GROW. Growing in our Relationships with Others - Week 2 - 7/13 - Pastor April's Sermon

In the last half of 2012, across the street at the Wexner Center, there was an extraordinary exhibit on display by one of the greatest contemporary photographers. Annie Leibovitz began taking photos while working for Rolling Stone magazine in 1970 and since then, she has had this unbelievable ability of capturing powerful, evocative, and stirring photographs of some of the most public figures of each decade. From rock stars to Hollywood actresses to presidents, Annie has been invited into some of the more intimate and personal moments and has created amazing photographs that have become iconic in our age. The largest part of the exhibit across the street though was her own chosen master set – 156 images that she had taken of public and private figures, some including her own family. These were enlarged and put on display for all to see.

Everyone from Richard Nixon to Michael Jackson to Cindy Crawford.

Mick Jagger, Whoopi Goldberg, Brad Pitt, and Barack & Michelle Obama.

And interspersed was an occasional picture of a not so public figure, a Cherokee mother, a college student waiting on the tarmack of Houston, TX airport – hoping to get a glimpse of a famous Hindu Guru…

But There was this one series of portraits that I just couldn’t step away from.

They were the photographs of four Vegas showgirls. They were dressed in all their fancy sequined costumes, headdress and all, feathers, heels, etc. Their faces beautifully covered in makeup. Each of them looked gorgeous and glamorous and larger than life.

And in the portraits just to the left – were the same four women.

These photographs were in black and white. The women wore simple clothing, no makeup and 1 of them was photographed holding her two daughters.

And for me – this was the heart of the exhibit – this deep reminder that no matter what we put on – no matter how we might dress ourselves up – no matter how others may view us.

At the end of the day, we are just people.

what struck me in each of these photographs, is how she had managed to portray these larger than life individuals – people who we sometimes revere, idolize, and place on pedestals – she had managed to portray them as real and vulnerable, as people who were deeply human, imperfect, and yet also – beautiful.

 

I was struck that day at how often I fail to remember this – whether with people I know – or with people I observe from afar.

How quickly I am to make judgments of others, to put them into a category,

That waitress, or that idiot in the car in front of me, or that cranky church person.

And I was deeply thankful for the way that

Annie’s remarkable photographs invited me anew to remember the humanity that we all share, the humanity that across all our differences, binds us all together.

 

This seeing each other as human – relating to one another as God invites us to – it is not easy work. It’s hard when we think about public figures, but it can be just as hard with our own family.

 

In our Scripture today.

 

I imagine it was hard for Jacob and Esau.

 

Twin sons.

 

Because Esau was born first, he received the birthright.

He received the blessing.

 

And it is evident that Jacob – having been born just minutes after his older brother – wanted this blessing. Wanted this birthright.

 

And he wanted it so much that when his brother was gone hunting – and when he knew he would come home famished.

 

He made a delicious stew – and told him that he would give him some.

 

If he gave over the birthright.

 

And Esau – who is hungry – and who, in this moment, is only interested in working through his hunger – agrees.

 

Esau is just a means to the birthright.

 

And Jacob is just a means to a meal.

 

How easy it can be to focus on what we want instead of focusing on the person.

 

And the person becomes a means to an end.

 

An object instead of a human being.

 

 

In the story of our creation…

God spoke the words –

Let us make human kind – in our own image.

 

And so, God created human kind in God’s own image, male and female God created them – in the image of God.

 

From the first chapter of our story as a people of faith – we are reminded – that when we look at one another – we are beholding the very image of God.

 

When I look at you…

And you…

And you…

 

The very image of God is before me.

 

And though there might be something for me to gain by interacting with you – my primary way of relating to you – ought to begin in the recognition that you are a fellow human, a fellow creation of God – beloved and broken, just like me.

 

It’s a hard thing to do as an individual. Because we are complicated people.

 

But it’s especially hard to do on a wider, communal, and political level.

When we have to make laws and legislation that govern our communities, our churches, and our states – it is hard to do so in ways that remember our humanity – and don’t reduce us to objects or numbers or votes.

 

Some of us have lost hope in our political process as being capable of this work at all, but I am thankful for the reminders that Jesus’ call to love and live in the world had political implications on how our communities were ordered.

 

That sharing our faith – also means speaking the truth to those in power about how we feel God has called us to relate to one another…

 

And so, I’ve invited Rob Young, from Equality Ohio to come and share with us a bit about the work he is doing in the political realm –

 

1.  One of the things you are working on is a legislative campaign to end workplace and housing discrimination against LGBT persons.  Can you tell us some of the ways that this is impacting the lives of people right here in Ohio?

2.  Part of your work is to connect with faith communities like Summit to help accomplish this work – why do you think this work is important – particularly for people of faith?

3.  So, what is our next step?

As some of you may be choosing to sign these letters and place them here on the table as an offering today, asking our legislators to remember the humanity in all of us.

(To Find Out more about the campaign, go to http://www.equalityohio.org/ehea/

You can also sign the letter we signed in church by clicking HERE)

I invite you to be prayerful around where God is inviting you to grow in this area.

Where are you struggling to see someone else as made in the image of God? Where is God inviting you to grow?

GROW. Growing in our Relationships with Others - Week 1 - 7/6 - Pastor April's Sermon

As I was preparing for this week’s message, I was remembering a Friday last spring. My neighbor has a son who is Marcus’ age – and so periodically we watch each others’ children for one another.

In fact – over the last 3 years – our houses are so close – that when the children were younger we could turn on the baby monitor in one house and walk across the street and still hear it.

 

So on this particular Friday – I was watching both boys all day – and in the afternoon, I had just walked over across the street to put CJ, the neighbor, down for a nap.

 

Now, it seemed that things were all well and good.

Up until this time, I was under the impression that CJ, who was 2 at the time, was still too young to be able to open his own bedroom door.

So, when I heard some noises begin to come through the monitor – I wasn’t concerned. After all, he was in his room. It was probably just him reading some books or maybe even playing with his toys. Nothing to be concerned about – right?

And then – it was QUIET. Aah. I though. He must be asleep.

 

About 45 minutes later, I heard a loud crash.

 

I came in to find CJ in the living room of the house. Things were strewn around the entire house. Puzzles, games, and toys dumped onto his bed. INCLUDING toys that he had retrieved from the garage.

CJ himself had stripped off most of his clothing and was wearing only a shirt – proud of himself for the poop he had made in the bathroom – that almost stayed in the toilet.

And the crash itself – had been caused by a giant ceramic bowl that CJ had managed to retrieve and fill with ice cream that he had gotten out of the freezer.

And served himself.

It’s a good thing there wasn’t a car in the garage – because who knows how far the little guy would have made it. J

 

I felt terrible.

I was SO embarrassed.

Mortified might be a better word.

How could I have let this happen? Why didn’t I go and check on him?

I felt like an utter failure and a completely negligent parent.

Why would anyone trust me ever again with their child or any child?

Thank goodness he was OK.

 

When his mother made it home, I couldn’t stop apologizing.

I will do ANYTHING. ANYTHING to make this right.

 

But to my surprise.

 

She was filled with grace. She wanted to make sure we learned from the experience, but she wasn’t mad. She was actually laughing about it.

 

And as I continued to apologize, she simply looked me in the eyes and said -

It’s OK. Don’t worry about it.

 

We have this concept in the Christian tradition called grace.

Grace is an unmerited gift.

And we talk about it and we sing about it in really pleasant terms typically. Our song today is a good example.

Amazing Grace.

And if we are honest -

Grace is a bit scandalous.

Because in grace - we forgive someone who does not deserve to be forgiven.

 

The king in this story – is doing something absurd.

Almost offensive.

If we were to meet him in the real world – we would call him a fool – a person who has LOST HIS MIND.

This man owes him the equivalent of 4 billion dollars. It is such an enormous amount of money that even in 50 lifetimes, the man would not be able to pay him back.

But instead of putting him on a payment plan. Or assigning him a job to make it up in another way. He simply forgives the debt.

He forgives the debt of 4 billion dollars.

 

It is such an extravagant gesture of forgiveness and mercy that it is HARD for us to even imagine.

 

And the story continues and we learn that the man turns around and does the most crazy thing – he demands a repayment of a debt of a few hundred dollars from a friend. And when he doesn’t have the money – he throws him in jail.

 

And our temptation in this story is to get really judgmental about this guy – and to say – geez – what a royal jerk.   How could he have this debt forgiven and then not forgive his friend?

 

So – we could go there – but I think the far more interesting question might be – what did this man experience in the moment of grace that was so hard for him to receive?

 

So I think back to the day when my neighbor came home and offered me this unexpected grace.

 

You would think that I would have felt better. But I didn’t. I felt ILL.

I had been ready for her to be mad – to tell me she never wanted me to watch her child again. But when she responded with grace instead. I felt this weight and heaviness. She had given me a gift that I didn’t deserve – a gift that I really couldn’t repay. I just had to receive it. And I couldn’t. I couldn’t receive it. I spent the next few days beating myself up about this.

 

Because that is how the world is supposed to work – right? If I screw up and do something stupid – I should have to deal with the consequences – not just have all things be OK and forgiven.

 

Now, my situation was a little milder than this man’s.

 

Can you IMAGINE – how it would have felt to have had this level of debt forgiven?

It is an ENORMOUS gift – that he didn’t ask for and he didn’t deserve.

And there is no question in my mind – that he KNEW he didn’t deserve it.

It must have been embarrassing.

 

The weight.

The burden of that kind of gift – I wonder if it was just too much for him to bear.

 

And I imagine that he felt that he needed to do something to have earned it.

 

Because that’s’the way the world works. We don’t just get something for nothing. That’s not how this work.

 

The grace that we are offered. The unmerited gift –

 

If we are honest – it can be offensive.

 

And almost too much for our hearts to take.

 

So perhaps we shouldn’t be so surprised to find the man demanding that the debtor pay up.

 

I think he is actually doing to him – what he thinks he actually deserved. But didn’t get. This is the way the world is supposed to work.

 

In this world, you get what you deserve. Where there is cause and effect – where you hurt someone and someone hurts you back – we know that world – and we understand it.

 

To imagine a world where we relate to each other differently

 

It’s too hard for this man and it’s too hard for us.

The way of grace is offensive. It’s too much for our hearts to take – and so – too often we reject it. Because it is so hard to live into.

 

We’re talking about how to grow in our relationships with others this month.

 

But if we are to grow – it must be grounded in this idea that the way God intended us to be together in community – is all about grace.

It is all about the sharing of an undeserved love – not because of something we’ve done to earn it – but simply because we are all made in the image of God.

 

But it’s scandalous and it is hard to wrap our heads around – and it is HARD to offer to others and ourselves.

 

And so we feign shock when we hear this story – how could anyone do this – when we do it EVERY DAY to each other. Living in a world that gives people what they deserve.

 

While EVERY DAY – we are poured grace upon grace.

 

Because in God’s economy – it’s all repaid with grace.

 

It’s the only way to break the vicious cycle and restore relationships.

 

We are the fool in the story – and the invitation is to receive the gift of grace with an openness and an ability to say yes –

With a humility – knowing that we can only receive it – we can’t repay it.

 

so that maybe – just maybe – that grace that has been poured so deeply into us – would spill outward into our lives and be able to be shared with one another.

 

That’s where our relationships begin.

At the well of God’s grace. At the table of God’s grace.

Growing in the relationships with others – happens best when it’s grounded in grace.

GROW. Growing in Sharing Faith - Week 4 - 6/29 - Pastor April's Sermon

Who do you say that I am?  

It’s the question that Jesus asks Peter and the disciples.

 

Who do you say that I am?

 

We’ve been talking about sharing our faith all month -

 

I grew up in a small town going to the local United Methodist church every Sunday. I went to Sunday school. I knew the church. And I was the FASTEST at Bible Drills.

 

But if you had asked me Who I would say Jesus was – I am not sure I would have had much of an answer.

 

A nice guy. God’s son. Someone who teaches us how to be a nice person.

 

I knew about Jesus.

 

But I didn’t KNOW Jesus.

 

My first year out of college, I found myself in Rocky Mount, NC – not far from Jason’s hometown down in NC. I was a first year high school biology teacher in an urban school, teaching remedial freshmen.

 

It was a hard year, but oddly enough a fairly successful one –I was desperately thankful for the mentor who guided me through that year. This same mentor invited me every month to her bible study. And every month, I politely declined. At the end of the year, I told her I would go – just to get her off my back.

 

The study was interesting – and I thought I might actually learn some things – ABOUT Jesus and ABOUT God. So I continued going.

 

My second year of teaching began that fall and I think I expected things to go smoothly since the first year had gone fairly well.

I think its important to note that while I had gone through quite a bit of heartache and struggle in my life, I hadn’t experience a lot of FAILURE.

Until I encountered Richard Murray.

Richard had just transferred to our school after being told he was never allowed to return to his previous school.

That should have been my first warning.

Richard’s life at home was nothing short of tragically terrible – and so Richard’s primary motive in life was to create CHAOS wherever he went.

Now, let’s remember that I am a 22 year old young teacher – extremely naïve and relatively untested in my ability to handle defiant, troubled kids.

I couldn’t have been more unprepared for Richard’s antics.

Day after day, he would instigate others in the class to talk back to me – to create a stir, to revolt against the work I had done – and – just three weeks into the semester, on my BIRTHDAY – he managed to bring in a full swath of water balloons into the classroom and had a full on water balloon fight in my classroom.

 

I think it’s fair to say that this was the low moment of my teaching career.

 

All the while I’m learning about this Jesus guy – a God who didn’t just stand to the side and watch what was going on in the world – but who got into the mess of the world – a God who put on flesh and came to be with us – to walk with us – and listen to us and teach us and to show us – both in his teaching and in his very life and death and resurrection – that God is in the business of bringing new life and hope out of the places of greatest darkness and struggle.

 

As I was coming to term with my own limitations, it didn’t take a rocket scientist to realize that I needed Jesus in my heart and in my life if I was going to make it through the year.

 

I suppose I am thankful to Richard Murray now. Because I didn’t actually KNOW Jesus – until I met Richard.

 

I imagine that there are moments in your life where Jesus, where God has been present. Sometimes in small ways and perhaps sometimes in big ways.

 

Sometimes we like to call those God moments.

 

These stories that make us pause and see that God is indeed at work in the world.

 

So – if you feel led – and if you feel ready to share a God moment with your group – I invite you to do so at this time.

Second Sunday in Easter - 4/27/14 - Anne Fyffe's sermon

Scripture: John 20:19-30

Preacher: Anne Fyffe, OSU senior

Good Morning! I hope everyone had a joyful and wonderful Easter!

I really love Easter. Not for any particular theological reasons, but because it happens in the spring, which is my favorite season. Because I like seeing all the little kids in their button up shirts and white sandals. I like the flowers at the front of the church. I like spending time with my family. I like eating ham. Easter, just as a day, is pretty great. But when you think about what it means, it gets even better.

On Good Friday we remembered Jesus’ crucifixion. That Jesus died for every single one of us. And then last Sunday we got to celebrate that Jesus rose from the dead. He actually conquered death. And because of everything that happened, because of God’s goodness and grace and justice and mercy, we are promised a place in God’s kingdom. And in God’s kingdom, there is no pain or suffering or injustice. That is Easter. And it’s easy to look at that picture and feel like everything is taken care of so we are set.

But if I’m being honest, when I look around, I don’t necessarily see an Easter world. Because when I look around I see pain and suffering and injustice. So here we are. Lent is over. Holy Week is over. We won’t celebrate the miraculousness and hope of Easter again for an entire year. Easter is over because it was the end of Jesus’ life on Earth. If that was the promise, why are we living in this broken world? If that was it, if that was the end of the story, what do we do now? How do we make sense of that story?

I’ve been wondering that a lot recently. People talk about college being a transformative experience in terms of their relationship with God and I don’t think I’m an exception to that rule. I have been beyond blessed to not only be welcomed into this community, but be part of another campus ministry and in both places, I have been challenged and nourished by the faith of others and the conversations with them. And I am truly thankful for this. But in the interest of continuing to be honest with you, I will say that in the past year or so, I haven’t felt super close to God.

And it’s because of our broken world. It’s because every single day, whether in class or on the news or from a friend, I learn about some new injustice in the world. This semester I was in a class called Sociology of Poverty. We studied the development of the theories of poverty and then looked at issues surrounding domestic poverty as well as in developing countries and every single day when I left class I was fired up about some problem that I had learned about.

One of the issues we studied that struck me the most was the link between poverty and education. There is this vicious cycle where children who live in low-income neighborhoods and don’t necessarily have a ton of support at home go to schools that don’t have a lot of resources and don’t offer the support that kids so desperately need. So children are stressed out at home and act out in school and teachers spend more time disciplining students than teaching them and we have millions of students who can’t read or do math at their grade level.

Our education system is failing millions of children who are not achieving at their highest potential because they have never been given a chance. But, because of politics and the existing social and economic structures of our society, this broken system remains in place and still children are being forgotten and I feel sick to my stomach and my heart actually hurts every time I watch another documentary or read another article about a child who is never going to get the opportunity to change the world.

So I’ve spent the majority of the past months being really mad, which as you can imagine is not super productive. I’ve been mad. At God mainly, but also at the broken systems and the people who are maintaining them. I feel frustrated and overwhelmed and I can’t make sense of any of it. I feel stuck. I wonder where the Easter promises are and why I don’t see them. We’ve got the Resurrection. Where is the resurrected world?

At some point, whether in our own lives or in the world at large, we experience or see injustice and we wonder what we are supposed to do about it. We are told that God loves us. We are told that God gave the world His only son. We are told that Jesus died on the cross for us and that he rose from the dead for us. But God’s love isn’t necessarily going to get every child to graduate high school. The fact that Jesus died for us doesn’t always make the fact that 60% of middle school students are not reading at grade level any easier.

We’ve heard these promises of what is to come and I know that I say these beliefs out loud, but I don’t know if my heart really understands the gravity of what they mean. What does Jesus dying on the cross mean? What does him rising from the dead mean? I don’t have the answers to these questions.

We can all look around and see brokenness in our lives and the lives of others and be discouraged and frustrated. Because we heard the end of the story, but this can’t be it. The suffering, pain, and inequality can’t be the end. The story can’t be over.

In our reading today, we are near the end of John’s Gospel. We’ve heard about Jesus’ ministry, his crucifixion, and then his resurrection. This is the second to last chapter in John and our passage takes place immediately after Jesus appears to Mary Magdalene outside the tomb. We are told that then Jesus appears to the disciples. He shows them his hands and his sides so that they see the proof and know that it is actually Him.

Then Jesus tells them that “As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” And as he is talking, he breathes on them and says to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” Jesus is calling them and instructing them to go out into the world. Amidst the despair of his death and the confusion and joy of his resurrection, Jesus is saying “Go now! Do what you have been called to do and do it now!” Jesus is inviting the disciples to continue his story. The story of healing and kindness and love in this world that is so broken.

But let’s not forget about the disciple Thomas who was not with the rest of the disciples when Jesus appeared. The other disciples tell Thomas that they have seen the Lord, but he’s not buying it. Thomas says he needs to see “the mark of the nails in his hands” and “put (his hand) in his side.” He needs proof to believe this unbelievable thing. A week later Jesus appears to the disciples again and this time Thomas is there. And Jesus says to Thomas “Alright. Here I am. Put your finger here and your hand here. Here I am.” So Thomas believes.

But Jesus hints that Thomas only believes because he saw proof and says that “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.” We are often very much like Thomas. We want facts, we want answers to our hard questions, we want to see the story being continued.

But a lot of times it’s hard to see the evidence of God’s promises and work in the world and that’s what faith is. We believe in God’s love for us and God’s promises for us and the resurrection of Jesus Christ even when we don’t always see it. And we all come to faith in different ways. And some days our faith is stronger than on other days, but we believe. And Jesus says that we are blessed, but if we really, truly believe, what should we be doing?

What should we be doing about the inequality we see every day and the inequality that we know exists across the globe? Instead of getting mad, or maybe after getting mad, how do we turn our passion into positive change? We look at the Easter story and we know that we could probably just accept Easter as the end. But knowing that we believe and knowing that we are blessed, how do we continue the story?

Because actually, the Easter story is just the beginning. Yes, it’s the end of Jesus’ life on Earth, but that was really just the introduction and the invitation to this story that we are called to write. A story where we are not complacent. Where we do not accept injustice. Where we work tirelessly to build God’s kingdom here on Earth right now. Where we actively seek to make God’s promises of the resurrection a reality.

And I can see this happening. I see the hope of the resurrection in the teachers who are dedicated to making sure their students succeed and in the activists who are fighting for education reform and in the parents who are advocating for their children to get the best education possible and in the students who refuse to accept their disadvantaged circumstances.

In my sociology class, we read a book about a man who lives in Harlem who is revitalizing his neighborhood through education. By creating better schools and after school programs and getting involved in the lives of children before they even start school, he is creating a new community of promise and a community that will ensure that no child is forgotten. He is giving kids the chances that they have so long been deprived of.  That is where I see the resurrection because that is where I see hope.

And so I am like Thomas. I am wrestling with my faith and I am often struggling to see and I am trying to discern where I am being called to live out the resurrection and how I am being invited to continue the story. And this is what we have been doing as a church during the season of Lent and what we will continue to do this summer as we grow in our discipleship. My prayer is that we would all leave this place today, with our doubts and with our questions, seeking to live our lives as Easter people who are continuing to write the story of hope and resurrection. Amen.

He Is Risen! - Pastor April's EASTER Sermon

Do Not Be Afraid

Given by Rev. April S Blaine on Sunday, April 20, 2014

Luciano Berio, was one of the most famous classical composers of the 20th century, a man internationally recognized for the dramatic power of his compositions.

One of the unique things about Berio was that he was a part of a musical school who intentionally wanted to move away from the creation of music that was repetitive.

A couple of years ago, Music psychologist, Elizabeth Margulis, a fan of Berio’s music, decided to test an idea.

Margulis knew that 90 percent of the music we listen to is music we've heard before. We return again and again to our favorite songs, listening over and over to the same musical riffs, which themselves repeat over and over inside the music,

So she wanted to know - what would happen if she took this brilliant music by Berio and digitally edited it?  Could she make people like it more – by making it more repetitive?

So, she got to work with some digital editing software.  Anytime there was a pause in the music she would grab the clip of music and put it back in.  No focus on making it aesthetically pleasing or compelling.  Just making it more repetitive.

 

And then she gathered in her subjects – comparing the work of one of the most famous composers of the 20th century with the work of a psychologist with some digital editing equipment.

 

And you know what happened, right?  It wasn’t even close.

 

The people reported more enjoyment of the music that was more repetitive.

They reported it to be more interesting.

And they even reported it to be more likely to have been composed by a human artist.

 

We are a people who like rhythms and repetition – it is easier for us to hear – it is easier for us to process.

Every year, we gather in this space and we read the story of Easter and we sing the songs and we celebrate this day with joyfulness.

In many ways, it has become a familiar tune to us.  A repeating, rhythmic part of our year.

Almost comforting – the empty tomb, life conquering death -

it is a story that we have heard before.

 

But in Matthew’s Gospel in particular – we are reminded us that on that first Easter – it was jarring, it was terrifying.

When Mary came to the grave, there was a great earthquake.

The ground was literally shaking beneath them

And when the angel of the Lord appeared before her, it was like lightning.

The guards were so afraid that they appeared like dead men.

 

And so the word from the angel to the women – is DON’T BE AFRAID.

Everything is different.  Out of death, God has brought forth something entirely new –

But DON’T BE AFRAID.  For it is good news.

 

The first Easter was anything but rhythmic and repetitive and comforting.

 

The first Easter turned the world upside down and while there was joy in the new thing that had happened – it was coupled with a great fear and a great uncertainty as well.

The new life that came in this moment –

It came at a cost –

The old ways had to change – for a new song was being written.

 

During this Lenten Season, we’ve been trying together, in a sense – to listen to the new song – we’ve been thinking about our own journeys – and where God is doing a NEW thing – and where we are being invited to step out of our comfort zone, to step away from our rhthyms and routines and to take the next step…

 

And I’ve got to say – that I am blown away at how many of you are truly wrestling with what that really means.  There have been conversation after conversation in these last weeks about this very question –

 

How do I let go of this person I loved?

How do I find the clarity about my vocation and make the choices I need to make?

How do I listen to a new call on my life even though the future is filled with uncertainty?

How do I find a way to forgive?

And How do I say yes to the love that Jesus seems to have for me – even though I feel so unworthy?

 

But the truth is – it’s one thing to talk about it in church and it’s another thing – to sit at someone’s bedside and have to find a way to say the thing you need to say –

or to sit in the office where you work and make the choice you know you need to make – or to proceed toward a new calling – without a lot of certainty about what this will look like –

 

And it isn’t just because the new and beautiful song is more difficult and challenging –

 

But to walk toward the new thing – by definition means we are leaving the safety and the security of the old thing behind us.  Even when the thing we are walking toward is good and exciting - What was familiar, what was known – is being traded for the unknown – and it leaves us feeling very unsettled, very exposed, very vulnerable.

 

I’ve been asking quite a few questions of God myself during this season – questions about my own next steps and about the places where I’m called to be faithful –

And wrestling with the depth of the UNKNOWN and the UNCERTAINTY around some things in my own life and my own call.

 

And Thursday evening – we gathered for Maundy Thursday service at Maynard Ave. UMC.  We started our time together with a time of communion.

And the heaviness and the weight of my questions and my uncertainty and my hopes for the future seemed to come together all in that moment – and I just kind of lost it.

 

So here I am – the pastor, the one who is supposed to be there to help all of you – and I’m crying like a baby – so much so that this sweet lady, Anna, noticed that I was a bumbling mess and brought me some tissue.

 

Sometimes the journey leads us to a place of vulnerability and exposure – and let me tell you that this is not where we would choose to be -

 

But the story we have seen this week – the story of the cross and the story of resurrection – reveals to us – that it is actually out of a place of weakness and vulnerability and even out of a place of struggle and even fear – that new life and resurrection was born.

 

The message of good news didn’t come to a group of people who were comfortable – it came to a people who had just experienced an earthquake – who found themselves standing on shaky ground and very, very afraid.

 

Somehow – in this very moment of vulnerability and weakness – these women were invited to hear the words of good news – the story of Jesus’ resurrection – and they were invited to participate in the resurrection of Jesus – that new life might be born in them

 

Standing in the rubble,– they could hear the new song –

With courage and bravery –

Do Not Be Afraid

 

The waters of baptism for me are a helpful reminder of this.

Baptism is a rite of initiation.  And so The waters first remind us that we are openly invited into this Christian community -

an initiation that is not based on our merit or accomplishments – but on the extravagant love and grace of God revealed to us in Jesus Christ, reminding us that whether we like it or not – we are LOVED – beyond our wildest imaginations.

And even in our places of weakness and vulnerability, we are loved and welcomed into the family of God.

And in the waters of baptism, we are also invited to go.  Baptism is also a rite of rebirth.  Just as water is most alive when it is moving, we remember that God is making us new all the time – and grounded in this love – that is deeper than we know -  we can say yes to a life where we don’t run from the change that is coming – but we remain open and willing to walk ahead into the places of uncertainty.  To listen to the new song and to respond in faith.

 

Do Not be Afraid.  He is not here, for he has risen.

Go – and share the good news.

For the new life that has come has also come for you.

Growing as Servants - Pastor April's Sermon - 4/6

Growing as Servants

Given by Rev. April S Blaine on Sunday, April 6, 2014

 

I remember one Christmas when I was 9 years old.  My family did something we did most years – we went out to shop for Christmas gifts for families in need.

Like every year, we had a list of the names of the children, the sizes of the clothes they needed, and some of the toys they wanted.

But this year, after we purchased these gifts.

We actually drove to their house to deliver them – in person.

 

And even though I had known all these years that families were living in need – this was the first time that I had faces to go with the names.  This was the first time that I had looked them in the eye, spoken with them, and been with them in their home.

 

And I remember feeling a real mixture of emotions that day.

A part of me felt really good.  The family was very appreciative – and gracious with us.

But I also remember coming home that day – I remember looking at all the things that I had – and feeling incredibly guilty.

I had so much.

So much that I often didn’t appreciate.

 

That Christmas, there was an awareness that opened up in me –

Of the inequities in the world

And of my own status as a person of privilege.

And at the ripe age of 9, I made a decision that I would do something about this.

And so

as the years passed – I would try to make myself feel better by participating in service projects.  I saved up my own money to give away at Christmas, I picked up trash on the highways, I visited old people at the nursing home, and I visited a little boy at the local elementary school to be a mentor to him.

I would sign up for things I didn’t really even want to do. Because

I was obligated – as a person of privilege – as a person of white privilege – I knew it was my obligation to serve others.  Almost like a debt I had to pay.

Truth be told, I always felt good after I did these things – but the lingering feelings of guilt remained.  Like I could never really do enough.

 

When my faith became real as a young adult, I began to really read the bible for the first time.  And all throughout Scripture – I was seeing stories of people – who also came face to face with the great inequities of the world – some of them were people of privilege, some were people in poverty – they were very ordinary people.

 

But these people were responding in extraordinary ways.  Some of these ordinary people were doing amazing things to make the world a different kind of place – and the most interesting and intriguing thing was that these people weren’t acting from a place of guilt or obligation.  They seemed to be serving God from a totally different place - place of JOY.

 

 

Mary was one of those stories that struck me early on – probably because I first remember really thinking about it as a teenager.

 

Here she was an ordinary teenager – she’s been betrothed to Joseph – her family has probably made the arrangements and so her course has been set.  She’s headed in a particular direction.

Until this angel interrupts her life.

And I think interrupts is a pretty mild term.

 

The angel appears – and says – Don’t be Afraid.

And then proceeds to tell her – that she will bring the Son of God into the world.  The very living God will be born into her womb and then she will be a mother and raise this child, who is really the son of God.

But …

 

Don’t be Afraid.

 

It is this crazy, ridiculously huge thing that she is invited to do.

The question she asks is entirely appropriate – how can this be?

It’s actually impossible.  It doesn’t even make sense.

 

In a moment – everything has changed – and Mary is invited to participate in the very transformation of the world –

 

And she says Yes.

Let it be to me as you’ve said – I am God’s servant.

 

So many of us hear this story and find it very hard to imagine that she would be so calm in the face of such a daunting task.

 

But it seems clear –

that Mary’s answer of Yes – isn’t an indication that she fully understands all that this means, or that she thinks she has all the right stuff to do it – or the super ability to endure all the challenges and hardships that will come when she does.

She doesn’t feel coerced or guilty or obligated.

 

No, she says she is willing to be a servant – because she understands this as a CALL.  Something bigger than just herself   – something that would plant a seed – something that would make a difference for all the world.  It wasn’t an obligation.  It was a CALL.

 

Last October, it was 2 weeks after the Healthcare.gov website launch.  And things for the White House could not have been looking worse.  The website was not working.  Most people who were trying to enroll were getting error messages if they were able to get on the page at all.  They kept promising that they were working on it – that these were temporary gliches - but the truth was – they weren’t.  The entire infrastructure on which the site was built was fundamentally flawed – and the writing was beginning to appear on the wall.

 

Over the course of the next few days – calls began to go out to some key people around the country.  These weren’t government employees or friends of the White House or really anyone who had had anything to do with the creation of the site in the first place –

But they were people who had the knowledge and the skills to help.

 

And they each got a call –

We need you.

To come and fix the site.

Now all of these people had other things to do.  They had jobs, families…

I’m sure their calendars were fully booked for months .

 

And these people dropped everything.  They came.

 

They responded to this ridiculously huge challenge -

 

And it wasn’t about the work – because they all had full time jobs that they left, and it certainly wasn’t for the prestige – and it wasn’t out of obligation – because none of them had any affiliation with the government.

 

No, they said yes– because they understood this as a CALL.  Something bigger than themselves – something that would make a difference for all the world.

 

We’ve been talking this Lenten Season about growing as disciples – we’ve talked about each of the ways that we can step out in faith – and take another step forward.  Growing in knowledge, growing in sharing our faith stories, growing in our relationship with God and growing in our relationship with others.

 

But I have to be honest with you – when I first looked at this discipleship guide and began to pray about where my next step was – this was the area where I knew I needed to grow.

Not because I wasn’t serving – but because I wasn’t serving from the right place.

I was doing a lot of stuff – because I felt like I had to –

As if it was up to ME to make things in the world right again.

But God’s story reminds us – just as he did with Mary.

Our job isn’t to make all that is right in the world.

Our job is simply to be willing to serve in the ways that we are called.

In small ways and in big ways

Because God is the one who is working to make things right.

 

And so what I have been asking God this season – where are you calling me to be in a place of service?

 

Not because its what others will expect – and not because its my job – but because you are calling me to be a part of it.

 

A wise person once said to me – April – put down your to-do lists long enough to look around and see what God is already doing.

And then go do more of that.

 

Churches are notorious for burning people out – having so many different things that people are involved in –

And then making them feel obligated to do it.

 

But following the call to be a servant of God – really aligning our life with God’s calling – is about really trying to pause long enough to listen to where God is inviting us to say yes.

 

Because when we do that – there might be some challenge and struggle along the way – I’m sure Mary would agree – but there will also be a pathway filled with joy.

So, the question for us during this season is –

 

To what are you called?

What are the things that you’ve been uniquely wired to do and how is God inviting you to serve in the world according to that call?

 

For some of you – that might mean saying YES to something that has been nagging at you for some time.

 

But my hunch is that for many of you – it might mean that like those website programmers - you might need to say NO to some things.  You might actually have to say no to some things that are good things – but  that are eating up your time and energy and passion – so that you have the freedom to do what you are actually called to do.

 

So that the work you are doing – might be directed toward God’s work – planting seeds that will bring about transformation in the world.  For all people.  And joy for you.

Growing in our Relationship with Others - Sermon on March 30, 2014

Preacher: Rev. Lucy Waechter Webb

Scripture: Mark 7:24-30

As Sile and Jason and Monty have already shared, we had an amazing pilgrimage south this year. We not only had the chance to see and touch history, to meet people involved in the civil rights movement of the 60’s, but we heard from people and participated in the work of that movement today, and we had opportunities to engage in that work with each other as a traveling community.

For me, the trip really jumped off into the deep end right away as we started on that first day in town attending the Sprague lectures. These are the lectures North Broadway UMC hosts each year, and this year we sat in on them before we drove out of town since Michelle Alexander, the author of the New Jim Crow, and James Logan were speaking. Both spoke about the nature of our prison system and how though the “signs” of the Jim Crow era have gone away, the practice of separate and unequal remains strong in the way we incarcerate people.

At the end of each lecture, they took questions. As the room began to watch Mr. Logan engage with the line of people asking him questions, the room got quieter and more intense, because with each person Mr. Logan seemed to get more challenging, more punchy, speaking truth into every opportunity he could, even sometimes at the expense of the person in front of him. It was an opportunity to expose the internal racism, the bias, the naiveté of the very people in the room who were there trying to combat this issue.

And eventually, a woman I know from the community, a woman pretty similar to me, sharing many of my social values and beliefs, stood up to ask him a question. And I thought, ok, she’ll be more sensitive, it’ll be interesting to see how this shakes out. She starts by thanking him for what he’s offered today, and sharing that though she’s done related work for many years, she just feels like she gets stupider about it, sharing her own consciousness has been raised again at these lectures. And then she asks her question, “So, I’m just wondering how we can find ways to engage in these tough conversations and do this work in safe spaces?”

Safe Spaces? Honey, you’re gonna have to get uncomfortable. There is no safe space, safe space is for white folk, for privileged folk. You see those struggling to survive at the margins of society don’t get safe space to work it all out.

Bam. There it is. I was seated safely in my seat, but it might as well have been me standing naked and exposed up there asking that question. Can’t we just all get along, and honor each other and walk away feeling really good from our conversations. Can’t we just find a system, a method, a process so that everyone feels safe and comfortable, so that everyone who is engaging is always protected, made better.

It was a reality check for me. Life is messier than that. And he was willing to speak to that. It might be uncomfortable, no, it will be uncomfortable, difficult, and maybe even a bit painful. Not only that, but for someone in the privileged half of the conversation, to preserve your own sense of security and safety will always mean you cling to the power associated with your status. So, I’m gonna have to get uncomfortable. This work is going to make me uneasy, because I’m going to have to face realities about the world, dare I say maybe even myself that I don’t want to see.

And so at that moment, I committed myself to at least one thing on our week-long journey, try not to run when it gets uncomfortable. Because that’s when we’re just gettin’ started!

Now I want you to hear me right. I am not saying safe space is never important. Particularly in church we have learned and committed ourselves to trying to make safe space especially for those who have been so hurt and wounded by the church. Making those spaces available is vital to helping people heal. AND, there are times where we are called to be in discomfort. The gospel demands nothing less. The gospel is not just comfortable all the way through.

Now when in doubt, it’s always helpful to look to at that gospel right, to look at Jesus? So let’s look at our scripture this morning. The story itself is set up by Mark to cue the readers that there are some racial differences between Jesus and this woman. In fact there are no less than three times Mark points out that this woman is not a Jew. Jesus has traveled to the region of Tyre, a Hellenized region, he then says, the woman was a Gentile, just in cased you missed it, she was of Syrophoenician origin. Ok, got it Mark. She’s not Jewish.

Then, there are several cues that she is crossing social boundaries. Not only is she a Gentile approaching a Jew, she is a woman approaching a man, and she has sought him out at a house, a private place where the story says Jesus has gone because he did not want anyone to know he was there.

Then the action happens. She approached Jesus with a request about her daughter being healed of a demon, and at this point in the gospel, we rather expect Jesus to say sure, yes, go your faith has made you well. Instead, Jesus says, Let the children be fed first, for it is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.”

Did Jesus just call her a dog? Now this is not one of those places where the meaning of dog has changed since Jesus’ time, though the story might be easier to digest if that were the case! Nope, dogs was a racial slur that Jewish folks used to describe the “unclean pagan” Gentiles. Not only are we shocked that for the first time Jesus seems to be turning someone away, but he goes farther than that by using foul language!

But this woman is strong. She says, “Sir,” using a title of respect, maintaining her own nonviolence, “even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.” Woah girl. What are you doing? You have already pushed the boundaries pretty far!

And here’s where the magic happens.  Jesus concedes the argument to her.  He doesn’t even say great is your faith – he says your words / your argument is what has made your daughter well. Jesus has been challenged! More importantly, Jesus allows his own self, his privileged status to be challenged, exposed, and even offended for the sake of truth. And dare we say, perhaps even he was transformed in that moment. You can imagine they both might be a bit uncomfortable in this moment.

Now many will say Jesus knew was he was doing all along, that he was testing her, that he said this racial slur with a wink or twinkle in his eye. We’re concerned about Jesus being right all the time. But I think Jesus did something far more important in this moment than simply upholding some status of being right all the time. Jesus was open to being challenged, open to conceding an argument, open to having someone else in relationship with him transform him. He allowed himself to be exposed and vulnerable for the sake of making something better something bigger than himself better. It is like the woman who approached Mr. Logan to ask the question, and let herself stand there exposed and vulnerable, so that not only she could be transformed, but the others in the room along with her.

The privilege of serving a church like Summit, is that I have had opportunities to be deeply transformed by so many of you. Through my relationships with you here, you have continued to shape me, to challenge me to make me a better person, a better disciple, a better leader.

So in an effort to step out again. To share with you today. To deepen my relationship with my brothers and sisters, with my community. I have a confession to make.

I am a racist.

It’s true. Don’t try to make apologies for me. I am a racist. I have thoughts and hold attitudes about other people that are affected by race. It’s something I first came to awareness about in college, but don’t often say very loud. Just like Jesus, I’m not right all the time. But I don’t like to readily admit that. I do not always see with Kin-dom eyes. Which means that sometimes, I do, make statements, hold attitudes, make assumptions that are rooted in false things, rooted in darkness, rooted in fear, rather than in the vision God has for the world.

Tim Wise was one of the first people to catch my attention about this. He came to speak at my college, and at the time had been a White activist fighting racism and white privilege for at least a decade. He traveled a lot for his job, and said he always looked into the cockpit to see who was flying and how sober they looked because there had been so many stories recently about pilots being escorted off planes too drunk to fly. And he told a story about how one time he boarded the plane and looked over into the cockpit and saw two black pilots. It was the first time he had ever seen both pilots as people of color. You might expect that he had a moment of rejoicing and jubilee as an activist in this work. Instead, for a fleeting moment, he questioned his safety. The thought left as quickly as it came, and he realized what had happened, that he too, someone fighting for this reality also faced internalized attitudes he could not control. You see, racism had become more than just shouting profanities outside a school in Little Rock or posting “No Blacks” signs over the water fountains at the bus stops in Memphis. Racism, like anything else in our world, has evolved. We try to make it binary, you are or you are not a racist. But it has become more covert, and subtle than that.

It is not that I am or am not. It is just, I am. I am somewhere on that spectrum. And it is not a reality I choose. Unlike folks who sign up to be members of groups that we identify as racist – where they explicitly say one race is more supreme than another. No, this is not something I willingly hold, and yet I am still a racist. It is a demon that is in me. It is the way sin gets rooted deep inside us personally and in us as a community, is in us as a society. It’s roots cling to our brokenness and grow in those cracks and crevices in our systems. And where do they manifest? They don’t make themselves known just on paper or on signage. They fruit and flower through the people who live in the world.  Which means that I am part of it.

This is the best way I know how to describe what a demon is. It is the thing that lives in me that possesses me that I cannot control. That I need to be exorcised. When we see stories of Jesus taking on demons in the gospels, there is usually a struggle between him and the demon to name each other. The demon will often name him, and he in turn must name the demon before it can be cast out. In Jewish culture, the power of naming was to gain control. So that then the evil could be cast out.

This is what I learned I have to do on this trip. I must name it. I must tell the truth. I must get uncomfortable about what people might think about that.

My consciousness about racism in our world and in me began in college and I have slowly come to deeper awareness about it, gratefully becoming less and less blind because of the people in my life who have challenged me. This time, I learned, it is time to talk about it more. Because without exposing that wound in me, without naming the demon that resides in me, I cannot hope to gain control over it and cast it out. And if I cannot exorcise racism from myself, how can I hold hope that we might rid our world of it?

This political Jesus we studied together for two months was not only talking about how our systems need to be transformed, he was also shedding light on how these realities get lived out between us, through us, in God’s people. And so to challenge those demons, to heal those wounds, requires nothing less than transforming our very selves.

And so to live as a disciple. To live into the vision of God’s kin-dom, to seek to live into the call that Jesus brings upon our lives, is to be personally transformed in ways that our lives exorcise the demons that not only burden us, but spread darkness in the world. And it is with each other that that work is best done.

We have shared with you today about how we learned that our community and our presence with each other can truly transform our lives and the demons of the world. But it is only one slice of the pie. Each of us face dark realities in the world, and our relationships with each other can cut through that loneliness and isolation if we let it.  We can be changed by the power of truth other people can speak into our lives when we are found blind.

The stigma’s about mental health, about families that are “broken” or not normative, the pain of physical ailment, even the stress of our jobs. When these wounds remain hidden, we remain hurt. And as one wise young person reminded me this week, hurt people hurt people.

The best offering I can bring back to this community from our pilgrimage is this invitation. To begin to imagine and practice how you might get uncomfortable. How you might allow yourself to be dislocated in some way and choose not to run.

It can be liberating! Because it means we don’t always have to be right. We don’t have to have it all figured out, the places we’re afraid to uncover we can let be seen, our shame and our brokenness can be revealed. When this happens in community, even the deepest wounds in our world can begin to be healed. This group is as much a testament and a witness to that as the Little Rock 9, as Medgar Evers, and as King himself. The movement you see, the work on the group was not just done by the leaders, it was carried out the countless nameless people who stepped out, who took risk, and got uncomfortable.

Last week Pastor April preached about how our relationship with God begins with our mindfulness and our presence with the Divine. Our relationships with each other are not different. They too begin with mindfulness and presence with each other. To dwell with each other and to not run in that moment where is starts to feel awkward, or uncertain because you don’t know what to say.

So today, I would like to challenge you, to literally be dislocated for just a few moments. Sue will play some music for us in just a minute, and I would invite everyone in the room to consider standing up, and moving to another place in this room, and to find a new seat next to people you do not know. We have done a lot of talking with each other in worship during the Political Jesus series. And today, without any assignment of engaging in conversation or dialogue, I just invite you to be present with each other. To be dislocated for just a few minutes from the seat you chose when you came in, and to carry that presence, that mindfulness that you experience with you into your week.

Civil Rights History and Service Tour (Over OSU's Spring Break)

We will travel through both the big name towns and the local communities that were part of the momentum of the civil rights movement. We will visit the place where King was shot and the National Civil Rights Museum, and we will visit houses and places of people who never received such fame for their work, CC Bryant, Medgar Evers, and the Little Rock 9. The movement was about all of these people who came together to make change! We'll begin and end our week together examining how these issues are still alive in our world today as we hear from Michelle Alexander here in Columbus, and her book the The New Jim Crow, and we'll end with current efforts to rebuild and organize down in New Orleans.

There is limited space, so sign up today! Deadline: February 25th, 2014.

Travel Dates: March 8th - 15th

Estimated cost: $100-150

Email Pastor Lucy to sign up!

lucy [at] summitumc.org

Political Jesus - The Protestor - Pastor April's Sermon - 1/26

Political Jesus: The Protestor

Rev. April S Blaine, Given on Sunday, January 26, 2014

So, as we enter into our final week on the Political Jesus, exploring all the ways that Jesus was political in his teaching and in his actions.  And when we say political, we aren’t talking about political parties – but how Jesus’ ministry had implications for the way in which the community was ordered – It had implications on public affairs.

 

And as we get started – I feel I have to make a confession.

Up to this point – I have been really excited and energized by talking about the Political Jesus.

 

I love the idea of Jesus as a Healer – and seeing how his healing was a form of suggesting and advocating for change in the social order.  I am down with that.  Let’s heal some people and let folks deal with that.

And story telling – let’s reframe a new perspective – let’s challenge people’s thinking.

And even agitation – crossing boundaries across divisions, I can even get on board with that – seeing the need to open up doors across the barriers that separate us.

 

But Protest?

 

When I see Jesus creating a Disruptive Protest and creating a scene in the middle of the place of worship

 

I have to confess to you – I get a little uncomfortable.

 

And a lot of this has to do with my own issues.

I don’t like disruptions.  I like harmony.

I don’t like conflict.  I want people to get along.

 

But the bigger part of my issues are that – when I see Jesus as a protestor – the fear is that I am also called to be a protestor – that there are moments where I too may be called to be disruptive – to confront authority – and to speak the truth

 

So I’ll be honest – it makes me a bit uncomfortable.

 

But I also know that if we want to follow Jesus, to really follow him, we can’t just follow him to the places that make us comfortable.  We cant just follow him to the places that make us feel good and affirmed and SAFE.

 

So, let’s dive into this story – to try and understand what was at the heart of this particular moment of protest.  And what it may say to us today.

 

One of the things that Jesus simply couldn’t stop talking about during his ministry was the Kingdom of God.  If there had been soapboxes, Jesus would have been standing on one.  He talks about it more than anything.  This idea – that there is this bigger thing that God is doing in the world – this way of living that is rooted in love, in an honoring of ourselves as all equally created in the image of God – in a way of living that honored that same thing in one another – that recognized our need for God and for one another.

 

It was the thing that seemed to drive his mission – he wanted people to see it, to touch it, to taste it, to experience it, to understand it.  He wanted people to know that this kingdom was coming near – it was accessible – he didn’t want anything to get in the way of people finding and knowing and living in light of that kingdom.

 

But over and over again throughout his ministry – he was encountering a system that was, in the name of God, seeking to do the opposite.  A system that was trying to make it more difficult and more complicated to come before God.  A system that said some were acceptable and some were not.  A system where the leadership benefited and the masses were exploited.

 

For 33 years, he had seen it in the faces and lives of the people he knew and loved.

 

And the center of this system was found at the temple.

 

And so the first table he turns over is the moneychangers.

People at the temple weren’t allowed to use their normal money for the temple offering because it had an image of Caesar on it.  And the book of Exodus specifically forbids making an offering with a graven image on it – so they can’t use it.

But what has happened in its place is an elaborate banking system that makes it both more costly and more complicated for people to be able to access and participate in Temple worship.  The exchange rates are high and those in power are making a killing.  And of course, since they were the only show in town – access to the temple began at this temple.

 

And he also turns over the tables selling the doves.  Doves were a requirement for people who were considered impure to be able to even enter the temple.  Women and lepers who were considered impure – before they could even enter the temple they would need to purchase a dove – and this of course would be on top of the other things that they might need to have sacrificed.

For people who were already marginalized – there was an additional hurdle to come before God.

 

Jesus turns over both tables.  The elaborate banking system and the excessive requirements put on people who were already oppressed and marginalized.

 

No more – he says.

 

And he speaks powerful words of truth –

This is supposed to be a house of prayer.

But you have made it into a den of robbers

 

He is challenging not just the high prices but the WHOLE system.

Now -

There is this other bizarre story that comes before and after the story.

 

Just before Jesus enters the temple, on his way there, in fact, he passes by a fig tree…

 

And then he enters the temple, turns over the tables.

 

And then after the story – Jesus and the disciples pass by the fig tree again and notice that it has now withered from the roots up.

And Jesus says – almost triumphantly – that whatever you ask for in prayer – believe that God will do it.

 

Jesus’ use of the fig tree as a symbol is very intentional.

Just as many of us would see the symbol of the Bald Eagle and associate it with America, The fig tree – was a symbol for the Jewish temple state.

Jesus was strategic.

He wasn’t making an emotional outburst.

He is speaking truth to power in a very intentional way.

 

And - He is passing judgment on the whole temple system.

And then he is teaching his disciples that all that he has just done – it’s a matter of prayer – To challenge the unjust system -

that THIS is part of what it means to be faithful.

And that they will be able to do it too.

 

Bringing the kingdom of God near to people is also about setting them free from the very system of oppression that has kept them from knowing about it in the first place.

 

And so - He is building a movement of people who will carry the work forward.  Who will be unafraid to preach and teach about the kingdom of God and to do so even in the face of the very system that works against it.

 

 

 

I spent some time this week talking to some of our current students and recent graduates – young people who have connected with this church largely through Freedom School and whose current work in the world is to serve in significant ways to bring about large scale change to the systems in our country that are unjust.

 

And as I was sitting and talking with one of the young ladies – I asked her – when did it shift for you?

 

And she said – you know, I was raised in a family that emphasized community service and the importance of doing charity work.  It was ingrained in me from a young age.

 

But at some point, amidst passing out food and clothing to people, I began asking the question – why are people poor at all?

 

And the more I sought an answer to that question – the more I learned about the systems that needed change –

 

And that change simply wouldn’t come from community service.

 

As a person raised to value community service, I could relate to her story…

Because things have been shifting in my own understanding and especially when I become a pastor at this church.

 

Things have shifted when I’ve listened to your stories.

 

When you’ve told me the stories of how you were kicked out of a church because you were gay.

When I learned about the ways you have been discriminated against in the workplace, or denied the right to sit with your child in the hospital because you can’t be listed as the legal guardian as a same sex couple.

 

Things have shifted for me as my eyes have been open.

 

As I’ve learned how very many of our children whose names and stories I know – continue to fall further behind in school.

And as I see them watch their loved ones killed in the street.

 

Things have shifted for me

 

As I am more fully understanding the systems that are perpetuating these problems.

 

And realizing that these are

Systems that I am too often a part of, and have sometimes benefited from.

 

So, I’m coming to know that it isn’t enough.

It’s not enough just to make things better for the people who come through our doors at Summit.

The system has GOT to change – so that all of us can be free.

 

And so with some trepidation – and uncomfortability – I want to learn what it means to be a faithful protestor.

 

I’ve been dipping my toe in the water with a few things – but mostly I’m trying to learn.  And my hope is that I won’t be on that journey alone.

 

So – what I want you to do today is really ask yourself the question –

 

Where do things start to change for you?

 

Where do these abstract ideas about political engagement become real for you because of someone in your life?

 

Because of an experience you have been through or someone you love has been through?

 

Where do you see something happening in the world that you know is wrong and it stirs something deep in you?

 

Maybe it’s a person, a group of people, maybe something you’ve overcome but that you know deep in your heart – you want to be able to help other people heal also?

 

What I’m asking for is for you to get in touch with that place of love and light in yourself and to name it

 

And to write it on these 2 post it notes in your bulletin.

 

And when you do that – take 1 of them and bring it forward – put it on this wall.

 

And take the other home with you.

Put it somewhere where you will see it every day for the next month.

Maybe your bathroom mirror.  Maybe your speedometer of your car or on the screen of your computer.

 

And ask God to speak to you.  Pray for guidance.

 

I’ll share my things with you –

Children who continue to fall further and further behind in school

A church that practices full inclusion of all people, regardless of the rules and restrictions of the denomination

 

 

The wise young people I’ve spoken with say that much of the work involves education and finding concrete ways of taking next steps.  And that is why we are devoting the entire month in February to conversations that will lead us toward some practical ways that this can be a part of our lives.

 

Each of the four themes we have done in January will be mirrored in February.

So, the first concrete step you can take is to be here in February.  Be a part of the conversation, continue educating yourself.

And as we pray together, as our hearts are stirred – I imagine that God will continue speak about the work that we can do together -

Political Jesus - The Agitator - Pastor April's Sermon - 1/5

Political Jesus: The Agitator

Rev. April S. Blaine, Given on January 5, 2014

Today we begin a new series on the Political Jesus.  For the last two years, we have used the month of January as a time to stretch and challenge ourselves and to approach some “edgier” topics.

 

The idea that Politics and Religion don’t mix is a prevalent one in our culture.

 

We have a tendency to de-politicize the person of Jesus – saying that he dealt more with individuals and was more of a “wisdom teacher” – teaching a “different way to live” that had more to do with freedom from law than the political and social context…

 

But there are a few things we need to understand about the nature of Jesus’ community –

 

When the Roman empire took over the region of Palestine, they quickly subjugated the people in the region.  Torture and violence toward people who rebelled made it clear to the people who had the power.  One of their most prevalent ways of squashing rebels was to publicly crucify them.

Second, they would tax heavily.  As Rome continued to conquer and take over new regions of the world, the city of Rome itself began to surge with people and citizens.   The city grew to over a million people.  In the interest of public order, the emperors and Roman elite had to provide the populace with adequate food and entertainment.   It required them to import 200 to 400,000 tons of wheat annually.

And where was this extracted?  From the regions where they had conquered.

It was a tribute – often 30% of the grain produced by a family was taken away and sent to Rome to feed the people there.

Not only that, but any new building project, any new military conquest – was paid for by taxing the people.

Lastly, the people’s priestly rulers were really just puppets of the empire.  They enjoyed the riches and power and status of the Romans in exchange to appointing people and operating in ways that were in line with the Empire.  Even their own rulers were corrupt.

In a setting of such oppression, one that threatened the very viability and continuation of the traditional Jewish way of life…

It should not be surprising that the people both resented their situation and resisted it.

Integral to the Jewish tradition was the idea of a resistance to foreign rule.  Many people believe that this was why the Jewish people fought the oppression of the empire so much more deeply than many of the other oppressed groups.

 

At the time Jesus was born, around the city of Nazareth – there were movements, there were uprisings – where men of humble means were lifted up as a new king – ones that would establish a new order and remove the yoke of the empire on the people.

 

And so -  Jesus’ sayings and teachings – the stories that were recorded in the Gospel – they were oral traditions, shared within communities – in a context that was politically charged – to a people who were being violently and economically oppressed – people who consistently resented and resisted the oppression in which they were under and also a people who consistently raised up leaders within a movement to overthrow the rulers and create a new more egalitarian society.

 

SCRIPTURE – John 6:1-15

 

2 things to point out from Scripture – 2 things that Jesus does that agitate the current political situation -

  1. Question to Philip – where can we go to buy food for all these people?  The answer was obvious to the crowd and to Philip –

There is no such place and even if there were – there is not enough money and funds to do so.  The food and the money go to Rome.  In the kingdom in which we live – there is not enough – it is not possible.

  1. In the face of the reality that everyone is living – in the face of a world of scarcity where there isn’t enough for everyone -  he tells the people to sit down, blesses what has been given and then passes it out to them.  And they EAT until they were full.  This is unheard of - To eat until they were full was a luxury – one reserved for the rich and elite.

In the face of scarcity – Jesus allows them to experience abundance.  So much abundance -

And there were leftovers…

 

Have you ever seen a glorious sunset?

I mean the kind of sunset that stops you in your tracks and begs you to take it in.

 

If you are out in public when you see something like this – you’ll often notice the strange phenomenon of people stopped – fixated on the sky – taking in the unbelievable beauty.

 

Moments like these have a way of shifting our perspective – helping us to see and appreciate that there is something bigger, something more beautiful going on…  that there is more going on in the world that the limited things we can see from our purview.

 

Part of what Jesus did over and over again – in his healings, in his miracles – in his teachings – was to shift people’s viewpoints.  To point to something beyond themselves, something big and beautiful – he was pointing to the Kingdom of God.

But even more than that -

This beautiful kingdom, Jesus said was coming near.  This kingdom was

actually the reality through which God has always intended them to live.

 

Today is the Sunday of Epiphany – the day when we would typically be reading the story of the Wise Men – traveling from the East to come and see this child who had been born.

The word epiphany itself means to have a sudden realization about the nature or meaning of something.

 

Part of what agitated the crowd on that day after the feeding of the 5,000 is that they had received a real glimpse of the beautiful way in which God intended them to live together.  They had received an experience of the kind of abundance – the kind of sharing, the kind of grace and trust in which they were intended to live all the time

And the experience of not just seeing it – but tasting it – participating in it was stirring them to action –

Jesus doesn’t have to say a word about Rome - but

Something about experiencing the abundance of this moment -  exposes the deep flaws and brokenness in the systems of the empire  Their injustice, their flaws, and their WEAKNESS in the face of God.

 

What the Roman Empire wanted to portray is that THEY were the source of peace and prosperity.  The empire itself was the bearer of good news – and that the emperor was the savior of the world – fulfilling the hopes and longings of all humankind.

But in that moment – on that field – after that meal.

All of that was exposed as a lie

 

And so it is not surprising that they wanted to make him their king.

They wanted to force him into a position to lead a revolution against Rome.

 

But Jesus had something else in mind.  Revolution indeed – but the kind of work that would set the entire WORLD free.

 

The challenge for us when we read Scriptures – and we allow ourselves to try and enter the world of Jesus.

 

Is that we are not the oppressed minority people whose rights are crushed every day.  We are not familiar with what it is like to never eat a meal and be FULL.

 

We are not living in a time or context where we wonder if our words or voice will get us killed or whether we will have enough resource to literally avoid starvation.

 

We don’t like to admit it – but many of us have more in common with the Empire at the time…

 

But the thing about this story and about so many of the stories of Jesus – is that they

 

agitated the hungry.

But they also agitated the wealthy.

 

Something about this story of abundance – something about the lavish grace – begins to open our eyes - begins to reveal to us the very depths of our own fears…

Because the picture of the way God intended the world to be – this idea that there is ENOUGH.

This Gospel of Abundance – this idea that we can trust in God – and that when the spirit is moving and working – there is never a need to fear whether there will be enough - it radically challenges the whole social order in which our society is built.

 

The problem with the society that the Romans built and to be honest the one we have built is that it’s grounded on fear.  No matter where you sit.  The poor feared for their lives and for their utter starvation – and the wealthy and the powerful feared losing the things that they had.

 

Feeding the 5,000 - The Gospel of Abundance was radical in Jesus’ time and it’s radical today –

 

Because if we can really see it – if we can really experience it – if we can really taste it – if we can trust it and stop living in a state of fear - then we won’t be able to help but start to work toward a world that is different.  To start building something different.

 

This is exactly what was so powerful about the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.  When he talked about the dream that he had – he was describing a world that was radically different.  And it wasn’t just different in the way that it would make things better for a few people – it was different in this kind of cosmic, divine way – as if it was always the way the world was intended to be.  And when people could see THAT world – they certainly couldn’t remain in the status quo.  They couldn’t stand by complacently accepting the way things were.

 

So we hope on this day of Epiphany – and during this month as we explore – the stories of Jesus – that there might truly be an epiphany for each of us.  That we might be agitated from our places of comfort – and that we might come to a place where we are wrestling with the places where we live in fear and the places where we simply cannot trust that God’s abundance and grace will see us through.

And that these realizations would help us move toward individual lives that look more like the kingdom of God and life together as a community where we are not afraid – but we are deeply trusting – and WORKING – to build something different – so that there is ENOUGH for everyone and in fact, there are leftovers.

 

 

OCTOBER is National Coming Out Month!

In honor of National Coming Out Month, Summit will have 2 exciting ways to get involved.  All meetings and events will be held at Summit on 16th!

National Coming Out Month Film Series

Join us for a film series on Wednesday evenings from 6-8pm all month long.  The first one on October 2nd at 6pm was well attended here at Summit. The focus will be on the African American experience of coming out.  Topics will include self-acceptance, public displays of affection, relationships, religion, health, and more.  Check out the FACEBOOK event for more info.  Email Monty for more info: turner.993@osu.edu

Come Out Come Out, Whoever You Are!

Friday, October 25th - 6:30pm

Join us for Summit's annual celebration of National Coming Out month. This year we'll have live performers, prayer stations and more.  Jason & deMarco will begin the night with a concert.  For those of you still energized -- stay to praise, shout and dance with members of HiT'M ENT, as they round out the evening.  Event is free and open to the public!

Sermon on the Mount - Sermon #5 - Learning to See Each Other - 8/25

Sermon on the Mount Series - Sermon #5 - Learning to See Each Other

Matthew 5:33-42

Rev. April S Blaine, Given on Sunday, August 25, 2013

Sometimes, it’s really hard to SEE each other.

 

Last Sunday night, hundreds of student organizations gathered on the oval at OSU for the annual Involvement Fair.  This event that happens during Welcome Week, gathers tens of thousands of students in hopes that each organization will get out their message to the new Freshman and gain their attention during the all important first week of school.

 

Summit was present as we are every year, in the religious organization section along with about 75 other churches or ministries.

 

And I felt as I always feel when I’m at the involvement fair.  Overwhelmed.

There were so many people.  And so many organizations.

 

People were giving things away, they were handing out flyers, they were promising fun and exciting times, and they were swearing that if the students stopped by and got their free stuff – they wouldn’t regret it.

 

And I watched the students as they walked down the aisles and as people would stick a flyer or a cookie or a magnet in their hand.

 

They had a sort of fearful, overwhelmed, and glazed over expression.

 

As if they were walking through a meat market – being gawked at and stared at, being lured in with promises and gadgets and stuff…

 

Lots of information changed hands that day.

But I’m not sure on either end, how well we were actually able to SEE one another.

 

Sometimes its really hard to see each other.

 

This Wednesday marks the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington, the historic day when over 250,000 men, women, and children stood at the foot of our nation’s capital, demanding that the future of our country be different.  On that important day in history, Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his most famous speech, with the memorable words – “I have a dream.”

 

He painted the picture of a country where people of different races would be able to not only get along with one another – but to be able to walk hand in hand.  He painted the picture of a country where we judged one another for the content of their character, and not the color of our skin.

 

Dr. King knew that while the vision was powerful – the everyday struggle was great - in the midst of this great struggle, in the face of obstacles and hateful actions – it would be hard to keep this vision in front of them – to imagine that they could or even wanted to walk hand in hand with ALL people.

Sometimes it’s really hard to SEE one another.

To remember to SEE each other as blessed, as Children of God.

 

And so, In the middle of the speech, Dr. King spoke these words -

 

“In the process of gaining our rightful place, we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds.    Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred.  We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline.  We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence.  Again and again we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force.”

 

For the dream to become real, for us to walk hand in hand -

 

We had to work hard to SEE each other as blessed, as children of God.

 

 

The Gospel of Matthew was written during one of the most tumultuous times in Jewish history.  After the crushing destruction of their Temple, by the Romans, the Jewish community found itself at a loss of identity and a place of persecution by authority.

The community of Christians to which Matthew wrote still identified with their Jewish roots and would have been suffering under the oppressive regime.

 

At this time, groups within the Jewish community were vying for power –

Empty promises would have been the order of the day.

 

Jesus says in the first part of our passage for today –

You have heard it said…

 

But I say to you –

 

People at the time, just as in our skit today, had the tendency to promise things, and then if there were questions about it – to swear on something – heaven, earth, their own heads…  whatever it took – to GET what it is that they wanted.

See, these “oaths” weren’t about honoring God – they were about manipulating people.  The person was just the object allowing them to GET what they wanted.

 

The oaths were getting in the way of people’s ability to really look one another in the eye and speak the truth.

 

The list of personal injuries in the next section would have been things that the hearers had encountered before –

It was lawful for a Roman soldier to force a citizen to carry their pack for a mile.

 

Living during this time of chaos and challenge.

It would have been easy to start thinking about retaliation.  An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.

It would have been easy to be angry and bitter.  It would have been easy to hate their enemies.

 

It would have been hard in the midst of this to SEE each other as people.

 

But Matthew knew that the way of Jesus was about something else.

 

 

The Sermon on the Mount began with a bold pronouncement –

You are blessed.  Everyone is blessed.  EVERYONE, including your enemies.  Has access to the kingdom of God.  To a world where we live as God made us to live.

Your call is to be the light of the world.  To reveal that world to those you meet.

 

Jesus isn’t telling the people they need to legalistically in every situation – never take an oath, or in every situation that someone steals from you – give them the shirt off your back.

And he certainly isn’t saying that if you’re being abused and hit on the left cheek that you ought to sit there and continue being struck on the right.

If we slip into there, we are missing the point.

 

But he is interested in our hearts of love – the ones who are now free of anger and lust - being able to see each other.

 

So that you will become A people who do not manipulate people with their words but instead SPEAK the truth.

A people – who EVEN when you are inconvenienced or even personally attacked – remember to SEE the person before you as a blessed child of God. And remember to respond not in retaliation and violence – but with love.

 

This past Tuesday afternoon, in an Atlanta Elementary School, the appropriately named Antoinette Tuff, just sat down at the front desk to sit in for her colleague.  Moments later, 20 year old, Michael Brandon Hill, slipped in behind a parent to the school with a loaded gun.  He approached the office with the gun aimed high, communicating clearly that he was ready to die, and he planned on taking a whole lot of people with him.

Antoinette was the first line of defense, and she had just moments to decide what to do.  As the young man began to walk down the hall toward the classrooms, she started calling him back.  She started speaking to him.

“You don’t have to die today.”

He stopped and allowed her to speak.  He was agitated and still waving the gun, but he stopped and he was listening.  She told him about her own life.  She talked about her struggle to raise a child with multiple disabilities.  She talked about her battles with depression and the ways that she sometimes felt that she wanted to give up, and she also told him that things had turned around.  And they could turn around for him too.

Over the course of the next hour, Antoinette talked to this young man.  Even as warning shots were fired, she continued to engage him, she allowed him to talk about his own pain, his battle with mental illness,

When he said that he had no one who loved him, she responded, “I love you.”

and eventually she helped him to set down the gun, lay down on the floor and allow the police to take him into custody.

 

People have regaled her as a hero and she’s been interviewed by news channel after news channel.  What prepared you to have these words?

Antoinette’s answers were the same each time.

She talked about her faith – she talked about the teachings at church that they had been having – about being anchored.  About their identity being rooted in God – and about the blessedness of all people.  That we are to treat people out of a place of God’s love.  To honor them and to see them.

 

“When I saw this young man,” she said, “I saw my own sons.”  And I couldn’t let him go down this path –

 

If we are to be a people, who are the light of the world…  then we are to be a

People who are grounded and rooted in God’s love.

So that when we see each other – when we speak to each other – that we never lose sight of the blessedness of the one that we speak to.

 

And while some people say –

Yeah, Yeah – but in the real world…

 

But I wonder – just how different the real world could actually be – if we were brave enough to live into these words –

 

Because the truth is – and we know it to be so.

When we are brave enough to face

Lies and manipulation, violence and coercion –

with love.

They begin to lose their power.

There is a cost.

But they begin to lose their power.

No one knows that better than the hundreds of people whose lives were not at risk – because someone was willing to respond in love.

 

Learning to be the kind of person of the quality and character of Antoinette Tuff – doesn’t happen overnight.

The ability to be able to SEE past the gun and to the person – wasn’t something she picked up after a quick trip to Sunday school.

 

It took practice.

 

So Jesus’ last comments in our Scripture today make a lot of sense.

 

Give to everyone who asks of you – do not refuse anyone who wants to borrow from you.

 

Well that’s crazy Jesus.  I can’t just give money to every beggar on the street.  I can’t just give the shirt off my back.

 

Remember, Jesus isn’t interested in legalism – but the creation of a generous and loving heart.

 

When someone asks of us – our time and our money or our resources…

 

We will… each time have to assess the situation both with the person before us and with our own capabilities.

 

But we can always… SEE them as a person.

 

We can always engage them as a BLESSED child of God…  as someone who, just like us – has the Kingdom of God available to them.

 

And to remember that our call is to be the light of the world.

 

And perhaps – this is an opportunity for us to practice – SEEING people.

 

So – on this table – there are stacks of kits -

They are filled with juice boxes and raisins and granola bars.

 

I want to invite you to take one.

To place it in your backpack, or your purse, or your car, or your briefcase.

So that the next time, someone sees you and asks you – for money or food – you can pause…  you can ask their name.  You can say – “We put these packs together at my church this week – as a way to remind people that they are loved and they are blessed.”

 

And if that doesn’t really challenge you much – because you’ve don’t that before.

 

I invite you to take 2 packs.

 

And when you meet that person –

I invite you to sit down and share a meal with them.

 

If we want to be a people who really SEE each other.

 

If we want to be those people who are shining the light of Jesus Christ into the world.

Who EVEN when someone is waving a gun in our face, we can say I Love you.

 

It will take some practice.

 

So let’s get to it.

Welcome Week Schedule

Welcome Back to all of our students!

Join us during welcome week festivities:

Sunday, Aug 18th - Look for us at the involvement fair. If play our trivia game you have a chance at winning a gift card to a local restaurant: Alana's, Bernie's or Diaspora. The fair is on the Oval from 4:00-8:00pm.

Tuesday, Aug 20th - Join us for Community Commitment Day. We will host dozens of students for one of campus' largest service days. Meet us at Summit 10am-1pm. This year you may get to paint a rainbow bathtub!

Wednesday, Aug 21 - Look for us on campus in the Multicultural Center at the Ohio Union for the LGBTQ Mix and Mingle from 4:00-6:00pm.

Friday, Aug 23 - Come on out for our Welcome Back Jericho Road Breakfast! We'll be serving up pancakes, eggs and sausage from 11:00pm - 2:00am at Summit. Enjoy some music and one of the last warm August nights!

Sunday, Aug 25 - Welcome Back Worship - Join us for worship at 10:30am. There will be a blessing of the school year for all new and returning students.

 

Stories of Inclusion - Meghan Link's sermon 4-28-13

Acts 11:1-18 Since this month has been all about our stories, I wanted to start out by telling you a little bit of mine. I grew up in a United Methodist church, but my journey with God really didn’t start until I was in middle school. One night, I got a phone call, and I was told by my best friend for as long as I could remember, that I wasn’t cool enough to be hanging out with any of our friends anymore. As far as I can remember it was mostly that I wouldn’t say swear words and that I didn’t watch the same TV shows they did.

So, imagine all the insecurities a 6th grader already has, and add in being told by your best friends that you are literally too uncool and too weird to even be seen with. Thats about where I was at, probably one of the lowest points of my life. But despite how terrible all of that was, God was able to bring me out of that really bad place and into a very good one. I eventually found a new group of friends who not only treated me a lot better, but took me to youth group with them, which was new for me because my church didn’t have one.

It was through this group that I learned that to God I was beautiful and lovable and valuable, and that made all the difference in the world for me after going through what I had been through.

After that, I was completely hooked on God. Eventually, I even got to the point where I started leading my own weekly youth group with friends at my own church because the other group fell apart. These experiences were what really decided for me that I wanted to spend my life ensuring that places like the one that I had found would be around for other people who were feeling what I had felt, so that they could know that they too were beautiful and lovable and valuable.

Fast forward to last year, I started school at Mount Vernon Nazarene University as a ministry student. And I really enjoyed learning while I was there, but I also became very unhappy there very quickly. The school opened my eyes to what I see as a very big problem. There was a very strictly defined way that you were supposed to be and think there, and you were constantly reminded that you needed to fit into it. You needed to be the person who fit the lifestyle guidelines, and you needed to have the correct Christian viewpoint on certain issues. And the longer I paid attention to it, the more upset I got about it. First of all, because I was one of the people who didn’t think everything I was supposed to, and often the teachers would mock what I thought were good ideas. But there were also bigger problems for me there.

There were tons of stories about people being kicked out for breaking some kind of rule, but even worse for me were the stories of those who felt like they had to just deal with it and keep hidden who they were and what they thought. On several occasions, I heard that there were plenty of gay and lesbian people on campus, and that they just didn’t come out to anyone, and if they did, no one acknowledged them as long as they didn’t act on it. This really picked away at me. These people had to hide a part of themselves for the sake of fitting in so that they could stay.

I didn’t understand how it could it be right, that in a community of faith there wasn’t any room for us to be different from one another and be accepting of each other. Within myself, I couldn’t reconcile the love that I know the church represents and the love which I had felt from God, with the lack of love that I was feeling here. So I felt more and more frustrated as a part of this group who just didn’t know where else to go. The church was a big part of my life. I wanted to go into ministry, but more and more I didn’t want to be a part of the kind of ministry I felt like I was being prepared for.

Luckily for me, my boyfriend Logan had the wisdom and the love for me to tell me to just go and look for some place else where I was going to be happy. Thats how I ended up having coffee with Pastor Lucy, and that was the the beginning of how I ended up here the very next semester as the pastoral intern standing in front of you.

When I began the process of picking verses to use today: these are the ones that came up, and they couldn’t possibly be any more perfect for the struggle I went through this year. You have a conflict here- between the Jews and Gentiles, the circumcised and the uncircumcised, the included and excluded. For this first group of Jewish believers, being a follower of God has always meant being Jewish. And being Jewish has meant that it is against the law for you to associate with the Gentiles or non-Jews who were considered impure and would therefore make you impure. And purity was a very important thing for the Jews.

So when this original group of Jewish followers of Christ hear that Peter has been reaching out to Gentiles and that they’ve somehow received the word of God--it’s really not okay with them. And thats why they criticize him. “Why are you trying to reach out to these people? They are unclean. They don’t follow the law, They don’t circumcise, They don’t observe sabbath. They’re just altogether wrong.”

Essentially, I think it was the same kind of problem I was struggling with. They had a very particular definition of what it meant to be a follower of God, and they didn’t know what it would mean if these Gentiles were allowed to be included in the people of God too.

So, what we read today is Peter telling them his story, and his story is admittedly really weird. Peter is praying and in this trance where he has a vision. A sheet comes down from heaven which is full of all these unclean animals which a Jewish person would not have wanted to even be around, much less kill and eat. So his automatic reaction is to tell God absolutely not, nothing unclean has ever entered my mouth, and its not going to today.

And God’s response to him is simply “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.” And to Peter this probably didn’t make any sense at all. This was, after all, God’s law that makes these animals unclean, and to Peter it would have been strange that God could just decide to make them clean all of the sudden. So, they have this conversation three times, but God never backs down. And then he pulls the sheet back into heaven.

This is when Peter gets to see how the Spirit is really trying to be at work. Three men show up and ask Peter to come with them to the house of a Gentile who has also had a vision. This should have caused the same knee-jerk “absolutely not” reaction that the unclean animals did, but the Spirit tells him not to hesitate in going with them, and because of everything he just experienced with the vision of the sheet, he decides to listen and he goes.

Somewhere along the journey he realizes what is going on. What we read today was Peter retelling the story to the Jewish believers. When the writer of Acts originally tells this story, Peter tells the Gentile when he gets there that he understands now that “God shows no favoritism.” And its after realizing this he chooses not to stand in God’s way. Rather than constricting his definition of who belongs within God’s people and refusing to share the message he was given with them: he opens up his heart to them. And he is astounded to see that the Holy Spirit comes into them the exact same way that the Holy Spirit came into himself and all the other apostles.

God is using this story to make a statement: that there is no one that God does not love and value beyond measure and that his story and his spirit and his love are for everyone.

Now, I want to point out here that I think that God could have easily sent an angel to each of them to get straight to the point if he had wanted to. He could have told Peter to start preaching to Gentiles, and he could have told this Gentile to worship him, but he didn’t. God wanted something to happen in Peter’s life and in this Gentile’s life, as well as in the entire worshipping community as a result of this meeting. And probably, all of us can identify with that. I would say a majority of us probably heard the story of Easter for the first time from someone in our lives rather than an Angel or a vision. All throughout the Bible, God often chooses to work though people, and it is particularly true for this story where God is all but pushing these people together.

The point is that God has entrusted the mission of love into our hands. It is our responsibility to break down the barriers between us and share the love of God with everyone. And according to this story, this responsibility is so important that if we don’t do it then we are standing in God’s way. Some other versions translate this to hindering God, and even opposing God.

People need to now that they are loved, that is God’s mission for us and we are in the way when we don’t show that love.

This conversation about who is in and who is out was not over at the end of this story. Christians would argue about whether the Gentiles belonged for a long time after this event. And even today, the conversations about who gets to be included and who gets excluded are far from over. Mostly because we’re human.

Peter himself is a perfect example of this. Despite the fact that he himself was the person who has the vision which starts all of this talk about inclusion, he struggles with it later on. In Galatians 2, Paul notices that Peter eats with the Gentile believers when it’s just them around, but when believers who still think you must be Jewish to be a Christian arrive, he separates himself from the Gentile believers rather than being caught eating with them. Worst of all, the other Jewish believers follow his example, and the Gentiles end up excluded again. And Paul calls him out on it.

Even though he knows better, Peter still makes the mistake of standing in God’s way by excluding those believers and encouraging others to do the same. This is something that we all really need to be on the lookout for. Either consciously or subconsciously, it is really easy to decide which beliefs and histories and lifestyles and political stances are the ones that deserve God’s love, but the problem is that the result is exclusion, which is not what the church is supposed to be about. Nobody feels beautiful, loved, or valued through being turned away.

Doing this isn’t the easy path. I can tell you, the transition I made to get here wasn’t easy at all. A lot of people in my life were angry about my choices. I learned firsthand that when you step on people’s definitions you will be called things and told things that simply are not true because they do not understand you. I was told I wasn’t a christian, and that I would pay for preaching a message about love like this.

But, I believe that if we are willing to do the work it will be more than worth it.

And I want you guys to know, that I came to Summit because I thought that this was a place where God’s love would be allowed to overcome the barriers and really be at work in the lives of those who feel rejected and excluded, and I look forward to the next two years that I have to spend here.

Positive Discipline Workshop, May 19th, 1-5 PM

Positive Discipline Workshop, May 19th, 1-5 PM
Join us for a workshop based on the bestselling guide, Positive Discipline in the Classroom, researched and written by acclaimed psychologists and educators. Learn how to develop an environment of mutual respect, cooperation, and self-discipline.

Learn practical skills to:

  • Create a climate that enhances learning and engagement
  • Overcome common communication barriers
  • Use encouragement rather than punishment and rewards
  • Understand the motivation behind childrens’ behaviors

$25 registration fee (all proceeds go to children's programming at Summit UMC) REGISTER BY MAY 10th

Click here to register

For information, contact Mark Reed, Summit on 16th UMC

614-266-0636 markreed@summitumc.org

A Call for Artwork!!!

Summit United Methodist Church is excited to announce:

Our first call for artwork!

ABOUT SUMMIT

Summit on 16th is a spiritual home to all.  We are a diverse group of Christian people who work to break down barriers of exclusion and to welcome, honor and nurture all people.  Compassion and a commitment to social justice drive our mission to encourage spiritual transformation and to provide service to those in need.  Love in service underscores all that we do, from worship to community outreach.

EXHIBITION DETAILS

The Season of Lent marks the forty days prior to Easter.  For centuries, it has been a special season in the Christian year for inward reflection and prayer.  At Summit on 16th, we will be using this season to take a JOURNEY INWARD, to examine our own hearts and lives, to share our stories and our struggles, to listen and learn from our diverse backgrounds and experiences, and to discover anew the redeeming grace of Jesus.  During this season, we will be inviting artwork that exemplifies the theme of introspection, of journeying inward to explore our own identities and our connection to each other and to God.

Submitted artwork will hang in the hallways and group spaces at Summit on 16th beginning on Easter Sunday.

SUBMISSION GUIDELINES

The exhibition is open to two-dimensional works, ready to hang, and suitable for public viewing. Size constraints are 4′ x 4′ and no more than 50 lbs. More than one piece may be accepted.  With each artwork submission, please include:

  • Two to three .jpg image files at 72dpi (no larger than 700 x 700 pixels)
  • A title and short description (less than 300 words) to hang next to your piece.

Please email all files to: katieschuler0@gmail.com

 

EXHIBITION CALENDAR

Email Entry Deadline: Monday, March 18th by 5pm.  Once accepted, artwork may be dropped off to Summit on the following three dates:

  • Friday, March 22nd
  • Monday, March 25th
  • Tuesday, March 26th

 

Artwork will be displayed beginning on Easter Sunday, March 31st until Pentecost on May 19th.  After the exhibit, you may pick up your artwork at Summit on the following three dates:

  • Monday, May 20th
  • Tuesday, May 21st
  • Wednesday, May 22nd

Pastor April's Sermon - Alumni Sunday

At the corner of 12th and Indianola, you will find a large apartment building that houses students. This apartment building is much like many others in this neighborhood, but on the corner of the lot – there is a stone wall.If you didn’t know to look closely, you might miss them.

The stones are the only thing that remains of what was University United Methodist Church. A church that in the 50’s had more than 600 in worship on a Sunday and whose commitment to this community and to the students in this neighborhood gave birth to life-changing ministries and outreach for over 60 years until it merged with Indianola and the Wesley Foundation to become Summit. One of those changed lives was Chuck Lindabury.

If you ask Chuck, “What do these stones mean to you?”

He’ll tell you

He won’t tell you about the stones themselves, or even the building, (Even though we all knew he had every key and knew the place inside and out) But he will tell you about the people whose lives were changed because of this church and how his life was changed.

The stones tell a story. The stones tell a story of how God worked with a particular people in a particular place – to do extraordinary things.

In our Scripture today, the stones also tell us a story. Joshua and the Israelite people have had quite a week. Moses has just died, and on his 3rd day as the new leader of the people – Joshua is asked by God to lead the people across the Jordan river and into the promised land. For forty years they have wandered in the wilderness… For forty years they have questioned and backtracked and sometimes longed to go back to Egypt. They have been waiting for this promise of a new land that would be theirs and it has finally come. God has made a way for them and given them all that they were promised. And so Joshua commands the priests to carry the ark of the covenant into the river and the waters part and the entire nation is able to cross onto dry land. And just after this happens, God gives them one final gift. And God gives them one final gift in the story we read today. God gives them the 12 stones. God gives them 12 physical stones, taken from the place where this miraculous event took place to remind them. To be a memorial. So that one day when their children ask, “What do these stones mean to you?” They will tell them the story of what God did. They will tell them the story of how their lives were changed. How life looked different on the other side of the Jordan.

The stones tell the story. The stones tell a story of how God worked with a particular people in a particular place – to do extraordinary things.

Bishop Sprague loves to tell the story of a young college student who came through the doors of Indianola and after hearing the progressive nature of his preaching was so upset – she left and said “this is the most radical stuff I’ve ever heard.” She stormed out of the church, but not before Carl Johnson, a long time member took notice of her. He wrote her a welcome letter, then when she didn’t return, he wrote her a letter to ask what she had found in another place since she hadn’t been back, and then he wrote her a third letter to ask her advice about their efforts to reach out to college students…

And so, after some time, the young Cyndy Garn returned to the church, became an intern and began her path toward ministry.

As Stan was doing the Scripture reading today, there were 12 people who represented the various stages of the history of this church who brought forward the stones. They put them on the altar as a symbol of the stories that we represent here today. The stones tell a story. Of how God was working, with particular people, in a particular place, to do extraordinary things.

In these particular stones are the remains of Lloyd White.

I never had the privilege of meeting Whitey. But the more I learn about him the more I know I would have like him. And I would have liked getting into trouble with him.

It seems so appropriate for Whitey to be here among the stones of this church. Outside of his family, Whitey poured his life and heart into the Wesley Foundation and later this church, and Camp Agape. He seemed to have a skill for being present with young people at those very critical junctures of life. And so, For many people, their encounter with Whitey was a relationship that changed the trajectory of their lives.

And so this stone and it’s presence here continues to tell a very important story. Of how God was working in a particular place through particular people... to do extraordinary things.

I imagine That If I were to ask each of you, “What do these stones mean to you?” That you would have many stories to share about how this faith community was a place of transformation and life for you.

And I also imagine that you came here today because you’d like to know that that same kind of transformation is still happening in this place today for the next generation of the Summit community.

The memorials and the stones and the reminders. And the telling and the retelling of the story.

They are a comfort and a reminder of God’s love and presence.

But they aren’t just for us -

They are also for our children. They are also for the ones who come after us. The ones who weren’t there when the miracle happened…

The purpose of the stones in Joshua was to tell the story –

Our stories of what God has done were always intended to plant seeds into the future.

That perhaps our stories of what God has done would breathe new life into the next generation and that they would encourage them – to experience God for themselves

If you came here today wondering if that is still happening – I want you to know that it is… I want you to know that as the Spirit has been breathing new life into this space and this community, that each of you and your stories and your stones – have in fact been speaking into the lives of those in the present.

Your stories speak and bring hope to the 100 scholars and families of our new Freedom School – the summer literacy program that is now in its 2nd year – has allowed us to reach out to many new families in this community in a new way, but in the same spirit of much of the work you have done before – They find hope and encouragement and trust – knowing that this church has always been about caring for the community and working for justice, especially for children.

Your stories – they bring hope – when we sit with college students who have big, big questions about faith and the world and about justice. And they find encouragement along their journeys when they learn that you dined with Cesar Chavez, and that people in this church protested and even got arrested because of their fight for justice, and how there were campus ministers like Whitey - who always made space for doubt and questions…

And they begin to see that perhaps God is also with them – in the midst of their own struggle and decision.

Your stories bring unbelievable hope to the people who walk in here beaten and battered – who have been told that their sexuality has made it impossible to be loved by God… They find HOPE when I tell them that over 30 years ago, this church made the risky decision to offer safe space to the Gay Action Alliance - when nearly no others would. And they begin to imagine that perhaps God is in their midst – and that things could look very different.

Your stories are bringing new life into this new place as we find ourselves in a season of new life and growth for the first time in decades.

We are going to invite you today to share some more of those stories with us. The children of our church are building a tree over the next 3 months out of recycled materials in the church. It will be a project to help them think about the integration of all of us and our connection to God and we want to invite you to write down your stories on these brown sheets of paper – stories of how God has been present in your midst over the years. And the children will both hear these stories and have them woven into the trunk of the tree.

Your stories will continue to speak – to this generation – giving life and inviting others to experience God for themselves.

Labor Rights Sermon (Labor Day Weekend)

Labor Rights Sunday * September 2, 2012

Preachers: Lucy Waechter Webb, Lainie Rini, Erin Hardin

Texts: Amos 5:11-15 and James 1:17-27

The Story of Labor Day (Pastor Lucy):

As we begin our next season in a theme together, we will be focusing on "Telling the good story" together. In Sept we'll tell stories of our past, in Oct stories of our present, and Nov stories of our future. So to kick off this season of story-telling, Lainie, Erin and I will be sharing a few stories with you this morning.

As you know by now, we are thinking about labor rights on this Sunday of Labor Day weekend. And I am curious as we begin this conversation, if anyone knows the history of the holiday Labor Day? Does anyone know how the holiday developed in the United States?

The first Labor Day celebration in the United States can be traced to New York City's Union Square in 1882 when workers took an unpaid day off to march in the city in support of the holiday. After that, individual states then started to claim the holiday one by one, and it was made a national holiday in 1894 by President Grover Cleveland. The national holiday was created in response to the famous Pullman Strikes. And I want to share with you this morning that story.

The Pullman Strike was the first national strike in US history, and before it was over it involved 150,000 people in 27 states and literally paralyzed the railway system. Pullman was a railcar company known for making sleeper and luxury rail cars and from the success of his business, Mr. Pullman fashioned an entire city, Pullman City outside of Chicago, he created it for his workers to live and in fact required them to live in Pullman housing. The city was often considered a model city, where Pullman built and rented houses, libraries and even the preacher had to rent the church from Mr Pullman. Well they managed along just fine for about 10 years, and in 1893 there was an economic depression and wages were cut on average in the company by 25%. However the prices of the product remained the same, and more importantly so did the rent that workers were paying for their housing. And when a worker/renter fell behind on rent, it was simply deducted from the paycheck. So naturally, they began to organize and approached the company to ask for lower rent given the state of their lesser wages.

As you can imagine, they were refused. And the largest strike in national history began. Once the larger railway system of unions became involved in the strike, within 3 days 50,000 men walked off the job. At this point, a federal court saw the gravity of what was happening, and declared the strike a federal crime sending federal troops in by the thousands (they estimate over 14,000 total strike breakers with various law enforcement combined), which escalated the strike further into violence. People on strike were rioting and destroying thousands of dollars of property, and people lost their lives when the troops started to fire. After it was over, President Cleveland and Congress made organized labor a top priority in that election year and legislation for the holiday, Labor Day, was pushed through Congress just six days after the strike ended. At the same time, the strike did not accomplish was it was intended to do, wages remained the same and many people caught up in the strike were blacklisted from future work on railway system. Pullman workers signed a contract that they would not strike or unionize in the future, and many labor unions in the country were gone until the Great Depression.

This is an incredible story and testament, however, to the power that people have when they gather and organize for change.

***

The Story of Amos (Pastor Lucy):

Now, I’d like to turn to Amos. And tell the story of the time when these words were spoken. This is a tough passage no? You trample on the poor, I know how many are your transgressions, and how great your sins. If you’ve read the whole book of Amos before you know that this is not the only section that is rough, almost the entire book is dripping with his anger! And that comes from the context he found himself in, and the state of his nation. I’d like to start by sharing with you a piece of the commentary from biblical scholars that introduces this book in my study bible. Listen closely, this was written about the time Amos was writing, but things might sound familiar:

“The book of Amos is a compilation of sayings attributed to the prophet Amos, who was active… in the long and peaceful reign of Jeroboam II. In this period, Israel attained a height of territorial expansion and national prosperity never again reached. At the same time, this prosperity led to gross inequities between urban elites and the poor. Through manipulation of debt and credit, wealthy landowners amassed capital and estates at the expense of small farmers. The smallest debt served as the thin end of a wedge that lenders could use to separate farmers from their patrimonial farms and personal liberty.”

“Into this scene stepped Amos, a native of a small village in the Southern Kingdom, Judah, and himself a farmer and herder…Amos denounced the society of the Northern Kingdom, Israel, in vivid language, bitterly describing the decadent opulence, immorality and smug piety of elites who “trampled the head of the poor into the dust of the earth”

Hopefully this sounds a little familiar. A country attaining the height of territorial expansion and national prosperity never before reached. Prosperity that led to gross iniquities between the rich and poor. Manipulation of debt and credit (read: mortgage crises). It’s as if Amos is reading our newspapers and standing right here on the front lawn of our capital buildings.

And before Lainie shares with us next, I’d like call our attention to two details in the specific passage we read this morning. The first is this line about “you who afflict the righteous and who take a bribe, and push aside the needy in the gate.(v.12)”  The gate he is referring to is the city gate, which was where most of the public activity during the day was found. This is place where anyone with a complaint could expect to find the elders of the community who would act as judges. So when people are taking bribes, and pushing aside the needy at the gate, they are not only robbing people of the justice they are seeking, but they are eliminating the space and opportunity to even seek justice in due process. Not only are they not aware of what is in imbalance, they are not even willing to be aware. And the response from Amos is to name a very different reality that can be practiced, he says “Hate evil, and love good, and establish justice in the gate.”

The second detail in this passage I’d like to mention is the implication of the two verbs used in the sentence I just read, “Hate” and “Love”. Both verbs in Hebrew point to the ability to make decisions. To love, “ahav”, can also mean to choose. To hate, “shaneh” often refers to specific decisions. In other words, there is a call to action, rather than simply holding an attitude or feeling about something. You might read it as Decide to reject Evil, and Choose good.

When we think of Biblical Prophets, we think of a radical person, but one with authority, one who is somehow extraordinary and must fall asleep at night and have God whisper words into their ears to share the next day. But the story of Amos, is a story of a common man, a farmer from a village who just spoke out, and spoke boldly.

The Story of us: The Story of Now – (Lainie Rini)

I think we can hear these stories in the Bible and often think that they don’t quite apply to us now in the same way that they did back then. People know that some things back in the Old Testament are just not the way that we do things anymore. We don’t have to worry about worshiping Baal or other deities [or insert other OT outdated reference]. We need not be concerned about the treatment of slaves because we don’t have slaves! At least, not in the typical sense of the word.

The truth of the matter is we need to be ever more concerned about the plight of “slaves”, because by denying their current existence, we are making it far too easy to continue a system of oppression. No, we don’t have slaves the way they did in the Old Testament – we have workers. We have workers who make our clothing, and workers who stock our shelves. In fact, the distinction we are supposed to make between workers and slaves is that the worker is paid. But if we are not treating our workers with justice, if we are not paying our workers, then the words of Amos ring strong and true in our world today. Today, our Ohio State University right down the street is considering contracts with apparel companies that rampantly abuse workers in sweatshops.

The coffee that we can to enjoy on a daily basis is given to us at the expense of hundreds of thousand workers around the world, many children, who are forced to work tireless hours with no pay.  Students will be the future workers of the world, yet our high tuition rates are forcing us into a student debt higher than this country has ever seen. We will be enslaved to that debt until something is done to change this country’s plight. Students cannot even hope to work off this debt, for the minimum wage now is buys less than it would have back in the 50s (and people say we’ve progressed). There are so many more grievances we ought to be concerned for – climate change, fracking drills, institutional sexism and racism… when injustices are listed off in a format such as this, the scope of the problem seems too much to bear.

Amos is asking a lot, how are we to save the world? That is too much. When you draw a line, you get a straight line. Now say you want to draw another next to the original line. Only this time, you make a slight tilt to the left. There’s really not much difference, only a crooked line. But overtime, that shift will continue to grow and separate even more from the original line. I believe this is what Amos is asking of us. No, we cannot face the plight of slaves and single handedly save the world. But if we start by making small shifts in our lifestyle, eventually we’ll be so far from where things were to notice a change. Change starts slow, and it takes time, but it will make a difference. We can make a difference today by changing our practices, just a little. We can buy fair trade coffee, and petition Gee to help the workers. We don’t have to change the world, we just have to start with a shift.

(Pastor Lucy)

This is tough stuff. This is real life, and each of us, each and every one of us, no matter our job status, the income we make, each of us is touched by the things Lainie spoke about. We are all connected to one another, and so when one worker is paid unfairly, when students suffer from oppresive debt, when women are sold into sex slavery for work, when children grow our coffee instead of learn to read, we are affected, changed as a people. Martin Luther King Jr. taught us that injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. He also quoted the farmer from Judah, Amos, when he made famous the line of scripture “Let justice roll down like a river, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.”

I believe God calls us to enter into the mess of the world, not to pull away from it. And we are at a particular point in history where the blend of uncertainties we face has never before been experienced. The realities of struggling planet and the failing of the global economies that are connected like they never have been before place us on the edge of era we have not yet seen.

The National Student Power Convergence that met here last month, is examining just those questions. They are peeking around the corner into that new era. For those of you who don’t know, the Convergence was a gathering of over 200 college students from around the nation who gathered here at OSU and stayed at Summit Church to explore how they might build a student movement dedicated to the very things we are talking about today and more. Our young people are leading us into a wondering, a process of imagining new ways of being together. They practice a mix of reflection and action as they face our very real problems and dream about our future. They will tell you, they don’t have all the answers. But they are wondering and working together to not just envision, or have a feeling, or attitude about the world that Amos calls for, but to enact it. This morning, Erin, is going to share with you her experience of the Convergence.

The Story of the Convergence (Erin Hardin) –

As many of you know we were recently a temporary home to some students from the National Power Convergence, of which Lainie and I participated.  Although Lainie and I had brought unique gifts and interests to the table, and we both learned a lot about ourselves and who we are as members of the mass movement of young adults fighting for social justice.  I am going to share with you, my experience and how I learned more about myself through the weekend of the convergence.

I think it is important, when going into a new experience, to keep an open heart and open mind.  And that’s exactly what I did, and in doing so I found out a few things about myself  that I am glad I discovered early on in my life.  One I am not big on yelling, two I am not a big fan of large crowds.  Both of which are important components of being part of a mass movement, Something I wish I knew before the convergence began.   I was completely overwhelmed by a lot of the radical groups there and movements they were a part of.  It was all too much to handle and I regrettably did not finish the entire weekend because I wasn’t at a place in my life where I felt sturdy enough to be a part of such a powerful movement, in that way, and I still don’t think I am but maybe in the future.  This gave me time to look inward and learn that I was not a protester or marcher.  But after a few talks with Lucy I learned that it wasn’t a bad thing that I lean less toward the front lines and more toward behind the scenes.    I also realized I felt overwhelmed because it is overwhelming!  I mean, we are talking about a major change that young adults are fighting for, not just in America but all around the world.

I am majoring in social work here at Ohio State and I have learned through that and my experience during and after the convergence that I can make change happen without yelling or marching in a protest.  I’m not by any means saying protests and yelling shouldn’t be done, because often times that is all that is effective in gaining peoples’ attention.  However, it’s not for everyone, but the wonderful thing about change is there are multiple entry points and ways to be involved in this revolution.  Although I may not be as radical as those on the streets I have acted on causes that I am passionate about *talk about IJM, being trained as a speaker, leading Come out Come out and being an outspoken Ally for GLBT folks* If you are unable to commit time there are still easy ways to make a difference, willingness to sign letters and petitions can make a big difference.

AS you have just heard from lucy those fingthing on the streets play such a vital role, but even if you aren’t one of those voices on the streets, as a Christian there is still a call to action.  James reminds us of this in the passage I want to share with you….right now! [read passage from James]

The Story of Summit - (Pastor Lucy)

Perhaps you have heard the phrase “faith without works is dead.” Or “a faith that fails to bear fruit does not save.” Well, James is the king of that idea in the bible. He is the one that people talk about when they fight about whether or not it is faith or works that save.

We’re not going to have that conversation today. But what I can tell you, is that both are important. And James reminds us, that acting, being doers of the word, is vital. Not only because it’s the right thing to do and all that jazz. But because when we are not doers of the word, we are deceiving ourselves. We are standing at the gate of Amos’ city, pushing aside those who come, making ourselves comfortably blind. James says we look into the mirror and turn away and immediately forget what we are like! Who we are called to be as a people of God.

It is overwhelming as both Lanie and Erin stated. And we cannot walk away thinking we can save the world ourselves. At the end of the day, I believe that work can only be accomplished with God. But we are faithful servants, only to God, workers that labor alongside God to realize the kingdom.  And there are decisions everyday that we make, often small, sometimes large, but all cumulative.

So in honor of our past, this month, I close the way we began today, with a few reminders of the amazing ways this church has taken action in the past.

-       They opened their doors to Ceasar Chavez, a radical labor rights activist

-       They welcomed and included fully two LGBT groups seeking sanctuary

-       They partnered with the creators of Comfest to celebrate the struggle for the collective good for all people.

I shared these stories with the students at the convergence and they were astonished at this church’s prophetic voice, and commitment to justice. It made very real our new tagline, “No seriously…this is church.”

So in close today, appropriately, we invite you into action. We invite you to reflect how you might consider the words of James and the passion of Amos in your own life and how you might respond in the world. You might do this today and you might take action after today. But we offer four invitations to you immediately following worship. [Name four options] We could have passed out something in worship right now, or included the action piece within our service in the Centrum, but we felt it was important for you all to make a choice. “Ahav”, is the Hebrew from Amos right? To love. To choose. So it is up to you to consider what you will act upon and when. Any one of us cannot do it all. But together, at different entry points, with steps that shift us, we can end up in a different place.

 

 

A BIG FAT THANK YOU!!

Thank you to everyone who came out to volunteer during Welcome Week at Summit Church!

We connected to over 1,000 students that week with our information, ourselves and our cupcakes.

Thank you...

Susan Rudder, Pearl Forte, Ruth Hayes-Bell, Erin Hardin, Sile Singleton, Jordann Dillard, Lynne Reid, April Blaine, Lainie Rini, Dee Stickley-Miner, Sharon Huber, Cindy Turvy, Naomi Weinert, Tori Smart, Jean Rauschenberg, Erin Tarr, Gretchen Rauschenberg, Sandy Wycoff, Karen Gardner, Linda Bernhard, Jane Swinford, Lori Schiefer, Emily Nemeth, Megan Hernandez, Chere Hampton, Lucy Waechter Webb, George Ryerson, Charmane Hall, Grecca Walker, Mark Reed, Andy Napier, Aramis Reed, Mark Call, Daniel Waechter Webb, Britany and Adam Utley, Cindy Turvy, Dane Chavers, Gary Reid, Judy Long, George Ryerson, Deb Napier, Meredith Joy, William Hall