Theme: Discipleship #2 – Teleos: Branching Out
Bible Reading: Colossians 1:3-14,28-29
Preacher: Rev Phil Swain
Preached ONLINE – Sunday 24 May, 2020
Watch the Live Stream at https://www.facebook.com/turramurrauniting/live
• Kids Handout for 24th May – www.turramurrauniting.org.au/download/kidschurch24may/
• TUC121 Information – www.turramurrauniting.org.au/tuc121/
Offering Link – https://www.turramurrauniting.org.au/offering/
Last week I started my sermon with a challenge to see who could guess the bible reference – which Neena from Grong Grong came through with the speedy Matthew 28:19-20 about going and making disciples in all the world. But the message from last week was that in this COVID19 restrictions, maybe the best place to start making discipleship is not with the world, or our nation or even our local community … but with us. Let’s work on our own spiritual growth and expand from there.
Here is another challenge – winner is the first one to write in the comment section the correct answer. This challenge is designed for the literary nerds out there. Can you guess this book just from the blurred out front cover…
- How about if I make it a little less blurred
- Hint – Book very big in the 80’s
- Yes … the growing pains of Adrian Mole. (Or the Christian version … the growing pains of Adrian Plass)
If you know nothing about the book … it is a factionary diary covering a year of the life of a teenage boy who through a number of experiences and events and mistakes and embarrassing moments and in some cases tragedies … and at the end of it all … grows up. He is not the same boy at the end of the year as he was at the beginning.
That’s the point of growing up isn’t it? In a couple of months time, it will be my 50th birthday and reflecting back … am I certainly not the same person that I was 30 years ago or even 10 years ago. I’m not sure if I want to admit that this means that I’ve grown up … but I have grown.
Last week I introduced you to the Greek word Teleos. It means mature, full, lacking nothing … and yet still growing. I explained that the early church picked up on this word Teleos to describe the way God works people’s life as a follow Jesus – that you can be brought to this place of Teleos. Complete, Lacking in nothing in Christ – spiritually mature yet still spiritually growing.
And the whole point of last week’s sermon was that Teleos should be our goal too. Not to be satisfied with our salvation but have a hunger to grow more and more in our faith and in our relationship with Jesus.
In Hebrews chapter 5:11, the writer was complaining that the Hebrews were such slow learners. That they should have been getting into the “meat” but instead were still drinking infant milk. Listen to Hebrews 5:13-14
13 Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. 14 But solid food is for the TELEOS … the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.
Turn with me over to James 1:2-4
2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds,3 because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. 4 Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be TELEOS … mature and complete, not lacking anything.
As our reading from last week from Ephesians 4:13 and 15 reminded us, our goal as followers of Jesus is to keep growing
… 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become TELEOS mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.
And that …we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ.
So just like the book I referenced earlier … Adrain Mole “grew up” and became a different person by the end of the book. In the same way, we as followers of Jesus are called to spiritually grow up in faith and our relationship with Jesus. That is what discipleship is all about.
Last week I shared a simple idea of tuc121 … pairing up with another person and encouraging each other in our spiritual growth through reading and reflecting on some scripture once or twice a week for 10 minutes.
[Raquel says the experience has been great. Anne said that both her partner was encouraged. I have been paired up and it was great too) …. (Yes, you can still sign up)
But Today, I wish to take this a step further. Remember my illustration from last week … wanting to change the world, but then drawing it back to the nation, the community and starting with us. Well, once we start working on our own spiritual growth, once we start developing a sense of teleos in our own lives … something extraordinary happens. Our teleos starts to influence and change the people around us. Whether it is consciously or not, our family and friends, our local community start to notice the difference and are intrigued. Teleos is something that can draw people in and help other be connected to Jesus too. Remember this point … I’ll come back to it, but first, lets jump to our bible reading for today.
This letter from Paul to the Colossian church is unique from the other letters of Paul for one startling fact. it seems that Paul never visited Colossae at all. With all Paul’s missionary journeys and being involved planting churches in Corinth, Ephesus, Philippi and about 14 other churches … Paul did not plant the church at Colossae (Epaphras did) but Paul seems to have never visited Colossae either. And yet, here is Paul writing from prison to this church that as he says in 1:9, Paul has only “heard about”.
So what is it about the Colossian church that has impacted Paul so much that he is writing to them? What did Paul hear about that has inspired this response?
Paul tells us in the first part of the reading … Paul has heard about their faith in Jesus, their love and hope. Paul has heard how they are bearing fruit and constantly GROWING. Paul has heard about their Teleos … and is inspired.
But Paul doesn’t just leave it there – by saying “good job” … Paul goes on to pray that:
- God will fill them with spiritual wisdom and understanding
- Continue to bear fruit in their good works
- They will grow in the knowledge of God, strengthened with all power, find joy, peace and patience.
I love this. Paul hears about a group of Jesus followers who are living out their faith …and writes to them, encouraging them to keep going and keep growing.
But the flip side of what Paul is writing about here is the point that I was trying to make earlier. These Christians in Colossae were working on their own spiritual growth. They as a church encouraged each other to grow, to deepen their relationship with Jesus and to live a life worth of their calling they have received from Jesus in the way that they love those around them.
They were just trying to do their best in their little place of Colossae … when the Apostle Paul – who is 160kms away in a jail in Rome – says, “I have heard about you…” Let that sink in. Paul the great evangelist is saying to this little church … I have heard about you. Your actions have not gone unnoticed. What you are doing is inspiring and is not only making a difference in your discipleship … but your example is helping others in their discipleship too.
That seems to be a common story. Ordinary people of faith who are just doing their best to follow Jesus in genuine ways … we see their example and are drawn to it. We share their story because their discipleship is helpful in our own discipleship.
In one of the sermons I was listening to from the School of Homiletics, the preacher shared the story of how she was inspired by the example of so many women around her who were standing up for those who had no voice, who would be an advocate for – as Jesus called them – “the least of these”. Now I am sure that these nameless examples were not living out their passion for social justice so that they could be an example to others … they were doing it because that is what Jesus was calling them to do … but in doing so they were becoming an example for people to follow … and in turn … they were pointing to Jesus who is the best example to follow.
This is what Jesus meant in Matthew 5:16 when he encouraged us all to “let our light shine before other that they may see our good deeds and glorify our father in Heaven”.
At the beginning of the year, in our Vision Sunday talk, we heard God’s call for us to become a Lighthouse church – a church who is here not only for those who attend our premises but a church who is shining out our light and are here for all people, regardless if they come to our building or not. I don’t think we quite realised what that would mean for us – especially in this different world we now live in. But I want us to be encouraged. I think that we have tried to live this out.
We now see our worship services not just for those who attend the TUC building but for anyone who would like to join in. And we have had on average between 20 to 30 extra people each week connecting in our worship services who don’t live anywhere near us. We have been striving to make our pastoral care is shining during this time – not only to people who are official TUC members – but to all people. I am not saying we have done this perfectly, but I think the Pastoral Care team have done as awesome job. The leaders of our youth groups, kids church and playgroup – even turratots -have been super creative in difficult circumstances to maintain relationship and connection. And I want to encourage us that this has not gone unnoticed.
During the week I have had a past president of the Uniting Church say to me that “they have heard good things about Turramurra Uniting”, and the NSW Synod spoke to me last week about how they have noticed what TUC have been doing.
Our attempt to encourage discipleship and growth here at TUC is actually helping others in their discipleship too. It might not be what we imagined, but maybe this is what it means to be a lighthouse church.
And at Church Council last Tuesday, we talked about how we can continue this moving forward. How can we continue to offer a full online worship experience as well as the inhouse worship experience? How do we continue our connection with those who have joined us during COVID19 and encourage them in their own churches and situations afterward? How do we continue to be a lighthouse church and make sure that light we are shining out is a helpful and genuine example for people to see and join in with? How do we not only encourage ourselves to grow, but invite all to grow with us?
I wish to finish with a great illustration that wraps this all up that I have unashamedly borrowed from my good friend Bradon French. It is about stepping out and being that light or being that example for other people to follow. It is a YouTube video about a guy dancing at a music festival.
As you can see here … a song is playing and there is a guy dancing by himself, having fun, shining his light. Most the people around him are probably thinking he is a bit of a fool or weird – and certainly want nothing to do with him.
And it is a bit like that when we first step out to share God’s love, or to stand up for justice, or profess the hope we have found in Jesus, or to participate in acts of kindness, or simply to shine the light of Jesus … people might think we are a bit weird and want nothing to do with us!
But notice that this does not seem to concern Mr Cool Dancer … he is just doing what he feels he should be doing … dancing with all his might.
Then something important happens … someone joins him. A second person comes from the crowd and starts dancing too. Two important points here… notice how the first dancer accepts him in, offers an example and makes him a part of the dance too. But more importantly … the second person is a great encouragement to the first dancer. The second dancer keeps the first dancer dancing.
In terms of shining the light of Jesus or spreading God’s love or standing for Justice or professing our faith … yes, we need people to step out and be creative and try something new … but we all don’t need to do that. Just as important is to have other people who are willing to stand beside the innovators and say … I’m here to do this with you. I’m here to support, encourage, dance with you. I’m here to make sure your idea successes. The first followers is just as important as the first dancer.
Now, if we keep watching … look at what number 2 is now doing. He is calling for his friends to come and join too. Once again … maybe our role in discipleship is not to be the one who has to make everything happen but rather just to invite our friends to come and be part of it.
And now number 3 joins. And is included and affirmed and allowed to express himself. What started as a single crazy dancer is now a group.
And here comes four, five and six … now we have critical mass, momentum … and the first dancer is not the leader but rather is just a part of the moment. Those who are joining are shaping the movement and being part of something amazing.
And then at this point – people are noticing. People are hearing. People are seeing something amazing … and are drawn to it. They want to be part of it too. And this creates more momentum. And then … well maybe we should just watch the end of it. [watch video]
I know that being a disciple in our world today is harder than getting people to dance at a festival … but I do think that what we have to share has to power to draw people in.
When we are showing love, people notice.
When we stand up for the marginalised, people notice.
When we show mercy or are ready to include, people notice
When we talk about Jesus in a way that is real and person and something that is shaping our lives … people notice …
and maybe they don’t come running from the other side of the park … but they are drawn to it.
And that is when we need to be ready to welcome, to include, to explain, to show and to share with them.
After all – that was the model of Jesus ministry and discipleship is simply following Jesus’ example.
May we commit to this process of growing and may we all continue to shine out our light so that all might see our love, our good works, our faith and be drawn to Jesus.