In this post is the sermon outline I prepared, and a link to my actual sermon via my podcast can be found (here.)
I always think it is interesting how a sermon shifts from one form to another when i transition from outline to actuality. I really enjoyed the audio, i hope you do too.
“Love doesn’t mean doing extraordinary or heroic things. It means knowing how to do ordinary things with tenderness.” Jean Vanier, Community and Growth (London: Darton, Longman, and Todd, 1979), p. 220.
In the Beginning, God said, “Let there be light.” It is an invitation, not a command. God makes room, His communion as a Triune being allows for us to be. It would be a very weak God who created the world in order to be worshiped or glorified for his power alone. “Only the weak are cruel. Gentleness can only be expected from the strong.” It takes infinite strength in God’s character to act in opposition to your own strength and trust in His.
We are often confused about God’s character because we don’t understand the importance of creation. The thing is, the doctrine of creation isn’t about 6 days or 6 million days, or 60 million days, it’s about the way the God of the Bible tells us about His character, and our own through this story.
Growing up, the doctrine of creation was just a fact, thrown in among other random facts about Christianity and its strange god. I often wondered why God created at all, seeing that he was all perfection and a united single being. However, this is not the God of the bible, and it cannot be our God if we are going to talk about gentleness.
Often when we talk about creation as well meaning Protestants, we forget that this God is Triune, and that His very essence is a loving conversation between three eternal persons who are our One God. This God invites things into existence, he is powerful to be sure, but that power is always expressed lovingly, invitingly. Creation is as if God is having a great time loving God and God says to God, why don’t we create something to share in this great time we are having. So God reaches into Himself, and makes room for creation from the heart of the eternal Love that God has for God.
You might wonder what all this has to do with gentleness, we’re getting there.
The reason I begin with creation is that, if we have a flawed picture of God, we will have a flawed picture of ourselves. If you look at Jesus with broken glasses, you will only imitate the broken thing you see, and not the Divine Son. We start with Creation because we serve a God who is gentle, loving, holy and friendly. Father, Son and Holy Spirit are eternally friendly towards one another, and they love each other. They love each other so much that they make room for one another in what is called kenosis, which is a fancy word for self-emptying. The persons of God empty themselves eternally towards one another, and towards the world, so that they might fill everything with their love.
Why did God create? He creates because He loves, and desires that His creatures share in this love. He creates because they in all their fullness love so much that they desire to fill everything with this love. God makes room, He doesn’t create because he is insecure and needs worship, He creates precisely because he is eternally secure and desires to fill us with the same type of love that He has for Himself.
v.9 We often heroize Paul along with others we imagine God as heroic, and powerful and mighty, which isn’t wrong. However, he is heroic and majestic and powerful most expressly and visibly in the cross. I know we don’t tend to think this way, we tend to think that Jesus rejects his God-hood, becomes man, runs around doing human things for a while and dies condemned to the cross because the Father is angry. Whether we admit it or not, we sing about the old rugged cross, and yet consider it shameful, in our actions.
We want heroes for our faith, we want idols. We want the heroes of Die Hard and American Westerns to be the true heroes, we want Jesus to come back guns blazing throwing lightning bolts and frying his enemies. We want America’s heroes to be what the gospel envisions, but fortunately that’s not the case. Thankfully, God is not into outlaw heroes and lone riders riding off into the sunset. Thankfully, God is into creating communities of character, communities of gentleness. He is not into calling us out and setting us up as isolated heroes in a lost and broken world, he is into drawing us together into a voice that speaks the truth in love. And the Truth is, Jesus Christ is what it means to be a human being and He is Lord already over all human beings, and this fact is to the glory of God the Father.
Paul was a failure in many respects, made fun of by the Corinthians, rejected by the Galatians, and obscured by various churches of the ancient world. He was a strong writer and a poor speaker. Yet, here we see a man altered by God from stone thrower to being stoned, and this is the heart of Christian gentleness.
The politics of Gentleness:
I’d like to say that we do not often think of politics and gentleness in the same sentence, let alone having any relation to each other. Yet this is precisely what we as Christians are called to do. We are to be a polity, a people of gentleness, a community whose life is ordered by gentle actions and forming the space to make room for one another to be, and be listened to.
The church has to be a community of gentleness, a community of patience and tenderness. Just as God’s act of creation, we must be a community abounding in love, like the Trinity, we must be making room for one another. We do not fight the power that be with violence or legislation, we fight the status quo with the love that we make actual in our communities. The Church must penetrate our personal lives, or we are not living the gospel. A great example is a woman in this church who spends her time giving to the weak, and the ill on a regular basis.
That we as a Church have little room for the disabled, and the impoverished shows our weakness as a community of gentleness. That we have little to say to one another, and much to do, that we concentrate on “getting it done” without a vibrant communal conversation shows we know little of gentleness. We as a Church are struggling because our communal virtues are not finding proper expression in our midst. If we do not take the call to gentleness seriously, we will fail. Baptists are not known for their gentleness, and it’s our failure and unfaithfulness that perpetuates instead of corrects the stereotype.
The thing is, you might look at me or Ron, or Dave, and say, well, they are the leaders, they know what to do. We’ll just let them handle it. However, I am asking for your help, and I’m making room for you to be heard and respected. The thing is, if I as a leader am not drawing your gifts out of you, I am failing to lead you properly. I want to give you all a place to speak, because when it comes to life in the Spirit, everyone gets a chance to play.
(call forward people to say one thing they would like the church to know about them. Anything. Also one thing they would like the church to know about itself.)
The Christian life is one of playfulness, one of rest and appreciation, and if you’re not experiencing a gentle God whose own gentleness inspires your own, you’re doing it wrong. But it’s ok, because he gently wants to show you his tender mercy and be gentle and gracious to you. Where sin abounds, grace abounds all the more.
We must learn to gentle at one another. Make gentle a verb, it may sound ridiculous, but why not? Do you gentle? I’d like to gentle more often. Are you gentle? I gentle. We gentle. If we don’t gentle, we don’t Jesus. And if we don’t Jesus, we’re not a church.
In our gentleness He is near, and we should be gentle because He is near. He doesn’t just live in our hearts, though that’s certainly important, he lives in our world and desires to make Himself known in and through us.
I say, let’s gentle one another, that all might know us as a gentle community. He’s here, and it’s on us to react. I think gentleness is something that we create out of our self-emptying, and making room for. Be roomy people, people that make room for failure and success, for doubt and conviction, for weeping and rejoicing.
Make room for hope, make room for me to share my hopes with you, as I make room for you to share your hopes with me. When we make room for one another, certainly we’re not far off from what it means to be gentle.