September 5, 2021
SCRIPTURE READING: Psalm 146
Last week I began this two-part series on the topic of service. It’s taken me all of these three years we’ve been together to feel like I’m just beginning to understand all of the things (of service nature) that you are involved in. All of the ways that St. John’s is represented in this broader community in the name of Jesus!
I was so impressed with that at the beginning and am more so now! (more on that later.) I hadn’t been here more than a couple of weeks before I said to Mary Ann: Here is a set of people who individually are doing some amazing things – quietly and unassumingly. I don’t think they know what each other are doing! How can we let everyone know so that we all get a sense of what we are doing and can do together?
It wasn’t a matter of stroking one another’s ego or heaping praise on one another (not always a bad thing). It is a matter of helping us see! It felt to me like you sort of thought you were a little church that was rather insignificant. I thought, these people can’t see the woods for the trees! They are doing way MORE than they think! Your influence way outsized your numbers!
When all we can see is our own little piece of the ministry puzzle of St. John’s, we run the risk of not being in touch with what God is doing (or could be doing) for us, and with us on a larger scale.
So, my passion for St. Johns is that we catch a vision of what we already DO and equally important – catch a vision of what we COULD DO or WHAT WE ARE CALLED TO DO!
Some years ago now, I pastored a congregation in Cincinnati, Ohio. It was a church without a vision – without a sense of who it was or what it could do. To me, it seemed like a family church that hadn’t changed much but the city had grown and changed around it. It was maybe twice the size of what St John’s is now. It was no longer in a neighborhood, but it found itself surrounded by office buildings, light industry, and businesses of various descriptions.
The people inside the church hadn’t changed. Talented working folks. Contractors, electricians, plumbers, management, teachers, carpenters, and a lot of people who loved to cook and eat!
As we talked with some despair about the situation, we said: “Let’s build something for someone that needs it!” Somebody had a connection with a hard-working, dedicated pastor in the hills of Hazard County, Kentucky near Stinking Creek and near Harlan.
They called him and asked: “Is there anyone in your congregation who needs the talents we have?” He was eager for us to come to his part of the mountains and we agreed that he would choose an appropriate recipient family and that we would, as a church, come there, build a new home for that family in one month’s time. At the end of that time, we would hand over the keys without cost! For three years in a row, we gave some part of a month of our summers in the hills of Kentucky using whatever talents we had to take some tumble-down shack that couldn’t keep out rain and we built a home each year from scratch, wired it, plumbed it, painted it, and then presented the keys to some grateful family in the name and spirit of Jesus!
I loved what it did for those families, but as a pastor, I loved more what it did for our little church family. Just about everybody pitched in and we had a grand time camping together, working together, eating together, hearing stories and creating them, growing, dealing with our prejudices, learning to love people who were different from us, and living out the love of Jesus among people who needed the very talents and gifts we had to offer.
I honestly don’t know what that means for St. John’s. But you all are every bit as talented as those folks at Brecon and you already have a heart for service and being the hands and feet of Jesus. You are busy people. You are busy serving and it is good.
I don’t claim to know all that you do, but I know and remember a few things:
- Joyce and the literacy council
- Indian women
- Earl and CASA children
- Joyce and Edison,
- Ashley and the missionary couple in Mexico and her work with Overfield
- Ginny and reading
- Sarah and her work with challenged individuals
- Nevin and Earl and the Lincoln Center
- Mike and Partners in Hope and all his leadership experience
- Lindsay Woodruff and Pachamama
- John and tutoring
- our sweatshirt project, the food drive, the giving to our five special yearly offerings,
- and all the work and money invested in The Gathering Place!
And I know I haven’t named them all.
If none of those brings to mind something we could all pitch in to do together, there are tons of opportunities within reach around here. Or we could begin another interest – pitch in to help bring down barriers between the races in our county, work with immigrant families, pick up a project with Partners in Hope, support our hospital COVID workers, partner with the Lincoln Center, or pitch in to build the programs for The Gathering Place.
Maybe it’s not the time. Maybe we’re not ready. I don’t know, but I covet for us the joy and the satisfaction that comes from working together, hand in hand, with one heart, one vision, and willing hands and feet.
I also know that the natural tendency is to say: “We’re too tired. We’ve given enough. We don’t have the money. We don’t have the people or the willing workers.” I also know that when God’s people get a God-given vision and step out in faith, that amazing things happen. It is simply the most fun and the hardest work a church ever has. And like the angel said to the elderly Elizabeth about getting pregnant in her old age: “With God nothing is impossible.”