“Let there be no distance between who you are and what you do.”
Such was a quotation from some of my sermon prep reading that I stirred by in writing my Pentecost sermon this year. I began to think a lot about the local church where I serve and how we fare in the mix of this and found the end of my sermon going in this direction. I asked the question of how are we as a congregation living up to the fresh wind of the Pentecost spirit?
A visitor remarked to me after the service, “I liked how you worked in your administrative goals into the sermon.” Though I was taken back by this at first, I later saw this as a complement. The thing about Pentecost is that it’s all about the church– who the church is, what it exists to do, and how a local community of faith can be in touch with the larger movement of God’s Spirit in the world. So, yes, what a perfect day to lead through preaching about what I most hope for Washington Plaza: no distance between who we are and what we do.
Here’s a portion of my sermon from Sunday:
If many of you were asked to describe this church, as I am often, in one word, the word most of us would choose is: welcoming. Am I right? We believe the Christian message has invited us to be welcoming to all, especially those for whom the average (in my opinion boring) church is not for—those who have been hurt by the church, those who believe the church isn’t for them because of something that has happened in their past, and others who are fed up with the fake and impersonal relations they have at other faith communities.
We are a community that prides itself in being welcome to those who are on different points of their spiritual journey.
We are a community that prides itself in offering some greatest home cooked food every Sunday to those who wonder downstairs for lunch.
We are a community who has no problem supporting issues that might be controversial to some including being very upfront about the fall that the gay and lesbian community is fully welcome here.
But, with all of this true, is there any difference between who we are and what we do?
Think about this—if our mission as a congregation is to be the welcome of Christ to those in whom have rarely if ever experienced it before—does EVERYTHING we do show that this is our intention? Would the average person passing by on the street get this message from walking by or being in our midst on Sunday?
Would the handicap person be able to get in our building or even know how to get in if they arrived in a wheel chair?
Would someone who typed the church’s address in their GPS be able to find us?
Would someone who walked by the building during the Farmer’s Market on Saturday mornings know that this building is a place of worship and feel invited to come in based on what is our sign?
Would someone who walked in this sanctuary for the first time clearly hear the message that “God loves them and we do too?”
Would someone whose primary language was not English understand what was going on here and feel the welcome of Holy Spirit if they didn’t catch every word?
I can imagine like me, the answers you thought of in your head to these questions showed growth areas for our community. Because what we might realize is that our actions show: “All those who are able are welcome” instead of “All are welcome.”
The Pentecost message asks us as disciples of Christ to stop just standing around ALL the time—thinking that God’s grace is going to cover us no matter what we do—that indeed we have to be a part of the something the Spirit wants to be up to in our midst. For, our formation together as a Christ followers is not just something we do when a better offer doesn’t come up for Sunday brunch, or when we like the music that we’re singing in choir, or even when we just feel like it. Hear me say loud and clear today: being a Christian is not something we can set out to do with half way commitment. It requires all of who we are it is going to mean something to us and mean something to those around us who are eager to hear some good news.
It’s really serious and important work that we are attempting here together, my friends: raising up more and more “Peters” among us every year in our gatherings to lead us, getting the message of God’s love out to more and more people through community events like Pride this afternoon, doing the work of interpreting the Holy Scriptures together on Sunday mornings. For, in all of these things, we are ushering in the Spirit’s power to change lives. We are being the church.
So as we as a church become more focused in the weeks ahead about how we can be welcoming to all (attend the Tuesday night discussion and dinner group next Tuesday if you want to discuss more about today’s sermon), let us remember that the gospel’s counter call always includes the fact Jesus says to us, “Don’t just stand there; do something.”
The Spirit of God—promised to each of us by Christ himself—is with us and will instruct us in all things as we go. So, let’s get to it, church. Let’s do something.