FROM THE HEART
As I was preparing to write the blast message this week, I was struggling with a title. Then it occurred to me that perhaps I should stop trying to be creative and innovative, new and “cutesy” every week. Perhaps we should just as a matter of course call this column “From the Heart.”
It meets several criteria. Usually one of the other pastors or I am sharing something with you from our heart – something about worship on Sunday, or about the life of our congregation. We’re letting you know something that is important to us and that we hope will be important to you.
And we’re writing from the heart, from the heart of Cary. We are situated near the most visible intersection of downtown Cary. Our church is often in pictures of events from downtown, such as Lazy Daze or the Food Truck Rodeo or the Christmas or Band Day parades. We are at the heart of this town, both geographically and emotionally. Our members are leaders in the community, in various organizations and enterprises, and in business. FUMCC in many ways stands at the heart of Cary.
It reflects our vision statement, that one that says “We share the heart of Christ from the heart of Cary.” That is who we believe God is calling us to be – a people of Christ’s heart who desire to bless this community in which God has placed us.
So, I like this title. We may use it for a while. I’m certain we’ll use it for the next few weeks. This week, the pastors begin a five-week sermon series on our vision and mission at FUMCC. Our mission, we say, is “to make disciples of Jesus Christ who grow in faith and love through worship, fellowship, service and witness to one another and the world.” Each of the next four Sundays we’ll reflect on one of the aspects of our mission and on MannaFest Sunday, as we all gather at Koka Booth for one service, we’ll reflect on the vision that God has for us “to share the heart….”
This Sunday we’ll talk about why worship is central to who we are as the people of God in this time and place. We’ll hear a reminder that worship was important to Jesus himself (Luke 4:16-21) and should be to us as well. We can only share the heart of Christ when we know the heart of Christ and the first place we learn that is in worship together.
I hope to see you Sunday at worship so that we can have a “heart to heart”.
Grace and peace.
A major credit card company used to advertise that “membership has its privileges.” And we nod in agreement. We join organizations for the benefit we incur from membership. The better seats at the symphony or theater or ball game (along with the parking pass). The preview showing of the new art display before it is open to the public. The benefit from being associated with “movers and shakers” in the community. The discount rate for services. Membership has its privileges.
Almost everywhere. Something intuitively tells me that it should be different here. Membership in the Body of Christ doesn’t privilege us; it enlists us. Rather than granting us some status or earning us some merit that becomes an entitlement, membership in the church engages us in kingdom work, in a life of service and mission.
Take a close look at some of the membership questions that we ask: “will you resist evil, injustice, and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves? do you confess Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, put your whole trust in his grace, and promise to serve him in union with the church, which Christ has opened to people of ages, nations, and races? will you support the ministry of the church with your prayers, presence, gifts, service, and witness?” There’s nothing in there about special seating or reserved parking or expecting your opinion to carry the day because “I’ve been a member here for ___ years.” In fact, it seems to imply exactly the opposite.
We are called as members of the church to serve. The legend is that I banned the word “volunteer” in my first sermon here. It was actually in my third month. I suggested then – and still believe now – that Jesus did not ask for volunteers. He called and empowered servants, a people whose heart is for others, who strive tirelessly to serve others, who seek the good of others long before they seek their own. With no thought of thanks or reward.
There are countless examples of that spirit and servant’s heart here at First UMC Cary. We reach into myriads of places in this community and the world to serve in Jesus’ name. For us, membership does not have privileges; it is a privilege. The privilege of serving the Christ.
In fact, I’m not even sure if membership is the appropriate category; what we’re really talking about is discipleship.
We’ll talk about this some more this Sunday as we continue our “Sharing the Heart” sermon series. We’ll be reminded that when the disciples of Jesus began arguing about greatness, he reminded them that he came to be served and they should expect nothing else themselves (Mark 10:35-45). We’ll commission Stephen Ministers for lives of service in the congregation. Hopefully, we’ll all be invited to think about what service it is that Jesus calls us to perform.
Look forward to seeing you at the service on Sunday.
Grace and peace.
I read an article recently in which a pastor deliberated the pros and cons of wearing a clerical collar. On the positive side, it reduces wardrobe decision-making, claims a pastoral identity in public places, and offers a witness. This, the collar announces, is a minister of the gospel.
Which made me wonder: how do we recognize a “run-of-the-mill, Bible believing, worship attending, small group participating, missionally engaged United Methodist Christian” if we meet one on the street? There is not a wardrobe choice for most of us. We don’t wear our church nametags to the church building, much less to work. With the exception of a few honored among us, there is no UMW mission recognition lapel pin to put on. Some of us may, in certain settings, wear church tee shirts or knit shirts but probably not to make a statement about who we are. It’s more likely laundry day.
How would you know a Christian if you saw one on the street? The Bible, and Mr. Wesley, both seem to suggest it has something to do with the way we live. There are qualities of Christian life that may be present in non-believers as well – things like compassion, justice, kindness, gracefulness, a servant heart, peace, joy, love. Things like that. The difference between one who lives that way in allegiance to Christ and one who lives that way because it makes for a good life is the answer given when asked “why?” The believer gives witness that we live that way responsively. We live that way not to be better people but because God in Christ is making us to be truly human people.
Witness is not easy. And it involves something more than a wardrobe choice. It is a way of life. It is a spoken word. It is a deliberate intention to bring Christ into the moment. And it is what Jesus commands us to do – with one another and the world. We witness where we are and go from there into all of the other places that Jesus sends us. But we start where we are.
We’ll spend some time on this Sunday as we gather for worship. There will be a baptism. New members will join their witness to ours. We will hear two versions of the same story from Luke (Acts 1:6-8; Luke 24:44-49) in which Jesus commands us to witness to him. And we will think about what that looks like in our lives as we “begin in Jerusalem.”
Hope to see you Sunday. Your presence will be a witness to others present as well as to those who ask you later “what’d you do Sunday morning?” Come be a witness.
Grace and peace.