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Sermon transcript for June 10, 2012

Do Not Lose Heart!
2 Corinthians 4:13-5:1
Belmont UMC—June 10, 2012
Ken Edwards, preaching

Audio - MP3

“So we do not lose heart!” As I read over the lectionary readings this week, these were the words that kept coming back to me—the words that kept speaking to me. Some might want to analyze why those words kept speaking to me. Could it be that I’m on verge of losing heart, of giving up or losing hope? I don’t think so, but I do believe that those words speak clearly to all of us, who have at one point or another felt like losing heart.

“So we do not lose heart!” Those are the words as they are translated in the New Revised Standard Version. The Common English Bible, which we have been using more and more, translates this phrase, “So we aren’t depressed.” We are familiar with depression in our society as it touches many lives and at many different levels of intensity. Depression causes persons to lose hope, to despair, to give up, to lose motivation, to quit caring deeply about things, to feel that life is futile, to sense utter discouragement or to lose heart.

There are many causes for losing heart. We lose heart because we are afraid and fear wins over other emotions. We lose heart because of circumstances that overwhelm us and we can’t see a way out. We lose heart because we have been faithful to work toward a purpose but cannot see the fruit of our labor. We lose heart when we lose confidence in ourselves, in God, in our abilities, or in the value of our work. We lose heart when we feel small and insignificant in the face of massive global problems that are beamed into our living rooms each night.

I was sent to serve a church that had been losing ground for several years. When I arrived and met with the Staff Parish Relations Committee for the first time, one of the committee members said, “You did not want to come here did you? I can’t imagine anyone wanting to come and serve this church.” Another person said, “Some people here will resent it if you make any changes, but if you don’t change some things we will die.” The church was so demoralized and discouraged by loss that they could not imagine surviving and their discouragement had created dysfunctional patterns that kept them digging the hole of despair ever deeper. My wife and I decided right away that we needed to help the people see the gifts and graces they possessed and we sought ways to encourage and be as positive as we could. It was a couple of years into that appointment before they began to rekindle a strong sense of mission and purpose.

The Apostle Paul has had lots of reasons to lose heart. He writes, “We are experiencing all kinds of trouble, but we are not crushed. We are confused, but we are not depressed. We are harassed, but we are not abandoned. We are knocked down, but we are not knocked out.” (verses 8 and 9) In verse 1 of chapter 4 Paul writes, “Therefore, we don’t get discouraged.”
I have avoided speaking or writing about General Conference, United Methodism’s chief legislative conference that meets every 4 years. I have avoided it because so many things have been written or said that I couldn’t imagine that I have anything to add to the discussion. Most people agree that the Conference in May was a failure on many levels. Some came away calling the United Methodist Church a “sinking ship.” We were unable to agree on a plan to restructure the church leadership. We were unwilling to remove language from the Book of Discipline which excludes and labels. In that failure we continue to do harm to many of our members and constituents. We were unable to pass legislation that speaks the truth about who we are. Namely, that we are a people who are not likeminded and who can agree to disagree. That remains the truth about who we are in spite our lack of courage to acknowledge it. Frankly, some of us felt like losing heart after General Conference concluded.

Christian writer and blogger, Tony Jones, suggested that all young clergy should leave the denomination in response to our last General Conference. Many of my colleagues have taken issue with his call to leave and let me add my voice to those. Tony wasn’t around during the Civil Rights Movement and he wasn’t in church the day I heard my young pastor speak bravely for the cause of blacks and others who were victims of racial injustice. He was not there when people in the church got up and walked out in anger in the middle of his sermons. And though he may have been discouraged from time to time and he may have felt like losing heart, he kept preaching and speaking the truth and calling us out for our racism. And he did not give up. I am standing here today because of young pastors who did not jump ship when the water was a little rough.

And where would our church be today if a generation of clergy had left when their voices were so desperately needed? We may get discouraged but those who stick around will live to see a better day. I’m confident of that. So we do not lose heart!

We have 4 gifted women clergy on our staff. When I was younger, and to some extent, even now, women clergy have had an uphill climb. District Superintendents would tell them that they could not appoint them—that churches would not accept them. One of my colleagues sat in the church to which she was being appointed, only to hear the DS apologize to the church saying, “I’m sorry but we will have to appoint a woman to your church. We have no one else. It’s the best we can do.”

Of course, they felt like losing heart, but where would the church be if it weren’t for women like Linda Johnson, Pam Hawkins, Heather Harriss, and Sandy Sakarapanee.
They did not give up! And so we do not lose heart!

Former South Africa Bishop, Peter Storey, was planning to be with us last week and he had to cancel his trip to the Untied States. We hope he will make that trip in the future. But I thought I would share one of his stories. Peter Storey was a champion of the struggle against apartheid in South Africa. He once told a story about how he and Desmond Tutu were nearly executed for their work. An armed guard took them out to a remote sugar cane field. There they were bound for execution. The guard raised his gun toward them. But, the guard did not have the fortitude to do this evil thing, so he lowered his weapon and walked away in shame. Storey and Tutu, upon realizing their deliverance, excitedly returned to their car that had brought them out to the killing field. As they drove back to civilization, Tutu suggested they offer prayers of gratitude for their deliverance. Immediately, he folded his hands, closed his eyes and uttered a prayer of thanksgiving. While eager to join in prayer, Storey was unnerved by Tutu’s actions. Tutu was driving the car at the time.

Where would South Africa be if Peter Storey and Desmond Tutu and a host of other brave women and men had lost heart and abandoned the cause? So we do not lose heart!

What motivated Paul or those early followers to not lose heart, to avoid discouragement when they often faced intense opposition and persecution? For one thing they understood that the kingdom is not about them or their plans. It is about God’s purpose being lived out in the world. And they trusted the grace of God to sustain them and guide them in whatever they did. And they understood the call to be faithful, even against all odds. And they trusted that they were in God’s hands no matter where they were or what they were doing. Paul wrote, “We have this awesome power that comes from God, not from us.” (v. 7) “We do not focus on things that can be seen, but on things that cannot be seen. The things that can be seen do not last, but the things that cannot be seen are eternal.” (v. 18)

We often lose heart when we forget to trust, when we fail to remember that this journey of faith is not so much about us but about God’s dream for our world. I’ve been there many times and so have you. We forget that this journey is about something bigger and beyond ourselves—about something eternal, not temporal.

I read a story of an experienced mountain climber who thought he could anything, and one day he came to a great overhang of rock. He tried several techniques to get himself up and over the massive outcropping, but he could not. He began to lose strength and after some time he realized that he had done all he could. He could go back down and he did not have the strength to go up. He began to think about death, about his family and friends and the things he had hoped to do in his life. He had reached the end of his journey. At the point of complete surrender, he heard a noise above him and then a piece of climbing equipment fell past him on the mountain. He realized that another climber was in trouble somewhere above him. Somehow, not for himself, but for another, he found the strength to pull himself up and over the outcropping to help a fellow climber. We will not lose heart when we remember that there are others counting on us to be faithful. So we will not lose heart.

And we do not lose heart because we have each other. When one gets discouraged, and we will, there will be another in this wonderful community of faith who will come along and encourage, support, and hold out hope to her or him. You may want to look around you this morning at the faces of some of the people who love you and want the best for you. These people, God’s people, will be there when you need them. Aren’t we blessed? So we will not lose heart.


Sermon transcript for June 3, 2012

Bread of Life
John 6:1-16
Belmont UMC—June 3, 2012
Ken Edwards, preaching

Audio - MP3

My wife and I were in our very early 20’s, married, and taking a sociology class together at Austin Peay State University. We needed a semester project to tackle so we joined forces with another friend and volunteered to assist the county health department in surveying the needs of rural citizens. On our free days we drove into rural parts of Montgomery County, among farm families and some rather isolated poor families to quiz them about their health needs. We met a lot of interesting and sweet people and most of them were reluctant to talk to us about their personal lives.

One hot day we parked our car under a shade tree and walked down a country road to a rather run down looking home. In spite of the heat there was smoke coming out of the chimney in the back of the house. Overgrown privet bushes almost hid the dilapidated front porch from our view. We found a front door, knocked and waited. Finally, an older woman in a long dress came to the door. Her hair was tied up in a bandana and she didn’t look that pleased to have company. We introduced ourselves and started to give her our speech about county health care. She interrupted us, “I can’t invite you in because my husband is real sick and he needs to sleep. Wait here.” She shut the door and left.

In a few moments she returned to the front porch saying, “I had to get the cornbread out of the stove before it burned” as she held the plate of cornbread for us to share.  She said, “Have some. I still used a wood stove for cooking because it makes the food taste better.” She disappeared again and returned with glasses of sweet tea. The three of us sat on the front porch together for a long time. She never answered our health care questions but she told us her life story over broken bread and shared glasses of tea. There was something sacramental about our time with her on that front porch, because even out of her obvious poverty she shared what she had and it felt life giving and holy.

Bread is featured prominently in the stories of the Bible. From the Israelites finding manna in the wilderness, Elijah and the widow of Nain, sharing what she thinks will be a last meal for her and her son before starving to death, only to experience the miracle of abundance, to the Passover Meal shared between Jesus and the disciples, bread is a symbol of life and the life giving abundance of God.

In all four of the Gospels there is a story of bread and fish being multiplied and shared among the thousands of people who have come to see and hear Jesus. This story was important to the early church. It is a story of God’s provision for the people. It is a story that has sacramental overtones and later in this chapter of John’s Gospel we hear Jesus speaking of the bread which came from God, linking himself to the gift of bread. “I am the Bread of Life!”

But in each of the Gospel stories it is clear that Jesus has compassion on those who are hungry and need to be fed. It is the nature of God to have compassion for the hungry of this world. And as people of God, this must become second nature for us as well. And that compassion must be translated into action. And Jesus turns to the disciples and instructs them to feed the multitude. And Jesus turns to us, the Christ followers of Belmont United Methodist Church and challenges us to feed the hungry.

The task seems overwhelming when we examine the statistics. Throughout the world 1.5 billion people live in extreme poverty, 990 million people suffer from chronic hunger and on the Horn of Africa almost 13 million people are on the brink of starvation because of the worst drought in 60 years.

In the United States, more than one in five children lives below the poverty level. The number of people at risk of hunger in our country increased from 36.2 million in 2007 to 48.8 million in 2010. Food banks saw a 46 percent increase in clients seeking emergency food assistance between 2006 and 2010.

We can do many things to help and we must not allow the numbers to overwhelm us, causing us to do nothing. We can volunteer and participate in feeding programs in our city. Our Belmont youth, led by Bill and Mary Ruth Lane, are gardening and growing food to share with hunger ministries in our city. We can help advocate for an end to food deserts in our communities. We offer direct assistance to those in need through our Belmont Benevolence Fund. We can contribute to the hunger fund of the United Methodist Committee on Relief. We are told that we have the resources to end hunger but people still go hungry day after day.

Today, our Belmont Advocacy Team is inviting us to support Bread for the World which supports policies and programs that meet the needs of hunger here and throughout the world. Through Bread for the World we have an opportunity to influence the decisions of our government regarding policies and spending. And the church has the opportunity to act as the conscience of our nation when many would want us to embrace a “save yourself” mentality.  We must ask Congress to protect programs that combat poverty and prevent families here and abroad from going hungry.

One of my closest friends tells a painful story of his childhood. His father deserted the family when he was a little boy and his mother did the best she could to make ends meet. His mother remarried and the new step father was abusive and violent. One night they fled the home to save their lives. They first went to their church and the pastor and his wife took them in and hid them. Later they moved to public housing. His mother worked but she was not skilled and never made enough money to pay the bills. He said if it had not been for food stamps (now called SNAP) they would have starved. I have heard him tell how he and his younger sister would search the parking lot of the grocery for money that people had dropped or lost, while their mother shopped inside. The extra money would have been used to buy food. His life is better now and so is his family’s, but at that crucial time in their lives there was a program that saw them through and kept them alive.

There are some important players in our Gospel story. When Jesus saw the large crowds coming he said to Philip, “Where are we going to buy bread for all these people?” Philip answered, “Six months wages would not buy enough bread for each of them to get a tiny bit.” He saw the task as overwhelming and he was read to give up. We have all felt that way at one time or another.

But another disciple, Andrew, who is always introducing people to Jesus, introduced Jesus to a little boy who had five barley loaves and two fish. It wasn’t much and Andrew acknowledges that, but it was something and it was offered and it was shared. I like to think that somewhere in that little boy’s life a mother or father, grandparent, or faith friend or rabbi took him aside and said, “You may not have a lot in your lunch box, but if you see someone hungry, God will want you to share what you have.” And it became that child’s second nature to care for the hungry.

God can use everything we can offer. It might not always seem like much but it might be the beginning of a miracle. It always seems sacramental when we break bread together and share what we have with others. And so we shall!


Sermon transcript for May 27, 2012

When Everything Comes into Focus
Acts 2:1-21
Belmont UMC—May 27, 2012
Ken Edwards, preaching

Audio - MP3


Today is Pentecost Sunday. Pentecost was a Jewish festival which involved many pilgrims coming into the city of Jerusalem from all over the Mediterranean world. The early followers of Jesus were in Jerusalem because Jesus had spoken to them after the resurrection and instructed them to wait there. The promise was that the waiting and praying would be blessed by an outpouring of the Holy Spirit. The promise was that the disciples would receive power to be witnesses to all people to the ends of the earth.

On Pentecost the disciples were filled with the Holy Spirit and they were given the gift of speaking in the languages of the pilgrims from all of these various places. They spoke the good news about Jesus Christ. Many were added to their number and the church was given birth.

I’ve preached many Pentecost Sunday sermons over the years but today I want us to think about the Pentecost experience as a moment of clarity and vision for the early disciples.

We know when we look through a set of binoculars the first thing we have to do is focus. Before that everything is blurred but when we adjust the focus to our eyesight everything is clear and precise.

Pentecost and the coming of the Holy Spirit on those early followers was a clarifying moment in the life of the church. Jesus’ followers, who seem uncertain and fearful in Luke’s Gospel and the other Gospels as well, now seem to understand clearly who Jesus is and what Jesus is about. They understand the mission of the church and the nature of the good news and they are able to articulate this good news in clear and distinct language that everyone can understand.

Clayton Schmitt recalls an experience of making pastoral rounds at a nursing home. He would visit a Russian woman who spoke virtually no English. When he first visited her he tried to indicate who he was by showing her his Bible and his homebound communion kit. She seemed to perceive that he was a priest or some such thing. She seemed grateful for his visit and presence and she stroked his hand and smiled at him.

In spite of their differences there were moments of crystalline communication. Those occurred during the liturgy for Holy Communion. Together they entered the shared language of the church. At the Lord’s Prayer they would recite together in English and Russian. No words were needed. He writes, “There was a 50 year difference in our ages. During most of our lives we would have been considered political enemies. Neither age, nor language, nor ideology divided us in those moments when the Holy Spirit drew us together in communion with one another and with Christ.” (Pulpit Resource)

There is clarity of language and message, but there is also clarity of purpose and mission. Peter, in his sermon, quotes from the prophet Joel, who speaks of a future time when the old and young alike will be given clarity about God’s dream and vision for our world. That was not only true for those early followers but it is true for us as well.

For individuals these are aha moments when we know what God is calling us to do. For the church this happens when the direction of the church comes into focus. All of those moments can be surprising and challenging but they come with a reassurance that God is guiding our path and God will be honored in the process and the outcome.

The last church I served came together as the result of a merger. Merging two distinct churches is never easy and the thought of it gives most us pause. I enjoyed hearing the story of the merger of St. Paul UMC and Mt. Juliet UMC. St. Paul was a growing church that had outgrown its property and could not expand at its location. They had begun to look for a place to move. Mt. Juliet UMC, not far away, was located on 25 acres of prime real estate on one of the busiest highways in middle Tennessee but it was struggling to pay bills and was looking for ways to reenergize the congregation. Both churches entered into a period of prayer and discernment.

One evening Bishop Ken Carder, in his wisdom, called the leaders of the two churches together and suggested that they consider a merger. Surprisingly, this idea seemed to be the answer to their prayers. When I arrived on the scene the merger was in its second year and the people, relocated to the expanded Mt. Juliet property, were a part of a growing and vital congregation.

Experiencing the call into pastoral ministry came to me after weeks of prayer and wondering. I was a quiet, introverted young man who could not imagine that pastoral ministry would fit my nature or my limited gifts. It was not what I wanted or expected but on a hot summer day, while working on my uncle’s farm, a moment of clarity came to me and I felt incredible peace. I knew I would need God’s help and I would have to fully rely on God for this to happen. That was about 40 years ago and I’m still here, still needing God’s help to stand here and to fulfill God’s call.

I had some quality time several years ago joining lay leaders in a church in a study Henri Nouwen’s book, In the Name of Jesus; Reflections on Christian Leadership. Nouwen was a Catholic priest and an academic. He taught at Harvard and was frequent speaker at conferences all over the world. His writings continued to be studied by people of all faiths. But he came to a time in his life when he knew that teaching others to serve was not God’s purpose. He felt confused and sought clarity of purpose. He wrote, “It was very hard for me to see clearly, and though I never spoke about hell or only jokingly so, I woke one day with the realization that I was living in a very dark place and that the term ‘burnout’ was a convenient psychological translation for spiritual death.

In the midst of this I kept praying, ‘Lord, show me where you want me to go and I will follow you, but please be clear and unambiguous about it!’ And God said, ‘Go and live among the poor in spirit, and they will heal you.’” (Pages 20-22)
And Nouwen went to live among adults who suffered from severe disabilities. It was not what he expected or what he wanted but it was a place where he came to know God more fully in the lives of these, the least of these.

I want us to hear this Pentecost message as a call to a season of prayer in the church. Our church will be embarking on a strategic planning process in the near future. We have not engaged this process for a decade and the last strategic planning phase yielded much fruit. Out of that process came a new building and expanded program and mission. Out of that process came an increased focus on children and youth, a front porch relationship with our community and a growing missional reach into the Edgehill neighborhood and across the ocean to the people of Malawi, Africa. Today, you will see some of the fruit of that process when our Open Door Singers come forward at the end of the service to be commissioned for their choir tour to Toronto, Canada.

We do not know what the outcome of the process will be but we do know that it must be guided by prayer and by the leading of the Holy Spirit, the same Spirit that guided the early disciples who met and prayed and waited in Jerusalem.

Prayer is the focus adjuster. We pray and trust that God will guide us. We pray and open ourselves to God’s dream and vision for us. We pray and we allow ourselves to become a vulnerable to something bigger than ourselves. Prayer reminds us that this is not about us but about God. Prayer reminds us that this work is not about my agenda or your agenda but God’s agenda. Prayer means that we don’t know the outcome but we trust God with the outcome.

Those early disciples were told to pray and wait. Waiting is the hard part. When I was praying about a call to ministry I gave God my timeline, “God, please let this be clear to my by July 31st.” It did not work out on my time line. But we will pray and we will wait and we will ask God to give us clear direction for the journey ahead.

Please join me in this season of prayer. Pray for our staff members, our church leaders, and pray of the various ministries of the church. Pray for persons who sit around you on Sunday and if you do not know them, introduce yourself and say, “I’m praying for you.” Pray for the people you know and love. Pray for the people who hold different opinions than you, or vote differently than you vote. And pray for yourself, that God will move you into a deeper relationship with the divine—that God will bless you and keep you and make God’s face to shine upon you, that God will be gracious and give you peace in knowing the path our journey together must take.


Sermon transcript for May 20, 2012

A Trail of Evidence
Acts 1:1-11; Luke 24:44-53
Belmont UMC—May 20, 2012
Ken Edwards, preaching    

When television networks find a hit show they begin to reuse the winning formula and similar TV shows multiply like rabbits. Such has been the case for popular CSI shows—CSI stands for Crime Scene Investigation. These shows are not for the faint hearted—sometimes reenacting things we never hoped to see on the television screen, but there we are in our family rooms watching as the evidence unfolds and the criminals are caught.

The lead character in one of these shows is a guy named Horatio but his friends and colleagues call him “H.” He’s the boss and I love the way he overacts his part. At the crime scene his loyal coworkers tell him that their chief suspect claims to have an alibi and H lowers his head slightly, turns it to one side, and looks off dramatically not at the camera or anyone in particular. He simply gazes off into the distance and says, “Don’t worry. Somewhere in this room is all we need to find the person who committed the crime.”

Then the team gets busy with swabs and plastic bags and chemicals, and they scour the scene for flecks of dirt, hair follicles, skin cells, a partial fingerprint or anything that might help solve the crime. At the end of the show Horatio is always standing outside the police headquarters when the criminal is brought out in handcuffs. We watch as he slightly lowers his head and turns it to one side. He stares off at no one in particular and he says, “Well my friend, it looks like you are going way for a very long time.”

We are told that we leave a trail of evidence—evidence of where we’ve been, what we’ve done , what we eat, what we wear, what we purchase and what we value. Our junk mail, phone records, credit card purchases, and internet searches are used to identify the evidence of who we are. Marketers used this to target us for advertising. Thieves use it to steal our identity. Now Global Positioning Systems can locate us on the map. I continue to be amazed that a pleasant female voice could guide me safely and efficiently through the streets of lower Manhattan until I reached the Holland Tunnel last summer. (Well, there was that one moment when she told me to make a U-turn and a half dozen drivers took offense and honked their horns in anger.)

Our lives are leaving a trail of evidence—evidence of how we live, the choices we make, and the values that we hold. We may be most aware of this with our children or those whose lives we influence. Our children’s lives are evidence of the choices we have made. There is an old saying, “Out of the mouths of babes come words we should not have said in the first place.”

When our middle son was very small I became aware of something he was doing at the dinner table one evening. He was sitting across from me and he was imitating my every move. I took a drink of water and he took a drink of water. I wiped my mouth with my napkin and he wiped his mouth with his napkin. This became annoying and I asked, “What are you doing?” He answered, “Daddy, I want to be just like you.”  He has long since gotten over that idea. But our children are watching us when they are growing up. I have observed that the values of our grown sons are evidence of the way they were raised and the values we shared with them throughout their lives. Someone is watching us!

We read parts of two ascension passages today and in both passages we hear Jesus telling the disciples that they are witnesses of who he is and what he has done. Both of these passages are given to us by Luke and some scholars refer to Luke as the Acts of Jesus and the Book of Acts as more appropriately, the Acts of the Holy Spirit, because it highlights the work of the Holy Spirit in and through the church after the departure of Jesus. (Noel Leo Erskine, Feasting on the Word, Year B, Volume 2, p. 502).

The beginning verses of Acts serve as a bridge, connecting the two books. In this passage the disciples are with the resurrected Jesus and he is teaching them over the course of 40 days. He tells them that the Holy Spirit will come upon them and they will be witnesses in Jerusalem, in Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. While they are watching he is lifted up in front of them and disappears. Then two persons in white robes appear in front of them and ask one of the oddest questions in the Bible, “Why are you standing and staring into heaven?” (Acts 1:11) To which, the answer seems obvious. If we had watched Jesus floating up to heaven we would stand and stare for a bit.

But the point of the story, and the point of the Book of Acts, seems to be this: This thing that has happened is not about standing around and heaven gazing, it’s about being witnesses, it’s about being evidence, that God has visited the earth in the person of Jesus Christ. The church that is given birth in the Book of Acts and empowered by the Holy Spirit is the earthly manifestation of Jesus Christ.

And the church in the world today is to be the earthly manifestation that God has visited this planet in Jesus Christ. We are here to give witness to the God of love and mercy and justice so wonderfully incarnated in Jesus of Nazareth. We are here to give witness to the continued work and transformation of Jesus in the world. As we gather here may we ask ourselves again, “What evidence are we leaving? Is the evidence of our lives leaving a trail to God?”

We gather here each week to do celebrate our love for God and our love for each other. That’s a good and hopeful thing for us to do. We do a little heaven gazing in here, but there comes a time in the service when we hear a call to serve and we open the doors and there is a sending forth. You don’t seem that reluctant to leave and every week you make me confident that you could exit this sanctuary quickly in the event of a fire. And yet, it’s out there in the world that we are called to witness of who God is. Are we ready to go out the doors to be witnesses for Jesus Christ?

When I was in seminary my homiletics professor would sometimes say, “Don’t forget the ‘So what?’” If we preached a sermon that was well crafted but led nowhere, he would throw his hands up in the air and say, “That was lovely sermon. So what? So what do we do now? Tell us what to do with the gospel you preached.” When the doors open the so what begins!

When I was a young adult an older man gave me a business size card that had one question on it. The question was, “If you were arrested for being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you?” I carried that card around in my wallet so that it was first thing I would see when it was opened. I carried it around until it disintegrated but I never forgot the question.

Will the evidence of our lives provide a trail that leads to God? This is a good question for us to ask ourselves. It is a good question for us to ask as a body, the church. It is very good question for us as a denomination to ask.

I like the writings of Glen Hinson, who remembers some of those saints who scratched around in the soil of his life: Mr. Helms and Mr. Thurman, deacons in the church, who always kept their word, Uncle Ossie and Aunt Fleta, who were always helping out members of the family and gave him a place to stay during his college years, and Mr. Busch, the general store owner, who kept forgiving their debts.

When Hinson was older he would take walks through his neighborhood and he noticed the home of a single mother, a home in need of repair and paint. One day he knocked on her door and offered help. He spent a scorching summer repairing and painting the woman’s house. It was his way of thanking those saints whose lives left a trail of evidence, always leading him back to God. (Weaving, May/June 2003, p. 28ff)

Will our lives together offer evidence of the God who loves without condition, the God who invites all and welcomes all to the sacred table, the God who never, never excludes, the God who always forgives and forgives again, the God of all peace and justice, the God who welcomes and embraces the forgotten and the marginalized, the God who welcomes and embraces the stranger and offers hospitality and home to the immigrant, the God who loves Jews and Muslims and Christians, the God whose presence daily fills the halls of homes, schools and capital buildings and prisons, the God whose image is reflected in every gender, every skin color and every size and shape and age, the God who loves this planet and everything created in it.

Will our lives together offer a trail that leads to this God?



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