2015-01-04 – Rev. Dr. Ryan Sato

2015-01-04 – Rev. Dr. Ryan Sato

2015-01-04 – Rev. Dr. Ryan Sato – First Baptist Church Edmonton

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Paul starts off one of his letters to the churches with one of the most amazing run-on-sentences in Pauline literary history!

He just can’t stop! He’s so excited…about the fullness of Christ, about being chosen in the beloved…about spiritual blessings….boom, kapow….like firewords at new year’s!!

But is this just for us to stand in awe and gasp?

Or is there an INVITATION for us as well??

The clue is in v. 12…

“So that we…might LIVE (!) for the praise of his glory…”

(Eph. 1:16-19)
I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, and for this reason I do not cease to give thanks for you as I remember you in my prayers. I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him, so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe, according to the working of his great power.

(Eph. 4, 1-6, The Message)
In light of all this, here’s what I want you to do. 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.

OK….great Eugene….but do you know what it’s like to be in church? It’s easier said than done sometimes…it’s hard to grow in faith isn’t it? It’s slow, it’s unspectacular…there are so many distractions and detours…

Well….Eugene actually does get it!!
Here’s an excerpt of a letter that he sent to a friend of mine who was trying to build a ministry work that was more than just fancy programs and spectacular Christian activities….here’s what he wrote…(2010)…

[ Read letter here ]

This is where you come in….a congregation seems to me to be so much more trustworthy than detached or self-governed entities that have no history or connection with the church….

You have been diligent and patient – – dare I say “holy”?

** Who we are FBC [ I read this letter 1 or 2 times/year…]

…This is where you come in…this is where we come in!
We’re trying to be a church that values spiritual formation…
– we’re not a megachurch
– we not a trendy, coffee-bar, sitting on stools and showing cutting-edge videos that wow and inspire…
– and we’re not that great at using adrenaline to promote evangelism and mission… [let’s bring in a famous Xian…that’ll do it!?]

But I do believe that we are an “ordinary congregation” that is seeking to continue a 122-year old tradition here in the city…being a place for worshipping the Living God, a place for communion (Lord’s Table/Eucharist), a place for spiritual rites of passage (baby dedications, marriages, baptisms, funerals, memorials), seeking to be a place that truly proclaims the GOOD NEWS from our living word…week after week…

That is spiritual formation! Simply put…..it is being a Christian congregation that makes space/time/offers practices – – so that the Holy Spirit might do a work in us…transforming us into the image of Christ (individually/corporately). See also Allan Effa & Anne Bellamy’s 1-pager re: Spiritual formation at FBC.

Here’s how Paul prays it into practice for us:

(Ephesians 3:16-19)
I pray that, according to the riches of his glory, he may grant that you may be strengthened in your inner being with power through his Spirit, and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love. I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

So…now what?

i) this is a slow work…no quick fixes. Long obedience in the same direction.
ii) Let’s keep on doing this together! Week to week in worship…PLUS with spiritual friendships, spiritual mentors, spiritual directors *** look around you *** pay attention ******
iii) Spiritual practices: Study, service, Labyrinth, silence, retreats, CENTERING PRAYER…our sacred space in the city (open to all!)
iv) Read a book…here’s a few of my favourites!
David Benner “Sacred Companions”
Tony Jones “The Sacred Way”
Brian Mclaren “Finding Our Way Again”
Henri Nouwen “Way of the Heart”
Barbara Brown Taylor “An Altar in the World”
Gary Thomas “Seeking the Face of God”
Marjorie J. Thompson “Soul Feast”
Dallas Williard “The Spirit of the Disciplines”

BUT WAIT! This is not me, or some other Christian wagging a finger at you telling you to try harder!! This is not a new form of “works righteousness” where you are proving that you are good enough for God!

It’s following the heart of Jesus…who we read in the gospels went away to a “quiet place”… As Michael Spencer says: “Find the silence…Turn it all off…for a couple of hours (minutes?) every day.”

[Peterson Square 1 Quote]
We do not progress in the Christian life by becoming more competent, more knowledgeable, more virtuous, or more energetic. We do not advance in the Christian life by acquiring expertise. Each day, and many times each day, we return to Square One: God Said. . . . We hear Jesus say, “Unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Mt. 18:3). And so we become as little children. . . .We adore and we listen.

I want to simplify your lives. When others are telling you to read more, I want to tell you to read less; when others are telling you to do more, I want to tell you to do less. The world does not need more of you; it needs more of God. Your friends do not need more of you; they need more of God. And you don’t need more of you; you need more of God.

The Christian life consists in what God does for us, not what we do for God; the Christian life consists in what God says to us, not what we say about God. We also, of course, do things and say things, but if we do not return to Square One each time we act, each time we speak, beginning from God and God’s Word, we will soon be found to be practicing a spirituality that has little or nothing to do with God. (“Subversive Spirituality” by Eugene Peterson)

I trust that as you spend 2015 at FBC…you will grow in the ways of Christ…Christ will be formed in you…you’ll continue the journey of being a “strong, generous Christian.”

Centering prayer…come up with a sacred word/symbol…2 minutes….ready?
Then the Lord’s prayer…slowly, thoughtfully, easssssy….