“Notes for the 19th Sunday after Pentecost”

Here is a list of my sermons, messages, and posts for the 19th Sunday after Pentecost.

This list was originally posted last year as part of the post of “To Finish the Journey” but only listed the posts for Year A as well as those posts that were based on the Scriptures. I have edited that post to be just the sermon and added a couple of posts to this list.

As I complete this particular year of posts, I anticipate shifting from the Sunday to the Scripture readings (since they are actually tied to the calendar and not necessarily the liturgical calendar) at the beginning of the new liturgical calendar year. But in the meantime, here are the messages/sermons/posts that I gave for the 19th Sunday after Pentecost.

Sunday, October 03, 1999 (A), Walker Valley United Methodist Church, Walker Valley, NY, “The Rules We Play By”

Sunday, October 22, 2000 (B), Walker Valley United Methodist Church, Walker Valley, NY, “Ask Not What Your Church Can Do”

Sunday, October 14, 2001 (C), World Communion Sunday, Walker Valley United Methodist Church, Walker Valley, NY, “Saying Thank You”

Sunday, September 29, 2002 (A), Tompkins Corners United Methodist Church, Putnam Valley, NY, “How did we get this far?”

Sunday, October 19, 2003 (B), Tompkins Corners United Methodist Church, Putnam Valley, NY, “Serving the Lord”

Sunday, October 10, 2004 (C), World Communion Sunday, Tompkins Corners United Methodist Church, Putnam Valley, NY, Lay Speaker

Sunday, September 25, 2005 (A), Poughquag United Methodist Church, Poughquag, NY, “Who Goes First?”

Sunday, October 15, 2006 (B), Dover United Methodist Church, Dover Plains, NY, “Finding God”

Sunday, October 07, 2007 (C), What Are We Supposed To Do?

Sunday, September 21, 2008 (A), Dover United Methodist Church, Dover Plains, NY, “What Do We Need?”

Sunday, October 11, 2009 (B), Ridges/Roxbury & Springdale United Methodist Churches, Stamford, CT, “Can You?”

Sunday, October 03, 2010 (C), “What I See”

Sunday, October 16, 2011 (A) – Dover UMC, Dover Plains, NY, “Who Shall Feed My Sheep?”

Sunday, October 7, 2012 (B) – New Milford UMC, “A Matter of Integrity”

Luke 17: 5 – 10

“Who Can I Turn To?”

This is the the message I gave at Alexander Chapel UMC (Brighton, TN) for the 19th Sunday after Pentecost (Year B), 28 September 1997. The Scriptures were Esther 7: 1 – 6, 9 – 10; 9: 20 – 22,; James 5: 13 – 20, and Mark 9: 38 – 50.  (Edited to reflect proper liturgical date.)

Every day when I log into one the computers at work, I get a message telling me how many days are left until the year 2000. Now, I am not sure if this is just a programmer having fun or if it is a subtle reminder to the programmers of how many days they have left to fix the year 2000 problem.

The year 2000 represents a major problem to “big” computer users because, in early computer design, years were based on 2 digits, i.e., ’97, ’98, ’99, rather than 4 digits, i.e., 1997, 1998, and 1999. When the time comes, computers using the 2-digit program will think it is 1900 rather than 2000. And this will cause a great deal of trouble for companies who have not done anything.

The year 2000, or perhaps more appropriately the next millennium, also represents a challenge for many people who do not use computers but rather see the time as the Second Coming of Christ. When the year 999 turned to 1000, there were many people who felt that it was time prophesied in the Book of Revelations and prepared accordingly. There have been commentaries that the same thing will occur with the coming millennium.

Now, Christ told us that we would never know the exact time of his coming and that we should always be prepared for that time. So the changing of a calendar date should not be considered anything extraordinary. Still, it is interesting to note that every time there is a big event in world history, be it the new millennium or a war or famine, people have felt that it was the time of the second coming and have acted accordingly.

For us, this is a time to consider the place of the church in today’s society. For it was during a similar period in history, when all the events suggested that the end was near, that John Wesley started the Methodist Revival. But when the world around you is falling apart, especially when everyone else seems to be succeeding, what can you do? Who can you turn to?

When I read today’s scriptures, I got a sense of community, of the church’s place in society. Throughout his entire letter, James was speaking to the community, encouraging them to work together, to help each other.

The Old Testament reading for today comes from Esther. Esther was part of the Jewish community in Babylon during the Jewish exile but was married to the Babylonian king. At the time of the reading, a plot was being developed to kill all the Jews in Babylon, as one commentary suggests, as part of annual celebration which required a sacrifice to one of the Babylonian gods.

But when the king asked his wife, Esther, if there was anything she desired, she took the opportunity to ask for the freedom of her people, the captive Jews. Thus the plot to kill the Jews was stopped and the chief plotter was killed instead. The closing portion of the Old Testament reading spoke of what the community, having been saved, did in celebration.

Mordecai recorded these things, and sent letters to all the Jews who were in all the provinces of King Ahasuerus, both near and far, enjoining them that they should keep the fourteenth day of the month Adar and also the fifteenth day of the same month, year by year, as the days on which the Jews gained relief from their enemies, and as the month that had been turned for them from sorrow into gladness and from mourning into a holiday; that they should make them days of feasting and gladness, days for sending gifts of food to one another and presents to the poor.

Contrast that to the actions of the disciples upon hearing that someone else was casting out demons in Jesus’ name. They were apparently in an angry mood because someone was doing something they felt that they only had the right to do. But Jesus told them not to complain when someone else did work in His name because such work was good. And as he noted in verse 39, having done good made it impossible for that person to speak ill of Jesus later.

For whatever reason, the disciples viewed their community as the twelve disciples and Jesus, yet Jesus knew that the community was much larger. As Jesus told his disciples, if someone was for the group, they could not be against the group. In verses 42 – 48 of the Gospel reading for today

If any of you put a stumbling block before one of these little ones who believe in me, it would be better for you if a great millstone were hung around your neck and you were thrown into the sea. If your hand causes you stumble, cut it off; it is better for you toe enter life maimed than to have two hands and to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire. And if your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off;’ it is better for you to enter life lame than to have two feet and to be thrown into hell. And if your eye causes you to stumble, tear it out; it is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and to be thrown into hell, where the worm never dies, and the fires is never quenched.

Jesus told us what would happen if we ignored the community around us. John Wesley saw a community downtrodden and forgotten, not only by the government but by the church as well. To him, action by the church was needed and it was by his actions, in starting that the Methodist revival that conditions improved.

“What can we do?” you ask. At this point, I remember a prayer that has the line “my ship is so small and the sea is so big.” But James told his community to consider prayer, and not just a simple request but rather prayers done in faith. The person that the disciples were upset about healed through his faith in Jesus. If he had healed through deceit or trickery, then the person who was sick would have not been healed, nor would Jesus have been as understanding.

Prayer is our means of communicating with God.

Norman Harrison in “His in a Life of Prayer” tells how Charles Inglis, while making the voyage to America a number of years ago, learned from the devout and godly captain of an experience which he had had but recently with George Miller of Bristol. It seems that they had encountered a very dense fog. Because of it the captain had remained on the bridge continuously for twenty-four hours, when Mr. Miller came to him and said, “Captain, I have come to tell you that I must be in Quebec on Saturday afternoon.” When informed that it was impossible, he replied: “Very well, if the ship cannot take me, God will find some other way. I have never broken an engagement for fifty-seven years. Let us go down into the chartroom and pray.”

The captain continues the story thus: “I looked at that man of God and thought to myself, ‘What lunatic asylum could that man have come from. I never heard such a thing as this. ‘Mr. Miller,’ I said, ‘do you know how dense this fog is?’ ‘No,’ he replied, ‘my eye is not on the density of the fog, but on the living God, who controls every circumstance of my life.’ He knelt down and prayed one those simple prayers, and when he had finished I was going to pray’ but he put his hand on my shoulder and told me not to pray. ‘Firstly,’ he said, ‘because you do not believe God will, and secondly, I believe God has, there is no need whatever for you to pray about it.’ I looked at him, and George Miller said, ‘Captain, I have known my Lord for fifty-seven years, and there has never been a single day that I have failed to get an audience with the King. Get up and open the door, and you will find that the fog has gone.’ I got up and the fog was indeed gone. George Miller was in Quebec Saturday afternoon for his engagement.” “I Will Lift Up Mine Eyes” by Glenn Clark

Who can we turn to? When you pray, whether it be in your private daily devotions or as part of the church prayer each Sunday, from where do the prayers come? When we turn to God, when our prayers come from faith with our eyes turned to the Living God, then we know that our prayers will be answered.

To Finish the Journey

Here are my thoughts for the 19th Sunday after Pentecost, 23 October 2011. The Scriptures for this Sunday are Deuteronomy 34: 1 – 12, 1 Thessalonians 2: 1 – 8, and Matthew 22: 34 – 46. This has been edited since it was first posted.

Have you been following the Occupy Wall Street protests in New York City, in other cities around the country and around the globe? I will be honest; I didn’t think there were enough people in this country willing to come to New York City or elsewhere and make a statement about the way life is going in this country. And the truth be told, if the situation would allow it, Ann and I would probably be down there.

The sad part about this protest is that there are too many people who should be there but aren’t, not because they cannot be there but because they do not understand that they should be there. The issues facing this country affect each and every one of us but there are some who are either unwilling or unable to see what lies before them.

Moses climbed to the top of the mountain and glimpsed into the Promised Land knowing that he would never set foot there. Of course, no one in that first generation of Israelites who left Egypt entered either; they weren’t even given the opportunity to see the goal they had sought. For the benefit of those who aren’t aware, the people had come to the Promised Land once before and sent spies into the land. While all twelve spies returned and confirmed that the Promised Land was indeed a land of milk and honey, ten of the twelve exaggerated the power and force of the people occupying the land. While two of the twelve did report the truth about what lie in the Promised Land, the Israelites choose to believe the other ten. And for this, God punished the people for their lack of faith and rebellion. It would be another forty years before the people would be given the opportunity to complete the journey called the Exodus.

We are at, I believe, a similar place in time. We see the truth before us but we seem to fear what we see. We seem uncertain and hesitant to cross over the River Jordan into the Promised Land because we aren’t certain about what lies there. We are dominated by a mindset that says that what we have right now is better than what might lie on the other side and we are unwilling to risk what we have in hopes of a better life.

I grew up in the 60s hearing those in power proclaim that we needed to maintain the status quo even though that meant maintaining inequality in this land. And yet, that decade started off with John Kennedy pushing this country to go beyond not only the boundaries of this country but the boundaries of this planet. But as we entered into the 70s and we fought a war in Southeast Asia, the cost of exploring the universe became too great. And I can only say that I think it was our fear of failure in Viet Nam that kept us from seeking a better world. And we have kept that mentality up until this day.

Our politics have become the politics of fear and hatred. Our fear has moved us backward in time. We seem bound and determined to return this country to a time when there were only two classes, the rich and the poor. Our middle class is shrinking and will in a few years, if nothing else changes, disappear.

Many of our churches, faced with shrinking populations, are unwilling or unable to see the mission opportunities outside their front, actually their back door. They have turned inward, holding on to what they have with the idea that yesterday was better than today and tomorrow only promises to be a disaster.

Many who call themselves Christian today hear the words of the Bible to treat the immigrant as a friend, not a stranger, because they, the people of the Bible, were once immigrants as well. Yet, while they hear those words, they either do not understand them or ignore them. They would rather build fences and walls that keep others out rather than let others in.

Many who call themselves Christian hear the words of the Bible that say to give comfort to poor and the needy yet often wish that the poor and needy would just accept their lot in life and go away. The 18th century notion that wealth is a sign of righteousness is alive and well in the 21st century. But while righteousness perhaps should imply a certain degree of sharing, the wealthy today want to keep what they have and actually want more. It seems they can’t get enough. It makes one wonder if they plan on taking their wealth and riches with them when they die.

One of the big debates in Jesus’ time was the same as today, taxes. And I would be willing to bet that the Romans imposed a flat tax on all of the citizens of Israel during that time. It is no wonder that the tax collector was one of the most hated persons in the community, especially among the lower classes. The rich weren’t hurt by the tax like the poor were and probably were able to get out of paying taxes most of the time.

And yet, with history telling us that flat taxes are regressive, i.e. hurt the ones with the least, we still seem fixated on the idea that a flat tax will solve all of our problems. I am not saying that our present tax code is that great but I also know that the alternatives before us are worse than the present situation.

I am reminded of a proposal made back in 2003 for a fair tax, one based on Judeo-Christian ethics. As I wrote in “Do As I Say? Or, Do As I Do?”, in 2003 the state of Alabama had and probably still has one of the most oppressive and regressive tax codes in the country. Besides topping out at 5%, the state also has a 4% sales tax. And communities are allowed to add their own sales tax to that 4%, creating in some places a sales tax of 10%.

Susan Price Hamill proposed a new tax code that would have been fairer than the present code, which placed an unfair burden on the poor while benefitting the middle and upper classes. Opposition to her proposal came from some of the places that you would expect (the rich, the land owners, and those who have to pay more in taxes). But opposition also came from the Alabama Christian Coalition who tried to say that Christians have no obligation to take care of their neighbors. And when that interesting piece of Christian theology failed, they resorted to slander.

There comes a time when we have to look at where we are and decide if it is better than where we might be or where we were. The Israelites chose a path that kept those who began the Exodus from ever entering or seeing the Promised Land. It would be the next generation that would be able to enter.

The church of today does not have that luxury; its policies and attitudes have driven most of the next generation away. Those who have stayed have stayed with the promise that they would be the leaders if the policies never changed. These individuals are so hungry for power that they are willing to hold onto the past, even when they see that what they will inherit is dying.

The youth of today, the hope and promise of this country are occupying Wall Street. Surprisingly, the things that they are doing are very similar to the beginnings of Christian communities two thousand years ago. But they don’t know that this is the way the church started because they don’t see it as a church. Rather they see it in what they were taught in Sunday School; they remember what Jesus did.

The Pharisees come to Jesus, again looking to trip him up with a theological question; but, as before He sees through their attempt. Referring to the Ten Commandments, they want to know which is the most important. It is an interesting question because each one of the commandments is different from the rest and you have to use all of them collectively rather than individually. And Jesus states that we are to love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence and then to love others as well as we love ourselves. The rest of the law comes from there.

Just as the Israelites stood on the banks of the Promised Land but were unwilling to trust in God and fearful that their individual abilities would do them little good, so too do we put our reliance on the collection of laws and not what the laws are meant to do. We would rather make more laws that restrict than work from the basis of the laws we have. We would rather tell people what they cannot do then try to live as we are supposed. In the end, we would much rather stay where we are than try and finish the journey that we have undertaken.

If we are who we say we are, that is, if we are to be called Christians in today’s society, then we must finish the journey that was begun two thousand years ago. If we cannot love others as we love ourselves, then we will find that journey to be difficult.

We need to hear the words of Paul to the Thessalonians again, how what was said by Paul and Silas was not meant to cover things up or make things easy but to speak the truth. Paul and Silas didn’t come into Thessalonica with the airs of a television preacher, proclaiming the truth as they knew it and the people were to believe it. They did not just give the Message to the people, they gave their hearts and the Love of Christ.

We stand at the top of the mountain overlooking the Promised Land. We are being called to finish the journey but to do so we must leave the baggage of our fears and our hatred and exclusiveness behind. We must take on the mantle of Christ, to love God with all our passion, our prayers and our intelligence. And we are to love others as we would love ourselves. If there is to be a tomorrow in this world, it will be because we finished the journey that is expressed in our love for others.

Are you ready to finish the journey?

Who Shall Feed My Sheep?

Here are my thoughts for the 19th Sunday after Pentecost, 16 October 2011. The Scriptures this Sunday are Exodus 33: 12 – 23, 1 Thessalonians 1 – 10, and Matthew 22: 15 -22. . It is also Laity Sunday and I will be at Dover Plains UMC; the service starts at 11 and you are welcome to attend. 

I have edited this since it was first posted. As I was preparing a report, I noticed that I had this piece listed as the 18th Sunday after Pentecost when it was actually the 19th Sunday.

Yes, I know the title of my message is more attuned to what transpires in the Gospel of John following the resurrection (John 21: 1 – 19) than any of the readings for today. But in one sense, what Jesus asks Peter to do in that passage very specifically relates to what this day, Laity Sunday, is and should be about. So bear with me as we look at the three readings for today.

Let us first begin by remembering what this part of the country looked like some two hundred and sixty years ago. Route 9 from New York northward was, if I am not mistaken, first called the Albany Post Road and so it would have been the major land route north out of New York City. I would suspect that Route 22 would have been here, though obviously not paved. It would have been a well-worn path coming up from New York City. And when you look at the churches between Cold Spring and Carmel along NY Route 301, you know that there had to be a path there as well.

Those who had come to the shores of this country came seeking a new life, hoping that their future here held more promise than their lives in the old world ever would. Perhaps they came escaping an unpleasant past and/or present and just wanted the chance to start over. Others perhaps just wanted to start anew and fresh. Settlers to this part of New York would have followed these early land routes as well as sailing up the Hudson to find a place to live and begin their new life in this wondrous new world.

But starting over and beginning anew is more than coming to a new country and building a home. No matter how you want to romanticize it, it was and still is hard work.

Those who came to this new world knew that there was nothing here; nothing, at least, in terms of what they left behind in the old country. There were no towns; there were no schools; there were no churches. All that was once part of their life was left behind in the search for a new life in the new world.

And within the framework of each individual is a desire to know more about the world around them and there is a desire to understand and know that God is a part of one’s life.

So this new life required that you find a place to build a home and as people came you began to build a town, a school, and a church (especially when you came to this country to escape religious persecution in the old country). You built the school for the future of your community, though I sometimes think that we have forgotten that. And in many towns, especially in the mid-west, you know that the town is dying when the school closes or consolidates with another school.

Churches were and are an integral part of any town’s community. It is about having a place where one’s soul can be refreshed; it was about having a place where their souls could be feed. You built a church to give one’s soul a chance to recharge (and I will say that I know we have forgotten that). There is a great sadness in many communities across this country, not necessarily in the rural areas, when a church has to close its doors.

In those early days of this country, it wasn’t just a matter of building the schools or the churches; it was also finding the teachers and the preachers. When you look at the history of higher education, you see that the first colleges and universities were directed towards the training of ministers (which might surprise many of the alumni of those institutions). But those who were in school were not going to be in the pulpit for some time and the people were, if you will, very hungry.

It was a hunger that John Wesley understood and one he struggled to fill. His problem was that the Church of England was not willing to send ministers from England to lead the congregations that had aligned themselves with Wesley’s Methodist Revival. And Wesley was reluctant to appoint/ordain anyone. Ultimately, John Wesley will appoint individuals to lead the new Methodist congregations in this country. But, “The rise of American Methodism is largely the story of self-motivated laypeople whose experience of God’s redeeming grace compelled them to preach and organize societies, which later were linked together to form the earliest connection…” (From “That Dear Man of God:” Edward Evans and the Origins of American Methodism as quoted on http://www.methodist-motion.org/id43.html)

From the laity came the first circuit riders, those individuals (not always men) who traveled from location to location bringing the Word to the people. When one looks at the churches in this region of the Hudson Valley where we live, we see the sites and locations where they visited and preached.

But it does not matter whether we are talking about America in the early 18th century or America in the present time. People still feel the need to feed the hunger in the soul; they still need a place where they may find rest and comfort from their labors. And perhaps more so today than 250 years ago, they need to know that there is a reason for what is happening in this world. In a world of anger, hatred, violence, and war, they need to hear that there is an answer and it is not the answer of more anger, more hatred, more violence or more war.

The people know that the answer to this hunger, the place where they can find the answers, the place they can find rest and comfort is the church. But it is hard to find the answers at times when the world demands we pay more homage to Caesar than we do God.

We have become a society in which the weekend has become an extension of the workweek and we fail to realize that our soul needs rest as much as our body does. The Biblical notion of a day of rest every six days has somehow become the idea that everything not done during the previous six days must be done on the seventh.

And the church is as guilty of this as any other societal institution. Instead of being the place where we can find rest and comfort, it is another societal institution demanding our time and energy. We have forgotten what the church is and was about.

There is a balance between what we do for the church and what we do for God. It has become more of a social thing where we worry about paying the bills or the color of the carpet or when to have the next fund-raiser. If we were more in terms of what the Thessalonian church was doing, then the societal issues would be easily resolved. If the church today were more focused on providing that which the people truly need, then many of the issues that so dominate this world would probably disappear.

The cynic and the skeptic will tell me that this is all well and good but the church has to pay the bills or it cannot do the work. But people don’t talk about the church that pays its bills; they talk and they visit the church that welcomes them as Christ welcomed us. They talk and visit churches where the spirit of the Lord is alive and present in the thoughts, words, deeds, and actions of the members of the church. And I, unfortunately, know from my own experience that visitors to the church don’t want to hear about the financial problems of the church or the need to get involved in the next big church project/fund raiser.

Most of those words were written this past Wednesday afternoon. That evening, I received Dan Dick’s post. Hear what Reverend Dick wrote about the United Methodist Church in general,

As I prepare for General Conference I am reminded again that there are two churches in today’s United Methodism: one that is concerned with its own survival and existence that will spend exorbitant amounts of money to justify its own existence and a much smaller church that wants to serve God and Jesus Christ in the world. One is concerned with numbers; the other is concerned with lives. One is concerned with image; the other is concerned with integrity. One is concerned with power and control, the other with justice and service. We stand at a crossroads. We need to make a choice. Will we sell out to a lesser vision of church as social institution or will we rise up to BE the body of Christ? It begins with discipleship — and if our leaders are going to make this rich and wonderful concept meaningless, we are in deep, deep trouble.


There are many challenges facing the church, be it the church in general, a specific denomination or a specific church. The competition between Caesar and God will not be won by condemning Caesar nor will it be accomplished by making God the new Caesar. It will not be accomplished by marketing the church or finding ways to make the church seem like it is part of society.

There was another reason why I entitled the sermon what I did. There is a song by Jefferson Airplane entitled “Good Shepherd” which is based on the words that Jesus spoke to Peter in John.

If you want to get to heaven
Over on the other shore
Stay out of the way of the blood-stained bandit
Oh good shepherd
Feed my sheep

One for Paul
One for Silas
One for to make my heart rejoice
Can’t you hear my lambs acallin
Oh good shepherd
Feed my sheep

If you want to get to heaven
Over on the other shore
Stay out of the way of the long-tongue liar
Oh good shepherd
Feed my sheep

One for Paul
One for Silas
One for to make my heart rejoice
Can’t you hear my lambs acallin
Oh good shepherd
Feed my sheep


If you want to get to heaven
Over on the other shore
Stay out of the way of the gun shot devil
Oh good shepherd
Feed my sheep

One for Paul
One for Silas
One for to make my life complete
Can’t you hear my lambs acallin
Oh good shepherd
Feed my sheep

I used that song as part of the basis for a sermon a couple of years ago (see “A Rock and Roll Revival”) and in preparing that sermon I found that the lyrics for a 60s rock and roll song came from an early 19th century Methodist preacher. More importantly, it was what Jorma Kaukonen, the lead singer for the Airplane on this song, said about singing passages from the Bible. For Kaukonen, such songs as this one have opened the door to the Scriptures for him.

And I truly believe that is what the church must do today in order to feed the sheep of the world. It must find avenues and doors in the world around us that will open the Scriptures to the people who have that hunger that only the church can feed.

We cannot feed the sheep with platitudes and good wishes nor will they eat when all they receive from the church is rejection and hostility. Right now, I fear that too many churches have taken the attitude that the world outside the church should be left behind, never to be seen again. But what will you do when people find God in the world of rock and roll songs? When Jesus told his questioners to render unto Caesar that which was Caesar’s and render unto God that which was God’s, he was telling them to put things in perspective and priority. God does come first, no matter how or where you find Him.

The question is a simple one, “who will feed my sheep?” Our task is to feed the sheep wherever they may be. The people did not come to the circuit rider; the circuit rider came to the people. So who shall we call upon?

Moses asked God who was going to lead the people of Israel from Egypt to the Promised Land and God said that he, Moses, would. Not some highly trained preacher or minister but a simple shepherd. Of course there were no highly trained preachers or ministers back then; there was just a group of people leaving a life of slavery and toil to return to the land of their ancestors, to return to a land of hope and promise. Moses would have Aaron, his brother, to help him but all the work would be done by the people.

When the Methodist Church began in this country two hundred and seventy some years ago, there were no trained preachers but there were committed lay people, willing to undergo the trials and tribulations of traveling town to town on nights when, as the old saying goes, the only thing out were Methodist circuit riders and crows.

Now, in the 21st century, when the people of the world cry out in anguish and pain because they sense that they have been forgotten and abandoned, when the bodies of the people and the souls of the people cry out in hunger, both sustenance for the body and sustenance for the soul, we hear Jesus again calling to us, “who will feed my sheep?”

On this Laity Sunday, there can only be one answer. Are you prepared this day to answer?

What I See

Here are my thoughts for the 19th Sunday after Pentecost, 3 October 2010. The Scriptures for this Sunday are Lamentations 1: 1 – 6, 2 Timothy 1: 1 – 14, and Luke 17: 5 – 10.  Sorry for the delay


As you may know by now, I am an alumnus of Truman State University. But if you pressed me for specifics, I would point out that I really never attended Truman State University. Truman State University has only been in “existence” since 1995; before that, it was known as Northeast Missouri State University. But I only did graduate work at Northeast Missouri State University. I graduated in 1971 from Northeast Missouri State College, which was not the name of the school when I began my college studies. Over the years that I have been associated with Truman, its name has changed from Northeast Missouri State Teachers College to Northeast Missouri State College to Northeast Missouri State University and finally to Truman State University.

The changes in the name of Truman reflect not only its history but its mission. Founded in 1867, it was first known as First Missouri Normal School and Commercial College. It retained the designation as a Normal School until 1916 when it became Northeast Missouri State Teachers College. It became Truman State University when the mission of the school changed from teacher preparation to a more liberal arts direction.

I think that it was a good thing that these changes were made; I don’t know what people would say if I said I had graduated from a “normal” school and I am not entirely certain what it says about my degrees from the Universities of Missouri and Iowa.

But each name change in the 143 year history of the school reflects are change in the mission and purpose of the school, from a teacher’s training school to a liberal arts institution. Part of that change occurred in 1970 when Charles McClain was chosen as the President of the University. Now, many of the changes in the mission of the school and the resulting name changes occurred after I graduated so I cannot speak to those changes.

But the late 60s and early 70s were a time of immense change in this country. Long standing concepts about power and authority were being challenged. The changes that swept through this country at that time did not avoid Kirksville even if those who lived there may have wanted them to. In the spring of 1969, the Black Student Association organized a sit-in of the Administration Building (Baldwin Hall) in protest of the city of Kirksville’s housing policy and the college’s support for those policies rather than support the needs and desires of the students of the colleges. I participated in that sit-in as a supporter. Now, there are some who will tell you that this was a negative episode in the history of the school and the town but I saw it then and still see it today as part of the awakening of the college and of the college and the town becoming aware that there was a world outside the boundaries of northeast Missouri. I posted my own thoughts about this episode in the college’s history and my life in Side By Side.

I cannot speak as to what decisions were made that brought Dr. McClain to Kirksville in 1970 but I suspect that there were those who felt that a change was needed and it would have to come from outside the traditional sources. Dr. McClain’s predecessors as President tended to operate the office in what I would call a very autocratic and authoritarian, almost royal manner. There were to be no challenges to such power or any decisions that were made. This attitude, in part, lead to the Baldwin Hall sit-in.

But as Bob Dylan wrote “the times were a-changing”. And though I may not have known it at the time, my own personal encounter with Dr. McClain spoke of the things that were about to take place. For some reason, most likely the quality of the food in the dormitory cafeteria, I decided to invite Dr. McClain to be my guest for dinner one evening. So I went over to the administration building, went into his office and asked his secretary if he were available. He had a few moments free and I took the opportunity to invite him to be my guest for dinner in the dorm cafeteria that night. To my surprise, he accepted my invitation.

We met later that day and walked across campus to the dorm. I cannot recall what we talked about that night some forty years ago but it probably would have centered on college life. What I do remember is that, as we went through the serving line, everyone assumed that this man was my father.

It speaks to the times and the culture of the place that people (students, faculty, and staff) would think that way. It was a culture where the college president and upper level management very seldom ventured around campus and they most certainly did not eat in the dorm cafeteria with the students (they had their own private dining room). So it came as a shock to many when Dr. McClain ate dinner in the dorm with students that evening.

Did this little episode in the history of the school change anything? The dorm food really didn’t improve and I can’t speak to what happened after I graduated. But I would like to think it did or that it reflected the type of changes that were about to take place. I do know this; in 2009, when I posted a version of this story in a comment about the new presidential search taking place at Truman, I heard from Dr. McClain telling me that he remembered the invitation and the dinner. And what happened that night was a foretaste of things to come across this nation.

In the 80s there would be a flurry of articles and discussions about excellence in the workplace. One thing that came out of all of that discussion was the innovations came from the bottom up but were supported from the top down. Innovation could not take place unless those at the upper levels of management bought into the change and everyone in the organization was committed to the change. It does little good for a company, an organization, or an individual to say they are for change and then expect the change to occur without their full support or participation. Leaders cannot say that change will occur in their organization, whatever type of organization, and then maintain or continue what they have done in the past.

I wrote about the contradiction between the talk of change and the action of change back in 2006 with To Search for Excellence. The church is no exception. You cannot expect change to occur if it is driven from the top down and there is no support from the top. There is a discussion going on right now in response to a post by Dan Dick (“Make-No-Wave United Methodist Church”) that speaks to the conformity and complacency of the modern church, of the inability of the church, its leadership and its members to see beyond the walls of the church.

As many have pointed out in their comments to Dan Dick’s piece, we have been talking about the need to change the church for almost thirty years now. And all of the talk has been accompanied by a concern that we not rush the issue. But the people do not want the change; they are quite happy with what they have at the moment.

And until we realize that and then, having realized that, begin to make substantial changes in what happens, we are going to have in our churches the image that Jeremiah saw when he looked at Jerusalem at the beginning of the Babylonian exile. A once bustling and prosperous city is now empty because the people failed to heed the warnings given by countless prophets. Each prophet, including Jeremiah, pointed out that what the people were doing worked against rather than for the wishes of God. Each time an individual ignored another individual, an equal member of society in God’s eyes, was a strike against them.

But did not the prophets warn the people what was coming? How long will it take for the people today to heed the warnings given two thousand years ago? I see a church content in its life but afraid of what is outside the walls. I see a church that will not change, even when they hear the words of Christ.

In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus asks us if the owner of a business or a farm would invite his or her workers to dinner. The story signals a change in a relationship between people that would come with God’s kingdom, a change that was not always welcomed then and not always welcomed today. We have too many people today who echo the thoughts of two thousand years ago; that there is a structure to society and you best know where your place in society is.

We live in a world where we easily speak of equality but we are very hesitant to bring about such equality. We are quite content to let our church structure reflect the nature of society rather than the nature of God’s kingdom. It is a church where the workers are not welcome and the management has no desire to mingle or sit with the workers. It is, if you will, a mirror of what our society is and has become.

I am looking at a church that seems bent on bringing about its own death. It sees the people leaving but blames them. I am looking at a church that demands that its pastors preach a “feel-good” gospel, one that doesn’t demand much from the listeners. And I am looking at a church structure which tells those pastors who dare to move forward that they will not have much of a future. It is almost as if the church in its entirety is afraid of what might happen if the words of the Gospel were acted out instead of just spoken real quickly.

I know there are others who see what I see and know that we can no longer wait. And they are willing to seek movement where movement may not seem possible at the time. There are those in leadership positions, not many for sure but some, who know that such movement needs to be done right now. They know that the words of the prophets are meaningless if they are not followed by action. And the actions of the people outside the church tell us that most people are not listening. The change that must take place must take place now; it cannot wait.

Paul also warned us some two thousand years ago. He warned us that the presentation of the message would never be easy; that we could expect trials and tribulation; we could expect to be hated for wanting to do what is required of us.

It will take a lot of work to effect this change. It will require that we be willing to stand up and speak the truth, even if the truth works against what the people believe. Other discussions have taken place across the Methoblogosphere that tell me many of those who call themselves Methodists do not have a clue as to what Methodism is about. And when you consider the recent Pew Form on Religion and Public Life survey on knowledge of Christianity (see “What Do You Know? For some, apparently not much!”), then most of those who call themselves Christian don’t have a clue as to what Christianity is about.

There is a quote in Jeremiah that says that we are at a crossroads and we must make a choice as to which way to go. There are many today who are at the crossroad, trying to figure out which way to go. But I see a church at that same crossroad but closing its doors and refusing to help those who are lost and confused to find their way. Yes, it will be hard to make the changes that are necessary at this time. But that is because we have put them off for so long.

Still, I see many who are working for the change, who see the church as it once was, before Constantine and the imposition of a state church, working for all the people. What Jesus did more than anything else was show the people that God was open to all, no matter at what level of society they might be. It was a far cry from what the people saw in their lives and it was a far better vision.

Can we say the same thing today? Are we prepared to move in the direction that Jesus offered when He said to us to follow Him? Do we see that road?

“Saying Thank You”

This is the message that I presented at Walker Valley UMC for the 19th Sunday after Pentecost, 14 October 2001.  Because of how the church’s communion schedule was set up, this was also World Communion Sunday at Walker Valley.  The Scriptures for this Sunday were Jeremiah 1: 1, 4 – 7; 2 Timothy 2: 8 – 15; Luke 17: 11 – 19.


There were two comments that I wanted to make about this particular sermon and its scriptures. First, a number of years ago I made some notes about wondering if the Israelites ever said thank you. It wasn’t in conjunction with these scriptures but it was one of those events in the Bible where the Israelites had been given something by God but they never seemed to acknowledge that gift. That seemed to be the case with the Gospel reading for today. Ten lepers came to Christ asking that He healed them of one of the most devastating diseases of its time, yet only one, the Samaritan, returned to say thank you.

We might never know if the other nine were truly healed of the disease but we can assume that they were.

The other comment, especially in light of the nature of the Gospel reading, is to find a way to connect the Gospel reading to the other two readings. I have probably made note of the fact that many pastors typically picked one of the three scripture readings as the basis for their sermon and leave the other two. Since I never have taken any formal learning in sermon preparation, I started off trying to find the link between the three and to use that link in the sermon. Sometimes the link is easy to find; sometimes it is not.

For me, the link today between the three readings is faith and service. Jeremiah speaks of what the Israelites exiled in Babylon should do while there; Paul reminds Timothy about why he serves God; and Luke asks us to consider the consequence of our service.

The Israelites are in exile in Babylon when Jeremiah wrote this letter to them. He had gathered from some of those with whom he was in contact that other prophets were telling the exiles to hold to the faith, for they would soon return to Jerusalem. But Jeremiah, instead of speaking and writing about the future, speaks to the present.

The other prophets were telling the people to wait for the future, to wait for the return before getting on with their lives. There is a certain amount of agreement in that thought. After all, when you are thousands of miles from your home, you should focus on getting back. Nothing you do should deter you from that goal.

But apparently those offering that hope of the future forgot that you must live in the present in order to have the future. While we may want a better future, it is better sometimes to work for it rather than waiting for it to happen. That is what Jeremiah reminded the people of Israel. If they waited for the future to happen, then the future would be rather bleak. Now was the time to prepare for the future.

Faith is never constructed or built on dreams. Life with God is built on our understanding the circumstances in which we live. To have a future means that we must enact our faith in the present. Dreaming about what we could be will never get us to what we can do.

Neither can we see the future in terms of what we once were. Just as life can never be what we dream it to be, nor can it be what we were. For sometimes we confuse the future with the past and think of what we could be in terms of what we were.

Life is lived with an understanding that "I am." And it is through living now that we are able to live for the future. If we cannot relate to God in the present, it is not very likely that we will be able to do so tomorrow. If we do not serve God or love other persons where we are today, then it is unlikely that we will be able to do so tomorrow.

Paul reminds us that we cannot place limitations on the Gospel. Paul points out that even when the speaker is confined or limited in his or her ability, the Word is not. Some of the greatest messages Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote during the Civil Rights struggle of the 60’s came when he was confined to the Birmingham jail. We know from history that every time governments have tried to prevent the spread of the Gospel, they have failed. But we must understand, and Paul reminds us, that it must be the Gospel message of peace and love. If we choose to trivialize the message by arguing over the nature of the words, then we are likely to fail.

We are, whether we acknowledge it publicly or not, all servants of God. It does not matter how we serve God but we must realize our actions speak to the nature of our servanthood. The other day I saw someone passing around some materials intended to describe what would happen to Afghanistan. Perhaps it was meant to be funny, but it described an infliction of pain and anguish on the Afghan people, not just the Taliban government that has chosen to abuse its power through its clear misinterpretation of the Koran. But the irony of this was that the person who was passing around these pictures wore a shirt saying "God Loves You." How can you preach a message of peace when your actions speak of war?

Some might say that it is well and good to speak of peace but I don’t have the ability or time to do so. Others might say that it is all well and good that you speaking of serving God in this world but the world does not want to hear of God’s peace. But when we allow the nature of the world to dictate the nature of God’s word, we fail. When we don’t allow God to be our primary force of life, then our dreams of the future get lost in our thoughts of the past.

The courage we have today comes from our confidence in tomorrow, in knowing that the promises of Christ are true. We are asked to serve in many ways. And the manner in which we serve speaks to our beliefs and our trust. We may see the world in the terms of what it once was and hope that it will again be that way. But it never will be that way.

When Robert Kennedy ran for President in 1968, he was found of quoting George Bernard Shaw, ‘You see things; and say "why?" But I dream of things that never were and say "why not?"  We must see the world in terms of faith, in terms of God’s promise to us through His Son, Jesus Christ.

Ten lepers came to Christ seeking a cure. But only one came back to say thank you. It was the faith of that individual that saved him. Nothing was ever said about the other nine but I think that they were also cured. But their lives were probably never quite complete; they never had an assurance that the disease would not return.

Faith is very much a circle. And from time to time we must come back to the beginning. As we prepare today for Holy Communion we must understand that we are both coming to the table to remember the promise given to us and to say thank you for all that has been given to us. It is by our faith that we are able to come to this table today; it is through our faith that we say thank you.

Can You?

This Sunday, the 19th Sunday after Pentecost, I am at Ridges/Roxbury UMC and the United Methodist Church of  Springdale (both in the Stamford, CT) area.  The service at the Ridges/Roxbury church is at 9 and the service at the Springdale church is at 10:30.  You are welcome to attend.

The Scriptures for this Sunday are Job 23: 1 – 9, 16 – 17; Hebrews 4: 12 – 16; and Mark 10: 17 – 31.


The common thought about the church today is that it is dying. But that is not necessarily the case. In many parts of the world, the church is doing quite well and it is growing beyond description. And even in the United States, there are churches which are growing and prospering, even in these economic down times.

But there are a great number of churches, because of where they are located, that should be growing and prospering but aren’t. And on the denominational level, the same is true. There are some denominations that are doing quite well and some, including the United Methodist Church, which are not doing well. Some will say that the reason for this is that the individual church and the church as an institution is getting old and old things die.

But the church is more than two thousand years old and it has survived famine and plaque, war and destruction, persecution and oppression. Why should it be dying now? It is dying, not because it is physically old but because it is mentally old.

Some twenty years ago I had the opportunity to meet Dr. Herbert C. Brown. Dr. Brown won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1979 for his work with compounds known as organoboranes. These compounds are composed of hydrogen, carbon, and boron (which coincidentally are Dr. Brown’s initials, something he quite enjoyed telling people). The nature of these compounds opened an entire new set of pathways for the synthesis of other compounds and offer low cost methods for such syntheses.

When I met Dr. Brown in 1988, he had been retired from active teaching for ten years but he was still active in research, publishing over 100 manuscripts a year. Now, as a doctoral student still two years away from graduation, to hear someone speak of 100 publications a year while I was still trying to get my first publication, was absolutely awesome. But it illustrated quite easily that being old is merely a state of mind, not a quality of the calendar.

And I say that because some four years later, I meet another individual who was some ten years younger than Dr. Brown but who was, for all intents and purposes, academically dead. And if he was not dead, he was certainly on life support, counting the time until his teaching and academic career was over. This individual, to the best of my knowledge, had not published anything since obtaining tenure at the university where we both taught and he had no interest, as far as I could tell, in learning anything new (he did not know how to operate a VCR or turn on a computer and this was in 2000). His intransigence and unwillingness to learn was a block to the younger members of the department who sought to breathe life into the department. Now, some ten years later, that department has survived and is doing quite well. But at that time, I saw a situation where the mental age of the department threatened the life and vitality of the department and its members.

The same is true in the church today. You see too many people who are not willing to try new ideas and who yet bemoan the fact that the church is dying. But they are unwilling or, at least, very reluctant to change the nature of the church.

The individual local church today is too often seen as a decaying relic of yesterday. It uses words that, while they may have meant something many years ago, are meaningless in today’s society and culture. For those who grew up in the local church, the church today is in sharp contrast to what they studied in Sunday school and confirmation class. And when those who grew up in the local church get a chance, they leave that church behind. Sometimes they find another church more attuned to their needs; often times, they just walk away from the church.

We are at a moment in time when everything that we believe, everything we have ever learned is being challenged. We are being told that to be an evangelical Christian is to be a conservative Christian. We are told that the only issues of importance for Christians are abortion and homosexuality.

But what do we do about the poor? What do we do about education or the environment? What do we do when the system that is in place ignores the little children of this country in favor of big business and greedy corporate interests? What do we do when other Christians tell the parents of gays and lesbians that their children’s sexuality is their fault, that they somehow have lived a sinful and wrongful life? How is it that we have allowed Christianity to become so judgmental when our own Savior never judged anyone? (From an interview with Tony Campolo posted on Beliefnet.com on 12 November 2004)

Now, these thoughts, while parallel to some of my own, are not mine. They belong to Tony Campolo, Baptist minister, sociology professor, and conservative evangelical Christian. But even with those credentials, he feels that the concept of evangelism has been hijacked by the political motives of the religious right. He feels that the Gospel message of reaching out to the poor, the sick, the homeless, and the oppressed, has somehow been lost in the politics of the times.

What I find interesting are his thoughts on the churches of today. One reason he feels that mainline churches are in decline is because they have been so concerned with social justice that they have forgotten to place a major emphasis on bringing people into a close, personal relationship with God through Christ. Pentecostal and evangelical churches, the churches that are growing today, are doing so because they attract people who are hungry to know God. These individuals are not interested in knowing God from a theological standpoint, as a moral teacher, or as an advocate for social justice. They want God to be a part of their lives, to strengthen them, to transform them and enable them to better deal with the problems they have, both socially and personally.

Christianity has two emphases. One is social, the other personal. It is the responsibility of Christians to impart the values of the kingdom of God in society – to relieve the suffering of the poor, to stand up for the oppressed, to be a voice for those who have no voice. But it also has the responsibility to help bring people into a personal, transforming relationship with Christ so that they can feel the joy and love of God in their lives. In today’s society, we see that fundamentalism emphasizes the latter while mainline churches emphasize the former. If we are not careful, we are going to find out that those who ignore the social ministry of the church are going to drive away those who seek God but they will have no place to go because the places that speak to the social ministry will have closed.

But where will they go? They are like Job in the Old Testament reading today. They know there is a God and they know that He is out there but they cannot find Him.

They cannot find Him in many of the local churches today. Instead, they find a church that has literally sold its soul to bring people in. They find a church that is in complete opposition to the words of today’s Gospel. Instead of a sacrifice, many churches today have adopted the mantra of today’s society that says materialism matters and it is what you have that counts. The rich young ruler in today’s Gospel reading would be gladly welcomed in many of today’s churches, for he would not have had to give up his wealth and his power in order to follow Jesus. In fact, he could have kept his wealth and power and he would have been told that Jesus will follow him. The message of many evangelists in many churches today is how God fits into your plans, not how you fit into His plans.

There is even a movement among conservatives and fundamentalists today to remove the liberal bias of the Bible and show how the Bible justifies a free-market economy (see “Editing the Bible”). But the free-market economy that these individuals want is completely counter to the words, concepts, and meaning of the Bible. I have used the example before but it is worth saying again.

Jim Wallis speaks of his experience as a seminary student with the Bible:

I was a seminary student in Chicago many years ago. We decided to try an experiment. We made a study of every single reference in the whole Bible to the poor, to God’s love for the poor, to God being the deliverer of the oppressed. We found thousands of verses on the subject. The Bible is full of the poor.

In the Hebrew Scriptures, for example, it is the second most prominent theme. The first is idolatry and the two are most often connected. In the New Testament, we find that one of every sixteen verses is about poor people; in the gospels, one of every ten; in Luke, one of every seven. We find the poor everywhere in the Bible.
One member of our group was a very zealous young seminary student and he thought he would try something just to see what might happen. He took an old Bible and a pair of scissors. He cut every single reference to the poor out of the Bible. It took him a very long time.

When he was through, the Bible was very different, because when he came to Amos and read the words, "Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream," he just cut it out. When he got to Isaiah and heard the prophet say, "Is not this the fast that I choose: to bring the homeless poor into your home, to break the yoke and let the oppressed go free?" he just cut it right out. All those Psalms that see God as a deliverer of the oppressed, they disappeared.

In the gospels, he came to Mary’s wonderful song where she says, "The mighty will be put down from their thrones, the lowly exalted, the poor filled with good things and the rich sent empty away." Of course, you can guess what happened to that. In Matthew 25, the section about the least of these, that was gone. Luke 4, Jesus’ very first sermon, what I call his Nazareth manifesto, where he said, "The spirit of the Lord is upon me because he has anointed me to preach good news to poor people" — that was gone, too. "Blessed are the poor," that was gone.

So much of the Bible was cut out; so much so that when he was through, that old Bible literally was in shreds. It wouldn’t hold together. I held it in my hand and it was falling apart. It was a Bible full of holes. I would often take that Bible out with me to preach. I would hold it high in the air above American congregations and say, "Brothers and sister, this is the American Bible, full of holes from all we have cut out." We might as well have taken that pair of scissors and just cut out all that we have ignored for such a long time. In America the Bible that we read is full of holes.

Today’s generation of new church goers are called the “seekers”. Many of them have heard the words of redemption and sacrifice that are the message of the Bible. They know the story of the rich young ruler and the call from Jesus to put everything aside in order to follow Him. But they also see those who today live lives of greed, self-righteousness, and arrogance. They do not want to be a part of that church anymore.

They do not want to come to a church and find that the clock and calendar have been turned back some fifty or sixty years. They don’t really care that the church was chartered and a part of the local community since 1828. It doesn’t matter to them that the budget of the church is $320,000 nor that the church has had ten pastors and thirteen organists in the past 40 years.

They don’t want to be a part of a church that works on the assumption that Sunday is for church and the rest of the week is for more important matters. They want to know that the words they hear, from the congregation as much as from the pastor, mean something. They would rather meet with their friends at a Starbucks or Barnes & Noble bookstore on Sunday mornings to discuss things that are important to them than drink coffee in a styrofoam cup after the service on Sunday.

The church they find may have “modern” music or alternative worship services; it may let the pastor dress casually so that they appear to be hip. But these churches have so embraced the ways of society that it is no longer what it once was or what it can and should be. And no matter how modern the church may appear or act, it still holds to words and actions that speak of the glory days long ago. It does not matter how modern the church appears or sounds when the words of the congregation espouse exclusiveness, rejection and discrimination, not an openness or welcoming attitude.

What people are seeking today, what people actually need is the answer to such questions as “Do you know God; do you have a story?” They want to know that people actually know God personally and not just that they know a lot about God.

Ben Campbell Johnson, of Columbia Theological Seminary, suggests that you ask people outside church "When has God seemed near to you?" There is nothing judgmental about this approach; it starts with where people are and it takes their experience seriously.

If you cannot or will not share your faith with others, it may be that you are in the midst of a crisis of your own. Often times, people use aggressive tactics because they themselves are insecure about their own faith and are anxious for others to believe and behave in the manner that they do so as to make their own faith more plausible.

The question then, is whether one believes in the efficacy of the Gospel — the Gospel that justifies so that we don’t need to earn our status before God or vie for position with others. It is the Gospel that gives shape and purpose to life, making us other-directed rather than self-centered. It is the Gospel of peace that can reconcile broken relationships and build communities. It is the Gospel of justice that advocates for the poor and the marginalized. The word “Gospel” means good news and how can one keep from sharing the good news?

The writer of Hebrews reminds us that Jesus Christ, our High Priest, is not out of touch with reality as so many churches are today. He has experienced everything that we have experienced (except for sin) and he is in a position to help us in these times, if we but walk up to him. Our challenge is two-fold.

First, we must open our hearts and our minds and once again welcome Christ into our lives. And second, we must ask ourselves some very tough questions.

Is the church, our church, closed, both in spirit and mind, to those whose lives or attitudes are different from ours? Or is the church, our church, open to all who seek Christ?

Is the church, our church, a rigid and inflexible relic of days long past that refuses to change and challenges any threats to its existence? Or is the church, our church, capable of absorbing the trials of society and still remain the source of hope, justice, and righteousness that was the promise of the Gospel message some two thousand years ago?

And finally, can you, today from the very moment you walk out of this sanctuary, through your thoughts, your words, your deeds, offer a Vision of Christ for the world today? Can you tell your story to the first person you meet when you leave this place today? That’s the question; what is your answer?