I Corinthians 1:18-25
January 29, 2017
Proclamation and Healing
Every once in a while something happens and I need to visit the doctor for an ailment. When I have been foolish my doctor reminds of his rule. “If it hurts don’t do it.” We could say, if it hurts people, don’t do it. There is a countermanding wisdom that you often hear in our culture that is also helpful. “No pain, no gain.” If you don’t hurt people they won’t grow. You could make an argument that both proverbs are“scriptureish”. Each piece of wisdom, however, if taken to the extreme isfoolish and harmful. One extreme path leads to a fearful closed and closeted life. One path leads to carnage and a wake of broken relationships. What path should we choose as a church?
We see in the Gospel of Matthew that Jesus began his ministry by calling disciples to fish for people. Then we are given a clear definition of what ministry looks like. Jesus calls his disciples to teach in the synagogues, to proclaim the good news and to cure and heal people.
Today is the Third sermon in a series of six that Pastor Jon and I are offering on the Six Great Ends of the Church. The Great Ends are the Mission Statement of our denomination and they have been a part of our church constitution since 1910. The six great ends are the Proclamation of the Gospel for the Salvation of Humankind the Shelter Nurture and Spiritual fellowship of the Children of God, the Maintenance of Divine Worship, the Preservation of the Truth, the Exhibition of the Kingdom of Heaven to the World and the Promotion of Social Righteousness.
The first great end and the most important and our subject for today is the Proclamation of the Gospel for the Salvation of Human Kind. I would say that if Jesus was questioned by the Pharisees and forced to choose between if it hurts don’t do it and “no pain no gain,” He would not choose. He did not like to be herded by people who had their agendas. What he might have said however, isthat both proverbs are valuable; you should stretch people, not beat them up. You should teach and heal people, not leave them flat with their blindness and pre-existing conditions. Everyone knows that a good stretch has a little pain and brings a little healing.
This evening we will in this sanctuary hold our 25th annual congregational meeting. It has been my practice to offer a state of the church sermon on the Sunday of our annual meeting to help us to take stock of the year past and to focus a little on the future.
Overall 2016 was terrific year of faithful ministry together. One of things I like best about Ark and Dove is the way you care for each other. By and large when a hurt or a need is expressed, you extend genuine care for your fellow members. You offer support and guidance. On most days and in many caring ways you live the proclamation of the gospel in the way you bind yourselves together. You excel at the way you welcome and nurture children. You, in your hearts know, that children are not only the church of the future they are the church now. Some of the best moments of the church year are the first fifteen minutes of worship when we are together spanning five generations.
Our congregation is led by a forward thinking and dedicated Session and a compassionate and caring Board of Deacons. Both boards are full of church officers who want to see our church conduct ministry in effective, innovative and authentic ways. Our leaders are honest about our strengths and places we could be better. They support each other in ministry and they genuinely care about one another. Both boards are characterized by a trust and vulnerability that allows genuine sharing and spiritual growth. At every meeting we encounter joyful humor and hearty laughter. I honestly look forward every month to meeting with our elders and deaconsand I deeply appreciate the many hours of love they lavish upon this church.
I am very pleased with our staff and the way they work together. Everyone on staff has high quality standards, works hard and cares about our church and cares about each other. We support one another, enjoy each other gently hold each other accountable and consider ourselves blessed to be ministers to this community. I use the word minister purposefully because no one on staff looks at this place as only a job.
Ark and Dove has awesome Godly Play and Sunday School Teachers, Logos Leaders, Small Group and Adult Education leaders, Youth Fellowship leaders, choir and band members who week after week pour themselves caringly and devotedly into ministry. There are so many great things that happen at Ark and Dove every week, it’s very encouraging and comforting.
Two huge highlights of the year were the amazing job you all did at hosting the winter relief homeless shelter here and your work as a congregation on anti-racism and social equity. Two things are pretty invisible in our county – one is homelessness and the other is implicit bias. It’s not that there is not racism and there is not homelessness and poverty, because these are painful realities for many of our neighbors; it’s more like we who are well off and busy with our lives have the privilege of pretty much being able to ignore these realities. But you chose not to ignore and in this way we as a congregation have grown. I know for some of you these conversations have been more than a stretch, and on the painful side. Thank you for sticking with it, we are better for it. And for the first time in our congregation’sexistence we are more than 10% people of color and we are more than 15% people over 65. We are more diverse and we are better for it. Ahem, we still need to work on the twenty something demographic.
Perfectly in line with these highlight was your support of the new Comunidad Presbiteriana La Trinidad. It is great to have Rev. Lucas here today, his work is very important. And after a good year of discernment and discussion, the congregation, the mission ministry and the Session have all made it clear that we are ready to take the next step in welcoming state department vetted refugees into our county. Although the recent executive order based in fearmongering, has created uncertainty; we have contacted James Sunday of World Relief to let him know we are ready to be trained. J. Herbert Nelson,The Stated Clerk of the PCUSA has issued a statement condemning this executive order. It is on our facebook page and mine.
As crazy good as this year was with a lot of eye popping joy and healthy stretching; worship attendance was up, Sunday School attendance up, participation in winter relief up, Logos and youth Fellowship attendance up; we can identify two areas of congregational life that need some work. We need to breed the generosity gene into our stewardship. We were behind on giving in both funds. We experienced our first deficit ever. We need giving to rise in 2017. Our current levels of support are not enough to accomplish our goals. Secondly,we need to breed the kindness gene into our Facebook conversations on line. Politically it was a rather divisive year for our nation. Maybe we can model the beloved community for our President, and our congressional and local representatives in 2017. I know that both our Elders and Deacons are brainstorming about a social media covenant that includes civility and kindness. Deacon Bill Gaurin sent me this picture.
Worth Thinking about.
Finally our Long Range Planning team listened extensively in many ways to our congregation and identified and discerned several paths forward for our congregation. You could say that we are good at welcoming new members, branding our church, proclaiming our mission statement, and starting 11:00 worship on time but not great. And we clearly have aspirations for adding fellowship, office and CE space to our facility. We will spend 15 minutes working on understanding and implementing our new Long Range Plan at our congregational meeting tonight.
I am excited to serve with you, I enjoy stretching with you and I look forward to ministry in 2017. May we find community and strength at Christ’s communion table.