In part one of this two-part series, the nature of the fenced-in self was introduced. This sermon dealt with the two that relate to the individualistic focus that characterizes the fenced-in self. Living within the four walls of the fenced-in self, we hide from others, trying not to reveal any weaknesses or short-comings, thereby we reject feedback as we live the unobserved life. The final two fences are torn down through the receiving of the connected life and the sharing of the connected life.
In part one of this two-part series, the nature of the fenced-in self was introduced. Four fences enclose the modern self, forcing us to evaluate ourselves to answer the question, “Who am I?” from within the confines of “my” self-understanding. Part one addressed the tearing down of the first two fences, those that deal with the immediate focus of the fenced-in self. This sermon dealt with the two that relate to the individualistic focus that characterizes the fenced-in self.
Zechariah spoke a blessing over his son John in verse 76 of Luke 1. To capture the depth of meaning of this blessing we must look at the panoramic view of the verses of Zechariah’s prophetic song that lead up to this blessing. If we only look at the blessing, we might assume that the song is about John, but when we look at the context of the blessing, we discover that the song is about God’s actions for Israel, the people of God, God’s chosen nation. John was to fit in the fabric of a people, woven in the corporate identity. Therefore, his personal blessing was directly dependant upon the corporate identity of Israel as they walked before God.
The problem though for us is that we come to these verses with individualistic eyes. We don’t understand what it means to be a part of a corporate identity. We live as a story of the individual, trying to become a better “me.” Living within the four walls of the fenced-in self, we hide from others, trying not to reveal any weaknesses or short-comings, thereby we reject feedback as we live the unobserved life. Even in small groups, there are fenced-in individuals who gather but find it difficult to connect. They come with expectations that the small group meeting is for their personal needs, and as soon as those expectations are not met, then they find excuses to miss meeting. They don’t understand that they are part of the group as a contributor not just a recipient.
Scott Peck puts it this way, “Because we cannot ever be totally adequate, self-sufficient, independent beings, the ideal of rugged individualism encourages us to fake it. It encourages us to hide our weaknesses and failures. It teaches us to be utterly ashamed of our limitations. It drives us to attempt to be superwomen and supermen not only in the eyes of others but also in our own.”
The final two fences are torn down through the receiving of the connected life and the sharing of the connected life. First, the receiving — Ephesians 4:25 says, “For we are all members of one body.” The way we break out of the fenced-in self comes as we receive the gift of others into our lives. Others are a gift that only God can provide. We cannot force connections. We cannot make relationships happen. As the Spirit makes the way for the gift of connections, I discover that my heart is laid open to others. I get to know them and they me. I begin to see how we are one. I learn to minister to others and as I do, I find that serving another is also serving myself because we are one. I find that when another mourns or struggles, I mourn and struggle. I find that when another rejoices or celebrates, I rejoice and celebrate.
The final fence is removed as I share the connected life. The gifts of God only remain gifts if I hold on to them lightly. I cannot hold tightly to the connected life because when I do I begin to idolize the relationships I have with others. To share the connected life means that I am willing to open my life to others that God might bring my way. It means that I seek out people who are different than I am, those who do look like me or talk the way I do or live in the same economic world that I do. Oneness in Christ means that our unity can overcome the boundaries that the world has set up for us.
Revelation 21:2 reads: “I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.” The church is to be prepared for the coming of the groom, Jesus. We are to be dressed in a gown of the connected life, adorned by love for one another, clothed with unity.
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