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A Cup of Cold Water

(a sermon for June 27, 2020, the 4th Sunday After Pentecost, based on Matthew 10:40-42)

Her name was Peggy Grenier, and she was an elderly widow who lived in a log cabin up the road from us on the lake, and at the end of a wooded pathway; and for a period of time when I was very young, she was one of my very best friends.  Actually, Peggy was best friends with just about every one of the little kids who spent their summers on the lake, and as I think about it now, it’s a wonder she had a moment to herself, given all the children who used to come to visit her! 

We all loved to “go see Peggy,” and this was because by all indications, she loved to see us!  No matter what she was doing or how busy she was, the moment we turned up at her door, she’d stop everything to visit with us.  We’d tell Peggy all of our long, drawn-out stories, she’d laugh heartily at all our “little kid jokes,” and over cookies and cold glasses of lemonade we’d have these deep discussions about the great issues of our lives – school and friends and how much we hated social studies – but the thing was that all of this truly seemed to matter to Peggy!

What I remember the most about Peggy is that she really did listen to us, and what’s more, she talked to us like we were grown-ups, which at the age of six is quite a thing indeed!  I remember our parents saying to us, “Now, don’t you go up there and bother Peggy every day; she doesn’t need you kids hanging around all the time,” but we never really understood that because you see, Peggy never acted like we were a bother1 She always made us feel welcome, and all these years later I still remember how great that feeling was. And even though she’s long since passed on, other people live there now, and the log cabin itself has been completely remodeled, as far as I’m concerned, that place will always be “Peggy’s Camp.”

To feel welcomed – to be received, as scripture often translates it – is one of life’s great blessings, isn’t it?  I’m sure we can all name moments in which a simple act of hospitality made all the difference: someone inviting us to sit at their table and share a meal; inviting us to spend a holiday with them where otherwise we would have been alone; or has been the case for me recently, stopping by the house to bring a flower or a goodie bag or a simply a word of comfort.  It’s part and parcel of being a good neighbor, yes, and on a deeper level, it’s the act of affirming the great value of that person through a not-so-random act of kindness; but even more than this, spiritually speaking, it is seeing that person through the eyes of God.  It truly is as our reading today describes it, like giving that someone “a cup of cold water” on a hot and muggy day; it’s just that refreshing and life giving…

…and, might I add… an essential part of the Christian life; it is the manner of welcome to which you and I are called as disciples of Jesus Christ. As Jesus himself said it in our text for this morning, “Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and who every welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me.”

It is worth noting here that these words of Jesus come right on the heels of those other rather disconcerting words from our text for last Sunday, all about how he’d come not “to bring peace but a sword,” about families being set against one another, and about losing one’s life to save it (and all of that, by the way, coming on the heels of Jesus’ dire warnings to the disciples about the inevitability of conflict and persecution). But then, just when any reasonable person might have run the other way, Jesus reminds the disciples of the great importance of the task before them; essentially saying that whenever someone receives them –  that is, whenever someone welcomes them into their homes, and into their “circle of trust” and admiration – they will be receiving Christ himself! Just as prophets and righteous believers are received on the basis of who they are, Jesus says, anyone who gives you even a cup of cold water because you’re my disciple is also welcoming me!  And when they are welcoming me, Jesus goes on to say, they are welcoming the God who sent me.

In these three short verses from Matthew’s gospel, Jesus reminds us of the vital role that his disciples will play in the building up of the Kingdom of God; understanding, of course, that this extends not only to the original twelve but to all who would seek to follow Christ, and that includes you and me.  As disciples, you see, you and I are in the truest sense ambassadors of Christ in the places where we dwell, emissaries of his kingdom.  So anyone who welcomes us into their circle is also welcoming Jesus; and what that means is that anything and everything we do as “guests” will reflect on the one we represent:  our demeanor around those who welcome us matters, as does our sense of graciousness for what we receive, and our ability to speak, act and respond with love befitting the example of our Lord.

Now, you might think that this is an obvious point (in fact, I hope so; I mean, what’s not to understand about what amounts to “loving one another?”), but in truth of fact, there are a great many people, and many “Christians” among them whose lives never quite approach that example; the kind of folks who by their behaviors give too much credence to those rumors about Christians being holier-than-thou, hyper-critical hypocrites!   My point here is that it’s important for you and I to remember that for better or worse, when every day we head out into the world we are carrying our faith along with us; and there are countless occasions throughout the week when what we say, what we do, the choices we make, the attitudes we show toward others – how we live (!) – cannot help but proclaim something about that faith, either positively or negatively.

Which message comes forth… well, that in large part is up to us. 

It actually puts me in mind of one of my favorite quotes from Frederick Buechner,  a passage from his book, Wishful Thinking.  “Who knows,” he wrote, “how the awareness of God’s love first hits people.  Every person has his own tale to tell, including the person who wouldn’t believe in God if you paid him.  Some moment happens in your life that you say Yes to right up to the roots of your hair, that makes it worth having been born just to have happen… how about the person you know who as far as you can possibly tell has never had such a moment… maybe for that person the moment that has to happen is you.”  The bottom line, friends, is that as disciples of Jesus Christ, we are his representatives.  We are in essence his heart, his hands, his feet, his arms of compassion; in receiving us, you see, the people we encounter can and do discover the love of Jesus Christ; that is both the word of encouragement and the word of challenge that our Lord offered to his disciples as they went out into a harsh and uncertain world.  “This is a large work I’ve called you into,” Jesus tells them in The Message version of this text, “but don’t be overwhelmed by it… the smallest act of giving or receiving makes you a true apprentice. You won’t lose out on a thing.”

In other words, the “effectiveness,” if you will, of true discipleship is not to be measured by the greatness of what is accomplished, but in all the small things that are done greatly.  Just as something as simple as a card, or a call, or a visit shows us how much we’re loved and appreciated, when you and I offer up, as Jesus puts it, “even a cup of cold water to these little ones in the name of a disciple,” not only serves as an affirmation of faith and love and care to that one who was thirsty, it also shows forth the great and giving love of Jesus Christ and of the God who sent him.  And understand, when Jesus refers to “these little ones,” he’s not talking necessarily about children, but rather, he’s talking about anyone and everyone who has ever needed to be recognized and affirmed and valued and loved… or who simply need a drink of water. 

The point is that these are the ones to whom we are called to bring our faith and our love. and the best way we can reveal the reign of Christ in the world is for them to see Christ in us through merciful acts of love and kindness and grace that makes a difference in peoples’ lives. This, I believe, is what makes you and I authentically Christian, and it’s what makes us the church… yes, what makes us the church no matter where and how we meet.

Once again, it all seems so simple, so basic to the mission we share as believers; and yet I would dare say that in these days when people and groups have become so sharply and bitterly divided over so many issues – not to mention quite literally having to have our faces be covered and be physically distant from one another – that this call to bring forth true love and mercy represents one of the greatest challenges that the church faces in this day and age. 

For instance, I don’t know about you, but these days I’m something finding it very difficult to be able to express what I want to express while wearing a facemask!  This whole pandemic has made me realize just how much of ourselves we convey to others simply by the look on our face: the way we smile, or frown, or grimace, or share the abundance of our displeasure… or for that matter, our compassion.  I think I’ve shared with you the story of how I was in our local Hannaford the other day and another woman came barreling around a crowded corner and fairly well careened into my shopping cart.  It wasn’t a big deal – no harm done at all – but what was interesting was that because we were masked we literally stared at each other’s eyes for the longest moment because neither one of us could tell how the other was going to react to this little accident.  Was there going to be anger and heated words exchanged, or would we just laugh it off?  Based on just the masks we were wearing, there was no way to tell!  Frankly, it wasn’t until I made a stupid joke – in my official downeast dialect, mister man, which I’m sure comes as no surprise to you folks (!) – that she could tell I wasn’t upset and she could breathe a sigh of relief… and we both had a good laugh as a result.

It was, in its own unique way, a cup of cold water… and whether or not that woman knew it, a little bit of God was revealed.  And that was reward indeed.

Karen Mains has said it well: “When we give, having put away our pride, then Christ sanctifies the simple gift.  He makes it holy, useful.”  Friends, it may well seem to us like what we give is small and perhaps even insignificant in the wider scheme of things, to those who receive what we have to give it is anything but; and it’s certainly not insignificant to the Lord.  A cup of cold water matters; for what greater reward can there be than a not so random act of kindness resulting in someone encountering God, perhaps for the very first time?

There’s a lot of very thirsty people out there, friends… and we’ve got plenty of water.  

Thanks be to God.

AMEN and AMEN!

© 2020  Rev. Michael W. Lowry.  All Rights Reserved.

 

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The People of What(ever) Happens Next

(a sermon for May 24, 2020, the 7th Sunday of Easter, based on Acts 1:1-14)

To begin with, this story of Jesus’ ascension into heaven represents the last gathering of Jesus with his disciples and marks the end of a long and remarkable journey: from the shores of Galilee where this disparate group of fishermen, tax collectors and societal outcasts first heard Jesus’ call, through the agonies of the cross, to the empty tomb and beyond; indeed, we’re told that in the forty days just past Jesus had “presented himself alive to them by many convincing proofs, appearing to them… and speaking about the kingdom of God.”  But that was all coming to an end, and now as “they were together for the last time,” (The Message) Jesus is giving these disciples some last minute instructions for the way ahead:  “on no account” should you leave Jerusalem, but instead you “‘must wait for what the Father promised: the promise you heard from me.’” Soon, and very soon, you see, “you will be baptized by the Holy Spirit!”

Actually, truth be told, it all kind of has the look and feel of these makeshift graduation ceremonies we’ve been seeing online during this time of quarantine:  bringing some sense of closure to the situation with some last-minute words of advice but very little pomp and circumstance!  What’s interesting here, however, is that’s there’s also this baffling and rather disconcerting reference to a mysterious future that is just about to unfold!  But then again, I suppose that’s also part and parcel of a typical graduation ceremony: I remember at my seminary graduation, our seminary president, the Rev. Dr. Wayne Glick, stood at the podium and informed us in his rich, Appalachian drawl, “You people think you have learned all you need to know here at the seminary… well, I am here to tell you that the learning has just begun!”  What?  You mean to say that our full three years of engaging in intense biblical study, all that wrestling with theological conundrums both old and new, to say nothing of all of the “on the job training” that we faced as student pastors wasn’t going to be enough?  To employ the language of the Old Testament, “Oy Vey!”

But that’s the nature of these kinds of moments, isn’t it? You’ve reached this very important place in life’s journey when everything has rightly seemed to come into focus, and yet there’s often an uncertainty about it all that is both unsettling and even at times terrifying!

And so it is for the disciples; especially after they ask Jesus, “Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?” and Jesus answers, “It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority.”

Can you even imagine what those disciples were thinking at this point?  Jesus, we’ve come all this way and have experienced so much; to the point where the kingdom is in our very grasp and now you won’t even tell us when it’s going to happen?  Nope… as The Message translates it, “You don’t get to know the time.  Timing is the Father’s business.” 

Oy Vey, indeed!  This was obviously not the answer they were looking for; they’d figured that now that the resurrection had happened everything else – for the world and for them – would most certainly fall into place.  But now they’re finding out that the way ahead is just about as uncertain as it was before, and the Kingdom… well, the Kingdom will come when the Kingdom will come, and that’s all you really get to know right now!    

But, Jesus goes on to say, even though you don’t get to know what happens next, “what you’ll get is the Holy Spirit.”  “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”  Power:  in the Greek, dunamis, meaning dynamic, dynamo or even dynamite; Witnesses: from the Greek word marturos, from where we get our word martyr!  So, in other words, what Jesus says to them – the very last thing that Jesus says to them, by the way (!) – is that the way ahead for you is still uncertain, but the Holy Spirit, which God has promised to give you, will provide you with the power, the dynamic, if you will, to keep on being my witnesses even when the way ahead proves to be very difficult; and moreover to do so with a clear sense of purpose and with joy!  You are being called to go “all in;” to live wholly and completely unto your faith, bearing witness to God’s enduring presence wherever you are and in whatever comes. What happens next?  In many ways, says Jesus, you are the people of what happens next!

And with that said, Jesus ascended into heaven. 

“As they were watching,” Luke writes, “he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight.”  Just like that.  It’s no wonder that apparently, the disciples spent a long time “staring up into the empty sky;” also no wonder that it took two men “in white robes” to stir them out of their reverie, saying, “why do you stand looking up toward heaven?” This Jesus, “who was just taken from among you to heaven will come as certainly – and mysteriously – as he left.”   The message was clear:  the time for standing around was over. There would be a moment when Jesus would return, but for now the next part of their journey – this immense, mysterious and seemingly improbable journey – was just beginning.

I love what Barbara Brown Taylor has written about this; in her book Gospel Medicine she says that “no one standing around watching them that day could have guessed what an astounding thing happened when they all stopped looking into the sky and looked at each other instead.   But in the days and years to come it would become very apparent… with nothing but a promise and a prayer, those eleven people consented to become the church and nothing was ever the same again, beginning with them.  The followers became leaders, the listeners became preachers, the converts became missionaries, the healed became healers.  The disciples became apostles, witnesses of the risen Lord by the power of the Holy Spirit… [and] surprising things began to happen.” 

They became the church… they were formed into a gathered community of people bound by a common mission and a shared calling, to witness unto the resurrection of Jesus Christ; beginning in those times and situations where perhaps only two or more were gathered, but then maybe as it could be shared throughout Jerusalem, and then to Judea and Samaria, and then… who knows, maybe even “to the ends of the earth.”  It was a mission that started small, but grew; and it is a mission that has endured throughout the centuries…

… and it is the very same calling that is extended and continues in you and in me today… most especially today.

That’s right… lest we forget in these strange and uncertain days we’re currently living through; this story of Jesus’ ascension into heaven? This tale of an ongoing mission, and of a time that exists between “the now” of the world as we currently know it and the “not yet” of the world as it is promised will someday be?  Friends, it’s our story just as much as it was theirs; as Jesus’ disciples and the church of this generation, we are “the people of what happens next… whatever happens next.”

In every generation, you see, the question has always been the same:  when is the church truly being the church of Jesus Christ?  Now, how that question is answered – and the way that faith gets expressed and acted upon – that has most certainly grown and adapted over the course of all those generations and in keeping with ever-changing times and new challenges, including the one we’re facing right now in this age of pandemic.  There’s hardly been a day that has gone by as of late – especially this past week (!) – when we haven’t wondered aloud how we’re supposed to actually be the church when we can’t even come together for worship together in our sanctuary?  Under all these limitations we’re under, how can we ever be considered in any way, shape or form “essential?” Well, here’s the thing: ultimately, whatever our current situation or ongoing challenge, the answer to that question never changes:we are ever and always the church when we are living wholly and completely as witnesses of the Risen Christ!

In other words, beloved, sanctuaries or no, we are essential.

We are essential when we speak boldly of the truth of Jesus’ teachings (by our words, if necessary, but much more importantly by our example) unto people and unto a world that is hurting profusely and is desperate for hope, for love, and for a peace that the world cannot provide.  We are essential when we make the commitment to not be passive about an uncertain future or by allowing ourselves become somehow diminished by not being able to do so many of the things we’re used to doing as a church.  We are essential when we let the power of God’s own Holy Spirit become our very dynamic as persons and as a people, so that we might truly be part and parcel of “whatever happens next” for the sake of God’s Kingdom within us and all around us, starting right here from Concord, New Hampshire and beyond “to the ends of the earth,” even if it happens by way of Facebook Live.   At the end of the day, you see, the measure of being an effective “witness” can never be measured by the size or the scope of the effort; but rather by its sincerity and the depth of its love.

But it all starts, you see, right here… right now… in the very places where we are quarantined.

Beloved, each and every one of us are called to be witnesses to the Risen Christ and serve as living testimony to the Kingdom of God taking root and flourishing in our midst. Maybe it comes forth in many and creative ways we’re caring for one another as family and friends; maybe it’s found in an encouraging word shared in a phone call, a card or a letter, a facetime chat or ZOOM session; could be it’s shown in the small but powerful ways we seek to reach out to others with “goodie bags” and other not so random acts of kindness; or maybe it’s simply in living as an example of how patience, quiet strength, good humor and “grace under pandemic” shows forth a deep and abiding faith in God’s providence.  But whatever it is and however its manifest, ultimately it serves to proclaim both our allegiance to Christ and what it is, for the sake of our faith, we intend for one another, for our families and friends, for our community and for our world.

And so, by the grace of God in Jesus Christ and by the power of the Holy Spirit working within us, let us be bold in our witness, most especially in these continued days of challenge; and let the good news of the Kingdom be heard and seen… in us.   

May God in Christ bless our witness, and may our thanks for all things be unto God. 

AMEN and AMEN!

© 2020  Rev. Michael W. Lowry.  All Rights Reserved.

 

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What’s Your Foundation?

(a sermon for February 16, 2020, the 6th Sunday after Epiphany, based on 1 Corinthians 3:10-23)

Along Route One just north of the town of Monticello, Maine there still stands an old farmhouse that is in fact, the Lowry family homestead.  Surrounded by acres of woods and potato fields, my grandparents lived in that house for pretty much their whole lives; it was where my father and his brother and three sisters were all born and raised, and it was the place we gathered for countless family reunions, Christmas Eve celebrations and Oyster Stew suppers, which was in those days the Lowry family meal! 

It was also a place of endless fascination for me as a young child, in particular in the way the house itself was laid out.  Actually, it was and is a quintessential New England farmhouse, in that it exists in pieces that were built over time and are connected one to another.  First there was built the main structure – or the “big house,” as it’s sometimes called in these parts – with the kitchen and living space downstairs, bedrooms and, eventually, a bathroom (!) upstairs.  Then, some years later, a couple of additions were built on:  on one end, an extra kitchen and living room where my grandparents stayed in their later years while my uncle and his family were living in the main house; and on the other side of the building, an addition made into a laundry room.  And then, attached to that laundry room was a shed, or “back house,” that was built primarily for storage and to stack firewood.  And of course, this is to say nothing of the porch that at one time or another was attached to the front! 

Like I said, as a kid I loved that house! I remember it as being filled will all sorts of nooks and crannies, with doors in every room leading to these “mysterious” closets and crawl-spaces. And the thing was that though it really wasn’t all that big of a house, it still just seemed to me to stretch on forever!  These days I like to think of it as in the words of that Schooner Fare song, the “big house, middle house, back house, barn,” built piece by piece and all connected as one; but not only by virtue of wood-framed walls and a shingled roof but in a much larger sense by the several generations of family who have lived there, as well as in and through all the changes in their lives over the years. 

It’s an amazing thing when you think about it: all that history; all that experience; all the stories that grew out of a house that continue to be told to this very day.  But here’s the thing: it all started by the house having first been built on a strong foundation… because whatever else you choose to build on it, a good foundation is what really matters.

Actually, it strikes me that much the same thing can be said about this church building in which we are worshipping this morning. After all, not only is this building one of the oldest – if not the oldest (!) – original church edifices still standing here in Concord, but it’s also quite literally connected to our fellowship hall, which began its life as a residence across the street here on Mountain Road and was physically moved here to become part of the church!  That’s interesting in and of itself, but it seems to me it’s a great analogy – a parable, if you will – for who we are and have always been as a congregation  Truly, we at East Church have always sought to be a congregation that reaches out in faith and love to one another and outward to the people of this community.  And we do that, come what may, because first we were built on a strong foundation… and like I said before, a good foundation is what really matters…

…understanding that while all those rocks and blocks of granite that underpin this building are of great importance, there’s more to it than simply that.  In the words of Brian Peterson, of Lutheran Southern Seminary, just as any building “must fit its foundation, [be] supported by it and shaped to match it,” so it is with the church.  Because the church, you see, already has its one foundation, and as we sang at the beginning of the service this morning, “it is Jesus Christ our Lord.”  And as Paul makes clear in our text for this morning, “each builder must choose with care how to build on” that foundation, because the materials we use in the building will not only be revealed, in the end our construction going to have to pass inspection…

…which, it seems to me, is not only applicable even now to the manner in which we govern and direct the building up of our churches (including this one!) but also to the way you and I seek to build our lives as well!

This morning we return to Paul’s first letter to the Christians in the Greek city of Corinth; a group of new believers who were remarkable both for the passion expressed in their new-found faith but even more so for the divisions that almost immediately rose amongst them!  In fact, at the time when Paul had sent this epistle, there was this growing divide amongst the Corinthian Christians over what leader they should follow: Paul, who had spent 18 months amongst them as a “founding pastor,” so to speak; Apollos, this new, well-spoken and apparently very charismatic missionary leader in their midst; or the well-remembered sentimental favorite Cephas, that is, Peter… yes, that Peter! This question of leadership had become, to say the very least, a heated discussion, and it had now gotten to the point where whenever Christians were gathered there were bound to be lots of signs waving and fiery debate (kind of sounds like primary season in New Hampshire, doesn’t it?).

So of course, here comes Paul right in the midst of the fray!  But his response to this conflict is quite interesting:  rather than claiming a pre-ordained victory or spiritual high ground over his central political rival – excuse me, his spiritual partner Apollos – Paul acknowledges that yes, “according to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation” with you in Corinth, “no one can lay any foundation than the one that has been laid; that foundation [that] is Jesus Christ.”  Actually, a couple of things should be mentioned here: first, that this is indeed metaphor, because in these early days of the church there were no temples under construction; Paul is talking here about the building up of the body of Christ (in fact, the Greek word that’s used here for “church” is ekklesia, which is where we get the term “ecclesiastical,” and refers to a gathering of people). And while we’re on the subject of language, the Greek words that get translated in English as “skilled master builder,” actually are better translated as a “wise architect.”  So it’s not so much that Paul’s bragging about all he’s done in building up the church; but rather that “using the gift God gave [him] as a good architect” [The Message] he was able to build on the only foundation that matters: the good foundation, the strong foundation, the foundation that is firm in Jesus Christ. 

So essentially, what Paul is saying here is that while yes, I do have some part in the building up of the church (as does, for that matter, Apollos, or Cephas or any other human leader), ultimately this is not about me; and by the way? It’s not about you, either!  This is about you and I at work together building up the Body on the good foundation that is Jesus Christ; using the kind of spiritual tools and materials that will stand the test of time and show forth the sincerity and passion of your faith.  “Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?”  Paul asks. Don’t you realize that “God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple?”  Like we said before, it all comes back to the foundation on which you build; this foundation on which you are built… it’s the foundation that really matters!

So, then… given all that, the question is… what’s your foundation?

I remember once, years ago as a much younger pastor in a prior parish, I met with some visitors in our church to discuss the possibility of their joining with our congregation as new members.  Now, I should tell you that though I had only recently had the opportunity to meet this couple in person, their reputations certainly preceded them: I was already aware that these were people greatly respected in our community as tireless volunteers, and moreover they were very well thought of by their friends and neighbors.  They’d been coming to worship for a few weeks, they seemed to be hitting it off with everyone, the pastor included, and soon I was having folks in the congregation coming up all excited and telling me we’d be really lucky to have these two be part of the church!

So now we have this meeting and, well, it was interesting to say the least!  First of all, this woman had a literal checklist of questions she wanted to ask, ranging from the program goals and frequency of youth ministries in the church and whether or not we participate in a sports league, to whether or not I would ever preach on things like the virgin birth or the story of Adam and Eve (no joke!); and she took extensive notes on every one of my answers. And some of the questions were rather telling:  If you become a member, are you required to serve on a committee, and for how long?  What about stewardship; how is it decided what we’re to give?  Are you supposed to come every Sunday to worship, or can you just come sometimes?  Kind of odd questions to ask the pastor, I’ll admit, but okay… I’m not exaggerating when I say that this conversation covered just about every aspect of church life, and also that it felt pretty much like a job interview!

But it was all very enjoyable, and when the meeting was done I felt pretty good about our conversation and the prospect of their joining the church; but alas, it was not to be.  After a couple weeks, they were gone and rumor had it they’d started attending another church.  And of course, what I’m thinking – because this pastor is only human, after all – is what did I do?  I mean, I tried to be gracious and welcoming, but also honest and above all, pastoral… so what did I say to these people that was so wrong?  How had I driven these people away from our church?  Well, later on I learned from a fellow pastor that this particular couple who were so well-respected in the community were also well-known by local pastors as chronic “church hoppers” who had gone through the same interview process in virtually every church across the denominational spectrum for miles around and had never settled on any church… anywhere for more than a few weeks at a time. And as I shared my disappointment to this colleague, he said it all: “Don’t worry about it, Michael.  Some people are just far more concerned about all the benefits they get from faith than ever looking at its responsibilities.”

I’ve never forgotten that; and it’s always served as a reminder to me, not only as an occasionally overeager pastor but also as a Christian who is ever and always challenged to grow in wisdom and to always build on a good foundation of faith, that as many and as wonderful are the blessings that come in this life of faith I lead, it is not wholly or even primarily what I get out of the experience that is the most important, but rather the glory of what I am strengthened and enabled to build along the way all with the spiritual gifts I’ve been given, most especially in the love of Jesus Christ, who is and shall always be the foundation of all that I am and everything I seek to do.  The Rev. Elizabeth Lovell Milford, a Presbyterian pastor from Georgia, says it well: “Good foundations matter… [and] as people of faith, our foundations should [always] be in the promises from God; those outlined by Christ himself and those proclaimed throughout the entirety of scripture. [These] are the bedrocks of our faith that allow us to build our lives in a way that is shaped by our relationship with the Divine.” And what we build on that foundation, both in our work individually as people of faith and together as the church, will grow and expand even as it’s ever and always being tested and refined by God.

In other words, it matters, beloved; what we believe should always translate to how we live: in how we talk to each other, how we reach out to others in need, how we seek to “be” the church in this time and place.  Part of our responsibility, yours and mine – as Christians and as the church – is to make sure that whatever we are doing, we are doing on the foundation of Jesus Christ as Lord.  

What’s your foundation?  Because it matters, beloved… it matters.

Thanks be to God.

Amen and AMEN!

© 2020  Rev. Michael W. Lowry

 
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Posted by on February 16, 2020 in Church, Discipleship, Epiphany, Faith, Ministry, Paul, Sermon

 

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