Sunday, October 11, 2009

Are You a Foot? A hand? An Eye?

Sheepscott Community Church October 11, 2009

Job 23: 1-13

1 Cor. 12: 12-27

Mark 10: 17-31

Are You a Foot? A Hand? An Eye?

For those of you who weren’t here last Sunday, and , well, for those of you who were for that matter, we as a congregation experienced the embodiment of the teaching I hope to get across today. It was dedication day for the new piano, which Karin Swanson donated to the church. A beautiful, perfectly tuned sound, thanks to Paul Rice the piano tuner, and things were going along beautifully. During the anthem, Carroll’s music slipped to the floor. Without skipping a beat, the choir continued to sing, and Bev Sperry came forward and picked up the music.

I only saw all this out the corner of my eye––bad right eye, limited peripheral vision––and misinterpreted and thought that with the silent piano Carroll was simply giving the choir an opportunity to shine a cappella and that Bev was only getting up to come into the main body of the church before the sign of peace during the communion service. It was only after the service that I heard the full tale. For my money, that was the Body of Christ in action. Bev saw something that needed to be done and she did it, without fanfare. It was a small thing, and you can see another way if you want, but that’s what works for me, howwe are the body of Christ...

...especially in relation to the readings this morning. I only stepped aside slightly from the assigned lectionary readings for the day to include the 1 Corinthians reading about the Body of Christ, because it so eloquently illustrates what I want to say today. This is, if you have been following the program for the last several weeks, the third in a very informal series considering the question, Why Do I Come to Church? And particularly this church.

Further on in the message, I’ll be inviting Ted Smith to come up and share for a few minutes about why he comes here, why he has become so involved in the relatively short time he and Carroll have been attending Sheepscott Community Church. I’d be delighted and I’m sure the congregation would be edified if anyone else would be willing to get up and offer his or her view or reasons about why they come here to church. Why bother with this exercise? As I mentioned last week, I think that such shared information, that expression of our life together at church is an effective way of building community, of encouraging one another as we all try to live our lives as effective witnesses of the truths Christ taught, of the truth Christ is.

In the first reading from Job, the beleaguered man says of God, “If only I knew where to find him; if only I could go to his dwelling! / But if I go to the east, he is not there;/ if I go to the west, I do not find him./ When he is at work in the north, I do not see him; when he goes to the south, I catch no glimpse of him.”

If I had Job’s ear, I would encourage him to come to Sheepscott Community Church. There he would find God. God cannot be fully expressed, even though we all try bumblingly to do that from time to time. God cannot be expressed; God can only be experienced. The simple gesture of picking up the dropped music without any thought of it, just because it was the decent and loving thing to do is the experience of God. Brie Wajer did virtually the same thing when Mary Chase played piano for us last January. The pages wouldn’t stay in the clips, and Mary was having difficulty. Brie came up from her seat and held the pages for Mary. I believe that was an experience of God, not spoken but acted out. So simple? Yes, so simple. The kind of gesture that Jesus would call us as disciples to pay attention to if he saw it happening, no doubt with the exhortation, Look at that. Learn from that. This is who God is.

Other examples that show clearly that it’s all of us together that constitute the Body of Christ abound in this community. I’ll give only a few. The long considered ramp finally came together fairly quickly when Herb Sperry spotted an unused ramp leaning against the Moorhouses’ house. They had no use for it, and donated it, and Herb made arrangements to have it trucked down to church. Bill and Sonnie worked on layout and design for the walkway; Karin Swanson supplied a son, Matt Dorsey, who helped with everything related to construction and design and put us on to Leroy Ellinwood, who did the excavation work. Terry Sutherburg, Bill Robb and Bill Mook turned up to help, and others did as well. Jon Robbins coordinated it all.

The cookbook is another example. Alex Wajer agreed to chair the project, which had been languishing in the back drawer of future projects for some time. As soon as she took the helm, it began to come together. Mother Chrissy and Aunt Cindy helped with the gathering of recipes and were the actual designers of the book. Jan Kilburn contributed her perfect watercolors to make the book that much more of a collector’s item. Sonnie was in the background helping with every phase of the production and being head cheerleader. Dede Heath proofread, and Sonnie, Lily, Sylvia, Bill Ussery, and other individuals in the church sold books, and more books, and more books. There yet remain more books to sell, so don’t be shy about taking a few––or 25––home.

Ted Smith assumed leadership of the piano committee. And if I say, Look. There’s the new piano and it was on time for the first service of the season at the Valley Church, I think I will have said it all, except to say he didn’t do it alone.

Every project needs someone to say, Okay, I’ll head that up, as with the piano. Jon told me that the parking lot project called out to him and also the walkway because that was where Clara was injured. This life together at church means identifying what has to be done, someone assuming responsibility for heading up a given project, and then calling on the membership of the church to help. We are a volunteer organization, and that’s how the work gets done.

But we are more than that. We are a believing community, and because of how we come together to pray and worship in our shared beliefs, and how we come together to worship and pray in our disparate beliefs, because of this, we are enabled to function as a community of service, in service to the each other and to the larger community. We are still learning how to do that together, and we have a ways to go. But our intentions, our desire to become one with God, who works in our spirits to make us in the image of the Holy One, Jesus, our intentions and desire carry the day. No, we’re not there yet, but we’re working at it. Is there anyone in the church today who has an idea, a vision for the church, something you want to see done? I invite you to present your idea to me, to someone else in the church, to a Board member or the whole Board.

(Ted, Jon and Tony witness why they come to church.)

In the gospel today, Jesus says to his disciples that “no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age (homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields––and with them persecutions) and in the age to come, eternal life.”

One thing that’s clear in this passage is that Jesus is being honest with his disciples by adding those few words, “and persecutions.” Those words take away the idea of material reward for a material sacrifice, and they make clear that this new way he is showing them will be a costly thing. Jesus never bribed anyone to follow him. He was clear with the rich young man when he told him that if he wanted to be perfect, he would have to sell all he had and give it to the poor, and then he should come and follow Jesus. There was the challenge, not a bribe, but a challenge. As we know from the story, the rich young man went away sad because he had many possessions and wasn’’t ready to meet Jesus’ challenge. Jesus presents the question, the challenge, where we live. He speaks right into what is important to us, as he did with the rich young man.

Are we ready to meet the challenge to be willing to let God have God’s way in our lives? It always comes back to a matter of the will: You can have this much, we say to God, but only this much. Don’t ask too much of me; don’t ask me to change. Are we the rich young man who turns away because we aren’t willing to give up our worldly goods, or perhaps a habit that means more to us than anything else, maybe even including our loved ones? Do we hoard our time in the delusion that our time is our own? What is the best way to spend what we consider our time? The time we have on this planet? What does God ask of us?

To be realistic about it, we aren’t usually asked to give up everything to follow the will of God as revealed in Jesus, but I God is looking for our willingness to do that. If we aren’t yet willing, then at least a desire to be willing. As the author of human hearts, God knows how we are made and is mercifully patient for our sakes.

From all of this today, hear a clear invitation to be involved members of the Body of Christ as that body is living in the spirit of each of us and desiring union with us and with all, a holy union to make the body one, thereby blessing the community where that body lives, and worships and serves, and giving glory to God in the process. Remember, the God whom Job could not find in the east, in the west, in the north or the south, can be found right here on the King’s Highway in Sheepscott, Maine. Amen.

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