Zis-N-Zat From Pastor Asher

God is my conscience, Jesus lives in my heart… this blog is about what I see, what I think, what I do and how I serve God

Heritage/Visioning Sunday Message for Christ United Methodist Church; November 18, 2012 @ 11 am

Scriptures: Ezra 3:10-13; James 2:14-26; Matthew 5:13-16; 1 Corinthians 3:1-10; Matthew 9:35-38; 1 Corinthians 12:27

You can read these Scriptures here: NIV // CEB // The Message

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Welcome to our visitors and neighbors, welcome to our sisters and brothers from First United Methodist Church and Pastor Rick who came to join us as we celebrate our heritage and dream of what the future of Christ United Methodist Church might be. Welcome to our past pastors and their spouses. Welcome to all the members who faithfully gather here every Sunday to worship God in this community and within the walls of this building and who faithfully carry the love of God to the world around us.

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Today we are gathered here to celebrate our shared heritage. For many decades now, well over a century, Christ United Methodist Church has served God by serving the world in which we live. That would not be possible unless this was a community united by common goals and the vision of following God, a willingness to discern what God is doing and allowing themselves to be tools in God’s hands. All things are possible when we are with God, all things are possible when we are sailing on God’s mission.

All of us gathered here today share a common bond. Throughout its history, this community has helped its members and its neighbors to weather the storms of life by being bearers of God’s love and grace, by providing strength, support, moral fiber, a sense of right and wrong, and a place where we are accepted just the way we are – warts and all.

The Holy Spirit of our God and the memory of Christians who came before us make this Holy Ground. By their faith, prayers, efforts and perseverance we have inherited the rich tapestry of traditions that inform our present and inspire our future. If we really listen, we can still feel their prayers, we can feel the sermons that were preached here in the past and we can see the fruit of their labors.

Throughout this area there are many tangible expressions of how the Holy Spirit dwells among the men and women of Christ United Methodist Church. There is a homeless shelter that originated in this church. Members of this church were instrumental in organizing and starting the Good Neighbor Fund and Samaritan Group. This community started the Food Pantry, and although it is now an independent organization it still operates under this roof. Think of these organizations as children who grew up, matured and moved away from home to start their own lives and make their own positive mark on God’s world. Isn’t it what we want for our children? These organizations serve our neighbors when they need help and encouragement, helping them to face another day during periods of time when things may not be going too well in their lives.

Here are just a few examples of our church’s involvement in God’s Creation and of our connection with our Christian sisters and brothers outside our physical walls, taken from the last few weeks.

Just last year this church learned that our sisters and brothers from Liberia use 1964 Methodist Hymnals. These hymnals are out of print and for that reason there is a shortage of them in Liberia. Christ United Methodist Church was able to locate almost 400 hymnals from all over the Peninsula Delaware Conference, and these hymnals are now in Liberia being used in worship.

In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, members of this community stepped up to the plate with their monetary and material donations, and a member of this community shuttled three truckloads of items to Crisfield. I have no doubt in my mind that there will be more donations in the days to come. In addition, the full amount of the offering taken during our 2 p.m. worship service today will also go to help the victims.

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That influence and involvement could not be possible unless this was a community united by the common goals and vision of following God, the willingness to discern what God is doing and allowing themselves to be tools in God’s hands. All things are possible when we are with God, all things are possible when we are sailing on God’s mission. The point I am trying to make is that today our world is a better place because of the involvement of this community. The men and women of Christ United Methodist Church have faithfully served and continue to serve God by serving the world in which we live. Praise Be To God!

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Sometimes somebody has to boldly state the obvious: God is active in the world that we live in; God is doing something.

That means that the world is renewed every day, the world changes every day and our community has to adapt and to adjust in order to continue to be effective representatives of God’s love and grace in Kent County, Maryland, and beyond. As the world turns, we constantly need to find NEW ways to engage the culture and the surrounding community and we need to rethink how we do church and find NEW ways to live out our love, faith, and devotion to God. We are challenged to adapt the way we do church to accomplish our mission of making disciples for Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.

And that brings me to the next point. At least four persons in this community shared with me in the last 20 months their frustration that their children won’t come to church and have no desire to be a part of any church. You are in good company. When we joined our sisters and brothers from First United Methodist Church for their homecoming, retired United Methodist Bishop Violet Fisher shared in her sermon the same frustration with her own son. Pastor Adam Hamilton, keynote speaker at our annual conference, shared a similar story about his older daughter in one of his podcasts.

That is a result of the cultural shift that we are living through. The religious climate in this country has changed and this new reality is here to stay for some time.

There is a difference between weather and climate.

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There has been a change in the religious climate in our society in the last 50 or so years.

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The latest poll conducted among persons aged 18 – 35 indicates that approximately a third of them choose to NOT AFFILIATE with any church or denomination. At the same time, this same slice of the population is very willing to donate their time and energies to social justice causes, to get involved in mission trips to places ravaged by a hurricane or other natural disaster or to commit their time and efforts to working with the Peace Corp or other similar organization. Today is not the day to dissect sociological data and surveys; however I think that these findings indicate the change in the religious climate of our society (Grossman, Jones, Pond et al., Survey). Allow me to explain.

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There are two words in the church lexicon that I want to touch on. The first word is orthodoxy, which means “the truth of God’s word.” The second word is orthopraxy, which means “the doing of the word, how we live out our faith, love and devotion to God in practical ways.” I think that in the last fifty or so years of our religious history the drive was for religious orthodoxy – what we believe to be right, true and beautiful. We need to maintain orthodoxy, because it is the foundation of the {“} “building” of our faith. Most of us do not think about the foundation of our houses and buildings; we know that it is there and we are glad because it keeps the building up and allows us to use it safely without it falling down around us (Tippett).

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14 What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? 15 Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. 16 If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? 17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead” (James 2:14-17 NIV2010)

Now let’s look at the differences between orthodoxy and orthopraxy. The survey that I mentioned earlier indicates that younger generations are much more excited about orthopraxy, because they are focused on what God is doing through them and how they can better the world in which they live.

The Church (the Big C) is much more of an orthopraxy: how we live out our faith, love and devotion to God; how we serve God by serving the world in which we live; what we do to take care of the poor; how we engage and cooperate with our neighbors; how we understand what constitutes a productive life; and what we do to bring glory to God.

Because the younger generation sees us as focused on orthodoxy, they perceive us as inflexible and unwilling to work with others. I am not saying that this is the truth; what I am saying is that this is their perception. Because of that perception, younger generations are reluctant, if not resistant, to associate with any church or denomination. Hence we hear things like, “Mom/Dad, I want nothing to do with your church…”

clip_image030 That is what our church looks like from space.

clip_image032 Chestertown AND our church from space.

We know that the world is a better place because Christ United Methodist Church has stood at the corner of Mill Street and High Street in Chestertown for many years in the past. There are tangible results of what this church has accomplished.

That brings me to the next and final point. And for that I need to use an illustration. The Food Pantry distributes tons of food to hundreds of families in this area; the Good Neighbor Fund helps families to stay in their apartments and to pay utilities in times of need; the Samaritan Group operates a homeless shelter in the winter months. The world is a better place because of what this community has done in the past. Jesus himself said that we will always have the less-fortunate among us (Matt 26:11, Mark 14:7, John 12:8) and his whole ministry serves as an illustration and an example of how to help our sisters and brothers in need.

Ultimately these charities are much needed “band-aid” ministries; they address problems, but they do not eradicate problems.

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Mahatma Gandhi once said: “The future depends on what we do in the present.” Today, as we thank God for our past, as we dream about our future and as we ask for God’s Blessing upon the ministry of this church for years to come, I want to leave you with this question, “What can we do today to ensure that there is no hunger in Chestertown 30 or 40 or 50 years from now? What can we do today to make sure that families can find meaningful employment and sustain themselves without needing help? What can we do to help the children in our schools get a better education and to encourage them to stay in this area and start businesses that create jobs and improve the quality of life in our Kent County?”

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35 Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. 36 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. 37 Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. 38 Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field” (Matthew 9:35-38 NIV2010).

Jesus is sending us into the mission field… Will you go?

 

Works Cited
Grossman, Cathy Lynn. “Young adults ‘less religious,’ not necessarily ‘more secular’.” 17 02 2010. USA Today. 14 11 2012 <http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/news/religion/2010-02-17-pewyouth17_ST_N.htm&gt;.
Jones, Robert P. “Why are Millennials leaving the church?” 26 04 2012. Washington Post. 15 11 2012 <http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/figuring-faith/post/why-are-millennials-leaving-the-church/2012/04/26/gIQAacrPjT_blog.html&gt;.
Pond, Alisson, Gregory Smith and Scott Clement. “Religion Among the Millennials.” 17 02 2010. The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life. 16 11 2012 <http://www.pewforum.org/Age/Religion-Among-the-Millennials.aspx&gt;.
“Survey; A Generation in Transition: Religion, Values and Politics among College Aged Millenials .” n.d. Public Religion Research Institute. 15 11 2012 <http://publicreligion.org/research/2012/04/millennial-values-survey-2012/&gt;.
Tippett, Krista. “The Next Christians.” 20 09 2012. On Being by Krista Tippett. 16 11 2012 <http://www.onbeing.org/program/next-christians-jim-daly-and-gabe-lyons/transcript/4852#main_content&gt;.
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2 responses to “Heritage/Visioning Sunday Message for Christ United Methodist Church; November 18, 2012 @ 11 am

  1. Pingback: Heritage/Visioning Sunday @ Christ United Methodist Church – Message # 2; November 18, 2012 @ 2 pm « Zis-N-Zat From Pastor Asher

  2. Pingback: Heritage/Visioning Sunday @ Christ United Methodist Church – Message # 2; November 18, 2012 @ 2 pm « Christ United Methodist Church in Chestertown, MD

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