Thomas Merton said that, “Most people never become great saints for the same reason they never become great poets . . . they never get around to being the kind of person that is called for by the times in which they live.” That is, most of us are so busy doing what is in front of us, that we never notice what is happening around us. We are time-conscious, yet oblivious to the times. Historian Arnold Toynbee likens us to someone with his nose pressed against a mirror, trying to see his whole body. We just do not have the right vantage. We need to step away, occasionally, and study the whole picture. What is needed, says Merton, is for us to understand our times and to be called into our circumstances the way that our peers are called into their interests. When we are called, by our times more than by our interests, we will dream and risk and sometimes suffer in extraordinary ways because our charge to keep is “to serve the present age.”
Week 1 “Vision Sunday” Ephesians 1:15-23, Rev. Steve DeNeff
What time is it? And what kind of Church produces the people that are called for by these times? This sermon we’ll introduce the series by suggesting that we live in a time of exile, and that the kind of people called for are a “remnant.” This provides the context for the gospel, the mission and the cause of our church. We’ll show how our vision of transforming the community, of developing future leaders and of resourcing the Church is an answer to the kind of church that is needed in exile.
Week 2 “The Temptation To Power” Jeremiah 29:4-13. Rev. Steve DeNeff
When we first hear of exile, we are tempted to complain, to resist, to try and regain control. We insist that we have rights, or that we are too powerful to ignore. And here we are faced with the choice between the way of opposition or the way of humility. We must decide what kind of power we want. Must we be in the center, or will we accept our place on the margins? The remnant answers: We will go quietly and support those in the center.
Week 3 “The Temptation to Relevance” Jeremiah 10:1-5, 10, 12-16. Rev. Steve DeNeff
Once on the margins, we want to be relevant. We seek the approval of those in the center. We try to become what we think the host culture will value and sometimes forget that our first call is to the Lord our God. We confuse our loyalties to the culture (in the name of evangelism) with our loyalties to God because we want to be respected by the secular age. Right here we face the choice between being prophetic and being popular. Both are ways of being relevant, but the former is less gratifying unless our loyalties have changed. Will we continue to be peculiar or will we become contemporary? The remnant answers: We will put away our idols and be loyal to the Lord our God
Week 4 “The Temptation to Return” Jeremiah 32:1-15, 36-41. Rev. Steve DeNeff
Just as some are always changing there are others who get stuck. They bide their time on the margins, waiting for the day when things will return to normal. To them, the remnant is something left over from the past and so they cling to traditions. They can be critical of any attempt to re-interpret the faith because they cannot imagine God revealing Himself in ways that are different from the past. What they miss is that the remnant is also the first component of the future. It is the gospel that the next generation will believe, stripped of all time-sensitive convictions. There are those who call everyone back to our so-called tradition, and those who call that tradition forward into a more relevant faith. The remnant answers: We will go forward engaging the world.
Week 5 “The Commitment to Purity” Leviticus 18:1-5, Matthew 5:27-32. Rev. Steve DeNeff
Our current trajectory of unrestrained pleasure, of freedom without responsibility will have tragic consequences for which we, as a culture, are unprepared. These consequences will threaten even our most stable institutions until the society begins to look for an alternative. In that day, a Biblical view of morality, of responsibility and self-control will be an attractive, if unpopular option for some. The Remnant will keep them selves pure.
Week 6 “The Commitment to Civility” Leviticus 19:1-2, 16-18 & Matthew 5:21-24; 43-45a. Rev. Steve DeNeff
Ours is a loud and angry culture in which words turn suddenly into threats, and then to violence. People are slow to listen and fast to speak, often in militant tones. We are more demanding and less patient. As our culture becomes more polarized by our convictions and more fragile by our threats, we will fray the “more perfect union.” But the remnant will live quiet and peaceful lives. They will distinguish themselves by their reverence (for God) and their respect (for others).
Week 7 “The Commitment to Integrity” Leviticus 19:1-2, 11-15, 35-36; Matthew 5:33-37. Rev. Chris Williams
A cheating culture exists when “everyone does what is right in his own eyes.” In our day, there is a sense that everyone is cheating – and justifying it – so that cheating in return is thought a matter of survival. Before the mayhem destroys us, we will need a community who live simple, transparent lives, who risk being taken advantage of because their trust is in God. Against this culture of hidden agendas and spin, the Remnant will be people of integrity.
Week 8 “The Commitment to Generosity” Leviticus 19:1-2, 9-10, 33-34 & Matthew 5:38-42, 46-48. Rev. Steve DeNeff
Over the past 40 years we have witnessed the migration of wealth toward a few who were already wealthy, and away from the masses who were already poor. The political answer is to change the laws, to stimulate the economy, to incentivize the behavior of the rich and the poor but this is doomed to fail unless the heart of a nation is changed. In protest of our unprecedented greed, the Remnant will be people with a fundamentally different view of possessions. They will edify others with compassion and opportunity.
Week 9 “Speaking Truth to Power” Daniel 1:1-5, 17-21. Rev. Steve DeNeff
From Daniel we learn that there is a time to submit and a time to resist, but the best resistance is a counter-offer and the most persuasive argument is our loyalty to those in charge. This sermon will teach us how to discern whether to submit or to resist, and how to resist while remaining loyal and useful to those in control. We’ll call people to “lead up,” like Daniel did, by speaking truth with humility and grace.
Week 10 “Seizing the Moment” Esther 2:17-20; 4:11-17. Dr. Dave Ward
From Esther we learn that God has called some into places of power (like Esther), and others to stay and the gate (like Mordecai), and that we must accept the place that God has assigned and to wait for the moment – a time when options are clear, when decisions are points of departure, when the community is divided over two ways of living – and to offer fresh, informed and creative solutions. This sermon will explore how Esther (and Mordecai) did it, each from their assigned place, and call our people to engage our city at the places where the community has need and where our people have knowledge.
Week 11 “Working Together for the Common Good” Haggai 1:1-6, 14. Rev. Steve DeNeff
): With Ezra and Nehemiah we see the cooperation between the church (Ezra: Temple) and the state (Nehemiah: Wall) and we are inspired to strive for similar arrangements with the leaders in our city. This message will call our church into formal partnerships with more civic leaders, and will challenge us to partner with other area churches to form a coalition for the revitalization of our community.