First Date

I still remember our first date.

It was on April 25, 2001.  Cassie and I met at a Tex-Mex restaurant called On the Border which was kind of in-between where we both lived at the time.  We shared a queso fundido de pollo for an appetizer – this yummy cheesy concoction with grilled chicken and onions and nice warm tortillas where you’d scoop the cheese into the tortilla and form a gooey, cheesy taco.  My mouth still waters thinking about it.  The chimichanga I ordered for my main course was good, but dessert was to die for.  We had this amazing apple crisp!  It was warm and buttery with this sweet crumb topping that was delicious.  Just the right amount of cinnamon and the apples were nice and tender so they melted as you ate it.  Again, mouth-watering anticipation.  Since it was our first date, I wanted to impress so I wore my best “date” outfit at the time – a blue button-down oxford from Banana Republic, khaki Dockers, and brown Sperry Topsiders.  I even put on cologne – Safari by Ralph Lauren.  I know that completely dates me, but it’s true.  Cassie looked great!  She was dressed in a very alluring black chiffon blouse that I to this day call her pirate shirt because it had this frilly collar like in Seinfeld, except that it looked very nice on her.  The whole night, I remember being on my very best behavior – making sure I paid attention without seeming too eager, being polite without being obsequious, making sure I didn’t eat with my mouth open or spit food while we were talking.  That kind of thing.  The hardest part was not spilling food on my shirt.  You might think that would be easy, but I swear I buy shirts with food magnets in them.  No matter what I do, it seems like the food just jumps off the fork and right onto my shirt.  I wanted to make a good first impression on Cassie because deep down, I was hoping this would last.  Twenty years later and we’re still together, so things worked out pretty well.   

Our 20th anniversary and as a special treat, Cassie wore that black chiffon blouse I loved so much

It’s important to make a good first impression.

It sets the tone for our relationship right from the start.  And even though we CAN overcome a BAD first impression, it’s so much easier to get it right the first time.  That’s true whenever you’re trying to develop a relationship.  Not just in dating, but when you apply for a job, when you’re competing for an award, when you go to a new school, you want to present your best self.  Why should it be any different for our church?  If you have a Bible or a Bible app on your phone, this morning we’re going to read from 1 Cornithians 9 beginning with verse 19.  1 Cornithians 9:19. Churches are always trying to attract new people, but we often don’t put ourselves in this frame of mind.  But the truth is we are dating our community. We’re trying to develop a relationship with the people around us.  We want them to come and get to know us.  So we should act like every Sunday is a first date.  Think of it this way: If you were inviting someone over to your house, someone you wanted to attract, would you pick up your dirty clothes on the floor?  Would you wash the dishes in the sink?  Would you make your bed?  Or would you say to yourself, “Hey, if they can’t accept me for who I am, I don’t want to be with them anyway.”  I bet your attitude wouldn’t be the last one.  It doesn’t even have to be a date.  It could be your boss or your in-laws or friend you haven’t seen in a long time.  But we all know how important it is to make a lasting first impression. 

Believe it or not, we’re at a Giants game in Dodgers gear!

To do that we have to adapt to our community.

We’ve got to find a way to adapt to make our church into a place other people would like to stay awhile.  If the person you’re dating loves chocolate chip cookies (like I do), then you might bake some chocolate chip cookies.  If your boss loves sushi, maybe you bring some to work.  If you’re going to a new school, you could wear your new school colors.  I mean you wouldn’t go to a Giants game wearing a Dodgers jersey if you wanted to make friends with Giant fans would you?  Paul talks about that in our reading this morning (I’m sure Paul was secretly a Dodgers fan).  Once Paul was convinced Jesus was exactly who he said he was, Paul was on fire for Christ!  He went from being a zealot against Christ to being a zealot FOR Christ and nothing would stop him.  Not even his old self.  He would do ANYTHING short of selling out the Gospel to help others come to faith in Christ. 

19 Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. 20 To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. 21 To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. 22 To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. 23 I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings. – 1 Corinthians 9:19-23

Paul is speaking directly to each one of us.

His message is clear. It is OUR responsibility to bring the Gospel to others.  It is not THEIR responsibility to come and get it.  We sometimes act as if it is.  We act as if it is the responsibility of other people to come and seek the Gospel.  But a person who doesn’t know he’s lost isn’t going to ask for directions.  Think about it!  Have you asked for directions when you weren’t lost?  Nobody does!  And even when it becomes evident to everyone else that we ARE in fact lost, we still drive on for 10 miles more before admitting it.  Before a person looks for help, they have to be convinced that help is needed. That’s where we come in.  There is a whole world out there chock full of people who don’t know Jesus and don’t know why having Christ in your life is important.  They don’t know that life could be better on so many levels when you open it up to the movement of the Holy Spirit, and unless we can SHOW them that better life, unless we make it a reality, they’ll go on driving without ever knowing they might be lost. 

Paul felt so passionate about Jesus he did whatever he could to bring Jesus to the people.

To his Jewish friends, he practiced all the Jewish customs.  He celebrated Jewish festivals.  He worshipped with them in synagogues and built trust with them so when the opportunity came to share about Jesus, they would believe him.  He obeyed the laws even though he wasn’t restricted by them any more.  Jesus had set him free, but in order to reach those who still held to those laws, he followed them so they wouldn’t blame him of being a radical, so that he could speak to them and they would hear.  He showed empathy to the weak even though he was emboldened by Christ so that in his weakness, in his vulnerability, he could make a connection with others.  As Paul said, he became all things to all people so that he might save some.  And that’s important because despite our best efforts, we won’t reach everyone, but it’s important to try.  I know in my own life, if it weren’t for people reaching out to me, I wouldn’t be here today. 

So fortunate to still have amazing dates with Cassie! Can we put the same effort into dating our community?

Let’s date our community. 

Let’s find a way to do as Paul invites us to do and become what we need to become.  Let’s figure out together what it is our community needs and wants and DO that.  We just have to be aware not to mistake what WE want for what the COMMUNITY needsBut with care, prayer, discernment, and patience, we can find a way to reach the heart of our neighborhood and help them to see the loving Christ-centered people we are.  It didn’t take me long to realize that our church is filled with loving people.  We only need to show that to our community.  But for them to know that about us, they need to get to know us.  They need to spend time with us to see we are not the stereotypical church they see on TV.  That instead we are a people who want to make a difference in the world.  To do that, they need to hang around a while and they will see what I see – a place where you can connect to God through the love of Jesus Christ.  Let’s ask our community on a date and see what happens! 

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