Monday, October 15, 2018

10-14-18 “WHY Me? WHY Now?”

10-14-18  “WHY Me? WHY Now?”

   In this series we’ve been exploring the question WHY; WHY do we do the things we do, as individuals and as the church? And using Simon Sinek’s concept of the Golden Circle, we began with Jesus’ WHY, as described in Luke 4, where he said,  
 The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me.

   WHY did Jesus do the things he did? Because The Spirit of the Lord was upon him; the Lord had anointed him. That’s his WHY, his vision statement. 
His mission, HOW he lived into that vision, was described in the verses that followed: 
[He came] to preach good news to the poor, to proclaim release to the prisoners and recovery of sight to the blind, to liberate the oppressed, and to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.

The details then - the WHAT that flowed from the WHY and the HOW - reveal that Jesus did most of that preaching, proclaiming, and liberating while either eating with or healing people. Those two activities consumed the biggest part of Jesus’ ministry.
   So as we next sought to understand the WHY, HOW, and WHAT of the church at large, we found the WHY expressed in Jesus’ Great Commandment - to love God with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength, and to love our neighbor as ourselves; the HOW in the Great Commission - to go and make disciples in all the world; and the WHAT from Luke’s gospel that we’re to be as extravagantly generous, or as prodigal, with others as God is with us, and that we do that, as Jesus described in Matthew 25 when, as he put it,
“I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’

   The larger church’s vision and mission, then, are congruent with, flow naturally from those of Jesus Christ, as we would expect. So it follows that The United Methodist Church, as a denomination, has a Vision Statement as well: To Make Disciples of Jesus Christ for the Transformation of the World. A disciple is a follower, one who strives to be Christ-like in how they live their life, seeking to do what Jesus did. Why? For the transformation of the world. And is there any doubt that the world needs to be transformed? 

   And as we shared last week, Crossroads also has a Vision and Mission statement. Our Vision Statement reflects the vision of our denomination as our WHY, then follows with our Mission Statement that describes our WHAT. And as I reminded you last week, you’ll find this printed on the top of page 3 of our Worship Folder every week. Let’s read it together again this week:
Our Mission is to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world, by feeding all God’s children - body, mind, and soul.”

   You can see that the first part is the same as that of our denomination - which makes sense. It is congruent with, flows naturally from that of the denomination, which flows from that of the church universal, which flows from that of Jesus himself. As disciples our vision, our mission, our calling must be 
in alignment with our Source, which is Jesus Christ. So our missions, our ministries, and our outreach must flow from Jesus Christ as well.
   The second part is our Mission statement and it describes our HOW: by feeding all God’s children - body, mind, and soul. That’s how we feel we are called to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation world; by feeding the bodies, minds, and souls of all the people God sends our way. In order to be true to our WHY, the HOW and WHAT must be consistent with it - they must flow from the WHY. People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it. People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it. Now, the word “buy” suggests something like a business transaction, which is unfortunate, because the church is not a business. People may consume religious goods and services, some people may be consumers of the ministries we provide, but if they don’t understand WHY we do what we do, it’s unlikely that they will ever become disciples who share in the transformation of the world that we are called to help bring about. And the same can be said for us.

   So what does this look like for us? Well, since healing and feeding were Jesus’ two primary actions, it makes sense that they should be priorities for us as well. 
Last week we talked a little about the eating and feeding part as we shared together in communion, not only with one another, but with millions of our sisters and brothers in Christ around the globe on World Communion Sunday. And I shared with you that, beginning in November, we would launch a new dinner table worship based on the dinner table ministry of Jesus, resurrected from our former Community Meal, called “Dinner With Friends at Crossroads Cafe.” And unlike the community meal, the focus of which was feeding bodies, Dinner With Friends seeks to holistically feed body, mind, and soul by reimagining the dinner table ministry of Jesus and the early church in our own time and for our own community. 

As I shared with you last week, 70+% of people in the U.S. and our community hold a secular worldview with no spiritual or religious faith upon which to build or guide their lives, often leaving them feeling lost in the larger world. Jesus’ WHAT - to go and make disciples - is intended to seek out the lost and surround them with the healing love of Christ. That is what we hope to do through this new thing. But that’s not all we’re doing, because that only addresses part of the equation.

   A few weeks ago we invited you to participate in a Congregational Health Survey. Understanding that we are to be part of Jesus’ ministry of healing as well feeding, we began to explore what that might look like for us; that survey was the first step. The health issues, concerns, and interests that you shared as being part of your daily living are also reflected more broadly in our community and society. We invited our friends from Ohio Health, our United Methodist affiliated hospital system, to help us explore what a health ministry here at Crossroads might look like.
   And while it is certainly our desire to address your needs as you outlined them in the surveys, we are also called to be a healing presence in the community. 
And there are two different tracks we could pursue in a health ministry. The first looks at what new things we might do to make a positive impact on the health of our congregation and our community. Providing regular blood pressure screenings was one of the first things that came to mind. To that end, we’re pursuing donations of blood pressure cuffs. Many of you expressed an interest in either exercise, yoga, or tai chi classes. So one of our friends from Ohio Health is reaching out on our behalf to try to find someone who could do that for us. 
   Another new thing, that would be fairly easy for us to do, would be to lay out a measured walking track around our grounds and encourage people to become more active by taking walks around our grounds and tracking their steps. So there are three new things we’re initially looking into. The second track would be to explore how we might do some of the things we already do in new, healthier ways. For example, at our worship planning retreat a couple of weeks ago, instead of just providing donuts, we also provided fruit. And wouldn’t you know - the fruit was more readily consumed than were the donuts. So what if we looked at what we feed ourselves when we have gatherings like that, or potlucks, and provided some healthier alternatives? What if as part of our food pantry, or as a teaching time to follow our Dinner with Friends, we offered classes on healthy cooking, managing diabetes, or making healthy food choices at the grocery or pantry? These are all easy little adjustments we can make that can go a long way toward bringing healing and wellness to our congregation and our community. But that said, we’re also working on one big project right now as well. 

   By a show of hands, how many of you or someone in your family, has a history of heart disease, or other cardiovascular issues? Between those of us here today who have raised our hands and those who use our building throughout the week: Kiwanis, AA, Al-Anon, the Ukrainian congregation and others, we have many, many people in our building each and every week who are susceptible to heart attack. With that in mind, we are pursuing a grant, and will be doing some fund-raising as well, in order to obtain an Automatic Electronic Defibrillator for the church in case of cardio emergency and to train people in its use. The time required for an EMT squad to arrive once 9-1-1 is called could be too long; we want to be able to act as quickly and as completely as possible.
  Now, it may seem like an awkward pairing for you, but having shared with you last week about our new Dinner Church ministry, and this week about our new Health ministry, at the end of worship today we’re going to ask you to prayerfully make your financial commitments for next year to support these and the other ministries we provide here at Crossroads. But in fact, it’s not as awkward a pairing as you may think, because our giving to the church is not so much a financial issue as it is a faith issue, a spiritual issue. God has provided everything we need - maybe not everything we WANT, but everything we NEED. 
God’s is an economy of abundance, not of scarcity. 
   A few recent examples to back that up. I shared with you a few weeks ago how the new sign out front came about. The sign, the money needed for the sign, all just kind of dropped into our laps without any budgeted funds having to be used. That is surely a literal sign of God’s abundance and blessing, is it not?
  The new GaGa Ball pit we dedicated last week - a gift from God that grew out of our ongoing relationship with and support for the Scouting ministry here. 
The playground in which it is located is the gift of another Eagle Scout project from years ago. A sign of God’s ongoing abundance.
   That AED I told you about earlier? We’re working on obtaining a grant and will be doing some fund raising to help cover the cost of that, but a church member approached me with a pledge of $500 toward the cost if the grant doesn’t come through or doesn’t cover it all.
   And after I shared with you about the renewal leave I’m taking in January and February to address my own spiritual health, yet another member stepped up and graciously provided the funding needed so that neither the church nor I were financially encumbered. These are all living and breathing signs of the abundance God shows us when we just show a little faith.

   Healing isn’t just about physical health and wellness, though. Our mental, emotional, and spiritual health is also vulnerable. Sometimes that from which we need healing are not the things that a prescription can clear up or therapy can resolve. Anger, fear, alienation, awkwardness, addiction, faithlessness, judgmentalism, greed, and Sin all require something other than the latest pharmaceutical we see advertised on TV or watching a few episodes of Doctor Phil in our pj’s while downing a pint of ice cream. Spiritual healing often begins with a decision - a decision to take our spiritual dis-ease to God. It is in the moment in which we confess our own powerlessness - not an easy thing to do - and choose to trust in and rely on God, that healing often begins. But that can be a hard first step to take.

  The Epistle of James, in the New Testament advises this,
If any of you are sick, they should call for the elders of the church, and the elders should pray over them, anointing them with oil in the name of the Lord. Prayer that comes from faith will heal the sick, for the Lord will restore them to health. And if they have sinned, they will be forgiven. For this reason, confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of the righteous person is powerful in what it can achieve. (James 5:14-16, CEB)

   We all have that thing that eats at our Spirit in the same way a cancer eats at our body. We may not want to admit it out loud, but we know it’s there, God knows it’s there - we hear it in our words, we see it in our actions, we give it life and power in our feelings and our attitudes. Something unhealthy, maybe big or perhaps small, is gnawing at our souls.  So today, near the end of our service, as we come forward to make our financial commitments before God for next year, there will be an opportunity for you receive an anointing with oil, a blessing from God through the presence of the Holy Spirit, for whatever it is that keeps you from fully trusting in God, for healing from whatever is chewing on your soul, or whatever seems to be holding you back from experiencing the blessing and abundance that God wants you to know as a beloved child of God.

  Our mission is to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world (which, by the way, includes our own transformation) by feeding ALL God’s children - body, mind, and soul. May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable unto you, O God, our strength and our Redeemer. Amen. 

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