Pastor at Decatur United Methodist Church
I hope that you all had a great fourth of July holiday. To tell you the truth, I my mind didn’t register that there was a holiday last week. I guess that reason was is that I was a camp last week. Monday through Friday of last week we hosted camp and it was great. We had about 60 kids, 6 counselors, and 7 high school students who served as junior counselors. I woke up at around six each morning and most nights we were out until around eleven. All this made me very tired, but it has been great.
Each morning as the campers would begin to show up I would go outside to meet their parents and talk with the kids. It was fun watching the kids make their way to the church for camp. Some would say, “bye mom,” and run into the church. Some would stick right beside their parents until they were signed in and the junior counselors took them to breakfast. And a few would start to cry worrying about the separation for their parents.
As soon as the children were signed in they were ushered into the fellowship hall for breakfast. Each morning we set out a grab and go breakfast to allow the kids to fuel up for the day ahead. During this time of breakfast, the kids would reconnect with their counselors and their friends. They would talk about the previous day and what they had done since they had seen each other last. Then they would begin to talk about what was coming up for the new day. All of this was just informal conversation, you know, the type of conversation that you would have at home, perhaps around your breakfast table.
After breakfast we would head into the sanctuary for morning watch. This was basically a chapel time, where we would set the mood for the day. It began by singing silly “repeat after me songs.” And the kids loved these. It was fun to watch their enthusiasm change from day one through the whole week. On day one they were mostly all too timid to sing along, but it didn’t take long for them to belt the words and the hand motions with zeal. We would then sing worship songs and someone would give a short devotion for the day. Following this we would split up into the groups for all of the days activities.
Each day these activities were different, they made crafts, played gaga ball, made s’mores, played nine square, had bible study, did water games, and so much more. Throughout the entire day, our kids were engaged and having a great time. For me, there was nothing better than the smiles. Almost each child was smiling each day, all day. They were running and laughing and eating and learning and playing. All the while, the junior counselors and the counselors were actively showing and helping them experience the love of God.
For me, the theme that was underpinning this entire week was the theme of inviting campers in to experience the fullness of God’s love. Inviting people in is a powerful thing. There are when we really invite people in. We invite people to stay at our home. When someone stays at your there is a new level of intimacy. You see each other in pajamas, you see each other at breakfast, you see each other’s bed head, and you will often share a bathroom. When we really invite people in, we invite them in as equals and work to build relationships of love and understanding. We don’t just invite them in for us to do something for them, but for us to share in the messy work of relationship.
Sometimes, though, when we invite people in, we invite them in with restrictions. We tell them you can do this or you do that. Or, this is our space, we are glad for you to use it, but know that it belongs to us. Or we invite them in and don’t participate with them. We might segregate ourselves into the kitchen or our own group to be comfortable, and those that have been invited can see this separation.
When I think of the inviting with limitations, I think of Harry Potter. You are likely familiar with the premise of the Harry Potter series. In the opening book of the series we learn of Harry Potter. His parents had died when he was very young. And ever since, he is being raised by his aunt and uncle. Harry is invited into the home of his aunt and uncle to live. It’s within this household that he grows and experiences life.
While Harry is invited into this household, he is invited in with severe limitations. Harry doesn’t have a proper bedroom nor is he even allowed to share a bedroom with his cousin. Instead, Harry is forced to a small closet under the stairs as his bedroom. Time and again his aunt and uncle go out of their way to treat Harry differently than with cousin. Perhaps it’s not intentional, but it is very clear that Harry is not allowed to full participate in the life of the family because he has been invited in with severe limitations.
Part of the reason of us fully inviting our campers and camper families in is that we want them to experience the extravagant love of God that helps them invite Christ fully into their lives. On the last day of camp, we presented the campers with some decisions they can make God and where they fell God is calling them. And some of them felt that they were ready to invite Christ into their lives. This is a powerful thing!
But I also wonder about us, how do we invite Christ into out lives.
This is the theme of our scripture passage today from Ephesians. We are in the midst of a message series on the letter of Ephesians. And so far we have explored how this letter is a letter that lets us in on God’s secret. God’s secret is that God has a plan to reunify all reality; all heaven and all earth; all people from every different nation; and that the church is the place that God has chosen for this to first happen. As we continue to explore this letter, what we will find is that Paul, the guy who wrote the letter, goes on to give us different pointers one how we can live into this plan of God in real life. Here is what he wrote in Ephesians 3:14-21. I’m going to be reading out of a translation of the Bible known as The Message.
14-19 My response is to get down on my knees before the Father, this magnificent Father who parcels out all heaven and earth. I ask him to strengthen you by his Spirit—not a brute strength but a glorious inner strength—that Christ will live in you as you open the door and invite him in. And I ask him that with both feet planted firmly on love, you’ll be able to take in with all followers of Jesus the extravagant dimensions of Christ’s love. Reach out and experience the breadth! Test its length! Plumb the depths! Rise to the heights! Live full lives, full in the fullness of God.
20-21 God can do anything, you know—far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! He does it not by pushing us around but by working within us, his Spirit deeply and gently within us.
Glory to God in the church!
Glory to God in the Messiah, in Jesus!
Glory down all the generations!
Glory through all millennia! Oh, yes!
In this part of Paul’s letter he is telling the people what he is praying for. Paul says that he is on his knees praying before God. Paul is praying that you will be strengthened by God’s Spirit and that Christ will live in you as you open the door and invite him in. Open the door and invite Jesus in…
Where are you in this? Have you invited Jesus into your life? How have you invited Jesus into your life? I know that most of you regularly attend church. Perhaps you have been going to church on just about every Sunday for just about your whole life. Many of you can point to a time in your life when you first invited Jesus into your life. Many others of you can’t point to such a time, but you have never really known a time in your life where you didn’t know Jesus. Perhaps there are others of you that aren’t really sure if you have invited Jesus into your life or not, or perhaps you have drifted God in some way.
But no matter where you might fall of this spectrum, right now, where is Christ in your life. There comes a point in our lives, even if you are a Christ follower, where we aren’t as welcoming to Jesus as we used to be. Perhaps right now, in your life, Jesus is not fully welcome in your life. Perhaps Jesus is welcome in your life like Harry Potter was welcome in the household of his aunt and uncle. Perhaps you have said, Jesus, you can come in, but you must sleep in the closet under the stairs--I’m too busy right now to bother with you.
Perhaps Jesus is still on the front porch, waiting in the rocking chair drinking lemonade. Perhaps he is just sitting there rocking waiting for you to join him in the rocker beside him. Perhaps, he is sweating on the rocker because it’s like a 100 degrees outside and he is just waiting for you to invite him into the nice cool air conditioning inside your life.
Perhaps you have opened the front door for Jesus, but the screened door is still shut. There he is standing right outside. Sometimes you might go to the screen and ask Jesus a question or request some help. Though you can talk through the screen, you haven’t really let Jesus inside. You haven’t really invited him to experience the love of an invited housemate or guest. Someone that you eat breakfast with, someone that you share a bathroom with.
Perhaps you have opened the door and invited Jesus in, but only grudgingly and he is stuck in the foyer, endlessly engaged in the small talk that happens in the foyer. How are you? The weather’s nice? It’s been a while? Do you mind doing this little thing for me on the way out?
Or perhaps you have really invited Jesus into your life without reservation. And the two of you are standing in the kitchen, the heart of the home. We all know the depths of life that happen in the kitchen. That’s where we really spend time with the people we love. Perhaps you have really invited Jesus in and are engaged in this intimate and powerful way.
Our prayer for our campers and Paul’s prayer for us is that Jesus will take over in your life in a really powerful way. And through this you will invite him in and you will be strengthened with God Spirit.
So, where is Jesus in your life? And where do you want Jesus to be in your life? Perhaps if Jesus is still on the front porch rocking, its time to open the door and truly invite him in. Or maybe you are ready to take a step forward and invite Jesus deeper into your life.
Decatur United Methodist Church
Our hope is that these messages will be relevant in your life and encourage you in faith.