Sermon:We do not loose heart

TITLE: We do not loose heart
THEME: Worship and Work are One
TEXTS:  Matthew 28:16-20;  2 Corinthians 4:1, 5-7, 15-16a

Hear God’s word from the Second Letter to the Corinthians —

Therefore, since it is by God’s mercy that we are engaged in this ministry,
we do not lose heart.
For we do not proclaim ourselves;
we proclaim Jesus Christ and ourselves as your [servants] for Jesus’ sake.
For it is 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.
But we have this treasure in clay jars,
so that it may be made clear that this extraordinary power belongs to God
and does not come from us.
Yes, everything is for your sake,
so that grace, as it extends to more and more people,
may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God.Living by Faith
So we do not lose heart.

When we were preparing worship for this Sunday this scripture came to me for two reasons. First, because the next portion of Paul’s Second Letter to the Corinthians is our summer worship theme. It is also the Mennonite Church USA theme scripture as we meet in Pittsburgh in two weeks. God is reconciling all creation to God and giving us this ministry of reconciliation.

Second, these words from the Apostle Paul to the church at Corinth are ones we have heard over the past decade in some of our congregational and leadership retreats.

We recognize that we are in a great discernment – facing decisions about our congregational life and leadership and how we share in these ministries and leadership. God has given us many gifts and great responsibilities. These are “the gifts God has given us for the ministries God has set before us.” As always, we seek to “listen to what God is setting before us” in this time and process.

Yes, we have much work to do and it is hard work. But it is God’s work in Christ given to us with the gifts to live into whatever emerges.

Paul is writing to the church in Corinth that is highly gifted and facing challenges, even conflict. He encourages them to work well and intentionally with these challenges and conflicts not as personal agenda but as God’s work among them.

Paul says, “It is by God’s mercy that we are engaged in this ministry.” When we know that truth we know that “We do not lose heart.”

Why? “For we do not proclaim ourselves; we proclaim Jesus Christ…
God’s Light shines through Christ….in our hearts…..”

Perhaps the most jarring word in this scripture is naming “this treasure in clay jars.” Clay jars are vulnerable and fragile. We may not like being identified with vulnerable and fragile “clay jars.” There is more to Paul’s image of clay jars than we can unpack today.  We know that, in addition to being vulnerable and fragile, “clay jars” hold something precious and worthy. Paul is telling the Corinthian church and Seattle Mennonite Church that this precious treasure in clay jars reveals to us that “this extraordinary power belongs to God.”

Yes, everything is for God’s sake,
so that grace….extends to more and more people
increases thanksgiving, to the glory of God.Living by Faith

With this promise we are prepared to face anything God sets before us. We close with the response we began with: “So we do not lose heart.”

It may not be easy but we do not lose heart! “For it is by God’s mercy that we are engaged in this ministry.”

This is a wonderful word for us today.

Thanks be to God!

Please meditate on this good word for us today in a couple of minutes of silence.

[Silence………..2 minutes]

“Renew your church” O God, as you have already done and are doing even now in Jesus Christ!

Please turn in your Hymnal: A Worship Book to #363 “Renew your church.” In another moment of silence please read and ponder the words of this song before we sing it together.