Yes, We’re the Church Together!

YES WE’RE THE CHURCH TOGETHER!

SLIDE 3: BEANIE WITH PROPELLAR

X BEANIE WITH A PROPELLERWe have been together a long time here at United Church. My candidating sermon was in August of 2001 before 9/11. Sometimes it is hard to believe it has been that long. We were all a lot younger then. I knew from the potluck supper the Saturday night before the candidating sermon that I was in for an interesting ministry here at United Church. First, Herb Younkin showed up wearing a beanie with a propeller on top – this was the church’s trusted Financial Secretary? Then when there was a polite question an answer period during the dinner, people cut right to the chase — “How did you two meet?” And finally when I was asked to say a few words, I thought I might try to inspire a sense of loyalty and a willingness to tackle challenges in the future, and so I asked, “What would you be willing to give to insure the future of United Church?”

And Billie Krone responded in a loud stage whisper, “Not much!”

SLIDE 4: I THINK WE WILL FIT IN HERE

X I THINK WE WILL FIT IN HEREYes, I knew Beth, Elizabeth and I were walking into a challenge, but, driving back to Illinois, I turned to Beth and said, perhaps prophetically, “These people are odd. I think we will fit in here.”

Some of you probably felt this pastor and his family coming to live with you were a little odd. Maybe you just decided to accept us, because Leah and her family were already here. And before I go any farther allow me to acknowledge the many contributions that Beth, Elizabeth, Leah, Rocky, Damian, John, Alexis and Sophie have made to United Church. Especially when I go back through Vacation Bible School pictures I am aware that in so many ways, we couldn’t have done it without them.

SLIDE 5: THIS CONGREGATION AIN’T NO WHITE BREAD CHURCH

X AINT NO WHITE BREAD CHURCH As one member of United Church has said, “This congregation ain’t no white bread church.” We are tremendously diverse, odd, possessing unusual gifts and talents — everything from artists to weavers, to musicians, to chemists, to engineers, to rocket scientists, and even simulation specialists. We are unusual, and we have successfully embraced our diversity defending one another’s right to be different from each other and the norm theologically, socially, economically, politically, ethnically, and sexual identity. At United Church there is no norm. In the process of adopting an extravagant welcome for everyone, we have all had to stretch and grow and discover that no matter how different we are from one another we are all precious much beloved children of God.

SLIDE 6: COVENANT TO PRAY WITH AND FOR EACH OTHER

X COVENANT TO PRAY WITH AND FOR EACH OTHERWe have learned that part of the love we share for one another and with God is expressed in our covenant to pray with and for each other. I lift you up in prayer, you lift me up in prayer, we hold hands, and together we continue on our spiritual journeys. Especially, when we confront illness and death, we offer to one another support and love, for when we are truthful we know we are all mortal.

SLIDE 7: REACHING OUT IN MISSION AND SERVICE

X REACHING OUT IN MISSION & SERVICE At the United Church of Huntsville we are also dedicated to reaching out in mission and service to others: Foodline, the Huntsville Assistance Program, Habitat, First Stop, our own Homeless Outreach Program, Water Testing, the Sock and Glove Tree, the Cookie Walk, and the new Labyrinth. We understand that to walk in the way of Jesus means ministering to the very real physical and spiritual needs of others.

SLIDE 8: THE CHURCH OF THE HOLY POTLUCK

X CHURCH OF THE HOLY POTLUCK  Despite our diversity we share in common our love of food. We love to eat — the Church of the Holy Potluck. We have grounded our extravagant welcome in good eats, and like Jesus we help people find God by bringing them to the Sharing Table. We practice a table fellowship where everyone is welcome. And sometimes respecting one another’s food allergies and preferences is even harder than making accommodations for differences in theology and devotional practice – gluten free, nut allergies, onion and garlic allergy, vegetarian, vegan. No matter who you are or where you are on life’s journey, or what you eat, you are welcome here. And that is why we join together for communion on this special Sunday to find our common life together in the sharing of the bread, or the rice chex as the case may be and the wine.

SLIDE 9: TOGETHER WE BECOME THE BODY OF CHRIST

X TOGETHER WE BECOME THE BODY OF CHRIST We cannot follow in the way of Jesus alone. As our call to worship last week said: “One person’s eyes can’t see the world of need. One person’s feet can’t take him or her to all the places of loneliness. One person’s voice can’t shout to make people hear. One person’s faith can’t bring a world of peace. But if two and two and fifty make a million, we’ll see that day come around.”

SLIDE 10: WE ARE INTENDED TO PRODUCE GOOD FRUIT

X WE ARE INTENDED TO PRODUCE GOOD FRUITAs we gather together remembering Jesus in the breaking of the bread, something special happens. The love of Jesus binds us together and we become the Body of Christ in the world the hands and feet of Jesus ministering the needs of other people. We become the good soil in our scripture this morning. The seeds of love sprout and grow we know not how, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain appears. We are intended to produce good fruit. If we trust God, follow the way of Jesus, the Commonwealth of God will appear.

SLIDE 11: WE ARE OH SO HUMAN

X WE ARE OH SO HUMAN The church is not our building, as beautiful as this sanctuary and window may be. The church is not its clergy. The church is not its lay leaders. The church is not the people in the pews. The church is all of us together, seeking to love one another as Christ has loved us. And that is really the hard part isn’t it? We are oh so human. We don’t always get along or appreciate one another’s idiosyncrasies.   But the call of Christ is to hang in there and love one another, even when we don’t like each other very much.

SLIDE 12: WE ARE THE CHURCH TOGETHER

And that brings us to our second hymn this morning and the theme of our worship today.

I am the church! You are the church! We are the church together! All who follow Jesus, all around the world! Yes, we’re the church together! The church is not a building; the church is not a steeple; the church is not a resting place; the church is a people. We’re many kinds of people, with many kinds of faces, all colors and all X WE ARE THE CHURCH TOGETHERages, too from all times and places. Sometimes the church is marching; sometimes it’s bravely burning, sometimes it’s riding, sometimes hiding; always it’s learning. And when the people gather, there’s singing and there’s praying; there’s laughing and there’s crying sometimes, all of it saying:

I am the church! You are the church! We are the church together! All who follow Jesus, all around the world! Yes, we’re the church together!

Yes, we have been together a long time. God has blessed us, and I believe as we continue to love one another as Christ has loved us, the love of Christ will cause the Commonwealth of God to grow, bloom and bear fruit in the midst of us.

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