Talking ‘Tur-Duc-Hen’

THANKSGIVING—‘TALKING TUR-DUC-HEN’
This is my first thanksgiving without a job. November 24th was my last Sunday as pastor of the Warren Avenue Presbyterian Church—I have applied for disability. In ministry for nearly 40 years, I was pastor of this Michigan church for 28 years. It’s hard leaving this position – COLD TURKEY (pun intended!). Maybe some WILD TURKEY should be on the Thanksgiving menu.

Opening up this new blog, I thought I would prepare a “remembrance” titled “Talking ‘Tur-duc-hen’. I could have said “Turkey” but this year we are surving this combination of Turkey, Duck and Hen! While it is selfishly theraputic for me to dig through some of my own memories, I hope those who may read this blog will also find time to give some thought to what Thanksgiving has meant to you. What are your memories? What memories do you hope to build for your family?

This year, our daughter and son-in-law and 10 month old grandson, Tommy, have flown in from San Franciso for this special holiday. This is an exciting time for me. I join with my wife in wanting to make this Thanksgiving special. In making this meal special, we’ve special ordered a ‘Tur-Duc-Hen’. Our son-in-law, Ken, will miss sharing this combination of tasty birds with his California family. We hope this ‘Tur-Duc-Hen’ meal will help him remember his family while building new connections with his Michigan relatives. There is a lot of personal symbolism in our serving ‘Tur-Duc-Hen’!

What traditions from our experiences with family do we want to pass on to our children and grandchildred? What new memories will we create? What a wondeful opportunity for us to think about family.

I regret not having more memories of “Turkey Day”. In all honesty, I have spent way too many years focusing more attention on “church” than family. For this I am sorry.

What memories I have as an adult are those Thanksgiving Holidays when we would take a few days of vacation to get out of town. For many years we would travel to Pittsburgh to share thanksgiving with my mother-in-law. She would always greet us after a seven hour drive with a traditional “welcome meal” that included a hot bowl of homemade soup and a chipped ham sandwich.

Before sharing our Thanksgiving feast, we would go to Westminster Presbyterian church for thanksgiving worship. This is a huge church in the South Hills of Pittsburgh. This was the church where Nancy and I were married back in 70’s I will never forget Dr. John Galbreath officiating our wedding service. My closest friends from Denver were able to make the trip! I am absolutely blessed to have a wife and family that cherishes these traditional celebrations. I wonder what my Colorado family is doing for Thanksgiving? I need to give them a call!

The few days we would visit Pittsburgh, I recall walking through the hills off Cypress Drive (when my knees still worked) with Nancy sharing her precious childhood memories. I always enjoyed time spent with my wife and daughter driving through the hills looking at all the multi-million dollar mansions. We would also find time to go to the South Hills Mall, share a meal at the Kings family resturant and if we could, my watching a movie while the girls went shopping! On many occasions Nancy’s sister and her family and my nephews would join us in Pittsburgh for Thanksgiving.

Of course, on Thanksgiving day, we enjoyed plenty of turkey and love and fellowship as family. Oh yes, one more remembrance: My mother-in-law was so interested in making sure I felt welcome when visiting Pittsburgh. For years she would go to a local bar and buy a couple of beers. She would have to purchase a whole case if she went to one of the state stores! Going into a bar was her only option in buying just one or two beers. That’s going the extra mile to keep her son-in-law happy!

Westminster Presbyterian Church was on my list for a day-after Thanksgiving visit. For many years we would find the church office the day after thanksgiving. My mother-in-law enjoyed introducing me to her church friends. She worked as a volunteer in the church library and front desk. We also spent some time in the memorial garden—the collumbarium where Nancy and I plan to have our own ashes interred. As a family, we have purchased several plots for the family, where Nancy’s parents are now both interred. May they always rest in peace!

Much more could be said about some of our visits with our Grand Rapids family – and if I recall a trip or two to Chicago for a Thanksgiving feast with them at the Union League Club. For many years we would host the Thanksgiving dinner at our house…..especially after mom, (my mother-in-law) made the move to Saginaw to live closer to us. This year we are hosting this Thanksgiving meal….Cundiff’s, Moores, Jones….a full house!

Talking Turkey! Talking Tur-duc-hen! Take time to be with family. Take time to share your memories. Where were you? What traditions were established? Share your memories as you gather around table to share a Thanksgiving meal. What new memories do you hope to build?

Look at ways to share your blessings with others. Call a few friends. Make sure the people around you aren’t alone.
Now that we are grandparents, we are establishing new traditions for our daughter and husband and grandson. I wonder if I need to go buy some beer for Ken? What will they remember the rest of their lives?

In borrowing from the blog of the Rev. John Buchanan (www.jmbpastor.wordpress.com) former pastor of Fourth Presbyterian Chuch in Chicago, a wonderful poem by Lydia Maria Child’s. I plan to sing this with my 10 month old grandson when he comes for thanksgiving.
Over the river, and through the wood,
To Grandfather’s house we go;
the horse knows the way to carry the sleigh
through the white and drifted snow.
Over the river, and through the wood,
to Grandfather’s house away!
We would not stop for doll or top,
for ’tis Thanksgiving Day.
Over the river, and through the wood—
oh, how the wind does blow!
It stings the toes and bites the nose
as over the ground we go.
Over the river, and through the wood—
and straight through the barnyard gate,
We seem to go extremely slow,
it is so hard to wait!
Over the river, and through the wood—
When Grandmother sees us come,
She will say, “O, dear, the children are here,
bring a pie for everyone.”
Over the river, and through the wood—
now Grandmother’s cap I spy!
Hurrah for the fun! Is the pudding done?
Hurrah for the pumpkin pie!
The following verses appear in a “long version”:
Over the river, and through the wood,
with a clear blue winter sky,
The dogs do bark, and children hark,
as we go jingling by.
Over the river, and through the wood,
to have a first-rate play.
Hear the bells ring, “Ting-a-ling-ding!”,
Hurrah for Thanksgiving Day!
Over the river, and through the wood,
no matter for winds that blow;
Or if we get the sleigh upset
into a bank of snow
Over the river, and through the wood,
to see little John and Ann;
We will kiss them all, and play snow-ball
and stay as long as we can.
Over the river, and through the wood,
trot fast, my dapple-gray!
Spring over the ground like a hunting-hound!
For ’tis Thanksgiving Day.
Over the river, and through the wood,
Old Jowler hears our bells.
He shakes his paw, with a loud bow-wow,
and thus the news he tells.
HAPPY TURKEY or TUR-DUC-HEN DAY!

end

Glory to God Alone! Final Sermon as Pastor of Warren Avenue Presbyterian Church, Saginaw, MI

Bound and Nurtured in God's Love

   “GLORY TO GOD ALONE!”

MY LAST SUNDAY AS PASTOR OF THE

WARREN AVENUE PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH

November 24 2013

©Thomas B. Cundiff

 

Psalm 139: 1-6  and  23, 24

1 O Lord, you have searched me and known me.
2 You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
   you discern my thoughts from far away.
3 You search out my path and my lying down,
   and are acquainted with all my ways.
4 Even before a word is on my tongue,
   O Lord, you know it completely.
5 You hem me in, behind and before,
   and lay your hand upon me.
6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
   it is so high that I cannot attain it.

Search me, O God, and know my heart;
   test me and know my thoughts.
24 See if there is any wicked* way in me,
   and lead me in the way everlasting.*

 

I Thessalonians 5:…

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Glory to God Alone! Final Sermon as Pastor of Warren Avenue Presbyterian Church, Saginaw, MI

   “GLORY TO GOD ALONE!”

MY LAST SUNDAY AS PASTOR OF THE

WARREN AVENUE PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH

November 24 2013

©Thomas B. Cundiff

 

Psalm 139: 1-6  and  23, 24

1 O Lord, you have searched me and known me.
2 You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
   you discern my thoughts from far away.
3 You search out my path and my lying down,
   and are acquainted with all my ways.
4 Even before a word is on my tongue,
   O Lord, you know it completely.
5 You hem me in, behind and before,
   and lay your hand upon me.
6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
   it is so high that I cannot attain it.

Search me, O God, and know my heart;
   test me and know my thoughts.
24 See if there is any wicked* way in me,
   and lead me in the way everlasting.*

 

I Thessalonians 5: 11 (NRSV)

“Therefore encourage one another and build up each other, as indeed you are doing.”

 Matthew 22:  36-40  (NRSV)

“‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’  This is the greatest and first commandment.  And a second is like it:  ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’  On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”

 

I.  Parting Thoughts

 

A Few Memories:

 I will never forget when I first heard, back in 1984, that the Warren   Avenue Presbyterian Church was looking for a pastor.  I was on a tour bus in Israel sitting next to a man named James Stewart, an Assistant Pastor in this church back in the 60’s.    

When I returned from Israel, I ran into a colleague, Rev. Dick Dempsey.  He was serving as the Interim pastor at First Presbyterian Church in Saginaw.  He also told me of the opening at Warren  Avenue. He knew of my interest in urban ministry and thought this church might be a good fit. 

I submitted my paperwork.  After several interviews and prayer and discernment, I was “Called”  by God through the voice of this congregation to become your pastor.  Nancy and Emily and I made the move from Evanston to Saginaw.  I had never before imagined living in Michigan

Now some 340 months later and over 1300 worship services later J , I have given this pulpit a workout!  We’ve all had some time to get to know each other.

Words cannot describe my feelings right now in knowing this is my last Sunday worship service with you as your pastor.           

From the Book of Order, “Centered in Jesus Christ, informed by God’s inspired Word and guided by the confessions of the church” (W-4.4003d), I have been truly blessed to be your pastor.  I have always tried to be faithful to my call to be your pastor.  I have been honored to humbly “serve you with energy, intelligence, imagination and love”. 

Some of my fondest memories come from the years working with a wonderful staff…Doug and Melissa and Charles.  I really like these people.  Take care of them and they will take care of you. 

A highlight in my career was being nominatred and then elected to serve at one of the highest levels of the church , the General Assembly Council and the national Committee on the Office of General Assembly.   Through the years I have also been honored to serve at the Synod level as chair of the Budget Committee for more years than I wish to remember.  I have served on a dozen or more Presbytery committees, the Permanent Judicial Commission for six long years, several community organizations and boards—a host of experiences that have allowed me to “stretch and grow” as your pastor.

Throughout my life I have tried to remain grounded in the 139th Psalm and this prayer of discernment:     

“God?  Search me.  Know me. Discern my thoughts.  Give me tools and resources and strength to do your will and to be your servant.   Help me to know what you, God, would have me preach and teach and do in ministry in the name of your Son.  I pray that I have been faithful to this call.

God has never let me down.  You have never let me down.  I have always tried to stand with you in times of need as you have always stood with me and my family.   God has always been with us!  I wonder how many times I have said this over the years!    

God is with us!

God is with us!

God is with us!

 

II.  The Love of God

I made the decision to preach this final Sunday with you on the subject of LOVE. 

This great commandment recorded in the gospel of Matthew:

 ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind….And your neighbor as yourself’.

 Next to this commandment from I John 4: 7-8:

 ‘Beloved, let us love one another.  For love is God, and everyone who loves is born of God and loves God.  Those who do not love do not know God, for God is love.  Let us love one another.’

 

This is our highest calling—to love God and one another—for God is and always will be what we believe to be – love!

Early in my ministry with you I shared this definition of love.  I have been putting this definition to the test for my entire ministry.  I cannot find any flaws in it!

                                  “Love is that which binds us together and builds us up!”

 It is God “binds us together and builds us up” in all that we are, with everything we do, in sharing with others from all that God—a benevolent and generous God—has given us…..God’s created children / humanity.      

 A demonstration that supports this definition:

Imagine (if only we had more time):  my asking you to encircle this entire sanctuary.  Nobody would be excluded from this circle.  Each and every one of you included in this circle. 

Imagine:  God at the center of this circle. Love is at the center of this circle.  In fact, think of all the times I have shared with you from this pulpit…..God is in and between us……

Now this question:  What does God look like?  Created in the image of God we see God and experience God’s love in the faces of those all around us.  Literally, there is a bond between us that God has created.  This bond that binds us together and builds us up—the love that binds us together and builds us up! 

I really can’t find any holes in this logic – UNLESS –   

I were to ask all of you in this imaginary circle to turn and face the walls—to turn and face away from each other.  You wouldn’t be able to see those around you.  You wouldn’t be able to see the face of God.  Facing outward would likely feel awkward.  It would be hard to know God at the center of everything we are about as a church.  We might know that God is the center of the circle of life, but that wouldn’t be our experience because we in our lives do sometimes turn from God.  I suppose this is what we in religious terms call SIN! 

And REPENTENCE is turning back to face God accepting God and God’s love as the center of life — .   We may turn from God but God never turns from us!

 

God is our center—always ready to bind us together and build us up in helping us face – honestly and sincerely – all the obstacles, all the challenges; all the issues that come with being God’s created children. 

 

III.    Encouragement

How does God’s love build us up?   Let me suggest one way.  One specific example that has meant a lot to me over the years comes from Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians:     

 

“Therefore encourage one another and build up each other, as indeed you are doing.”

 

I would much rather experience God’s love than just learn about love in a cognitive or intellectual way.  We can’t just talk about love.  We need to experience God’s love.  And the only way I know to truly experience God’s love is experientially–and relationally.    

Imagine:  living your life with nothing but frowns and clinched fists.  You’ve heard me say this before.   We can’t offer much encouragement to others with frowns and angry fists. We can’t build on self-esteem without smiles and open hands and gestures of God’s love. 

 

IV.

It is God’s love that binds us together and builds us up as we move forward in living our lives as disciples of Jesus our Lord—because it is Jesus who teaches us about love, living with open hands, peace and justice in our hearts!

 

Our journey together through the years has been exciting—a few bumps in the road – but not too many.  God has always been with us!  

I will always remember the love that has emerged from your sharing God’s love with each other and with others – filled with peace and justice – extended beyond the walls of this church to others through numerous collaborative relationships and hand’s on ministry.  

V.

 As my ministry with you comes to an end may you know that there will always be a place in my heart (and in Nancy’s heart) – an emergence of God’s spirit from all the Saints whose labors created sustained this church for over 146 years…. “saints by faith before the world confessed the name of Jesus, whose name be forever blest.” 

I have known this would be a difficult day in leaving you as pastor.  I have also known this will be JOY-FILLED day to give glory to God, Soli Deo Gloria, basking in the shadow of saints who from their labors rest, knowing that God never rests.  God’s love has and always will forever bind us together and build us up….as the hymn proclaims, until “thy glory shine, three in one, alleluia, alleluia.”  

Amen.                                                                                                                1817

                                                                                                                                                 

 Cundiff Blessing

Based on 2 Corinthians 13: 11-13

May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, our savior and friend;

May the love of God, binding us together and building us up;

May the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, knitting us together as a church family;

Be with us until we meet again.  Amen.

 

For Such a Time As This

“”For Such a Time as This”

November 17, 2013

©Thomas B. Cundiff

 SERMON DELIVERED THE SECOND TO LAST SUNDAY BEFORE MY DEPARTURE AS SENIOR PASTOR OF THE WARREN AVENUE PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH, SAGINAW, MI.  I SERVED THIS CHURCH FOR 28 YEARS.  

Esther 4: 14b  “…..for such a time as this.”

Esther is a short biblical book found in the Old Testament between Nehemiah and Job.  It is considered to be an ancient Jewish novella.  This novella was written roughly 250 years before the birth of Christ.

 

In the fourth chapter of this short story Esther becomes the queen.  She has a Jewish cousin named Mordecai.  He reminds Esther of her ancestry and her duty as the queen to come to the aid of her people – particularly those who are being persecuted.  This ancient scripture is a wonderful verbal exchange between Mordecai and Esther giving me the title for this sermon. 

 

Let us listen this morning to God’s Word that comes to us from a version of our scriptural story written by Pastor, Rev. Libby Tigner:[1]    

 

Once upon a time, a long, long time ago, in the land of Persia, there lived a beautiful queen. She was the most beautiful woman in all the land, and her husband, the king, who was the ruler of the entire Persian empire, loved her very much. The queen’s name was Esther.

 

Now it so happened that Esther was Jewish, the greatgranddaughter of people

who had been taken to Babylon in the exile, more than a hundred years earlier. For whatever reasons, not all the Jews returned to Jerusalem when the exile ended. Esther’s family was among them, and they now lived in Persia. It also so happened that Esther was an orphan, and had been adopted by her cousin, Mordecai, who took care of her.  But when Esther was chosen to be the bride of the king and became the new queen, she, of course, went to live in the palace.

 

Her uncle, Mordecai followed her there, and stayed nearby, so he could keep an eye on her.

 

The king’s prime minister was named Haman, and Haman, well, let’s say he had an ego. He required absolute obedience and obsequiousness (flattery and sweet talk). He demanded that everyone bow down to the ground as they entered a room, or anytime he walked by. And since Mordecai was always near the palace, watching out for Esther, he and Haman crossed paths frequently. Mordecai refused to bow down, said that he was Jewish and that he was not going to bow down to any human being; he would only bow before God. As you can imagine, Haman was not pleased.

 

Haman devised a plot to punish Mordecai – in fact, to punish the entire Jewish

community living in Persia. He went to the king and told him that there was an entire group of people who were “different,” who disregarded the king’s laws, and who needed to be rooted out and destroyed. Obtaining the king’s permission, Haman devised a plan to kill all the Jews in the land.

 

Mordecai heard of Haman’s plan, and went to Esther and said, “You have got to

go to the king and stop this thing from happening!” Esther said, “What do you think I can do? I may be the queen, but I have no power. I can’t go to the king unless he sends for me. If anyone goes before the king without being summoned, the punishment is death! Only if he raises up his golden scepter to someone will that person live.”

 

Mordecai said, “You may be the queen, but you are still a Jew, and they will kill

you, too. You are the only hope that we all have. Who knows? Maybe this is the very reason that you are the queen. Perhaps you were given that crown for such a time as this.”

 

Esther went to the King, unsummoned, not knowing if she would live or die

because of his rash behavior. The king, because he did love her, raised up his golden scepter and she was able to approach.

 

……… the ultimate result is that, because Esther dared to approach the king, Haman’s  evil plot was exposed, he lost his position and his head, the execution of the Jews did not happen, Mordecai and his family were elevated to positions of honor, and there was great a great celebration. [2]

 

With all the evil forces in the world that could have prohibited Esther from moving forward in faith, she prevailed…..she did what was right in the eyes of the King….and there was a great celebration!

 

This is the Word of the Lord.   Thanks be to God! 

 

 

 

 

 

I.

 

As the story of Esther unfolds, there is a primary conflict between two people, Haman and Mordecia.  This conflict between these men is symbolic conflicts or issues in our world today – particularly with Haman wanting the King to eliminate the entire Jewish race and Mordecia coming to the defense of the Jewish people.  I suppose, in our political reality (world), this would be like those in the Middle East who would still like to see Israel – the Jewish race – destroyed. 

 

The act that is central to the story is Esther’s moment of truth. Will she risk everything in naming and then standing up to those who want to eliminate the Jewish race?    

 

As Christians in our reality – in our world – what will we risk in naming and addressing issues and injustices we see?  For example, the poverty we see on our streets?  The hunger?  The unemployment?  The Racism?  The world reality that sees the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer.  If Esther had not found the strength deep within herself to face this moment of truth in her life, the story would have ended with her death and the slaughter of the Jewish people.  The question we must ask:  What will we name and then stand up for as Christ’s church?   What are we willing to risk in order to be doing what is right and just in the name of our Lord?   As our constitution says, are we willing to “risk losing our life in trusting in God alone”, Soli Deo, to be Christ’s church?[3]  The confessional statement from the Brief Statement of Faith continues to stand out in thinking about this story of Esther up for what she knew was right and just – “In life and in death we belong to God!”[4]

 

This is a core concern for this church.  It is why this church has remained in this building at this location when the popular, easy, low-risk thing to do would have been to move.   This church has risked putting everything on the line in “doing justice, loving kindness, and forever humbly walking with God” in serving the people of this city – especially the children in this city.[5]   In this time and place, following the heart of women like Esther and the prophet Micah, this church has “remained in this inner-city neighborhood by choice with historical determination” to be doing God’s work![6]

 

 

 

 

 

 

II.

 

In recent history, one of the greatest accomplishments of this church has been in nurturing a “collaborative environment” in which to work with those in the community who share our values in providing quality programming through the use of this wonderful building.  As a smaller congregation we have learned that we don’t have the capacity – the time or money or people – to run, by ourselves, a large program for children and youth.  But we do have this building.  We have a passion to be serving our Lord.  We have learned how to collaborate with others who do know how to do this type of important programming! 

 

I have seen too many churches try to run huge programs by themselves without the resources required to do a good job.  This hasn’t been an issue for us.  We have partnered with some wonderful people who know how to run after school programs, mentoring programs, youth programs.  One of our greatest assets is our ability to partner with others in blending the resources of this community with a passion to be doing what is just and right for this community. Lest I again be caught boasting too much, you should be proud of what this church has accomplished in nurturing collaborative partnerships with others. 

 

 

It is by the grace of God, “for Such a time as this” to again approach God in asking:  What would you have us do next?  With a change in leadership, what is your plan for this church?

III.

 

You, the members and leaders of this church, are entering into a “discernment process” in mapping out a future for this church.  Just like Esther making the decision whether she was going to approach the King, we have decisions to make in approaching God in asking for guidance and support for the ministries we envision doing as a church.  It is now and again,

 

 

for such a time as this …

 

… to listen for what God is calling this church to do and become….

 

for such a time as this …

 

… to renew our commitment to faithfully serve Jesus Christ with our time talents and financial resources….

 

for such a time as this …

 

… to place our passions, our hearts, next to those things we feel God calling us to be doing..

 

for such a time as this …as stewards of all life….

 

 … to put your lives and perhaps, also, the life of this church on the line, as Esther did – as Jesus did – for what we believe!

 

Three solid, unchangeable, immovable affirmations in contemplating the future:   

 

  1. God is not going away.
  2. Jesus is always going to be in and between us, for we truly believe we are called to be doing Christ’s work in the world today as the living body of Christ.
  3. This city isn’t going away.  But what about the church?

 

Along with Esther we must ask, “for such a time as this”, to move forward heeding God’s call to be Christ’s church!

 

We are all stakeholders in all God has entrusted our care.  Will we stand up for what God calls this church to become? Pastors come and go.  Leadership changes.  Church membership changes.  But God does not go away.  Christ is always near.  This city is not going away.

 

May our prayer be:

 

for it is such a time as this, Lord, for us to be and do as you would have us become as Christ’s church….in sharing God’s love with others—now and forever.

 

Amen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


[1]   Libby Tigner, First Congregational Church,  Long BeachCalifornia, October 24, 2010.  Permission Granted to use 11/16/2013.

[2]  I believe I got this version from BIBLE.ORG, Women of the Bible, by Kay Daigle.

[3]   F-1.03, New Form of Government       G-3.0400 Old Form of Government

[4]   Brief Statement of Faith, Line One

[5]   Micah 6: 8

[6]  “by choice;  historical determination” – phrases from the church Mission Statement.

Heart in Hand

   A NEW BEGINNINGI have recently announced my leaving my position as pastor of the Warren Avenue Presbyterian, Saginaw, Michigan.  I have been pastor of this church for over 28 years.   I am starting this BLOG to shift from posting sermons at an old blog to my now sharing sermons and reflections more of a general nature.  It is going to be different for me not preparing a sermon every week.  I hope this blog will help me stay disciplined in sharing sermons, thoughts and reflections on life beyond the PULPIT and the 24/7 routine of caring for a congregation.   HEART IN HAND is one of the sermons I shared with the congregation several weeks prior to be leaving this position.

SERMON — “Heart in Hand”

 November 3, 2013

©Thomas B. Cundiff

Jeremiah 31:  31-34

1The days are surely coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah. 32It will not be like the covenant that I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt—a covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, says the LORD. 33But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 34No longer shall they teach one another, or say to each other, “Know the LORD,” for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, says the LORD; for I will forgive their iniquity, and remember their sin no more.

Galatians 4: 16-26

The Works of the Flesh

16Live by the Spirit, I say, and do not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17For what the flesh desires is opposed to the Spirit, and what the Spirit desires is opposed to the flesh; for these are opposed to each other, to prevent you from doing what you want. 18But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not subject to the law. 19Now the works of the flesh are obvious: fornication, impurity, licentiousness, 20idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissensions, factions, 21envy, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these. I am warning you, as I warned you before: those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

 The Fruit of the Spirit

22By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, 23gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things. 24And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit. 26Let us not become conceited, competing against one another, envying one another.

 +   +   +   +   +   +   +   +   +

I.  TRUE BLESSINGS

The most cherished of all blessings received my entire life is my wife of 37 years – Nancy.  Nancy.  I am sorry she couldn’t hear me say this.  She’s downstairs teaching Sunday School.  I like to joke with her:  She is the jewel and I am the cracked glass – get it – bad knees hips!

As I have shared with you before, Nancy was ordained an elder before I was ordained a minister.  We met at the Edgewater Presbyterian Church on the north shore of Chicago while she was serving the church as an elder I was a student intern.  She was working as a Financial Analyst  for W. Clement Stone and Combined Insurance and I was a student at McCormick Seminary. Two years after we met we were married.

Also, among our most loved blessing is daughter Emily Susan and her family.  I’m totally enthralled in being a grandfather to 9 month old Kenneth Thomas Moore.  The Moore family will be here for my last Sunday with you, November 24th.

I thank God each and every day for the gifts of family and yes—church.  Since I was in high school, I felt a calling by God to be a pastor.  I have been truly blessed by God to have been “called” to serve in three churches, the last 28 years here in Saginaw at the Warren Avenue Presbyterian Church.[1]  Enough of the gushy stuff!

 II.  HEART IN HAND – John Calvin

 True blessings come from God—not only in our minds in contemplating life with God but also, from a less cerebral place – the soul or heart.

God has blessed us with the most precious of all gifts – Jesus our Lord, this man who lived 2000 years ago we believe lives and walks and talks with us now – the Son of God – our living Lord.  Jesus, the Son of God, died an excruciatingly painful death for our sins only to be raised from death, conquering death, by a loving God who points us all toward the promise of eternal life.  The most priceless of all gifts God could give us, next to life itself, is Jesus who continues to live in our midst.  We are the living, breathing Body of Christ!  And this isn’t just a mind exercise.  We worship in giving glory to God, Soli Deo Gloria, for all in life Jesus Christ gives us.

He gospel hymn[2] comes to mind:  “Lord I want to be a Christian — in-a-my heart, in-a-my heart.  Lord — I want to be a Christian!  In-a-my-heart!”   Sing with me, Lord I want to be like Jesus……

This imagery on the bulletin cover of “Heart-in-Hand” comes from John Calvin, the 15th century Genevan reformer and renowned father of Presbyterianism.  Christ’s love and compassion and presence with us truly permeate the very center of our being.

           “Heart in the Hand”

           And Calvin’s Prayer:

         “My Heart I offer to you, Lord; promptly and sincerely”

 III.   SOLI DEO GLORIA — 2013 Stewardship Theme

As reformed Christians and Presbyterians; centered in Christ; informed through God’s Holy and Sacred Word:  we worship in giving Glory to God for blessings received.   Galatians lists many of these specific blessings or fruits of the spirit for which we give God glory!

 Love, joy, peace, patience,

kindness, generosity, faithfulness,

gentleness, and self control….all gifts ‘God writes on

our hearts’ that we in turn pass on to others….for which we

in turn give glory to God!

 

This is the mission of the church.  A significant component in our stewardship is in sharing our blessings with others.  Our very presence in this church this morning is in searching for ways we can give to others what we have found  – the many gifts of God’s Spirit known to us through Jesus.

“Heart in Hand”……this motif reminds us that we are Christ’s “missional” church doing the important work, ‘promptly and sincerely’, in the context of this wonderful city and this specific neighborhood—the Cathedral District.

 IIIMISSION

 So for the next few minutes I would like to talk about our being a “missional church” called to share with others what God has placed in our hands – the heart-felt love we offer others in the name of our living Lord.

For what God has placed in our hearts

God also places in our hands

to be shared with others!

 To give you some specific information:

We have in the operating budget of this church just over $7,000 for mission.  When it comes to trimming the budget, this could be the easiest place to make cuts.  It’s always been important that we give a generous portion of our tithes and offerings to mission.  $7,000 is a good / respectable  amount for a church our size.  Roughly $82.00 per member goes to pay for the mission work we do locally as well as sending nearly $3,000 to support the mission work of the Presbytery, Synod and General Assembly.  These funds also go to pay for Summer Magic.  We also use these funds to connect in giving donations from our church to a dozen local organizations and agencies – on your behalf.  The Mission Team and Session work hard as stewards of your gifts to make sure all of this $7,000 is invested well in doing Christ’s work near and far.

We also have a variety of ‘Special Offerings’ we receive throughout the year—funds in addition to the $7,000 in our church operational budget.  The Peace offering; One Great Hour of Sharing; Mother’s Day offering for Habitat; Christmas Joy Offering;  and the Coins for the Hungry we  received this morning.  These special offerings add up to at least another $5,000 – from your hearts delivered directly to the hands of those in need.  You know how I know you are a “MissionalChurch” – a church with a deep commitment for mission?   Your generosity in giving to these special offerings is exemplary.

The operating budget of $7,000 plus $5,000 in special offerings adds up to $12,000 or in terms of an amount per member – that is $141.00 per member going from our hearts into the hands of the those in need.   Not bad for a congregation of 85 members!

Going further (and God forgive me for some boasting) – perhaps the greatest mission gift we give to others in this community is lodged in this magnificent church.  This is not just a building.  This is a church with a mission in the context of this neighborhood to serve this city—especially the children of this city.  We continue to be the only Presbyterian church in the city of Saginaw East of the Saginaw river in doing this important work.

Worth sharing with you again:  we do not charge rent to the Women of Color’s or the Mark Neumeier Youth Center or the Kappa League Youth Leadership program.  In my memory, on my watch, we have never charged rent for the use of this church.  We want to open our doors to those who can’t afford to put their precious dollars into rent.

For those who might be curious as to the “monetary or dollar value” of the use of this building if we were to charge rent?  The “fair rental value” of just the Gym, an estimate the youth center received two or three years ago from Yeo and Yeo — $30,000 a year.  The youth center shares in the utility expenses and the Women of Color’s donates back to the church in the form of “in-kind” services.  To charge rent?  These groups probably wouldn’t be able to use our facility if we were to charge rent.

While this church is a blessing for us in worship, it is also a blessing we pass on to others with open hands to the children of this community.

Truly, with loving hearts and open hands, we GIVE GLORY TO GOD through the use of blessings God has entrusted our care…..tithes and  offerings and the use of this building  — to use the idiom, this “diamond in the rough” – one of the most important of all our assets we can give to others.  And yes, it takes your tithes and offerings to keep the doors of this church open.

We ask that you make a pledge in contemplating not just what this church means to you in your own personal relationship with God….but to also contemplate how much this church means to others.

We pray that you will find room in your heart (and check book) to increase your pledge for Christ’s work in 2014.   There is true, measurable value in supporting this church in the context of this community with your tithes – and your offerings.

 IV.             CONCLUSION

 I want to end with another quote from John Calvin.  John Calvin has said,   “We are surrounded by God’s benefits.  The best use of these benefits is an unceasing expression of gratitude.”[3]  That is why we gather to worship, Soli Deo Gloria, in giving Glory to God for benefits in life we have been blessed to receive through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Heart in Hand!

 “MY HEART I GIVE TO THEE, LORD,

READILY PROMPTLY AND SINCERELY!”

 AMEN                                                                                                    


[1]   First Presbyterian Church of Davenport, Iowa and Northminster Presbyterian Church in Evanston, Illinois were my other two calls.

[2]   Lord I Want to be a Christian, footnote for hymn #729, Glory to God, the Presbyterian Hymnal

[3]   , www.presbyterianfoundation.org, stewardship quotes, October Newsletter, 2013.