St. John’s Baptist Church

Worship | Sundays @ 10:30am

Why One Anothering Matters

Sunday, January 17, 2016 – Second Sunday after Epiphany

Proclaimer: Rev. Dennis W. Foust, PhD

Sermon: Why One Anothering Matters

Scripture: Romans 12:1-18

God created the local church to help us become the people God has created us to become.

Carl Sandburg wrote about an old French town where the mayor ordered the people to hang lanterns in front of their houses which the people did, but the lanterns gave no light; so the mayor ordered they must put candles in the lanterns which the people did, but the candles in the lanterns gave no light; whereupon the mayor ordered they must light the candles in the lanterns which the people did, and behold there was light.1

Have you noticed that some people go through life needing more detailed instructions than others? For some reason, there are many people who live without a lighted candle in the lantern of their life and must be told why light is missing. I offer to you that one of the reasons why the church matters is because we can help keep the lanterns lighted for one another.

Every person goes through confusion and crisis. Yet, when people who go through confusion and crisis while actively participating in a healthy local church, they have a community of faith to support them relationally and to help them search for a better life. In other words, we keep the light on for one another through the light of Jesus Christ.

In his book, Hopeful Imagination, Walter Brueggeman observes that many in the American church have lost an understanding of why the church matters. He describes these folks, “fatigued and close to despair.2 If you ever question whether your involvement in the local church matters in your life, in the lives of others or in the life of the world, please know the answer is a big bold capital “YES!” And we all enjoy nurturing healthy church life.

One reason we enjoy nurturing a healthy congregation is because it is so easy. All we have to do is work together investing our attentions and energies on God’s mission for the Church and the vision of St. John’s while we also give attention to leadership development; staff relationships; communications; generational differences of Builders, Traditionalists, Boomers, Busters, Generation X, Generation Y and Millennials; trust; traditions; expectations; personal needs, preferences and perspectives of all of the members; individuation; family systems; emotional intelligence; anxiety; self-awareness; influences; congregational theological languages; beliefs; objectivity and subjectivity; relationships; past experiences; perceived threats; homeostasis; the public selves, private selves, blind selves and unknown selves of each congregational participant; pastoral care; congregational care; roles; reactivity, interactivity and proactivity; self-differentiation; relational and social triangularization; empowerment; listening skills; expressions of power; decision-making processes; leadership styles; collectivization; conscientization; and the formation & nurture of congregational culture; etc. And, even when we do all of this well, we must always focus on prayerfulness, compassion and commitment.

Jesus created a community of faith. He called others to follow him by being with him. Jesus nurtured his first disciples to be a community of faith and sent them forth to do as he had taught them. Jesus prayed asking God to make his followers one and he and the Father are one. When Jesus appeared to his followers after the resurrection, he appeared to them as a group.

When Paul wrote to the church in Rome, he gave attention to salvation as justification and as sanctification. Justification describes how God, through Jesus, gives us pathway for a personal relationship with God as love. Sanctification describes how God is constantly setting us apart for sacred purposes of spiritual ministry. In Romans 12, Paul teaches how God sanctifies us: we are made sacred as we live sacrificially, as we refuse non-conformity to the world and through the one-anothering that happens in the local church.

God created the local church to help us become the people God has created us to become.

First, Paul teaches the early church to take a new look at the sacrificial system. The Jewish tradition offered the bodies of animals as sacrificial expressions of commitment to God. Followers of Jesus offer their bodies as living sacrifices imitating Jesus’ commitment to God. In other words, sacrifice is to be a lifestyle practice. Life is to be lived for God in service of others. And St. John’s, last year you invested thousands of hours and more than $125,000 in mission.

Second, Paul teaches the early church to choose spiritual transformation. If we focus on rules and regulations, we are conforming to the ways of the world. The Jesus movement is motivated by the transforming the mind of Christ. As we follow Jesus, we serve others, pursue humility and become empowered to discern the will of God.

Third, Paul encourages the young church to express their diverse ministries to strengthen one another. It is good for us to remember the diversity of our ministries are united in Christ.

In New York City, a man would go downstairs each morning and read the morning paper to his blind neighbor. After he entered the apartment, he would ask his friend, “What’s the good news?” His friend would go to the piano and press middle-c. Then he would say, “the tenor across the hall sings flat; the violinist across the street plays with a scratch; but, that was middle-c 1,000 years ago and it will be middle-c 1,000 years from now.”

As you notice the persons sitting around you today, I remind you that what unites you is your commitment to Jesus Christ. Jesus is our middle-c. We tune our church by the love of Jesus who teaches us how to be on key with our one-anothering.

  • We are more than a service organization; we serve the mission of God in the spirit of Jesus.
  • We study the Bible and form groups to learn theology so we can obey Jesus more faithfully.
  • We gather to worship God and to increase the depth of our commitment to follow Jesus.
  • We build relationships to be faithful in one-anothering that strengthens the body of Christ.

Friends, the world needs the church; and, metro Charlotte needs a church like St. John’s. It is my prayer that you will realize more and more why your one anothering matters. We need to keep the candles lighted for one another. And, there are people all around us who have no lighted candle in their lantern. They need us to be a maturing and healthy church because they need Christ’s light in their life.

The lyrics of Greg Ferguson’s song paint a picture:

Leave a light on for me; I don’t know if you remember but we’ve gone by each other a time or two before

Leave a light on for me; I drive by this church so often; I pull up for a moment and look toward the door

Leave a light on for me ‘cause my world is getting bigger; But my heart is getting smaller and it chills me to the bone

Leave a light on for me ‘cause I thought I had the answers; But now I have these questions that won’t leave me alone

Leave a light on for me ‘cause I’ve always been a fighter; But I never knew how much of life was out of my control

Leave a light on – ‘cause now I can’t see where to go

I don’t know why I keep on driving by your door; I’m not exactly sure just what I’m looking for.

Is there a candle burning in the hope of my returning?

Do you mean to shine a light…or to just keep out the night?

Leave a light on for me ‘cause I’ve been a lot of places; And I’ve learned a lot of lessons and the lessons take their toll

Leave a light on – so I can look for what’s left of my soul

Friends, God created the local church to help us become the people God created us to become.


1  Carl Sandburg, The People, Yes, Harcourt, Brace & Company, New York, 1936, p 62.

2  Walter Brueggemann, Hopeful Imagination, Augsburg Fortress Press, Minneapolis, 1986, p. 7.

3  Greg Ferguson, Leave A Light On, Willow Creek Music, 1999.