Sermon – 02-02-20 – Epiphany IV – Cycle A
Scripture: Micah 6:1-8, 1 Corinthians 1:18-31, Matthew 5:1-12
Sermon Title: “The Church in Mission Mode; Not Maintenance Mode”
When we went Christmas caroling to one of our members this past December, she said something like “What is going to happen to our church?” I held my breath because I did not know where this conversation was going to take us because of our selling our building. But not to worry. In a flash, Mildred had her two hands together as we do for the song, “We Are the Church.”
First, the closed church with two fingers being the steeple. Then the thumbs move apart opening the door and the fingers become the people.
“The church is not a building, the church is not a steeple,
the church is not a resting place, the church is a people.
I am the church, You are the church! We are the church together!
All who follow Jesus, all around the world! Yes, we’re the church together!
In our case, it is what is in our steeple that is part of the mission of the church. We are serving the community by chiming the time with the beautiful carillon. Then, whoever chose the particular CD’s of hymns to play had really good taste, in my opinion. But then again, the words are missing. If the community is going to get the message beyond the quality music of the bells, we need to add the words. How does that happen?
Oh dear. It would be great if the people walked through our doors and could hear and see the words inside the building. Of course, you walked through the doors and you are part of the words. You sing them, we pray them, you are very attentive listeners to the sermon. But the walls are thick stone. Maybe you know if people walking on the sidewalk past our church can hear us praising God with all our might. Probably the organ can be heard outside the walls, but again the organ does not breathe words, just beautiful music.
Inside the walls we feel safe to cry and laugh. How are the people on the sidewalk going to know there is a safe place to cry inside if we don’t tell them. Thanks to Cory who welcomes “sidewalkers.” That’s great! Some of you have taken Zion UCC pens and given them to people who do not come to church. You may be discouraged because noone has accepted your invitation to this point. Maybe we need to be praying harder that our pens are speaking for us. However, some of you have had success. The first time we plant the seed. Then later we water and bring sunshine. Finally, the seed blossoms and bears fruit. Let us not be discouraged if our fruit-bearing plant feels led to another church! We are all part of one kingdom in Christ.
One day recently, I was sharing lunch in a restaurant with one of you, and the waitress came to our table and said, “Oh, you’re a pastor!” I told her where I am a pastor and casually invited her to come to church. The waitress then revealed that her son had just died of an overdose several months ago and there was something else in her life that was eating at her soul. She said, “I really need to come to church.” I invited her to come to talk to me if that would help her. She seemed so grateful for the invitation. I gave her our church card with my telephone numbers and email address. How did she know that I was a pastor? At first, I was puzzled. Then I realized that it was my collar that told her.
How can people know who we are if we don’t show it? Hence, the T-Shirts. Do you remember what the T-Shirt says? It says that we are spreading the love of Jesus around the world. Zion UCC has people around the world. We pray for our service people, we pray for Sierra doing her college education in Jordan. She is learning to think and converse in Arabic. We pray for protection mostly. Might we pray that they would feel Jesus so present with them that it shows.
We are in the process of taking inventory in our building. What will we find? I think we will find that we are collecting food for our local food pantry, collecting items for veterans who are struggling. We will find pictures of the many, many warm hats, scarves, and gloves that we collect each winter. We may find some sign that we filled many, many clean-up buckets for people who survived natural or human-made disasters. We collected clothing for local families who lost everything except themselves. We have an on-going collection for David in Africa. Some of you do Meals-On-Wheels. You probably are part of other big things of which I am not aware.
We can honestly declare ourselves a “mission” church. We are thinking of other people and not just ourselves. We are thinking of their material needs. Because of these activities, we CAN call ourselves a “mission-mode” church instead of a “maintenance-mode” church.
BUT, I wonder if we could do more about the “soul needs” of people inside and outside our walls. Could we be more aligned with – WAIT! – wait a minute – hear ye, hear ye, four of us participate in the after-school club at Conrad Weiser West Elementary. This is not just fun time although we have fun and we increase self-confidence and kindness with these students. We actually are welcome to teach Jesus! Imagine, we can tell Bible stories and how they make a difference in our lives. These weeks leading to Easter, we will be sharing the miracle of the resurrection of Jesus. Few of these children go to Sunday School or Church. This is new to them.
Guess what! I am being too boastful. Matthew 5 says we shall be meek, we shall not want praise, we shall not blare trumpets. We are only part of this Conrad Weiser Ministerium group which brings Jesus to the cafeteria for six or seven weeks at a time. We work together. Probably we are people from seven churches working together. We do not worship the same style on Sundays but we know how to bring the good news as a unit to these young people who absorb the good news like sponges. These 20 or so young people see us as a unified bunch of teachers and assistants.
How about our own spiritual growth? If we come to church on Sunday, that is good. That may bring us closer to the Father and the Son. The Holy Spirit may wander into our souls. But could we gather more – especially in small groups – so we could come to know each other better. So we can know how God lives in other persons’ lives. So we can be open to receive the blessings that sharing joys and pains can bring. Our pew companions have lives. How does Jesus keep them going? Could our own stories of how Jesus effects our joys and pains be helpful to someone else? Could we become increasingly like the brothers and sisters in Christ that we are.
Today we are witnesses to yet another nudge from God. God sent our special friends to us and each one of them wants to sing. Instead of expecting new people to fit our mold, we asked God to show us how we could adapt to our friends’ God-given talents and gifts. We are a “mission-mode” congregation! Let us not become stagnant into a “maintenance-mode” flock of sheep. Keep us alive, oh God! What else can we do together to become even more alive in Christ? Do tell me when an idea comes to you. It could be God speaking! Amen