WHEN JESUS WEEPS

Image
WHEN JESUS WEEPS

John Buchanan in his blog entry titled “Weep Together”talks of the of the various narratives blocking meaningful negotiations on the part of both Israel and Palestine. http://jmbpastor.wordpress.com/2014/05/30/weep-together/

This is a topic that will require serious and thoughtful prayer and discernment when the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) General Assembly meets in Detroit this coming June.

The hymn, When Jesus Wept, immediately comes to mind: 

 When Jesus Wept, the falling tear

In mercy flowed beyond all bound;

When Jesus groaned, a trembling fear

Seized all the guilty world around.”

Presbyterian Hymnal #312

Do we not all groan and weep for these people longing to live on sacred ground and in God’s Shalom / Peace.  

Prayer:  Let there be peace in our hearts and minds throughout the world God has given us all to share.  AMEN

 

 

 

SERMON: RADICAL HOSPITALITY By Rev. Tom Cundiff, January 24, 2010

Image“Radical Hospitality”[1]

Re-blog of a sermon I preached on January 24, 2010 at the Warren Avenue Presbyterian Church, Saginaw, MI    

Genesis 12: 1-9

THE CALL OF ABRAM

12Now the Lord said to Abram, ‘Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. 2I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. 3I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.’*

4 So Abram went, as the Lord had told him; and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran. 5Abram took his wife Sarai and his brother’s son Lot, and all the possessions that they had gathered, and the persons whom they had acquired in Haran; and they set forth to go to the land of Canaan. When they had come to the land of Canaan, 6Abram passed through the land to the place at Shechem, to the oak* of Moreh. At that time the Canaanites were in the land. 7Then the Lord appeared to Abram, and said, ‘To your offspring* I will give this land.’ So he built there an altar to the Lord, who had appeared to him. 8From there he moved on to the hill country on the east of Bethel, and pitched his tent, with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east; and there he built an altar to the Lord and invoked the name of the Lord. 9And Abram journeyed on by stages towards the Negeb.

Romans 15:  7-13

7 Welcome one another, therefore, just as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God. 8For I tell you that Christ has become a servant of the circumcised on behalf of the truth of God in order that he might confirm the promises given to the patriarchs, 9and in order that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy. As it is written,

‘Therefore I will confess* you among the Gentiles,    and sing praises to your name’; 10and again he says, ‘Rejoice, O Gentiles, with his people’; 11and again, ‘Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles,    and let all the peoples praise him’; 12and again Isaiah says, ‘The root of Jesse shall come,    the one who rises to rule the Gentiles; in him the Gentiles shall hope.’

13May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

 

  1. HOSPALITY

 

For months I have been hearing a ground-swell of interest in a book written by a United Methodist Bishop, Robert Schnase[2], titled “Five Practices of Fruitful Congregations”. I have given copies of this book to the Elders on the session .  I am hoping they will come up with some new ideas on how to improve on what we do around here.    

 

My purpose in preaching from this book, today, simply put:  GOD IS NOT FINISHED WITH US!    There is always room for growth in my/our relationship with God.

 

God is not finished with us personally.  God is not finished with me!   As the winter months drag on, the cabin fever begins to set in.  Personal struggles, health challenges, economic issues, family challenges:  there are a host of things going on in our lives that never seem to let up or go away.  We may feel that God has given up on us.  Yet simply put, God is not finished with me – or any of us!

 

God is not finished with the church!  Yes, the church also gets tired.  Who wouldn’t be tired at the age of 143!  The work that needs to be done in the neighborhood is always challenging.  Maintenance issues are always going to be with a church this size and age.  Because of our age it is more and more challenging handling some basic jobs….like moving tables and chairs around for meetings — or shoveling snow.   We are continually challenged to find creative ways to match resources with needs.  Yet this point:  God is not finished with us.       

 

The key question:  ARE WE GOING TO GIVE UP ON GOD?  I hope your presence in worship;  your participation in fellowship events;  your working as an officer or on one of our ministry teams – demonstrates the point:  We have not given up on this church!  We have not given up on what God can do for and with us!  How do I know this?  One example is the 19 members who came to the Panda House for the monthly Lunch-Bunch fellowship gathering.  19!   This is over 20% of our active membership!  This is nearly half of you who come to worship on Sundays!

 

So back to this book:  God is not finished with me/us – the church.  The five themes in this book give some clues that can help prompt us to be engaged in making a difference in the lives of others through:

 

Radical Hospitality

Passionate Worship

Intentional Faith Development

Risk-taking mission and service

Extravagant generosity

 

Today’s message on the first topic in this book:  RADICAL HOSPITALITY.  One of the gifts God gives us that continues to sustain us as a church:  Hospitality!  Something that can never be taken away from us:  the friendships we nurture;  the open hands of compassion and fellowship;  the open hearts we offer others in the name of Jesus our Lord.   There is no denying this fact:  WE’RE A HOSPITABLE CHURCH!

 

So my thesis this morning:  Out of genuine love for Christ and this church and concern for others in our community, what does it mean for us to take the initiative to GROW in our hospitality….as an inviting, welcoming church?

 

 

 

II. SCRIPTURAL GROUNDING

 

In our scripture from Romans 15: 7, Paul knows all about hospitality.  Wherever he went, he implored followers of Christ to be proactive in offering hospitality.

 

“Welcome one another, therefore, just as Christ has welcomed you,

 for the glory of God”.

 

What does this mean?   Perhaps we are having an impact on the lives of others without even knowing it?  Perhaps we are just doing what comes natural in responding to the needs of others?  How many times, in reflecting on good friendships we have made over the years, first came about because of a chance encounter with someone in this church?  How many of you are here today in this church, because someone else in this church offered you a warm and caring hand of friendship?  Think about it:  It what ways were you first introduced to this church?

 

Hospitality, though not complicated, is the heart of the church.  On the one hand it’s not hard at all to open our hands and arms to the stranger…..in our midst….on our turf…..on our terms….from where we are in our lives in our homes in our church.   Hospitality from where we sit is rather comfortable.  On the other hand, how easy is it to meet others from where they are in their lives?  The real challenge is going further a step further with our hospitality in following up a new friendship with a phone call or visit or note saying:  “I am sure glad we met!”  “Would you like to join us for lunch next month when the Lunch Bunch meets?”   “How would you like to get a cup of coffee?”  “Can I offer you a ride?”     

 

You may want to note that the title of this sermon isn’t just HOSPALITY!  It is RADICAL HOSPITALITY!  Radical hospitality involves not just accepting friends into our fellowship – but also listening for what our new friends may need….and meeting them from where they are in their lives….

 

A principle that has been a guide for me in my ministry for nearly a quarter decade:  whenever we receive a new member or friend into our midst, the personality of the church shifts a bit as we grow as the “living body of Christ”. 

 

If I may share a close, personal story:

 

The late Robert Weiss who died on January 8th hadn’t been a member for all that long.  He shared with me that he wasn’t sure he would “fit” in with our congregation.  He would speak his mind.  He had a unique personality….and was simply a loving, caring kind of guy.  Think about how much he gave us.  The fact that I miss him so much….is part of the legacy of his being part of this church.  This church went through a change when he joined the church.  We are also changing in his absence….and this is good!  The church is not meant to always be the same, doing the same things with the same people.  The church is organic.  The church is the “living body of Christ”!  As in all life, we change and grow…..adding to our fellowship and saying good-bye to friends when they die is part of life.  

 

The culture of the church changes and grows:  ONE PERSON AT A TIME!

 

Honestly:  RADICAL HOSPITALITY is challenging is because we get pretty set in our ways….I get set in my ways.  The danger for the person who has been around ten or fifty or seventy years is in opening our minds and hearts to grow and change as we meet and welcome new people into our fellowship! 

 

  1. FROM THE BOOK

 

Briefly, from this book:

 

  1. “Radical Hospitality stretches us, challenges us, pulls out of us our utmost creativity and hard work to offer the welcome of Christ.”[3]
  2. Churches that practice Radical Hospitality don’t just have ushers and greeters…they don’t merely point, they escort, they don’t merely pass out papers, they make people feel at ease.  They take notes of names and introduce visitors to others in the church…
  3. Churches that practice Radical Hospitality are strategic with communications….not just cutting back mailing lists to save money but adding to mailing list to increase exposure. 
  4. Churches that practice Radical Hospitality typically have web pages to reach out to younger adults  who are known to check out churches on the internet before considering a visit
  5.  Churches that practice Radical Hospitality see their care for the building as a ministry.  When someone approaches the church what do they see and experience?   Does the signage give clear directions?  Is everything neat and clean?

 

“To become a vibrant, fruitful, growing congregation requires a change of attitudes, practices, and values.  Good intentions are not enough.  Too many churches want more young people as long as they act like old people, more newcomers as long as they act like old-timers, more children as long as they are as quiet as adults, more ethnic families as long as they act like the majority in the congregation.”    WE CAN DO BETTER!

 

  1. ONE LAST THOUGHT

 

Let’s make sure we don’t miss one thing that scripture teaches this morning.

 

Welcome one another, therefore, just as Christ has welcomed you,

for the glory of God”.

 

“FOR THE GLORY OF GOD”:   We must always ask:  Why are we here?  Whom do we serve?  In what ways can we grow as a Christians?   In the end we come into this church because Jesus welcomes us into this church —  “for the glory of God”.  ‘Radical hospitality’ is not just celebrating what God through Christ  has given us – but finding creative, proactive ways to share what God has given us with others.

 

“FOR THE GLORY OF GOD”:   It’s okay to struggle with what it means to be radical in our hospitality.  It’s okay to feel a bit uncomfortable in dong Christ’s work.  It’s okay ….because we are never alone.  We have each other.  We have God. 

 

“FOR THE GLORY OF GOD”:   Let us continue to search for ways to grow into the likeness of Jesus Christ our Lord….for after all….we are, in fact, the “living, organic, Body of Christ.”

 

“FOR THE GLORY OF GOD”:  Let us continue to embrace God who loves us, cares for us, nurtures us – as we share these same gifts with others.

 

Finally, from one of my favorite hymns (#358)

 

Help us accept each other as Christ accepted us;

Teach us as sister, brother, each person to embrace.

Be present, Lord, among us and bring us to believe

 

We are ourselves accepted and meant to love and live.

 

AMEN

 

 

 

 

[1]  “Five Practices of Fruitful Congregations” by Robert Schnase, 2007, Abingdon Press

 

[2]   Missouri Conference of the United Methodist Church, Previously, pastor of the First United Methodist Church, McAllen, Texas.

[3]   Ibid.  page 24ff

 

 

MEMORIAL DAY WEEKEND 2014

Memorial Day Weekend:

Patriotism is supporting your country all the time, and your government when it deserves it.”  Mark Twain.   This is an abridged version of a quotation from Russia’s Czar Nicholas II.   Barack Obama used this quote in June of 2008 with this explanation:  “….when our laws, our leaders or our government are out of alignment with our ideals, then the dissent of ordinary Americans may prove to be one of the truest expression of patriotism.”   This Memorial Day Weekend, in memory of those who put their lives on the line for this country, let’s recommit to aligning our lives with our ideals!   Source:  www.quotery.comImage

Sermon: “Heart in Hand”

Sermon “Heart in Hand”

{I am now posting in my blog sermons that were previously posted in the blog of the Warren Avenue Presbyterian Church}

November 3, 2013 

 

                  “For from Him and through Him and to Him

                                 are all things.  To Him be the glory forever.              Amen.  Romans 11: 36

 ______________________________________________________________________________________________________ 

Jeremiah 31:  31-34

31The 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. 

 SERMON

  1. 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 – complete with bum knees and disintegrating hip joints!  As I contemplate the many blessings I have received as a pastor, I recall this piece of history with my wife: 

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 in Chicago and I was a student intern at the Edgewater church where she was a member.  Two years after we met backing 1976 — we were married.

 

Our most loved blessing is Emily Susan and her family.  I’m totally enthralled in being a grandfather.  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!

 

  1. 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 / the heart. 

 

God has blessed us with the most precious of all gifts – Jesus our Lord – this Son of God who lived 2000 years ago.   In faith, we affirm Jesus continues to live and walk and talk with us now as our living Lord.

 

Jesus 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 so we can have life with him now.  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.        

 

This 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 reformer from Geneva 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”

            Calvin’s Prayer:

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

 

III.   SOLI DEO GLORIA

 

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.

 

III.  MISSION

 

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:

 

  1. 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. 

 

  1. 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!

 

  1. 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 MarkNeumeierYouthCenter 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.    

 

  1.              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.

“I Wanna Be Rich” by Rev. Jao Cho

 

http://justiceunbound.org/carousel/i-wanna-be-rich/ 

“I Wanna Be Rich”

The Kingdom of God and the Myth of the Americdan Dream

By Rev. Jao Cho, Tampa, Florida. 

I anjoyed this article by Jao Cho from Tampa, Florida. had an impact on me.   We are called within the context of community to be stewards of all God has entrusted our care.  We are called to be stewards of all life.  Rev. Jao Cho says:

Thankfully, through my experience at Church of All Nations, I have learned a new way of understanding what it means to be rich. I have found a treasure that “neither moth nor rust consumes” and that can never be bought or stolen from me. I have discovered the joy living together in intentional Christian community.

Which world do we chose to live?   The profit-driven, individualized, high tech “I want to get rich” world?    Or the God-driven/Christ centered world where we learn to place our resources next to those things God calls us in life to value?   Enjoy this article that comes from a young pastor who os “right on” with what he has to say!

Many Ways to Build Houses by Jessica Tate

Excellent link to article on congregationally based community organizing. NEXT church is an informative blog for those wishing to be in conversation about ministry……I would encourage my Saginaw friends to get involved with the Habitat for Humanity that will be working on renovating over two dozen homes in the St. Stephens neighborhood. 

Many Ways to Build Houses