn an instrument and we thought to ourselves, “greeaaat.” Kate wanted to learn piano.  Now this wasn’t a bad thing really because we could get her an electronic keyboard to practice on daily; those keyboards have sound jacks in the side the student can plug in headphones to hear themselves play and we didn’t have to endure the hours and hours of Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star, which we learned by the way, was written by Mozart. We finally got an incredible teacher for her, Natasha, who was trained in the Moscow Conservatory. She was a great teacher.  She took the time to teach Kate the knowledge and theory of the music, how the particular composer wrote scores in a way that brought out certain musical themes. She taught Kate how to play on the keyboard with her hands right over the tops of the keys allowing her fingers to play the notes with finesse and a light touch.

And she made Kate practice. Like every parent of a child learning an instrument, we made it through the Twinkle, Twinkle and Mary Had a Little Lamb stages. For us, it was like an audible game of Donkey Kong and we could not wait for Kate to get to the next level! And she did with ever-increasing frequency to boot! She soaked in Natasha’s knowledge of theory and practiced her heart out. And then something happened. Kate was no longer learning to play the piano; she had become a pianist! By the time she reached high school, she had scores from Bach and Beethoven memorized so that when she sat down to play, she felt the music, she expressed the music through the piano.  It was a beautiful transformation and metamorphosis to hear and witness!

Beloved, this is what we have been addressing the last few weeks. We began together by learning there are ten solid stones that we are to build our Christian faith in Christ upon. These stones are the knowledge and theory we each have of God. Building upon that foundational knowledge, we discovered last week that we are to express that knowledge and test it out by way of some basic Christian practices like worship, Bible Study, exercising our Spiritual gifts and financial resources, caring for one another in biblical community, serving others in Christian service as the hands and feet of Christ, and advancing our faith through spiritual retreat to name a few.

We have been reminding ourselves that in order to maintain focus on the Source of our Faith in Jesus Christ, we have to know certain things (orthodoxy) and then we express what we know and believe through practical experiences (orthopraxy).   Think of it this way: What we learn in our head is reinforced when it is expressed through our ‘hands’ over repetition. And then over time, something magical, marvelous and divine happens: Our knowledge and all of our practicing will eventually enable us to ‘live the music’ of our Christian life.  We no longer know facts and theories about God. We no longer are practicing our faith in order to become more like Jesus. No, there’s a change that happens. We become the music, we become manifestations of Jesus to the world.

Today is Transfiguration Sunday.  It’s the day we remember that Jesus was transformed before the disciples and they beheld him, experienced him, as the Christ of God. Our scripture this morning from Paul talks about this as well. He is reminding us that as God shines upon and in our lives, specifically in our hearts, then the glory of God shines back out with the light of Christ to others! People encounter you or me and they know they have experienced something different. It’s not that they experience a different form of you or me; what they realize is that through us they have felt the Presence of the Holy even if it’s but only for a moment.

Paul describes it as, “God has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” It’s another one of those instances when Hollywood ripped off a biblical idea in the old movie, E.T., when Neil Diamond sings, “Turn on your Heartlight.”  You see, it’s not enough to know about God in Jesus Christ.  It’s not enough to practice living a life like Jesus lived for the sake of imitating him. The goal is that what we know about God and how we practice our faith transforms, transfigures our heart’s holy glow in our everyday lives. Our knowledge of the faith, our practice of our faith, over time through the Holy Spirit, change who we are on the inside.

Think for a moment with me of those people you know that when you are around them, you experience something that’s really different, and as a result, you become changed, too. You know what it’s like to encounter that type of Christ-follower.  They’re different.  They’re different, not in some obnoxious, odiferous way that smells of all the culture’s negative connotations of Christians as self-righteous, overly pietistic, intolerant moral do-gooders that sit in judgment over everyone else! On the contrary, they smell the aroma of Christ. We see the glory of God reflected off the face of Jesus in them. All of their knowledge, all of their combined life’s Christian practices have made them “become the music” and have transfigured them to reflect the glory of God! When you and I are around these people who have become the living music of Christ in the world, we know that we are in the presence of a loving person.

We know that we are in the presence of a joy-full person.

We know that we are in the presence of a peaceful person.

We know that we are in the presence of a patient, unhurried person.

We know that we are in the presence of a humble person.

We know that we are in the presence of a faith-full person.

We know that we are in the presence of a forgiving person.

We know that we are in the presence of a self-controlled person.

We know that we are in the presence of a thank-full person.

We know that we are in the presence of a sacrificial person.

When we are mingling with those types of people, we, in turn, become more loving, more joy-full and peaceful, more patient, humble, and forgiving, faithful, self-controlled and sacrificial people as well.

Jesus knew the Law of the Jews.  He practiced what he knew among all the people he hung with. It’s at that point, Jesus “becomes the music” for all those he encounters. All of his knowledge of God, the way he practices what he believes about God, has transformed and transfigured Jesus into the person he is in God.

What we know shapes what we do and what we know and do then shapes who we are in our virtuous center called the heart. Then something else happens! We are transformed as well because the more we reflect and express the light of Christ, that will then further transform what we think we know about God, how we practice our faith in God and eventually transform the music our Christian life continues to play to the world. It becomes an ecstatic ongoing transformation of who each of us is, who we are as a church, in Jesus.

So, let’s learn about those ten stones to build our knowledge of God in Christ.  Let’s practice over and over again those ten spiritual disciplines about what we believe. And eventually, beloved, our lives and this church will display shine and play ten basic melodies of who God is.  So, let’s begin the journey!  Who is with me?  Amen.

Patrick H. Wrisley, D.Min.
Senior Pastor & Teaching Elder
First Presbyterian Church
401 SE 15th Avenue
Fort Lauderdale, FL 33301
pwrisley@drew.edu
wrisley.org

© 2018 Patrick H. Wrisley. Sermon manuscripts are available for the edification of members and friends of First Presbyterian Church, Fort Lauderdale, Florida and may not be altered, re-purposed, published or preached without permission.  All rights reserved.

[1] The New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, 1995 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

 

The Message: Have you checked the condition of your heart’s filters today?, Matthew 15:10-20

Sermon:          Have you checked the conditions of your filters lately?
Scripture:        Matthew 15.10-20
Preacher:        Patrick H. Wrisley, D.Min.
Location:         First Presbyterian Church, DeLand
Date:               August 20, 2017

You may listen to the sermon by clicking here.

Last week, we spent time in Romans looking at the centrality of the Word in our worship and devotional life; we noted how the first mark of the church is when the Word of God is faithfully preached and it is faithfully heard.  Today, we are going to look at the words we use in our everyday life to determine if they are consistent with the Word our hearts have been exposed to in that time of devotion and worship.

Turn in your Bible to Matthew 15.  We will read verses 10 through 20.  In all fairness, the power of this Parable of the Mouth[1] is better understood when taken in the larger context of verses 1 through 28.  The reading is long and I encourage you to go home and read all of it applying what you hear this morning with what you read. Because of its length, we will focus on just the ten middle verses.

As you hear this text, keep in mind that Jesus is in a large group of people including everyday folks as well as the notoriously described Pharisees and Scribes.  The Jewish religious leaders have just arrived from Jerusalem and immediately jump on Jesus’ case by complaining that his disciples aren’t washing their hands before they eat, thereby, in their opinion, disregarding the Law of Moses on being ritually pure. Jesus goes on to school the religious leaders in the dietary law’s intent but also reminds them of the Torah’s overall purpose.    This is where we pick up in the Story.

Matthew 15.10-20

10Then he called the crowd to him and said to them, “Listen and understand: 11it is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but it is what comes out of the mouth that defiles.” 12Then the disciples approached and said to him, “Do you know that the Pharisees took offense when they heard what you said?” 13He answered, “Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be uprooted. 14Let them alone; they are blind guides of the blind. And if one blind person guides another, both will fall into a pit.” 15But Peter said to him, “Explain this parable to us.” 16Then he said, “Are you also still without understanding? 17Do you not see that whatever goes into the mouth enters the stomach, and goes out into the sewer? 18But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this is what defiles. 19For out of the heart come evil intentions, murder, adultery, fornication, theft, false witness, slander. 20These are what defile a person, but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile.”[2]

We had just moved into our new home in Celebration, Florida in November of 1996. Boxes were still getting unpacked and things were still getting put away.  Our two girls who were very young were still exploring the little nooks and crannies of the place when one night, one of them came down the stairs before bed and said with the cutest Cindy Loo Who voice, “Daddy, something is wrong with the toilet.”  Thinking to myself, “Yeah, I know what’s wrong with the toilet,” I follow her upstairs and sure enough, it wasn’t flushed.  I press the handle again and experienced that horrible painfully slow moment and feeling of dread one has when the water is rising every so precariously to the top of the rim.  Gratefully, it stopped just in time but it failed to go down either. I made the decision to wait until the morning to see if the water would go down before I tried anything. Standing there, I noticed the bath water had not drained from the tub either.  “Katie, why didn’t you let the water out of the tub?”  Her little voice responded, “But I did, daddy.”

Uh-oh. Something much bigger was going on than a little too much toilet paper. I surveyed the situation, turned-off the light and closed the door.  “I’ll call the builder in the morning.”

The crew foreman from David Weekly homes came over the next day and looked at what was going on; he complained our kids were throwing stuff down the pipes and it was our fault the system locked up. I disagreed but let them do their work and we would sort it out later. An hour later the foreman walks into the dining room directly beneath the girls’ bathroom and gives me a serious look saying, “We got a problem.”

Great.

He quickly goes out to his truck, fetches a ladder, a drill, and an industrial sized plastic waste can. Now, I don’t know much about being a handyman but I did know enough as a new homeowner this did not look too good. Climbing the ladder, the foreman was again griping about my daughters when he put the drill to the ceiling it exploded; I knew I shouldn’t have laughed but come on!  This guy has been grumping about my kids for the last ninety minutes and now he was covered in Katie’s bath water among other things. We are talking the grayest of gray water was pouring into our dining room.  Some of it made it to the trash can he brought in; most of it did not. After a moment of stunned silence, all I could manage was, “You know, I’m not paying for that.”

I learned two very important lessons that day.  First, it was not my girls who caused the problem but the cleaning crew that prepped the house before we moved in.  It seems they used large cloth rags and flushed them into the system clogging it up.  The second thing I learned was though it does matter what goes into the system, it’s what comes out when there’s no filter to catch it that will cause a stinky mess.

And Jesus’ first words to the disciples in our text today are, “Listen and understand!” Literally, he is saying, “Hey! Listen up and all of you get on the same page as I am on this!” He then goes on to tell his disciples it is not the food that goes into a person that defiles him or her; rather, it is the gray water that comes back out of the mouth that defiles them.

The word defile is interesting. Today we understand that to defile something means to make dirty or impure.  In Jesus’ day, to defile something literally meant to take something set apart, special or distinct and make it common or ordinary.  The religious leaders believed washed hands kept a person set apart, special, un-common or pure.  Washed hands reflected how you as a person were standing out over and against the common person.  The tradition of hand washing was to make you pure or righteous before God. The religious leaders were upset because Jesus’ disciples were acting very common – dare I say pagan-like?-  for not setting themselves apart; they were, therefore, offending God with dirty, common hands.  This is why Jesus initially exclaims, “Listen up and understand!”

Jesus wanted the disciples, wants us, to see that the serious religious leaders were majoring in the minors and not in the majors.  They had totally missed the point. The thing that defiles or makes a person common, unholy or impure is not what is eaten or how it is eaten but are the very words that emit from one’s mouth bubbling up through the spring of a person’s heart. Whitworth University professor Dale Bruner remarks, “The major pollutant in social life is words.”[3]  Does the spring of our heart produce life-giving water, or, does is dump out a disgusting backflow of brackish gray water?

Words.  Words matter.  Word’s carelessly used or spoken.  Words, when given with a certain tone or look, can cause pain and hurt. All we need to do is remind ourselves of what happened in Charlottesville last week and note how high-visibility leaders in our country responded to the situation with their own words that compounded the problem. Today’s social media from Face Book, Yik Yak[4], or Instagram can be beneficial but oftentimes these sites are used among our young people as a means to bully, shame, or post hate.  What emerges from our hearts through our words carry power – a power to bring life or power to pollute and destroy. Life-giving words are Christ-like; words that destroy are abusive, corrosive and deadly like the radioactive water coming out from the destroyed Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan years ago. It is water that kills at best or causes abnormal mutations of living things at worst![5]

In the beginning, out of God’s heart, He spoke and created all that was, is, and will ever be and it was all good!  The Apostle John reminds us in his gospel that in the beginning was the Word, and the Word was God and the Word was with God…and what came into being with him was life and that life was the light of all people![6] Words bring life, my beloved. Yet we also learn in the early Story of Genesis how the serpent uses words to create in Eve and Adam doubt, enmity and challenges God’s character.  Words matter.

Jesus, the Word of God made flesh, was heaven-bent on refocusing the peoples’ understanding that words, the Law and Torah, were meant to bring people life!  The Holy Word was meant to bring people closer to God and to one another as opposed to building walls between the two. The Words of God speaking Creation into existence were thought-full and deliberate to the point that any scientist would say that the order of creation in Genesis makes perfect sense and logic. Words bubbling from our heart and expressed to God and to others matter.  Words define who we are in the core of our very being deep in our soul.

This isn’t the first-time Jesus has spoken about the power of words to the religious officials and the disciples. Earlier in Matthew 12.36, Jesus flatly remarks: I tell you, on the day of judgment you will have to give an account for every careless word you utter; for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.  Words matter.  Say that two-word sentence with me! Words matter!

Beloved, what type of spiritual filtration system do you have for your heart? A good filter keeps unhealthy things out of the heart and makes sure whatever impurities that get do get in don’t come back out. A good filter keeps the gray water from exploding back out onto others causing a nasty mess.

In Florida, we are reminded to check our air conditioner’s filter to make sure it’s clean so the unit doesn’t freeze and lock up.  It’s no different for Christ-Followers.  We are called to check the air-filters of our hearts. What do we look for to see if our heart’s filters are working well? Let me provide us with a four-point systems’ check that we can run anytime to check our spiritual filtration system.

Systems’ Check One: Do your words build others up or do they tear others down?

Systems’ Check Two: Do your words glorify God or do they glorify you and your position?

Systems’ Check Three: Do your words bring life and healing or do they cause pain, shame, or suffering?

Systems’ Check Four: Do your words bring people together in reconciliation or do they tear communities apart because our hearts are filled with hubris and pride?

Build up. Glorify God. Bring Life.  Reconcile.

This week, I pray the Holy Spirit will haunt us as we take the filters of hearts and really examine them through the questions I just asked. If they tear down, glorifies anything other than our Lord God, cause pain, or rip apart relationship, it’s time to pull our heart’s filter out and clean it well by scrubbing it down with the spiritual Clorox of prayers of repentance and for holy indwelling.  We do this because words matter.

All of God’s people say, Amen.

Patrick H. Wrisley, D.Min.
Senior Pastor & Teaching Elder
First Presbyterian Church
724 North Woodland Blvd.
DeLand, Florida 32720
pwrisley@drew.edu
Wrisley.org

© 2017 Patrick H. Wrisley. Sermon manuscripts are available for the edification of members and friends of First Presbyterian Church, DeLand, Florida and may not be altered, re-purposed, published or preached without permission.  All rights reserved.

[1] Frederick Dale Bruner, The Christbook. Matthew 13 – 28, Volume 2 (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1987), 92.

[2] The New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, 1995 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Used by permission. All rights reserved.

[3] Bruner, 94.

[4] Yik Yak suffered its own self-destruction because of its abuse.  See USA Today, April 28, 2017, at https://www.usatoday.com/story/tech/talkingtech/2017/04/28/yik-yak-shut-down/101045670/

[5] See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fukushima_Daiichi_nuclear_disaster.

[6] See John 1:1-5.