Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Where Two or Three are Gathered

And Jesus said,

Again, truly I tell you, if two of you agree on earth about anything you ask, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.” Matthew 18:20

This line, ‘for where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them’ is used often to justify that even in the smallest of gatherings where two or three people are present and agree prayerfully, Jesus is there.  And so it is, that he is present within each one of us, when a couple of us are together or amidst a great throng of believers.

Looked at and understood in the larger Biblical context we see it a bit differently; Jesus says this to show us how to reprove one another of sins that have been committed against each other, or simply put - church discipline.  In fact there are several places in the New Testament that show the struggle of the earliest believers in Christ who wished to gather in his name.  Gathering in Christ’s name to be a church is wonderful and purposeful and difficult because let’s face it, humans aren’t perfect.

What we do know is that God wants us to gather.  So where two or three are gathered, where 22 or 23 are gathered, where 622 or 623 are gathered Christ is present.  But I submit to you that even though he is present that does not mean that it will be a utopia of happy Christian campers.  So where 2 or 3 are gathered they need a little church governance or a way to organize themselves and get the business of ministry accomplished. 

Today we will look at church governance through the eyes of scripture.  Why, you ask, do we have to do this?  Why do we have to change? 

Well sometimes we simply outgrow our jeans.  They no longer suite us or they fit the way they used to.  Times change, the demands of life change.  A friend and colleague of mine tells the story of when his now 34 year old was little he was asked by the teacher in school what does your dad do for a living?  His naïve and innocent reply was, ‘he goes to meetings’.  To his little eyes and heart all he knew was that his daddy was at a church meeting most of the time.  Yeah, where 2 or 3 are gathered you can be sure the will be a committee meeting. 

That tells you something about the nature of the institution of church.  It can become cumbersome when it no longer fits into the lifestyle that we crave and so a modification needs to happen.  If you look back through the church records we have dating back to 1805 we certainly do not govern ourselves the way our brothers and sisters in faith did back then.  And can I have an ‘Amen’ for that?  

You see the more rules and regs there are there is less reliance on the Spirit.  And we need that spirit among us working and churning our hearts.  God wants us to use the spiritual gifts that we have been given. 

Ephesians, the fourth chapter tells us that we have been given spiritual gifts for three main reasons.  1) to equip the saints that is to be more Christ like in our encounters with others, 2) for the work of ministry that is to prepare us to carry out the tasks that this body has discerned that is part of our mission, 3) to build up the body of Christ, that is so we can get stronger in witness and word for Christ.

At the 211 Annual Meeting today after church we will begin a journey into a new way of organizing ourselves to accomplish our mission which says, “We are a spiritual, caring community committed as a fellowship of faithful people to a still-speaking God”.  One of the ways in which we have discerned thus far to do this is by creating a new Leadership Council that comprises four areas of ministry that pretty much sums up how we will achieve our mission.  Worship, Faith in Action, Faith Formation, and Resources. 

Very simply put how we worship our God, how we are active participants helping others in this world, how we feed and grow our faith and how we take care of the gifts and resources that we have received.  That’s all, no mystery.  While they seem to be separate entities they unite us in our effort and call to follow the ways of Jesus Christ.  They all have one overarching goal that is to be a spiritual, caring community committed to a still speaking God.

After the meeting today we will begin this new journey together.  So I want to talk a bit more about each Ministry Team using scripture and song to ground us in this new endeavor.

Worship Ministry Team
Psalm 100

Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth.
Worship the Lord with gladness;
come into his presence with singing.
Know that the Lord is God.
It is he that made us, and we are his;
we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving,
and his courts with praise.
Give thanks to him, bless his name.
For the Lord is good;
his steadfast love endures forever,
and his faithfulness to all generations.

I think it is safe to say that almost, without fail barring snowstorms or hurricanes, that we have been most faithful to God in this area.  For 211 we have gathered on Sunday mornings and at other times to give thanks to God for our blessings and to offer our inner most selves in worshipful ways.  Worship is a gift and a blessing and it is essential to our spiritual life.  Liturgy is the work of the people.

But worship just doesn’t happen like that.  Bryan and I don’t phone each other up on a Saturday night and say, hey what do you want to do tomorrow.  No.  It takes prayerful and intentional planning and it takes a whole lot of people to help that happen.  Singers, ushers, deacons, worship leaders, congregants we all are a part of our worship to God.  The Worship Ministry Action Team is the spiritual arm of the church and they are the ones that enable this type of ministry to happen. 

Whether it’s deacons or  music that feeds the soul or inreach to our own through Angel Food Express we are allowing one another to experience the love of God through our actions.  I am sure that you have many gifts that might be used in some way as a pop-up ministry that would fall under the Worship Ministry Team.

I am grateful to ______________ for answering the call to be the Worship Team Leader.

PH 4 All People that on Earth Do Dwell

Faith in Action Ministry Team
Matthew 22: 34-40
When the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together, and one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”

According to Jesus the first and second greatest commandments are love God with all your heart, soul and mind, and, love your neighbor as yourself.   Strong and simple commands, love God, love neighbor.  What’s really great about this is how we choose to love God and neighbor is up to us.  God let’s us figure it out.  So how we love our neighbor is the work of Faith in Action. 

We have this faith, we have this belief in the life and ministry of Jesus Christ.  If we are to follow him then we are to help others, to work towards a society that lifts up and values everyone.  When we work to that end we are putting our faith into action.  It’s no longer words but it’s our actions that really matter in the kingdom.  OCC working in tandem with Columbus House, Habitat, Abraham’s Tent and so many other agencies to effect good is a way in which we fulfill Christ’s call.  He was always for the underserved, the outcast and the victims of an unjust first century society.  Societal ills have not gone away.  This is what Faith in Action is about.

So too, Open and Affirming is another way in which we can be an inclusive community helping others find a place at Christ’s expansive table.  ONA is specifically designed to let the LGBTQ community know that we are a safe and accepting house of God for them to come into.  But going through this process is so much more.  It says that we are a loving congregation who yearns to share the Gospel with everyone.  Because of that we are willing to have discussions and study scripture to discover what it means to be a body of Christ as diverse as we are created in the image of God.

Ministering to all through outreach; sharing and caring.  Might you have an idea for a pop-up ministry that fits into the life of the Faith in Action Ministry Team?

I am grateful to ______________ for accepting the call to be Faith in Action Team Leader.

NCH  539  Won’t You Be My Servant

Faith Formation Ministry Team
2 Timothy 3: 14-17
But as for you, continue in what you have learned and firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it, and how from childhood you have known the sacred writings that are able to instruct you for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work.

All that we do here is grounded in scripture…whether you know it or not.  It may not come to mind immediately but if Christ is not at the core of our values, our ethic, or actions then we are not a church.  And we learn about Christ through scripture in Bible or book study, in discussion about Biblical and theological matters.  That’s head work. But it’s really not enough.  Reading a cookbook doesn’t make you a good cook.  Perusing a manual on a camera does not make you a good photographer.

What does make you a good cook or a good photographer is practice and action. It is the confluence of head and heart.  It is an engaged process of learning and practice that is infused in all aspects of the congregation.  It honors the diversity of spiritual and religious needs because there is not one approach.  Our faith in the Lord is informed but what we do, hear and learn and hopefully then we are transformed for greater spiritual living.

The work of the Holy Spirit in a person is a life long process, we are life long learners who have new challenges that we must adapt to.  How I thought about God when I was a kid is drastically different than how I think about God now.  My faith in God is formed by my life experiences and my connection with my churches throughout the years.

Formed in the likeness of Christ, that’s what we strive to be.  Through the years OCC has offered thoughtful education for young ones and elders and everyone in between.  It used to be known as Christian Education. But as I said before that implies book learning only and Faith formation is much more. It is wholistic finding a balance between head and heart. 

Our youth ministries, church school and adult education strive to engage our head and heart in fruitful ways.  Our library gives us the resources to begin the journey.

Do you have something that you can contribute to the Faith Formation Ministry Team?  A pop up ministry can be anything from a one time book discussion to a spiritual, intentional walk in the woods.

I am grateful to ___________ for accepting the call to be Faith Formation Team Leader.

NCH  313  Like a Tree beside the Waters

Resources for Ministry Team
1 Corinthians 3: 10-15
According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building on it. Each builder must choose with care how to build on it. For no one can lay any foundation other than the one that has been laid; that foundation is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw— the work of each builder will become visible, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each has done. If what has been built on the foundation survives, the builder will receive a reward. If the work is burned up, the builder will suffer loss; the builder will be saved, but only as through fire.

Would we be a church with not a penny in our pocket and a roof over our head?  Absolutley!  That’s because a church is a gathering or a body of baptized Christians who believe in Jesus as the head.  We could be a church in someone’s home, in a hall, or on the green without a building.  But how incredibly blessed we are to be able to worship in this sacred space and have a few extra dollars in our coffers to carry out the ministry of Jesus Christ. 

We give great thanks to all of the saints who have gone before us.  Their faith in Christ and with Christ as their foundation has given us this sanctuary and this ministry here in Orange.  And so we are called upon to give an account not only in their name but to God of how we administer everything we have been given.  WE all need to be accountants of our faith and ministries here in Orange.

Did you ever wonder how the chandelier glass hurricanes get cleaned? What about steeple repair, office equipment repair, tuning instruments, fiscal management?  Blessed with so much we need to be good – no great stewards of what God has entrusted to us.  I’m sure there is some little pop up ministry that you can think of and help out with to make this sacred space spin! Take ‘the guys’ for instance. They pop up every Tuesday and trouble shoot – changing the marquee, cleaning refrigerators, all is ministry when offered to the glory of God. 

I am grateful to __________ for accepting the call to be Resources Team Leader.

We have four teams that encompass the breadth of Christ’s ministry. I pray that you will be inspired to be a part of these vital areas of ministry.  Whatever your gift or skill might be and you see a ministry need that could utilize your gifts, speak to me or any of the team leaders.  Pop up ministries are always encouraged! 

May Christ, the cornerstone of the church, our faith and of our lives, guide us into our future will dignity and grace. 


NCH 400   Christ is Made the Sure Foundation

No comments: