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
Approximate Notes for Homecoming / Heritage Sunday @ Bethel UMC in North East, Maryland; 19 October 2014
19 October 2014Posted by on
1 Corinthians 3:6-9 NIV 2010
6 I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow. 7 So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. 8 The one who plants and the one who waters have one purpose, and they will each be rewarded according to their own labor. 9 For we are co-workers in God’s service; you are God’s field, God’s building.
Homecoming services are great occasions to celebrate the history and tradition of individual communities, to take stock of where the church is at present and to daydream about reaching for new horizons. Homecoming services are at least in part about communities reinventing and reinvigorating themselves.
Our popular culture is packed with personalities that continually reinvent themselves. Think about Bill Gates; he went from being a visionary, entrepreneur and process designer to being a philanthropist. Think about Madonna; she went from being a pop-star with a certain slant to being a philanthropist in the African country of Malawi. Think of Michael Strahan who retired after a 15 year career as a football player and now is ½ of the Kelly and Michael show. The fabric of who we are as a country is conducive to and is packed with men and women that continually reinvent themselves.
Imagine my reaction when on Thursday morning (10/9/2014) I learned that Tommy Chong is on Dancing with the Stars. I am talking about Tommy Chong of the Cheech and Chong comedic duo, who became poster children for the drug culture of the 60’s.
Richard “Cheech” Marin and Thomas “Tommy” Chong are a comedic duo and shrewd businessmen. Their business is SHOW BUSINESS. They are famous for comedy that caters to the hippie and drug culture movements of the sixties. If I had to guess, neither of them is a drug user; that is just a niche that they used in the past to make money. For the benefit of full disclosure: personally I frown upon the use of drugs, alcohol and other substances that alter one’s mood and/or personality.
Although I personally would not adopt such a business model, both Cheech and Chong had successful careers, and now that drug education and the dangers of drug use are widely known and accepted, both of them have worked very hard to reinvent themselves and to find a new niche. And that brings me back to something that I discovered a couple of years ago.
If you google “youtube cheech and chong 90 calorie brownies” you will find an internet commercial made by Cheech and Chong advertising FiberOne 90 calorie brownies.
If you are wondering whether I really said what I said, the answer is YES, I said it! Cheech and Chong are advertising “Magic Brownies,” FiberOne 90 calorie brownies, each of which deliver 33% of your daily fiber requirements and keeps you regular.
I have eaten quite a few of those myself ( hey as I get older my needs change just like everyone else’s) and I can attest that these brownies, to quote their commercial, “Cardboard no. Delicious yes!” The punch line of the commercial is, “Now that we are getting older, we need a NEW kind of magic from our brownies.”
Levity aside, this commercial acknowledges that at different times we have different needs. 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 is changing every day and our community has to adapt and adjust in order to be effective representatives of God’s love and grace in Cecil County, Maryland and beyond. As the world turns, we constantly need to find NEW ways to engage the culture and the surrounding community, we need to rethink how we do church, and find NEW ways to live out our faith and devotion to God. Allow me to explain.
Every generation builds on the accomplishments of previous generations. We are standing on the shoulders of those who came before us. Because of their dedication, perseverance and faith, we inherited our Christian identity and our traditions. We are a community today because they were willing to do what had to be done in order to transmit the wonderful message of God’s love and grace to us.
We have a message to tell to the nations; the message of God’s love and grace; the message of God’s involvement in God’s world and in our lives. Each one of us is God’s love letter to the world.
That is the same message that Christians have been transmitting from generation to generation for the last 2000 years. That message does not change; what changes is how we live out that message with our whole lives and with every fiber of our beings.
Every generation writes and sings new and different songs; every generation redefines mission, outreach and evangelism; every generation is trusted with the stewardship of what makes us who we are: followers of Jesus, sisters and brothers touched by God’s Grace, washed by the blood of Jesus and transformed by the Holy Spirit.
With every new generation, our community must be focused, purposeful, and diligent to find NEW ways to tell the story and to discover what it means to be a follower of Jesus at the time and in the place in which we live.
Some of our ancestors planted seeds of faith, some watered the soil and nurtured seedlings, and Bethel United Methodist Church stands here today by the Grace of God and because of their faithfulness and dedication. We did not become the Light of the World and the Salt of the Earth (Matthew 5:13-16) by some cosmic accident. We became all that through God’s Grace and by their efforts. Now it is our turn to plant seeds of faith, to water them and provide an environment where others can reclaim or discover their Light and their Salt.
Homecomings are important milestones in the life of the church. Homecomings help us to recognize how our past informs our present and inspires our future.
The Prophet Micah said it best when he said,
Micah 6:8 (The Message):
But he’s already made it plain how to live, what to do, what God is looking for in men and women.
It’s quite simple:
Do what is fair and just to your neighbor,
be compassionate and loyal in your love,
And don’t take yourself too seriously—
take God seriously.
When we do that – when we are fair and just, when we are compassionate, when we take God more seriously than ourselves (Micah 6:8) – our neighbors have a chance to see our witness and to hear our stories, to see the fruits of our relationship with God and to recognize the joy of knowing God. That is how churches give their testimony and give hope to those around them. That is how churches serve God by serving the world in which we live, and by making disciples for Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.
The easiest way to make disciples for Jesus is to live lives that reflect Jesus’ presence in our hearts and share it with our neighbors. Nobody wants to be on the receiving end of an evangelism and outreach project. Our neighbors, however, do want and crave an encounter with the living God and genuine faith. The world is packed with men and women who need, want, and crave to hear about wonderful things that the Holy Spirit is doing (Psalm 42:2, Psalm 143) and the Holy Spirit moves mightily in our churches. Most people want to be a part of something meaningful and something bigger than themselves. There is no better place to find all that than in a community of faith that is “about God’s business” (Luke 2:49). My hope and prayer for our community is that our lives reflect genuine faith and the presence of the Living God.
Organizations do not change; people change and they make changes in the organizations that they are a part of. Those who came before us took God seriously (Micah 6:8); those who came before us changed what they had to, accepted what they had to and adapted where they had to in order to make sure that the song of God’s love, grace and presence in the town of North East, MD did not stop. The melody has changed through the years, the instruments we use have changed, but the message is still the same. It is our turn to write and sing new songs, to learn a new dance, to make the changes that we need to make so that the story of Jesus continues to be shared in the future by the people called Methodists.
“… we are co-workers in God’s service; you are God’s field, God’s building” project (1 Corinthians 3:9).
May God bless our efforts and May God bless the community of Bethel United Methodist Church!