Our Partners in Mission

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Mark 9:38-40

Have you noticed that the world’s changing?

We live in a world of instant access where people can watch hurricanes move across the Atlantic, and where we’re invited to sit in the courtroom while people like Bill Cosby are being sentenced to time in prison. We can watch President Trump address the General Assembly of the United Nations, and listen to people question Brett Kavanaugh after his nomination to serve on the Supreme Court. Every “pop” and “ding” and “vibration” on our cellphones means something. And, as the world’s quickly changing all around us, the Church is changing, too.

Most Americans continue to believe in God, but fewer and fewer people are sitting in church pews on an average weekend. Churches that were once filled to capacity with bustling crowds are facing tough times as once-filled pools of volunteers have emptied and as rising costs fuel growing deficits. But people are still doing “good things,” aren’t they? Organizations all across America were mobilizing volunteers and were asking for financial support long before Hurricane Florence made its landfall. People can send money to feed hungry children – support their local women’s shelter – provide medical care for children with cancer – or even save an abandoned puppy or kitten with a touch on their cellphone’s screen. And many people in the Church are feeling threatened by that – because it’s almost as if we’re competing with other groups that are always pulling people and resources that we need to do ministry out of our hands.

The apostle John once said to Jesus, “Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in your name and we tried to stop him because he was not following us.” (Mark 9:38)

“Our Partners in Mission” is a message that’s been created to encourage you to think about building mission-partnerships between the church that you attend and groups that are also serving God’s people in your local community. Jesus once said, “Those who are not against us are for us.” (Mark 9:40) When we move past the idea that life-altering ministry is a “possession” of the Church, we can begin to see that God uses all sorts of people to do things that God wants to do in the world. And that can be life-changing to a congregation that’s struggling to figure-out what ministry even looks like in the 21st Century.
Let’s look more carefully at the idea of mission-partnerships where I live.

The Plum Food Pantry is serving people who are food-insecure in the community where the congregation I serve is located and we can feed hungry families, too – not by creating our own wheel and by feeding people in our own way – but, rather, by joining hands with other people who also want to do God’s work in our community. The Blackburn Center is standing beside women who are being battered in their homes, and is standing beside women and men who have been sexually abused or assaulted and we can do that, too – not by going out and creating our own wheel and by trying to do it all by ourselves – but, rather, by joining hands with other people who want to do God’s work, too. We can help seniors remain in their homes and remain independent by “joining the cause” and being a mission-partner with those who are trying to expand Open Your Heart to a Senior in our local area. We can battle the opioid addiction that’s claiming so many young lives in our community and we don’t need to create our own wheel and try to do it by ourselves! We can, instead, join hands in a mission-partnership with Narcotics Anonymous and do God’s work by supporting the ministry of folks who are already on the front-lines of the battle against addictions!
When the Church begins to look at ministry as its own possession, it loses sight of the fact that God can use all sorts of people to do the things that God wants to do.

The Church enjoyed being the center of the community for a long, long time. The Church created activities and programs that gave people something to do, and the fellowship of the Church was blessed by cover-dish dinners – church picnics – women’s circle meetings – and all sorts of youth group activities. And, as a “new day” dawns, those who continue to participate in the ministry of the Church carry that with them. As a “new day” dawns in America and all around the world, those who continue to regularly participate in the ministry of the Church carry all of those important things with them as things that can be remembered and cherished and honored and celebrated!

But, as Jesus continues to challenge us to explore new ways to “be the Church” and to think about ways that we can join hands in ministry in new and creative ways, it’s time for us to realize that “Those who are not against us are for us!” (Mark 9:40) – because, when we move past the idea that ministry is the Church’s possession, we become more open to working with many different people who are as serious about doing God’s work as we are.

The Mission Interpreter

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How are choices and decisions you make each day connected to your journey of faith?

You live in a complex Age where change surrounds you. You probably feel overwhelmed by a constant stream of news and information that summons your attention by sending the invasive pop, ding, or silent vibration that invades every part of your daily life. You most likely believe in God, but you may have decided that you don’t want to be affiliated with a local church, synagogue, mosque or temple. And yet, you still want to make some sort of difference in the world. You still want to believe that God is somehow working in your life and in the lives of the people that you love. Perhaps, what you need are stories that remind you that God’s at work in our lives and in the world, and mental morsels to challenge you to think about the relationship between your daily living and faith?

I believe that there’s always a next step for us to take in our journey of faith, and I am dedicated to working with people who want to take the next step forward in their journey of faith with confidence and courage. And, that’s why I’ve added a link to the menu on this site that takes you to my newest blog entitled: “The Mission Interpreter”.

This is a place where you’ll discover ways that God’s people are making a difference in the world, right now. This is a place where the leaders of churches and synagogues and mosques and temples will be challenged to reflect and to grow. This is a place where you will be challenged to think about the relationship between daily living and the kinds of choices and commitments you make each day. This is a place where you’ll be challenged to explore the ways that choices and decisions you make are connected to your journey of faith and to your relationship with God.

You can receive updates every time new material is added to “The Mission Interpreter” by following the blog itself as a regular user of WordPress – or you can provide an email address where links to new material can be send. I hope you’ll also share information about this new blog with your friends, so that they can, also, be encouraged by the fact that people of faith continue to do life-changing things in our quickly-changing world.

To get started, why not take a moment to investigate “The Mission Interpreter” and to read one of the newest, thought-provoking posts: “Stewardship, Stoles, and Suicide” – a piece that tells the tragic story of a pastor who recently committed suicide and that offers some ideas that can help congregations to support and encourage pastors who struggle with issues of sadness, discouragement, depression and anxiety – just like so many other folks do in the Church. You can, also, find several inspiring stories that point to the power of prayer and that lift-up the good that God’s people do when they join hands and work as a team. You’ll even find a thought-provoking piece that challenges Church leaders to remember the importance of storytelling as they prepare to make financial appeals.

I hope that “The Mission Interpreter” will provide something helpful for everyone who visits the site. You’ll notice that there’s, also, a CONTACT ME link on the site. Please let me know if you; the congregation, synagogue, mosque or temple that you attend; or a group of people that you know are joining hands to do something that points others to the God who continues to call us to express our faith in a way that touches and changes lives.

Why Would Anybody Want To Be A Pastor?

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John 6:56-69

Why would anybody want to be a pastor?

Now, that might seem to be a really bizarre question for a pastor to be asking, but follow with me….

I was asked to preside at a worship service while I was in Chicago last week; but, when I learned that nobody had volunteered to play the piano for the service, I quickly asked if I could provide music for the service instead – because I wasn’t sure that I’d have time to change my clothes after the service and I didn’t want to fly into Pittsburgh dressed like a Roman Catholic priest.

I think that we all know that many churches are struggling to find volunteers and the financial resources that are needed to support life-giving ministries – and pastors often take the brunt of those changing realities in the Church by scrambling to fill-in the gaps and by juggling ministry priorities to meet available funding.

Pastors have to watch what they say in the pulpit these days because, if they preach God’s call to justice too loudly, people aren’t afraid to vote with their feet or to express their dissatisfaction by cutting their weekly offering.

And that brings us back to the theme of this week’s message: “Why Would Anybody Want To Be A Pastor?”

Jesus’ disciples had to make a big choice one day. They’d been following Jesus for some time, and they’d watched Jesus turn water into wine and heal the sick. They had heard Jesus tell people that they need to be “born again” and to be transformed into something that they simply aren’t by God’s power. Jesus had told people that He’s the “Bread of Life” and that He has the power to raise people up even to eternal life after life and death have done their worst. And Jesus told people to eat His flesh and to drink His blood, so that He would live inside of them.

But people didn’t like that.

“Who does this guy think He is?” they grumbled. “And what makes Jesus think that He can talk to US that way?” And we read: “many of His disciples turned back and no longer walked with Him.” (John 6:66)

Jesus said that a prophet is not without honor except in his own hometown (Mark 6:4). Who wants to hear a message about self-sacrifice and sacrificial giving when the guy down the street is telling people that God’s going to give them a big house? Who wants to be told to “deny yourself and take up your Cross” (Luke 9:23) when the guy just down the road is telling people that God will give them whatever they want? Who wants to listen to a message that calls us to extend compassion and justice to the poor when many of us have been taught to believe that the poor are simply lazy? After all…. Jesus loves the little children, doesn’t He. And we extrapolate that to mean that Jesus loves us too – no matter what we do and no matter what choices we make – right?

And so, “Why Would Anybody Want To Be A Pastor?”

Perhaps, the answer is found in the words of St. Peter: “Lord,to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life!” (John 6:68)

I’m a pastor because God calls me to stand beside people and to continue to point them toward the promise of eternity during difficult times. I’m a pastor because I find it incredibly life-giving to sit down on the floor with a banjo in my lap and tell little kids the story of Jesus and help them to understand that they’re more precious than gold. I’m a pastor because I believe that God’s called me to remind people that no matter where they have been and what they have done – Jesus died on the Cross and was raised from the dead to give them another chance and a cleaned slate. I don’t think that there’s any better way for me to spend my years on this earth than to spend them baptizing little babies and grown adults, placing my hands upon the heads of teenagers who have come forward to affirm their faith and blessing them, welcoming new mission-partners into the ministry of Christ’s Church, and working beside men and women of faith who want to leave fingerprints on the world and somehow make it into a better place.

“Why Would Anybody Want To Be A Pastor?”

What else would I do with my life, Lord? Is there really anything better that I could do with my life than spend my days pointing other people to the “Bread of Life” – Jesus – the Lord who challenges us to live lives of self-sacrifice, compassion toward others, and love for one other and for the world during a time when many are turning away from the One who has come into the world to bless all of God’s people with the gift of eternal life?

Seeing Who You Really Are

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John 6:35, 41-51

When was the last time you looked at your own reflection in a pool of water?

You and I are signs that can open the windows of Heaven and point other people toward Jesus. We can point people toward Jesus by treating them with love and respect, and we can point people toward the “Bread of Life” by participating in the ministry of a Christian congregation. But, we don’t always see ourselves as “signs” that can point people to Jesus, do we? That’s something that I struggle with, too.

Jesus once had an interesting confrontation with people in Capernaum. He had just fed 5,000 people with five loaves of bread and two little fish. He had just finished telling the people that they hadn’t come to see Him because of the “signs” that He had done. In fact, according to Jesus, the people had only come to see Him because they had just had their bellies filled with the bread and fish. And right after Jesus had told the people this truth, He told them that He’s the “Bread of Life” – the one, lasting thing that satisfies the deepest needs in our daily lives.

And people shouted, “Who does this guy think that he is?” “Didn’t we know this guy when he was just a little kid, and don’t we know this man’s father and mother..?” “How can this son of Joseph, an ordinary guy, do the “works of God” and be what we need the most?”

This is the all-too-real dilemma that we face in: “Seeing Who You Really Are”.

What makes me, the son of Robert and Lois, worthy to stand in a pulpit and to preach a sermon? What makes YOU, the son or daughter of your own ordinary parents, qualified to teach a Sunday School class, or serve on a Church Council, or express your opinions during a meeting at the church you attend? What is it that makes YOU, a son or daughter of your own ordinary parents, qualified to do God’s work?
Jesus has something to say about that.

Jesus says you’re qualified to do God’s work because, when you do God’s work, it’s God who is working within you. In John 6:35, 41-51, Jesus reminds us that we’re qualified to join hands with others in Christian ministry – not because of our lineage or background; but rather, because God touched us in the waters of Baptism and because God continues to reminds us of “who we are” every time we gaze into a pool of quiet water and reflect upon the day of our Baptism.

This week’s message, “Seeing Who You Really Are”, ends by drawing you into an ancient Indian myth that tells the story of mighty Symba, King Kimbalu and their little cub. It’s a message that challenges you to gaze into the still waters of Holy Baptism until you begin to more clearly see who you are, and until you begin to feel a great, primal ROOOOAAAR erupt within you. This is a life-changing message that you need to both hear and to share with others! It’s a message that might help you to discover the identity of the person that God has created you to be, and that might help you to more clearly see what God wants you to do as you live your daily life in a world where you have the chance to point other people to Jesus.

Does God Still Give Us “Signs”?

looking for a sign

John 6:24-35

Several months ago, I saw a “sign.”

Now, before you get all excited, the sky didn’t open-up and I didn’t hear a big, booming voice from Heaven. The “sign” that I saw had nothing to do with watching someone feed more than 5,000 people with five loaves of bread and two little fish. The “sign,” in fact, was just a large, tattered billboard that read: “If you’re looking for a sign, this is it!

In this week’s message, “Does God Still Give Us ‘Signs’?”, I want to challenge you to think about the things that first pointed you toward Jesus. We sometimes see Jesus’ power to strengthen and heal when we find ourselves praying for people that we love. Jesus can melt the harsh bitterness that fills our hearts after we’ve been hurt or disappointed. God can show us the next step forward when we don’t know what to do. Sometimes, WE can even be a “sign” of Jesus’ presence in the lives of other people.

The writer of John’s Gospel begins an interesting story in John 6:24-35.

Jesus has just finished feeding more than 5,000 people with five loaves of bread and two little fish. Jesus has gone off to Capernaum, a fishing village on the northern shore of the Sea of Galilee and the home of about 1,500 people. And when the people hear that Jesus is in Capernaum, they gather because they want to see Him. And Jesus tells them: “You haven’t come here to see me because you saw ‘signs.’ You came here because you had your bellies filled with bread and fish.” And, even after Jesus tells the people that what He has just done is the “work of God,” the people who have gathered around Him start to demand another sign.
So, let me ask you a question: “How have YOU come to know Jesus?”

I first learned about Jesus in a Sunday School class where Mrs. Pfeifer showed-up every Sunday morning to teach me about Jesus. I also learned about Jesus as an ordinary man, named Kenneth Ruckert, pointed me to “signs” that proclaimed the fact that Jesus even loves confused teenagers. I’ve learned about Jesus while serving as a camp counselor at Camp Lutherlyn, and as I’ve journeyed through life with people who were suffering and even dying – people who pointed me toward the “signs” of God’s presence in the world when life isn’t perfect. I’ve come to know Jesus because people, throughout all of my life, have invested their time and energy in me. And, because of that, I’ve seen a lot of “signs.” Didn’t St. Paul once write that faith always comes from outside of us (Romans 10:17)?
And that’s why your investment in the ministry of the Church is so important.

I may have never heard about Jesus if Mrs. Pfeifer hadn’t volunteered to teach Sunday School every Sunday morning, and if other people hadn’t donated the money that she needed to buy the books that she used. I may have never become a pastor if the faithful members of St. Mary’s Episcopal Church in Beaver Falls, PA hadn’t financially supported the ministry of Pastor Joel Nafuma – the man who helped me to pull the pieces together when God first began to call me into ordained ministry. When we faithfully invest our time and energy and money in Christian ministry, we can be people who create “signs” that point people to Jesus. In fact, when we invest in the ministry of a local congregation (or in the ministry of the Church in a broader way), we can open windows to Heaven and point people toward Jesus – the “Bread of Life” – who comes into the world to nourish us, to sustain us, to forgive us, and to lift us up both strengthened and renewed.
“If you’re looking for a sign, this is it!”

Perhaps, God is using these words to challenge you to think about the ways that God can use YOU to do the types of ministry that open the windows of Heaven for other people? Perhaps, God is using these words to remind you that the time, energy and money that YOU invest in the ministry of a local congregation (and in the Church as a whole) has the power to help other people to discover the “Bread of Life.” Perhaps, God is using these words to remind you that, as YOU join hands with other Christians in ministry, God can use whatever you offer to change people’s lives and alter their destinies?

Healing Can Take Time

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Mark 8:22-25

Let’s think about one of the craziest stories in the Bible….

Jesus was traveling through Bethsaida (“The House of the Fisherman”) one day when a group of people approached him and asked him to heal a man who was blind. Jesus, of course, was filled with compassion and wanted to help. And so, Jesus worked-up a bit of spit in his mouth, spit into the man’s eyes, and rubbed the saliva around a bit. And then, Jesus asked the man, “Do you see anything?” And the man responded, “Oh, yes! I can see the people who are standing all around me, but they look like walking trees.” And with that, Jesus decided to touch him again; and, after Jesus did that, the man was able to see clearly.

This has always been a little hidden gem in the Gospel of Mark (Mark 8:22-25) and I often just read through this crazy story without even thinking about it. And then, in the midst of my training to be a Discipleship Coach, I was introduced to a small book: “Dwelling in the Word”, that encouraged me to spend time with stories like this one and to unpack them over a long period of time (I’ve been reading and reflecting upon this unusual story in the Bible for almost four months!). And the process of unpacking this unusual story about the ministry of Jesus led to this week’s message: “Healing Can Take Time”.

Have you ever wanted to see God at work in your life in a deeper way? Have you ever wanted a relationship to be healed and to move in a better direction after you’ve been hurt by something that you’ve loved? Do you, sometimes, have trouble sensing God’s presence in the midst of the busyness of your daily life? Have you ever asked God to give you strength and courage to face a world that’s filled with constant and scary change?

When people brought the blind man to Jesus, Jesus spit into the man’s eyes, rubbed the saliva around a bit, and asked him if he could see. Jesus doesn’t always turn on a light switch and give us a deeper awareness of God’s presence in our lives in an instant. We, sometimes, need to travel through a rather confusing time when people who have hurt us still “look like trees” – even when Jesus is healing us. It’s not easy make changes in our lives that Jesus can use to bring renewal and spiritual growth. It’s not easy – even with the help of Jesus – to move from fear to faith when we’re scared by the things that are happening all around us and when we just want things to stop changing. And yet, Jesus continues to heal us. Jesus continues to touch us and to work in our lives. Jesus continues to help us to move from “wherever we are right now” to “where God wants us to move as we journey into the future” – both alone, and with our brothers and sisters in Christ.
And so, let me ask you a couple of questions:

  1. What do you need to be able to “see” more clearly, right now?
  2. How do you need to be touched and healed by Jesus at this point in your life?

Jesus has the power to bring incredible healing into our lives and our relationships. And Jesus wants to send us back into the world with a set of eyes that can “see” life – and even other people – in different ways again. But, that type of healing takes time. Spend time “Dwelling in the Word”, praying about things you learn as you immerse yourself in God’s Word, and be open to the ways that Jesus wants to heal you and to send you back into the world with eyes that can “see” the things all around you in different ways.

Remember the Beauty of Your Dreams

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Have you ever tried to water-ski?

Many years ago, I found myself bobbing up and down in the Ohio River. I had already tried to pull myself out of the water and stand on my feet many times. My stomach was churning because I had swallowed what must have been a gallon of water while being dragged behind a boat. And, as everybody watched, I reached for the rope that floated beside me, heard the rev of the engine, saw the slack in the rope disappear, and then…. I disappeared beneath the water again, was dragged several hundred feet, and finally let go of the rope. That was it. I climbed into the boat – and never tried to water ski again.

Picture the disciples sitting beside Jesus. They were already exhausted. They had crossed over the sea to escape from the busyness of their daily routines. But, the people saw what they were doing and were waiting for them on the other side of the sea. And Jesus cared about the people, and He taught – and taught – and taught – and taught. And, before Jesus’ disciples realized what what happening, stomachs began to growl and people needed to eat. But the disciples could only find find loaves of bread and two little fish – and what’s that when you’re sitting in a crowd of more than 5,000 hungry people?

I’m sure that we all get tired and that we all have times when we don’t think that we have anything left to give. We, sometimes, find it hard to say “No” when we’re asked to do things – even though our calendars are already full. Many churches are struggling with an ever-shrinking pool of volunteers and with rising deficits. We have hopes and dreams that have been placed in our hearts by God. We want to do great and marvelous things. But, we’ve all faced times when we think (or even know) that there’s not enough to go around, right? We want to do great things, but find nothing more than five loaves of bread and two little fish to get the job done.

And so, we need to make a decision. We can chisel our dreams into something less, or we can lift the situation before God and ask for God’s help. We can cut things back a bit, stop reaching toward God-inspired dreams, and simply quit – or we can remember that God’s placed those hopes and dreams in our hearts, and that God will supply what we need to do what God wants us to do. And that’s important for us to understand.

In this week’s message, “Remember the Beauty of Your Dreams”, we’re reminded that faith challenges us to look past obstacles and challenges, and to work together to fulfill God’s plans for our lives and ministries. We are, often, the very people who ultimately decide what we can and cannot do because we are people who decide what we “will” or “will not” do in response to God’s call. We’ve all needed to face the little voice deep inside that says, “You can’t do that!” But, even as that voice continues to echo in our ears, Jesus continues to call us to feed the multitude – even when we’re not sure that we can do it.

But just think about how our lives and ministries could be transformed if we just go so excited and fired-up about what God wants us to do that we simply did it? How would our lives and ministries be changed if we simply trusted that God would provide us with the resources and volunteers that we need to do the things that God’s calling us to do?

Randy Pausch, the author of a book entitled Last Lecture, challenges us to live our lives with passion and commitment. He reminds us that we only have one chance to live and that we need to do the things that matter the most to us. And Randy also reminds us that brick walls often arise to test us and to help us to see how badly we want the thing that we dream about. Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “Remember the Beauty of Your Dreams.” And, this week, I’m challenging you to do that.

What hopes and dreams has God placed into your heart? What ways is God calling you to put your fingerprints on the world? Is there something that you believe God wants you to do before you die? What’s keeping you from simply doing it, right now?

Seize the day! God has a great, big, wonderful plan for both you and for the ministry of Christ’s Church. Lift your five loaves of bread and two little fish before God and ask God to bless them and multiply them today. You might be surprised by what God can do!

 

When You Get Off Track

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Sin almost always starts with something small, doesn’t it?

Imagine a small child walking into a grocery store, picking up a candy bar, stuffing it into his pocket, and walking out the door. Picture a middle-aged man who is struggling to pay his bills, and who decides to free-up some cash by cheating on his income taxes. Perhaps, you know someone who’s living in an unhappy marriage and who’s begun to talk with one of her co-workers about her problems – and maybe, she’s shared a few drinks, some secret telephone chats and Internet messages, a few secret meetings, and perhaps even a bit more with him…. Imagine sometime telling a lie that quickly grows into something bigger, and into something even bigger, and then into something monstrous.

Sin almost always starts with something small, doesn’t it?

King Herod’s problems probably began with a little wink. And then, there were secret meetings and much, much more. And when John the Baptizer told King Herod that it was not right for him to marry his own brother’s wife, Herod had him thrown in jail. And after that, emotions flew out of control and anger turned into rage. What seemed to be an innocent little wink turned into an unexpected demand for an innocent man’s head to be removed.

In this week’s message, “When You Get Off Track”, we explore several things we need to do when we’re drawn into sin and find ourselves behaving in inappropriate ways. We discover that God calls us to:

  1. Honestly admit that we’re doing something wrong and stop doing it.
  2. Intentionally change course and move in a different direction.
  3. Realize that, when we sin, we need to change course immediately – because sin can set a whole set of consequences into motion that can deeply affect our own lives, or the lives of people that we both love and cherish.

And, perhaps, the hardest part of the whole thing is that we simply don’t want to do any of those things if we’re left to ourselves. Sins usually get repeated because they make us feel good in one way or another. Sin makes us to feel good when we think we’ve tricked someone, or when we think that we’ve gotten away with something. Sin causes us to feel good when we are struggling in a relationship by driving us into the arms of someone who seems to be “so much better” than the person we’ve married. Sin often encourages us to excuse our inappropriate behavior away – even as we hear God calling us to change course.

Sin almost always starts with something small, doesn’t it?

And so, today, I want to encourage you to just stop what you’re doing and change course if you know that you’re doing something wrong. The love and mercy of God is great, and God will give you the strength and courage you need to change course. Jesus promised that He will always be with us – even as He challenges us to change our lives, so that we can live-into the future God’s planned for us. As I shared last week, God’s grace is always sufficient to meet the needs of today – especially when we need God’s continuing help to battle against the very things that have the power to destroy our lives.

Christ’s Church for ALL People

Christ's Church

We live our lives with a lot of rules, don’t we?

Written and unwritten rules are just accepted as the “truth” and we often simply accept the things that we’ve been taught without questioning. The rules that we’ve been taught teach us to separate the “good people” from the “bad people” – and it’s, ultimately, these same written and unwritten rules that shape our thinking and our behavior.

And that’s why we’re still trying to figure-out what to do with folks who come to America from other countries. That’s why we’re still struggling to figure-out what to do with folks who fall  in love with people that they’re not “supposed” to fall in love with. That’s why many predominantly white denominations in the Christian Church are struggling to figure-out what they need to do to survive and flourish in a society where white people will very soon be the minority in America. That’s why we’re still trying to figure-out what to do with people who think and who choose to live their lives in ways that we don’t always understand or want to accept.

“Christ’s Church for ALL People” is a message that challenges us to think about the very nature of the Church. How do we make sense of Jesus – a man who touched people who were considered to be “unclean” by others? How do we make sense of Jesus – a man who ate in the homes of tax-collectors and sinners, and who wasn’t even afraid to touch the corpses of those who had died? How do we make sense of a God who loves white people and black people, people who live in the United States and people who want to come to America from other countries? Doesn’t the Sacred Story remind us that God has created ALL people to be both precious and valuable? Doesn’t the Sacred Story tell us about Jesus – a man who came into the world to welcome and embrace people, and to even die on the Cross for everyone?

People – even God’s people – are not always good at lifting-up the fact that everyone is precious and valuable in God’s sight. Even Christians can have a hard time accepting the fact that: there is neither Jew nor Gentile, slave nor free, nor is there male or female, for [we] are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28). And yet, that truth is fundamental to the Christian faith. “Christ’s Church for ALL People” is who we are even in a tumultuous time when many people are speaking a very different truth even inside the Church – the place where Jesus continues to challenge us to offer our welcome and embrace to ALL people and to help them to realize that the Church is a “home” where God’s love and care can be experienced by everyone.

 

Living in the Legacy of Jesus

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Have you ever thought about the purpose and the meaning of your life?

The Bible presents the story of a God who’s at work to topple the forces of evil. The Sacred Story tells us that God created the world by bringing order to chaos, but it also tells us that everything fell apart in the Garden of Eden when Adam and Eve ate fruit from the “Tree of the Awareness of Duality.” The Sacred Story reminds us that people have struggled since the beginning of time to “get right with God,” but it also tells us that the path to peace with God has been provided by Jesus. God is going to win! The Sacred Story tells us about a Great Day when God’s going to wipe every tear from our eyes, and when there will no longer be pain and sorrow and mourning. And the great “Hero” of the Sacred Story is Jesus. Jesus – the great “Hero” – rises-up to confront what’s wrong with the Creation and to conquer the forces of evil, so that good will ultimately win.

You and I, and all of the people who have been bound to Jesus – the “Hero” – in the waters of Holy Baptism are engaged in the Great Epic Battle. You and I, and all of the people who have been bound to Jesus in the waters of Baptism, are called and summoned to step-up to the plate, to directly engage the forces of evil and to overcome it in the name of God. And our participation in that Great Epic Battle – the ongoing war between good and evil – is ultimately what provides meaning in our lives and the purpose of our ministries.

“Living in the Legacy of Jesus” is a message that’s been created to stir you and to call the Church, as a whole, into action. We live in an Age where increasingly large numbers of people are struggling with an addiction to opioids, and when a growing sadness in many hearts is driving people to suicide. We live in an Age where poverty creates a situation where nearly half of the children in America go to school with an empty stomach – and lose an important meal every day during their summer vacation. We’re living in an Age where racism and bigotry have been revealed as the Achilles’ heel of American culture. We live in an Age where countless boundaries and barriers and walls are being created, and where people are being encouraged to experience life as “Us versus Them.”

As we fight the epic battle against duality – following Jesus, the “Hero” – we write a story that not only tells the story of our lives, but that also tells the world how we make sense of what it means to live in the legacy of Jesus. As we fight the epic battle against duality, the story we write is used by God to stir-up and create faith in others.

The story that we write helps people to understand what God’s doing in the world today. The story that we write is also one that invites others to join hands with us – so that, they can also be a part of what God’s doing.

You and I, and all of the people who have been bound to Jesus – the “Hero” – in the waters of Holy Baptism are called to engage the forces of evil, and to overcome them (with God’s help) in the name of everything that is good and right and holy and true.

“Living in the Legacy of Jesus” – by participating in the epic battle against duality is, ultimately, something that gives meaning to our lives, and provides a purpose and a “calling” to the ministry of the Church. And as we write the story of what God’s doing in our midst and in the midst of our churches, as we celebrate our victories and learn from our mistakes, and as we tell others about what God’s doing, ministry becomes magnetic – and people see that we have something both significant and life-giving to share with the world – as we invite them to be a part of what we’re doing with the help of God.