Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Chalkboard Assignment: Starting Here

sermon notes from the Vineyard Church of Milan 07/08/2012

available for watching online at


This is our chalkboard assignment from Jesus…

Today, starting here.


Starting here, like right here.

Starting here, like who you are now where you are now on your journey.

Starting here, like it’s a new day, a new beginning.

When you allow your life to be taken up in God’s hands, something new starts. Someone new starts. Everything starts. And it starts here. The Together we starts here. The following starts here. The Way of Jesus starts here. The creating breathing room starts here. The Favor, the Counting, the Connecting, it all starts here.

Here might not seem like much of a place to start. Here might seem pretty humble. Pretty inadequate. Pretty impossible.

But here is where God finds you. And here is where God is, in the fullness of his presence and his grace. And here is where the starting begins.

Let’s consider the story of Zechariah and Zerubbabel.


539 B.C. A small minority of Jews return under the leadership of Zerubbabel the governor and Joshua the high priest from exile to rebuild the temple of Jerusalem. They lay the foundation in the first couple of years, but then work halts due to external oppression and internal depression.

16 years the ruins remain and the project is stalled.

520 B.C. The prophets Haggai and Zechariah are sent to encourage the Israelites to continue the work of rebuilding. The “me” in this passage is Zechariah.

4 Then the angel who talked with me returned and wakened me, as one is wakened from sleep. 2He asked me, “What do you see?”

I answered, “I see a solid gold lampstand with a bowl at the top and seven lamps on it, with seven channels to the lamps. 3Also there are two olive trees by it, one on the right of the bowl and the other on its left.”

4I asked the angel who talked with me, “What are these, my lord?”

5He answered, “Do you not know what these are?”

“No, my lord,” I replied.

6So he said to me, “This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel: ‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the Lord Almighty.

7“What are you, mighty mountain? Before Zerubbabel you will become level ground. Then he will bring out the capstone to shouts of ‘God bless it! God bless it!’ ” (Grace, Grace to it!)

8Then the word of the Lord came to me: 9“The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this temple; his hands will also complete it. Then you will know that the Lord Almighty has sent me to you.

10“Who dares despise the day of small things, since the seven eyes of the Lord that range throughout the earth will rejoice when they see the chosen capstone in the hand of Zerubbabel?”

Zechariah 4:1-10

Might takes time to develop. Power takes time to accumulate. But God’s spirit is poured out as God desires. And he desires to pour it out here and now, and in great measure. There is nothing to wait for to get started. Nothing but the Spirit of God.

Don’t wait to count yourself as part of the together we. God’s spirit has made you a child of the living God, a co-heir with Christ to the riches of the kingdom, a fully fledged member in the Trinity’s family.

Don’t wait to commit yourself to following. God’s spirit has appointed this time as the anointed time to respond to Jesus’ invitation.

Don’t wait to take your next step on the way of Jesus. There is no step you will ever be called to take that requires more of you than you have in the moment you are called to take it. God’s spirit will empower you to surrender, to forgive, to serve, to heal, to announce good news, to endure, to forbear, to let go, to hold tight, to risk in faith, to love.

Don’t wait to extend grace and embrace that creates breathing room. God’s spirit flows from the heart of grace, and will inhabit the grace you give.

Who dares despise the day of small things?

The kingdom of God so often begins with the small, the humble, the unimpressive. Seeds planted in the ground. Yeast working its way through dough. God made flesh in Jesus, a baby born in a feeding trough. 12 ragamuffin disciples. Perhaps 120 gathered in a room praying on Pentecost. 1 crucified man raised from the dead to a resurrection body.

Start. Here. Don’t be concerned with doing the large or impressive thing. Be concerned with starting. Here.

And don’t dare despise the importance of starting. Or the significance of here. Because starting here ends with the temple being completed. It ends with a dwelling place for God among us. It ends with a capstone in our hands, the last stone to set in place.

You may have done nothing for 16 years. Or more. Perhaps because you have been under some kind of oppression. Perhaps because you have struggled with some kind of internal depression or apathy. The Lord’s word to us today is the word Zechariah gave to Zerubbabel. What are you, mighty mountain? Before Zerubbabel you will become level ground. Start. Here.

5 years later, 515 B.C., the temple was completed.

Consider Israel’s second king, David. Anointed king as a boy. Kept tending sheep. Then asked to play the lyre. Came, entered the service. Played for Saul. Took food to his brothers. Then, defeated Goliath. Each and every step simply the next step. No grand steps along the way, not really. His first steps in fact looked like nothing in light of the anointing. He just kept tending, but doing it with the faith of one who would become king. He kept playing his instrument, but played with the faith of one who would lead a nation, and in fact the world, in worship.

David started here. The promise of something big. But each step one small step made large by the Spirit of God.

“All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the Lord saves; for the battle is the Lord’s, and he will give all of you into our hands.”

1 Samuel 17:47

The church started here too.

He told them, “This is what is written: The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.”

Luke 24:46-47

The world awaited, but Jerusalem is where they were. Jerusalem is where they started. Not by might, nor by power, but by God’s spirit poured out on Pentecost. And they looked like drunks when they started out, didn’t they?

We all look like fools for Christ when we are starting here. But the day is coming when the capstone is in our hands and the shouts are Grace! Grace to it!

You are raising your children, trying to teach them how to love. But starting here means teaching them not to scream and bang their fists because they didn’t get their way. Don’t despise the day of small beginnings. Grace, grace to you!

You are leading a small group, trying to make space for disciples to grow in love and worship. But starting here means all kinds of small frustrations and obstacles, most of which are hand delivered by the people you trying to serve. Don’t despise the day of small beginnings. Grace, grace to you!

You are trying to bear witness to the love of Jesus to your neighbor or your classmate or your family member or your co-worker, but starting here means mainly saying “I don’t know” to the questions they are asking you. Don’t despise the day of small beginnings. Grace, grace to you!

You have joined a ministry in the church but starting here means you aren’t really sure what you are doing half the time, and you always feel like you are asking too many questions, not getting it right, sure somebody else could be doing a better job. Don’t despise the day of small beginnings. Grace, grace to you!

You’ve begun to read the scriptures for the first time in your life. You’ve got a reading plan and a bible that you’ve written your name in. But starting here means half the time you’re not really sure you know what what you just read means. Starting here means sometimes you get behind and you’re not keeping up and you just want to quit because it doesn’t seem as awesome to read the bible as everyone else seems to think it is. Don’t despise the day of small beginnings. Grace, grace to you!

You have begun to recognize that everything you have comes from God, and so you are starting to give generously to the church for the first time in your life. But starting here means you feel worried every time you write that check. Starting here means you aren’t giving as much as you’d like to give. Starting here means sometimes you tithe in faith as soon as you get your paycheck, but other times you wait to see what you have left and you discover you have hardly anything left. Don’t despise the day of small beginnings. Grace, grace to you!

Not by might. Not by power. But by my Spirit says the Lord Almighty.

This is a word for us as a church. We are starting here. Right where we are. Not wishing we were somewhere else. Or someone else. Because God is meeting us here. And here is where he wants us to start from.

Together we follow the way of Jesus and create breathing room for the disfavored to find favor, the discounted to count, and the disconnected to connect. Starting here.


Practical Tips:

1. Start here in your following of Jesus. Commit your life to him as his disciple. Today. Now. This morning. And then again each day this week. Regardless of where here is for you. Repent of apathy, of not continuing the mission God made you for in your life. Today is the day of a new beginning. God’s spirit is here for you with grace.

2. Start here in reading the scriptures. Open to the book of Matthew, and begin to read. 1 chapter a day this week. That will take you through the sermon on the mount. There will be more steps to take after that, but start here. God’s spirit is here for you with Grace.

3. Start here with generous, cheerful giving of your money to God. Give to the church. Or, if that sounds self-serving to you, give to Agape. Or Keystone Community Church. Write that in the memo line of your checks, and we’ll pass it on for you. But start, here. God’s spirit is here for you with grace.

4. Start here with prayer. Pray the Lord’s prayer. Each morning this week. One phrase at a time, thinking about what it might mean.

Our Father in the heavens,

hallowed be your name

Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven

Give us this day our daily bread

And forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.

And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.

For yours is the kingdom the power and the glory forever and ever, amen.

Each day pick one phrase to make personal and expand on. God’s spirit is here for you with Grace.