The title of the service today is Forward by Faith, and I really am excited to go through the Book of Romans together, chapters 12, 13, 14 and 15. Now, that already sounds like a long service. Don’t worry, it might be. So we’ll see. Maybe maybe we’ll edit it. Who knows? But we’re going to go through those four chapters because I think that’s really what God’s word would speak to us as we’re coming back to service in person.

And so Brian Santos is going to take Romans 12 because they’re the first ones that met together as a region inside indoors. And they pioneered it. We all watched it on live stream. And so Brian’s going to share from Romans Chapter 12. And then Eddie Francis, our elder and leader here out in the east region. He’s going to talk about Romans Chapter 13 and then I’ll be back to share Romans 14 and say a prayer for our offering. We’re going to close out as we take communion together, as Bill Ellis, another evangelist here in the church, shares from Romans Chapter 15.

And I think you’ll really see God is speaking to us and God’s favor is resting on us and the plans we have to come back together in person and to move forward by faith. Let’s say a prayer, and then we’ll bring Brian Santos up to bat lead off. God, we do commit those who are grieving and those who have lost loved ones Father those in our fellowship who are still sick, God, those who are even out of work or underemployed.

And father, we pray for an end to this pandemic. We are grateful to live in Florida and to see all that this state has done to prepare itself to move forward. We’re thankful for the jobs and the ways that you have provided for us. Thank you for the faithfulness of the members of this congregation. May we be a great light to the city of Orlando. May neighbors and friends who have been finding us online also find us as we come back together in person.

We pray a special prayer for Steve as he goes into surgery on Thursday. God, that that your miraculous hand would be with he and his family. God, that you would really remove the cancerous tumor from him. Father, thank you for the fruit. Thank you for those who have proclaimed Jesus is Lord, may there be many more to come. Father, we love you. It’s in the name of Jesus. We pray. Amen.

All right, as Marshall shared earlier, I’ll be covering Romans 12 as we are moving forward by faith and the pandemic has taught us many things. It’s definitely taught us how to do online services. And we grew as we shared many times, we started in Bill’s home. And I don’t need to share too much about that. Then we moved it on over to here. And and I remember I preached one of my best sermons right here, but the audio on a live stream did not work.

So you didn’t get a chance to hear it. But it was one of my best sermons. I just want to say that. But but but since then, we’ve grown. I mean, we’ve gotten a logo. We’ve the transitions. I mean, amazing how Jason Durfuss made us look good online. And you’ve gotten used to this high standard of streaming. And it’s also spoiled us because it’s easy to watch church online. It’s so simple. You just come on down.

I mean, I had to travel far, go down the stairs. I had breakfast with Michelle. I’ve never done that on Sundays. It’s always been more of of getting things ready. But it’s amazing how much I’ve enjoyed that. But things are changing. God has made us to worship, to give and what’s happened to us with the online service it’s made us into takers consumers. It has. Because we sit down and we can can fall into that trap to where we’re just receiving and not giving.

And that’s what I want to talk about today, about the faith we need to move from being consumers to being contributors. And that’s a move of faith, that that means that that we’ve got to change our attitudes. You know, not only are we consumers, but then we can also be critics. We can we can look at all the things that are going wrong. We can we can look at what’s the sound, how come it sounds like that, compare it to TV shows or other church services in other places or whatever.

We get this high standard and we’re not engaging in and just loving God and giving. Now, don’t get me wrong, we are going to be meeting together in person if some of us are going to be online still. But you’ve got to become a giver too. Maybe write a comment and then maybe after the service, think of engaging with somebody. All of us have to be contributors. And I think that that God teaches us that, as we read in Romans 12, one. It says, therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God.

This is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you’ll be able to test and approve what God’s will is, his good, pleasing and perfect will. You know, the part that I like to focus on right here is that God tells us that we have to offer something. He allows us to bring something to our worship and that’s our bodies. That that means that we are contributors.

That means that he expects something and he continues in Romans twelve thre. It says for by the grace given me, I say to every one of you, do not think of yourselves more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourselves with sober judgment in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. But just as each of us has one body with many members and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ, we though many form one body and each member belongs to all the others.

We have different gifts according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesied then prophesy, in accordance with your faith, if it is serving, then serve. If it is teaching, then teach. If it is to encourage, then give encouragement. If it is giving, then give generously. If it is to lead, then do it diligently. If it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully. You know what Paul is saying right here is that this is what God desires for us. First, the message was from God. It was given by grace. But the part I want to focus on is that the faith that’s talked about here, the faith that God has distributed, that means that it’s not our faith. Its God that’s given us faith and he’s given us faith for a reason. It doesn’t belong to us. It belongs to others as well. So how does it work? God gives us faith.

Then we take that faith and we we apply it to our gifts and then God wants us to plug that gift into his body and when it’s in his body, then it’s reached the destination that God wanted it to reach. Now, that’s very similar. Like this Christmas we had we had, of course, not be able to see some family members. We sent packages in the mail or we did UPS or whatever it was. But you know what they give you all the time.

They give you a tracking number. And that tracking number is very important because I track everything that I send that I spend money on and I want the whole gift to reach. So I track it and I and when it’s there, it is delivered. And I think it’s the same way with our faith. God deposit is he deposits his faith into us. So that could reach the destination, which is the church. Right. We can’t hold back.

We can’t give half the gift. So so what does that mean for us? You know, we’re going to be meeting together in person. And as Marshall said earlier, the north region pull that off the other day. But we had to get the rust, the rust off. And and let me tell you, it was different that morning. He had to get up early, had to go unload the van at eight am. And you were watching online.

You could see we started a little late. That was because the the the power that went to the soundboard, the plug wasn’t working. And then you saw me get up, make an announcement, come off of Wi-Fi, all these different things. But they were all there. We had a great service. Jake preached a great message. You could hear him. I mean, it was a great day, but there was a lot of work.

But that work was our glory because we were able to contribute what God wanted to give us. And as we make this transition into meeting in regions, it’s going to be different than like our online recorded services. Let’s be patient with what God is doing to teach us. But let us be present. If you can sing, show up and sing. If you can serve, serve and help with setting up things. And then we can feel the victory.

That’s right. Because then we know God, the positive something in us, and then is to his glory that we were the ones who offered our bodies and our gifts to just see a great service. So I look forward to us moving forward. God’s going to bless us. Let’s continue to be a great church that’s known for giving.

You know, I’m grateful for Brian shared about using our gifts and being contributors. Another aspect of us coming back together will be what we talk about here in Romans Chapter 13. So I’m going to start out by reading a few verses there in Romans 13, because our focus is to talk about the law and the importance of love. Romans 13, verse one. Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established.

The authority that exists have been established by God. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong, do you want to be free from the fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended for the one in authority is God’s servant for your good.

But if you do wrong, be afraid. For rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities not only because of possible punishment, but also as a matter of conscience. This is also why you pay taxes. For the authorities are God’s servants who give their full time to governing, give to everyone what you owe them?

If your taxes pay taxes, if revenue than revenue, if respect, then respect, if honor, then honor. You know, Paul talks here about how his disciples we are to be subject to the authorities. He says we are to obey the authorities. And this is a theme repeated in other places in the New Testament. You can read later first, Timothy, two verses one and two, and also Titus three, verse one. And I’m going to read you a couple of verses from second first, Peter, chapter two, verse thirteen through seventeen.

Listen, this just from all he says, submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human authority, whether to the emperor as a supreme authority or to governors, for it is God’s will that by doing good, you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish people, show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honor the Emperor. You know, God expects us to respect and be submissive to authorities. He expects us to surrender, to acquiesce, to be obedient to the authorities that we have.

And something we’ve heard over the years is that they don’t call it submission because you if you agree with it, is not submission. OK, so the idea is, is you’ve got to surrender your position for the sake of the greater good. We have tried really hard as a church to be submissive to the authorities over this past fifteen months with the coronavirus and at the same time balance that with how to move forward by faith. And that has been a challenging ask, because if you think about it, when it comes to the coronavirus, we’ve heard guidance from the World Health Organization, we’ve heard from the CDC, we have gotten messages from the president.

There have been presidential executive orders, statewide executive orders. Then we also have county executive orders. And along with that, we have to comply with all of the various venues where we meet for church. They have their own direction that we have to follow as well. For instance, Jewish Community Center that the awesome North region gets to use, or the Orange County public school system where we have different venues that we use there. And then on top of all of that, we have our internal things that we have agreed to.

We have Kingdom kids policies and and we have fiscal policies, how we deal with the finances. We have to do all that we can to comply with all of these things. And added to that, we are what the government calls a 501 c three charitable organization. That means the Internal Revenue Service imposes their stipulations and requirements on us as well. So if you just think about it, we have a lot of stuff that we’ve had to sort of juggle and not just our church, but all the churches have had to do this, and I feel very privileged because I get to serve on our board of directors, I get to serve alongside Jeff Sabotin who is the chairman. I get to serve as the vice president. And we have incredible members of the church who make up that board. These guys sacrifice. They give up their time to really help with all the fiscal and legal and insurance matters that the church faces and also get to serve with the other Sabotin the better looking Sabotin. Debbie Sabotin, because Debbie serves as the chair of our audit committee and she does an incredible job. She’s a CPA and we’re really grateful to have her. And just an aside, if you’ve not heard we had another stellar audit this past year, that means our books are in order. Everything is in place financially. We are very, very sound. At one point, our auditor said, I am so happy because you guys have done incredibly well despite the pandemic.

So really cool to see that. And let me just doing one other thing, because this coronavirus thing has been changing so much we formed a health and safety review committee to keep us informed on the latest with the coronavirus and what we need to do to give us direction. And Avis Jenkins has done an incredible job leading that group. Now, why am I telling you all of this? I’m telling you this because of what it says here in verse seven.

It says, Give to everyone what you owe them if your taxes pay taxes, if revenue than revenue, if respect and respect, if honor, then honor. I think the real issue facing us as a church, as we move forward, as we come back together is respect. We’ve got to do all we can to be respectful. And as Brian said, sometimes we’re critical, we’re negative, we’re questioning. We’re not supportive of maybe some direction that’s been given.

And we’ve got to do better. We’ve got to do a whole lot better than that, I think is somewhat telling that if it’s the schools or the business or our job, we comply with their directions. How much more should it be that way in the church and with our leadership? So so, guys, we’ve got to do better in that area. And I’m going to close by looking at Romans thirteen, eight through ten.

It says here, let no debt remain outstanding except the continuing debt to love one another for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law, the commandments. You should not commit adultery. You should not murder. You should not steal. You should not covet. And whatever other command there may be are summed up in this one command. Love your neighbor as yourself. Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore, love is a fulfillment of the law. Paul says its all about love.

It is all about love. And no matter how you feel about the current president or the former president or state or local officials, at the end of the day, brothers and sisters, we need to be about love. We need to make sure Jesus says all men will know that you’re my disciples. By what? By our love. And we need to make sure that is evident in our lives. You know, we’ve had some who have felt very strong in their opinions.

And we read about and we hear those people say what? The CDC is all wrong. They don’t know what they’re talking about. They’re clueless. Well, the CDC recently decided you don’t have to wear masks anymore. And some of these same people have now said you’ve got to listen to the CDC. The CDC has got that right. And all that says, guys, is that if you agree with me, then now you know the real authority.

And that’s not right. That’s that’s a lack of submission. We’ve got to be submissive. And he talks here about how love does no harm to a neighbor. How much harm have we done in our relationships and our opinions and how we share with each other? Guys may not be so in the church. So so here’s the thing I want to leave you with. Let’s be submissive to God, to each other, to the authorities and lets love.

The highest motivation for what we do has to be love. And so, guys, let’s do that and let’s come back together in a powerful way. Amen.

The guys have done a great job so far. Brian talked about being moving from being just a critical consumer of church to being a contributor, and definitely as we come back in person, we do need all hands on deck. And then Eddie did a great job of talking about, you know, the law. Yes. But the higher motivation of true love for one another. And I hope that we really heed his words as a brother in Christ, as an evangelist in this church and as your elder, I thought he did a great job of really admonishing us and calling us higher in our love.

Amen? I’m going to talk about moving from condemnation to consideration, not condemning each other, but really being considerate. And of course, this is in Romans Chapter 14. So you can read with me. We’re going to start in verse 10. The Bible reads, Why do you condemn another believer? This is Paul talking to us. Why do you look down on another believer? Remember, we will all stand before the judgment seat of God and each of us will give a personal account to God.

Let’s stop condemning each other, decide to live in such a way that you’ll not cause another believer to stumble and fall. I know, and I’m convinced on the authority, the Lord Jesus, that no food in and of itself is wrong to eat. Praise God. But if someone believes it’s wrong, then for that person it’s wrong. And if another believer is distressed by what you’re eating, well, then you’re not acting in love if you eat it. Don’t let your eating ruin someone for whom Christ died.

Then you’ll be criticized for doing something that you believe is good for the Kingdom of God is is not a matter of what we eat and drink, but living a life of goodness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. If you serve Christ with this attitude, you’ll please God and others will approve of you too. So then let us aim for harmony in the church and try to build each other up. That is such a great way of saying that scripture let us aim for harmony in the church and build each other up.

Don’t tear apart the work of God because of what you eat. Remember, all foods are acceptable, but it’s wrong to eat something if it makes another person stumble. It’s better not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything else if it might cause another believer to stumble. You may believe there’s nothing wrong with what you’re doing but keep it between yourself and God. You know, Paul was specifically addressing here the potential divisions within the believers. And so you had all these, you know, the Jews who really were the first to come to Christ and be converted in the early church in Jerusalem.

And even as they went from city to city, they would go first to the synagogues. The Jews got really the first opportunity to accept the Messiah. And, of course, they maintained most of their kosher dietary practices within the law of Moses. Right? But then you had the Greeks and the Romans who had no issues or conscience about such foods. Right? These were the bacon eaters, the pork eaters. I mean, they ate it all.

And so you had the Jews who also continued to observe the feasts and the Sabbaths and and the holy days within the law of Moses. While. The Greeks and Romans, to be honest, even as they became Christians, they probably observed many of the same holidays and maybe even some of those that were based on pagan gods. And so it really was not about who was right. And sometimes that’s how we think. Who is right? Have you ever been in an argument with your spouse?

Have you ever been in an argument with your roommate or a sibling or even a close friend? The answer to all of those questions is yes. Have you ever met somebody that says, my wife and I have never been in an argument. I’m like yeah right that that may not last. we always argue. We disagree. And and oftentimes it comes down to and I’m maybe talking to the guys here, but some of the women, too, who is right?

Have you ever guys, if you ever felt like man I’ve given in so many times this time I’m I’m right. And I’m going to make my stand here. Well, how long is that argument going to last until you realize that who is right really makes no difference. And this kind of thinking doesn’t even promote love or unity, it’s it’s short sighted thinking and you may actually win a battle or two, but ultimately, what are you going to lose?

You’re going to lose the war. And we recognize as parents, we recognize this immaturity in our kids right? We see our kids arguing and they both think they’re right. And as parents, as spectators, we know no one is 100 percent right. Actually, when they have argued and they’re broken down in their relationship, they’re both now in the wrong. And it’s not it’s really not about who’s right, but taking responsibility and resolving the conflict.

We must learn as Christians to give up the right to be right. And what do we call that? It’s called maturity. You know, since the pandemic, we have faced a lot as a country and a lot as a church. You know, our freedom allows us to believe many different things, even our freedom in Christ, even our biblical freedom allows you to believe many different things about politics, about racial tensions in the way those played out in the country.

We may not all see those things exactly the same way. You have the freedom to form your opinion on that. All of this has been portrayed in the media a certain way. You have the right to believe what you want, even about the media. You know, our freedom allows us to believe many different things about the pandemic itself, about vaccines, about masks, and about your own health decisions. You know what you should do with those beliefs, according to Romans fourteen, twenty two? Whatever you believe about these things, blast them on Facebook and argue with people, because you are right. That’s what Romans, 14, says in the new media, social media. That’s not what the Bible says in no translation. Do you find just blast your opinion out there and it doesn’t matter who you hurt. Romans fourteen twenty two says whatever you believe about these things, keep between yourself and God. What is that called?

What is that called? When you believe really strongly about something but your brother or sister in Christ feels strongly the other way and you make a conscious decision to love them and to not impose your opinion on them or condemn them. What is that called when you give up the right to be right because you want to be considerate of somebody else. That’s called maturity. It’s called faith. It’s called love. What is it called when you blast each other?

When you argue or when you dismiss the church and its leadership and you just want to meet with your group because you’re right and all of you think the same way about these issues. That’s immaturity. And I’ve seen and I’ve been hurt by some of the immaturity that I have seen and witnessed in this church. And the bottom line is it’s sin. And I’m calling you guys as a church to repent. Whatever you believe about those things, you have the freedom to believe.

But keep that between yourself and God. You’re not acting in a loving way towards your brothers and sisters in Christ. You are ruining people in this fellowship because of what you believe. Keep that between yourself and God. When we come back together, we need to do so in love. Give up your right to be right all the time. We have to move forward by faith. Let’s not be consumers and critics of the church be a contributor. Let’s not argue anymore about the law.

Though we need to be mindful of the law and these ordinances. And yes, they are a moving target. But let’s make a decision to act in love for one another. Let’s not condemn each other because of the differences that we have in matters of opinion. Those things may be your conviction and you may hold to them deeply. That’s fine. I’m not talking about your conviction. That’s fine what you believe. I’m asking you to be considerate of someone else because of your level of faith in Christ.

Now, let’s talk really quick about the specifics of how we’re coming back. The north region, they are already they have a facility, the Jewish Community Center. That’s where they’re going to be meeting and you obviously can talk with your ministry leader in the Santos’s there about how they’re going to be doing their midweek services, but they were able to find that facility and amen for that. In the Southwest region we are looking right now to sign a one year lease with Victoria Church on John Young in Hunter’s Creek.

It’s a it’s a church that we’ve met at before. And we have a relationship there with Pastor Reuben Perez. And we’re looking to negotiate terms of a one year lease. Now, if we find another place, we actually have the option to give them a two month notice and and begin meeting somewhere else. But we really have not found any other place in a very exhaustive one year search. And Orange County public schools, Hunter’s Creek Meadows, some of the places we’ve met at before, they’re just not ready for us to come back yet.

So we’re going to begin meeting there prayerfully beginning in June, which would be June 6th. That could be our first service. It will be a four p.m. service. Now, I know that’s a change for all of us in the Southwest region, but I think that having one service in the afternoon may actually serve the church in a fantastic way. There are many of us that work in a service industry, and for a lot of us, sometimes Sunday mornings is a challenging ask for our employer to have a four o’clock service that you can go to would be great.

I know for our family we have demands. We have kids that are in club sports and and they don’t always check with us as to when to schedule all the games around our church schedule. So to be able to have the flexibility on a Sunday, I think that’s a great parent to their child lesson. Yeah, you can play that game at ten o’clock, but guess what? We’re going to drive to the four o’clock church service so that we can attend church and commit ourselves to the body of Christ.

So it does give us a lot of flexibility in our rotation as a congregation to have one of us doing an afternoon service. So let’s do our best to make the best of it. Amen? The east and university regions are still coming up with an option because of course, this building here at Goldenrod does really not allow us to to come back in this socially distanced time and again, we’re hoping that that time is coming to an end. However, we really wouldn’t be able to do much in this building.

So they’re even entertaining the possibility of a summer rental, perhaps at University High School, to where we can just have one service, the from Oviedo to the university to the east. All of you guys being able to and the campus ministry have one service together. So that looks like it might be the best option for the summer until we figure out how we could do a rotation here at our Goldenrod facility. And I also want to say that by faith, we right now as a board and as an eldership and as a leadership and staff here in the Orlando church are pursuing having facilities that we could call our own in each region of our church.

And so we had a great board meeting even tonight. Tonight is Thursday. It is now ten thirty eight pm. We’re recording here at the building. It’s a small little crowd. Eddie’s here. Bill’s here. And Jason Durfuss, that’s that’s that’s who’s at church right now. But but we’re coming back and we would love for each of the regions of our church to have their own facility, to be a permanent part of their community, to serve the community, to reach out to the lost and to really have some church homes.

And so, you know, pray for that process. We’re at the beginning of that process. But I really believe that God’s going to blessed in a great way. We are currently in escrow for the back half of this property that will pay for twenty four hundred goldenrod and we would own it outright and be debt free. And I really think that positions us to start looking for some permanent facilities. So keep that in your prayers. There’s so many exciting things going on and I know that I got a little bit stern with you today, but it’s because I love this church and I really think by faith God is going to do some great things with this congregation as we move forward.

Amen? So I’m going to say a prayer with that and with the plans that we have. Obviously, our offerings and the consistency of our offerings really play into this. And you as a church have done a great job. And as we return to in-person services, God talks about returning to him, says, ever since the time of your ancestors, they turn away from my decrees and haven’t kept them. You know, we have a habit of doing that, don’t we?

Turning away from God, he said, so returned to me. I’ll return to you. Well, how should we return? Well, will a man rob God? But you rob me, he says, how are we robbing you? Well, then, tithes and offerings. This is God. Having a conversation with his children, wanting their hearts to be fully invested, says bring the whole tithe into the storehouse so that there may be food for my house.

Test me in this as the Lord Almighty and see. Just watch. I’ll throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have enough room to store it. You know, not having enough room is something that really, for me takes a lot of faith right now because we don’t have enough room. I mean, we don’t have enough room in this building to meet. We don’t have enough facilities. But can you imagine if God threw open the floodgates and now we we were outgrowing two, three, four facilities that we owned?

I know that seems lofty, but guys, God can do it if we return with all of our hearts.

Amen church as we transition into communion, we’re going to talk a little bit about moving from being alienated to being accepted because that’s really what happens through Christ. And in Romans Chapter 15, verses one through seven, it says, We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves that each of us please his neighbor for his good to build him up for Christ did not please himself. But as it is written, the reproaches of those who reproached you fell on me.

You know, I want to stop for a second and I want us to think about this because those who are strong and a lot of times we consider ourselves strong, we we have strong convictions, which many times are strong opinions. And in those convictions, we have trouble bearing with those who do not think or feel the same way as we do. But it says, let us not please ourselves, we don’t live for ourselves, and that’s something we have to understand because of the cross, you and I have the opportunity to not live for ourselves, but for Christ and not to please ourselves, but to please our neighbor and to build one another up.

It’s because of the cross that you and I can build the church. We can build our neighbors up. We can build our brothers and sisters up because we’ve decided to focus on the good in them. You know, verse three says Christ did not please himself. But as it is written, the reproaches of those who approached you fell on me, and that is that that reminds me so very much of of Jesus’s prayer in the garden when he says to his father, not my will, but your will be done.

And so it’s so easy to come back to church with that consumer mindset that Brian was talking about, saying, I want things to be the way I want them to be. But we need to come and understand that it’s not our will. We are imitators of Christ. And he came to do the will of God. And you and I, brothers and sisters, we need to do the will of God. We need to live in a way that we deny ourselves and live in love and be guided by the cross.

Love our neighbors more than we love ourselves. Verse four goes on to say, for whatever it was written in former days was written for our instruction. That through endurance and through the encouragement of the scriptures, we might have hope. May the god of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may, with one voice, glorify the God and father of our Lord Jesus Christ. This is a challenging scripture because it really does say that that as it was written for our instruction, it’s through endurance and through the encouragement of the scripture.

And and many times we do not enjoy the things we have to endure. And many times we read the Bible. We don’t necessarily enjoy the concepts that we see and they go against and they grate against our our nature. But that is the cross. The cross is us crucifying who we are in order to be who God intended us to be. And when we do that, when we decide to do that for God, we live in such harmony with one another because we are unified in Christ.

And and that is really as we come together. This has been a challenging 15 months. The history of the past year and a bit. We’ve gone through some incredible things as a country, as a congregation, as individuals, and we are in all different places. How do we regain harmony? How do we regain unity if it’s not through the Christ, if if it’s not through the cross of Christ? And it says that together we may, with one voice, glorify the God and father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

You know, we we can have all different thoughts. But through the cross we have one voice, the voice of God. We are communicators. We are herald of the word of God to a to a world that is hurting and in need of Jesus. We’ll finish with therefore welcome one another, verse seven, as Christ has welcomed you for the glory of God. Yes, it truly is the cross that welcomes us to commune with God through Jesus’s rending of the most holy place, him him going through the curtain and reaching into heaven and pulling us along with him.

He has welcomed us into the throne room of our of our God, of our creator. How much do we have the responsibility to welcome one another to to really endure the hardships of this world, to be unified and to reach through that curtain the same way Jesus reached through to help others? That’s the hope of the cross. It’s the hope the world needs brothers and sisters. We are that hope. And thanks to the cross of Christ, we can be that hope for the world.

As we take communion today, we need to remember that Jesus surrendered his will to the will of God for the good of you and for me, but not only for us, for everyone that is willing to hear that message. So as we commune today, I want you to think about your brothers and sisters across the city of Orlando, across the state of Florida, across the United States of America, across North America, South America and the world, and understand that because of the cross, we can be unified.

It’s the message that gives hope to the world we live in and only through the cross. Let us pray. Father, we thank you so much for Christ and we thank you so much for his example. And we ask to have the strength to follow it. We ask to be able to be encouraged by your word and endure the hardships of this world and the attacks of Satan. Father, that the cross would give us hope that it would unify us, that it would give us vision to reach through the darkness, to grab others, that even as we pray today and we think about Jesus, his body that was broken.

And as we take the bread and give thanks for his sacrifice, we might think of the hurts of our brothers and sisters across this city and across our world. And this might unify us in ways that we cannot even imagine humanly. And God, as we take the fruit of the vine and we remember the blood of Christ that was shed for our forgiveness that purchased us, let us remember that we belong to one another and that we are cleansed through your sacrifice and allow us to be willing to sacrifice for one another.

And for those who are willing to hear your word, God, please bless the emblems of communion today. Allow us to take communion together with. With Grateful Hearts, with unified heart, with humble hearts, God, allow us to move forward by faith, because you have grabbed us and purchased us through Christ, we love you and we ask this in Jesus name, Amen.