Tuesday, June 05, 2012

First Fruits--Sermon 6/3/12

First Fruits It was a hot night in the month of July in the year 2003. I sat on the floor of my new kitchen in the home I had just moved into as a newlywed surrounded by Caphalon and Revere-ware pots and pans on my right, and ten or twelve glasses of crystal stemware on my left. But as I sat on the floor that summer night on Strathdon Drive I was not glowing and feeling that honeymooner’s bliss. Instead I was crying frustrated tears, and Robert was sitting on a chair nearby with his head in his hands shaking his head. Robert and I had been married for only three short weeks. Here we were, just beginning our new life together in wedded bliss, thrilled that after a year’s engagement we were finally moving into a home together something we’d been longing to do, and here we were blessed with an overabundance of kitchen paraphernalia as we combined our pots and pans. And all I could do that night was cry, for I was overwhelmed with how to handle it all. It was a delightful problem to have, really—and a little embarrassing to admit when so many are hungry and needy in this world. And I was enjoyed to be beginning our new life together and thankful for the abundance we had. But, with this joyful change came a responsibility of sorts, and a need to acknowledge one another’s feelings (even if Robert did have an unhealthy attachment to a set of particularly ugly potholders, and I had way too many salt and pepper shakers) We were thrilled about our good fortune, but we were also creatures of habit who had to learn how to live into this new reality. With joy and anticipation, came anxiety. With hope and prosperity, came the need to be open to change. And change, even good change, can make us nervous. This is some of what Paul spoke of in his letter to the church of Galatia. There had been rapid growth in the church. There was much to celebrate. But, there were tensions too, namely over whether Gentiles had to become Jewish before they could follow Jesus. As much hope as there in the promise of the new church, as powerful as the movement was, there was still anxiety about how tradition could be maintained, while allowing new ways to be adopted. As much joy as there was about the future of kingdom of God, there was still wonder about how to determine how decisions would be made. For even in the midst of excitement and hope, there was still change. And remember, even positive change can make movements nervous. And out of this anxiety, Paul rose to the occasion and responded as a true leader could. He reminded this fledgling flock to bring forth their finest fruits. The fruits of love, and joy, and peace. The harvest of patience, kindness, generosity, and faithfulness. The crop of gentleness and self-control. For Paul knew that for the church to continue, they had to bring the best parts of themselves into their lives as followers of Christ. For the fulfillment of Christ’s mission to be complete, the church had to discern the mind of Christ. This morning we celebrate the First Fruits of our Renewing Peace campaign harvest. Peace United Church of Christ has now pledged just over $300,000. Can you believe that? $300,000. Money which will be used for much needed repairs on our building. Money which will be used to make our building more energy efficient. Money which will be used to fix things which have been breaking down around us. Money which will be given, happily and joyfully, to mission projects that we desperately feel called to support. Money which will ensure that Peace United Church of Christ carries on. But I don’t have to remind you, you who take your faith seriously, and who take seriously your commitments, that with this abundance comes tremendous responsibility. Stewardship, the stewarding of money and resources, is no easy task. And we cannot be too gentle and tender with one another as we enter into this season of celebrating the first fruits of our harvest. Our task now is to listen to one another well, to love one another abundantly, to seek the mind of Christ as we discern where and how to grow, to trust that God will work through the community as we walk together in this time of celebration and deliberation. For our efforts will be in vain if we do not grow in our faith through this time. Will we be anxious sometimes as a community if we disagree on exactly what color carpet we want in the sanctuary? Maybe. Will we all be of one mind on what the sliding door in the fellowship hall should look like? Probably not. Will we understand the intriciacies of heating and cooling systems and all want the exact same thing? It’s doubtful. But, more important than any of these questions are these: will we walk together with love and tenderness and patience and kindness and joy? And will we pray for the mind of Christ as we live in community? I believe we will. I believe we will because we are a people that value community, and we realize that the Spirit moves throughout our community. I believe we will because we are passionate about our mission, and we realize that to be true followers of Christ we must listen to his words about love. I believe we will because Peace United Church of Christ has a bright future ahead, and we are brothers and sisters committed to a future of hope, ready to listen for where God calls us next. May we walk together, arms clasped in unity. Amen.

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