EKG: Ministry Flows from the Heart

Pastor Diane Gordon

Mt Pleasant FUMC

October 15, 2017

 

 

Scriptures: John 13:34-35 and I Timothy 6:17-19

 

††††††††† One of the challenges of worshiping in a large space is peopleís ability to see whatís on the altar. Anything Dianne Young and Wendy Honey craft to help illustrate the weekís message must be of very large scale, and even then, sometimes needs some interpretation. Today we have a birdís nest, or what we are using to symbolize one.

††††††††† Every year birds of every kind construct a nest for the benefit of the eggs they will lay and the young that hatch from those eggs. There are nests of every size and shape you can imagine, depending upon the kind and size of the bird. While for a time the bird and its mate will take up residence in the nest, the purpose of the nest is not really for the comfort and ease of the parents. It is for the life of their offspring and the survival of the species. Nests are built for future generations.

††††††††† We humans sometimes speak of having built quite a nest for ourselves, or perhaps we are referring to our nest-egg Ė which isnít a nest at all, but an accumulation of wealth, designed to keep us comfortable all our years. There is an element of legacy involved, when the amount gets large enough. But when we are starting out, itís more about lifestyle and having the things we desire so we can live the life we dream of.

This is the part of our psyche that gets acted upon by the consumerist culture in which we live. Accumulate more things, and THEN you will be happy. Drive THIS kind of car, and THEN your neighbors will see how successful you are. Dress THIS way, and everyone will see how cool you are. There is very little forward thinking in consumerism. Itís all about money Ė getting it, so we can spend it, and spend it on things that usually only satisfy until the next trend comes along. Itís all about living for today.

We need to be more like the birds. If someone calls us bird-brained, weíre not going to take it as an insult. Weíre going to use it as a reminder that how we live, the work we do, the nests we build, are not just for our own present enjoyment. It is for the sake of future generations.

In the church, we seek to live in such a way that future generations will know and love Jesus. Itís not so much about doing what makes us comfortable; itís about living in such a way that the love of Christ is made evident in our relationships, our care of not just family and friends, but of strangers and our enemy, as well. How we choose to live now impacts what our children learn and value.

I am incredibly thankful for having been appointed to this church. In my five years here I have been able to witness deep and abiding relationships and to see Christ at work in you. I have watched as you came together to support much-needed renovations to this building, even in a time of financial uncertainty as our book-keeping system was in transition between one computer program to another.

I have had the joy of watching this congregation re-dedicate yourselves to ministry to children and youth by deciding to hire a full-time director for those ministries. God blessed us in that effort and sprouts of growth are popping up. We know it will be a time of rebuilding, but signs of life are giving us great hope for the future.

This congregation has long affirmed its love for great music in worship, praising God with voices and instruments. The quality expected by you in the pews gives evidence of your dedication to offering God the very best. This is a fitting response to Godís generosity. We have been blessed with Godís good creation and life that is truly life. It is fitting that we seek to share in praising God with, and for, such beauty.

The times that continue to both challenge and surprise me are your dedication to mission, serving Christ as we help our neighbors. For decades, this congregation has fed the hungry as you have supported the Soup Kitchen, the Food Pantry (both permanent and mobile), and four years ago you said a resounding ďYES!Ē to participating in the rotating homeless shelter. You have given generously to support missionaries oversees, to Nothing-but-Nets to eliminate malaria so little children in Africa can grow up and have a future, and a chunk of our apportioned Ministry Shares goes every year to Africa University, where students from that continent have the opportunity to learn and take back to their towns the benefit of a good education (which is something this congregation values greatly).

All these things come at a cost. Sometimes itís dollars Ė which you never fail to supply when a true need is lifted up and sometimes itís our time Ė handing out food, winter coats, or volunteering to host the homeless so they can have a warm place to sleep, a nice hot meal, and a shower, so they feel ready to face life and begin again.

These are wonderful ministry opportunities. They are why the church exists in the first place Ė so we can live out our faith that tells us we are to love God, above all else, and love our neighbor, the way we love ourselves. We do unto others as we would have them do to us.

This is holy work. This is future work, not just for the sake of us sitting here today, but for the sake of the future of all of Godís children. All human beings everywhere need to know the love of Christ. Everyone craves a place in Godís heart and Godís desire is that we respond to that craving by accepting the grace supplied to all and live a life worthy of the good news that Jesus gives.

What makes this church special? That all are welcome at the table in our open communion. That women are welcome to serve as clergy (and have been for 61 years). That service to those in need is a highest priority and we live that out through local missions as well as UMCOR Ė the mission arm of United Methodism all around the world Ė who stays long after the crisis to continue to meet the needs of hurting people until they are no longer hurting.

All of these things are what makes United Methodistís special. This is something worth supporting and preserving for future generations. Caring about the souls of those who will be born years from now matters. There needs to be vital Christian ministry that continues through the ages to ensure that evil does not win out and the corruption of the worshiping of wealth does not forever destroy the bonds of love in society.

No human institution is perfect, but there are a lot of things to love about this church. We believe that we are not alone in the work that God calls us to do, as we make new disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.

We build this nest, as a place where we can be transformed and then where those who will come after can continue to be transformed and change the world. We build this nest, not just for our own entertainment and enjoyment, but for the sake of having a mission post in the midst of our city where we are challenged to think of more than ourselves and encouraged to love God and each other more each day.

We build this nest so future generations will know God and love each other the way God loves us.

You help make this possible through your pledges of money and time. Your presence and participation in the ministries of this church are what give it vitality. Your presence and participation in Godís work is what will transform your life and help you to connect with all that is holy and good. Together, we make something possible that we could never do on our own. Thanks be to God! Amen.