Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Chalkboard Assignment: Count

sermon notes from the Vineyard Church of Milan 06/17/2012

video of this sermon is available at


This is our chalkboard assignment from Jesus…

Today, creating breathing room for the discounted to count.

[miracle on ice video…]

3 One day Peter and John were going up to the temple at the time of prayer—at three in the afternoon. 2Now a man who was lame from birth was being carried to the temple gate called Beautiful, where he was put every day to beg from those going into the temple courts. 3When he saw Peter and John about to enter, he asked them for money. 4Peter looked straight at him, as did John. Then Peter said, “Look at us!” 5So the man gave them his attention, expecting to get something from them.

6Then Peter said, “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.” 7Taking him by the right hand, he helped him up, and instantly the man’s feet and ankles became strong. 8He jumped to his feet and began to walk. Then he went with them into the temple courts, walking and jumping, and praising God. 9When all the people saw him walking and praising God, 10they recognized him as the same man who used to sit begging at the temple gate called Beautiful, and they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him.

Acts 3:1-10

Peter and the lame man, both once discounted and now counting.

Counting matters.

[studies about the elderly with plants, visits from studentswhy selecting groceries is such a big deal]

We like to have an impact, to control, to have value, to make a difference. We like it so much we’ll act like we can do it, even when we can’t.

[betting more money if opponent is incompetent…dice throwing (self-tossed, not yet thrown, picking winning number)… live sports…]

This desire to count is at the heart of creativity.

Some talk about creativity as a specialized thing that artists and other “creatives” do. Sure, making something where there was nothing before is creative. And sure, making something that has never been made before is creative. But the reality is that at the heart of creativity is the very simple act of making a positive difference.

Teaching your son or daughter to throw a ball or why the days are longer in the summer or how to clear the dishes is creative. It makes a positive difference. It counts. We want our work to make a positive difference, to count. Our relationships. Our lives.

Our desire to count, to control, to make an impact, like the list making we talked about last week, is part of the image of God in us. We think about the future. And then we cooperate with God in shaping the future. God is a creative God, and he has made us creative image-bearers.

We are meant to make a difference. To have an impact. To count. There is life in that for us, life for the world in that. God made us image-bearers to bear his image. To join with him in trusting and faithfully imagining the good he has promised, and then faithfully and creatively cooperating with him in bringing that good about.

Which is why when we are discounted, it is so devastating.

[end of the study with student visits…]

Many of you know what it’s like to not have an opportunity to play. Or for your best efforts to fail. Or for your creative energies to be frustrated, time and time again. This is the work of the enemy in the world. To cause us to judge and discount one another. Or to cause us to discount ourselves.

God will have none of that, and he calls his church to have none of that either. It is the voices of judgment and shame and fear that have counted for way too much in this world, and Jesus is rebuking them as he invites us to follow him, as he invites us to count for something bigger than all the judgment and shame and fear in the world. Because God is love, and his love is on the move, and he’s like a conductor yelling, “All Aboard!”

The scriptures are laced with accounts of the discounted being counted by God. The poor count. Aliens count. Moral failures count. People from lowly families count. Widows and orphans count.

Joseph starts as a slave and prisoner in Egypt and rises to the right hand of the pharaoh.

Moses, the murderer with a speech impediment helps deliver Israel from 400 years of slavery.

David, the youngest son goes from tending sheep to leading the nation.

Rahab, the prostitute, helps Joshua and company infiltrate Jericho, and becomes one of the great great great grandmothers of Jesus.

Jesus gathers a band of drop outs and counted outs and turns them loose as midwives to resurrection life spreading across the face of the earth.

He doesn’t go after those who already count and try to leverage their impact. He goes after the discounted, counts them in, and teaches them how to make their lives count.

Young people, for example, count in the kingdom of God.

The elderly count in the kingdom of God.

The poor count in the kingdom of God.

The moral failures count in the kingdom of God.

Because there are two qualities that make all the difference in the kingdom of God. One is a willingness to let yourself count for God, a willingness to stand up and be counted by him, regardless of where he sends you, what he asks you to do.

5 “Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.”

6 Then one of the seraphim flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar. 7 With it he touched my mouth and said, “See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for. ”

8 Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us? ”

And I said, “Here am I. Send me!”

Isaiah 6:5-8

And the other is humility.

6An argument started among the disciples as to which of them would be the greatest. 47Jesus, knowing their thoughts, took a little child and had him stand beside him. 48Then he said to them, “Whoever welcomes this little child in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. For whoever is least among you all is the greatest.”

Luke 9:46-48

Those who have an experience of being discounted, have both of these qualities in great abundance. The already counted are sometimes so busy counting for themselves or lesser things that the invitation of God goes unnoticed or unattended to. Not so with the discounted! (that’s perhaps part of why the disciples were so eager to follow Jesus…) The already counted are sometimes competing and striving for personal glory that the humility required to trust God to direct and empower one’s efforts is noticeably unexercised. Not so with the discounted!

What a beautiful job Jesus has given us as his church. To create breathing room for the discounted by first recognizing everyone’s value and capacity to cooperate with God, and then in faith making space for them and equipping them.

[compassion ministry… prayer ministry… baptism… workplace relationships…]

Creating breathing room for the discounted to count is ultimately very simple. It’s saying: “you can do what I do (and probably even better!); here, give it a try and I’ll help however I can.”

Very truly I tell you, all who have faith in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. 13And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.

John 14:12-14

Practical Tips:

1. Count a kid. Have a kid help you with something this week.

2. Count yourself in. Pray the “Here I am Lord, send me” prayer

3. Count your blessings. Write a thank you note to your Dad for the ways he let you count. Or anyone else in your life who did.

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