Our month of Stewardship is complete! Here is my sermon from today. I preached for about 8-10 minutes and then I invited Mike Barger – the brainchild behind our RCC Strong theme – to come up and help me finish the sermon. It was great! That part is on the audio, but obviously not in the text.
I preached on money last week and then this week really focused on the RCC Strong theme. It was a celebration about our church, not a conversation about money. It was fun to march around the church with the children chanting “RCC STRONG!” and then singing along with Jordan and Bruce while they were singing Lean On Me. A great, great service.
Here’s my sermon!
Rehoboth Congregational Church
October 25, 2015
How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity!
(Psalm 133:1, NRSV adapted)
Isn’t that such a beautiful quote from the book of Psalms? It illustrates the most stunning picture of what the Christian Church could look like: A place where God’s people – all of God’s people – can come together, dwell in peace with one another, serve with full hearts and be united through worship, service and learning. It is precious, it is sacred and it is ordained.
Man, that sounds great, doesn’t it?
I was talking to someone earlier in the week who said to me, “It must be so nice to work for a church; you probably do not ever have to deal with nasty people and you do not have to deal with politics, either!”
There is a loaded statement if I have ever heard one.
Let’s talk about the church for a second: It is full of people. And people … well, sometimes people will be people. People are imperfect; they do not always agree with one another, they have a tendency to voice their opinions (both positive AND negative) and sometimes they squabble when things do not go their way.
God had a great idea, right? Take one of the most sacred things that God created – the Church, the tangible expression of God’s light and love in this world – and put people in charge of it.
It just seems like there was a bit of an oversight somewhere.
Sometimes I think that Paul was actually a little bit too optimistic when he wrote his letter to the Church in Rome and talked about what the church should – ultimately – look like. Look at the passage we heard today:
For as in one body we have many members, and not all the members have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are members one of another. We have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us. (Romans 12:4-6, NRSV)
I mean, that sounds good in theory, right? Everyone has their own special piece of the puzzle that they bring to the Church and when all of the pieces are put together, it makes a pretty picture.
It makes sense; but in reality this is actually really hard to live out.
Okay, so here is the deal: The Church is something of a hot mess at times. First of all, it is run by volunteers; volunteers who generally do not have a lot of extra time on their hands. There are a lot of different beliefs and ideas and opinions floating around and sometimes these differences create conflict. And Church is a very personal thing for people; people are invested, not only in the institution of the Church itself, but also in the faith that it represents to them. Anytime something is that deeply personal, emotions tend to get very strong and this – again – can sometimes create conflict.
The church is imperfect. I hate to burst your bubble if you walked through the front doors of the church this morning expecting it – and everyone in it – to be perfect, but that is just not the way that it works. As human beings, we are innately broken; this is why Jesus needed to come into our midst, this is why this whole salvation this was necessary to begin with. Our imperfections are the very reason that God breathed life into a Church where individual people could come together and rise up to shine God’s light into a dark world.
But the Church is not immune from our human imperfections. Sometimes the Church is broken; sometimes the Church disappoints us; sometimes the Church falls short.
And yet here, in the midst of our imperfect Church, we have found an unexplainable grace: RCC Strong.
RCC Strong started about a year ago. A few of us – led by Mike Barger – started informally using the hashtag, #rccstrong, when posting on our social media accounts about the church.
(For those of you who do not use social media, a “hashtag” is something that you type onto your post that describes what you are posting – you are essentially “tagging” something virtually.)
Admittedly, the whole thing was kind of silly when we started; but as time went on, other people started to join in. And as more and more people started to use the hashtag, #rccstrong, a spirit came alive within this community: A spirit of diversity, illuminating the different pieces that come together to make us a whole. A spirit of tenacity and perseverance, proving that no matter how many times we stumble we will always get up again. A spirit of strength, reminding us that even though our Church is imperfectly human, it is also divinely ordained by God to do great things in our community and throughout the world.
Eventually the words “RCC Strong” were popping up on all over social media, describing so many pieces of our collaborative puzzle. They would describe the fun were having at community events and suppers throughout the year. They would express gratitude for a particularly meaningful worship service or experience. They would extend a hand of hospitality to newcomers and seekers, inviting them into our midst. They would portray a virtual toe tapping during a particularly lively choir anthem, a collective “aww” as the children’s choir climbed up onto the chancel to sing and an excited countdown for Beatles Sunday. They would affirm our call to be Disciples of Christ as we took part in missions. They would show support (or give thanks for support received) when someone was going through a difficult time. They would remind us over and over again that God will find what is lost, put together what is broken and shine light into darkness.
RCC Strong is a tangible expression of the Body of Christ that Paul described in his letter to the Romans, coming alive at the Rehoboth Congregational Church, United Church of Christ.
Paul said to the Roman people:
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God. (Romans 12:2, NRSV)
Today we celebrate who we are as a community of faith and – perhaps more exciting – who God is calling us to be. Today our cries of RCC STRONG will echo throughout our church, into our community and then far out into the world. Today we affirm what we already know to be true – that God is changing lives right here in our midst.
And so I invite you to heed these same words of Paul: Be transformed. Be transformed by this church. Be transformed by the imperfect, but grace-filled and loving people that come, week after week. Be transformed by the still-speaking God that is alive and active in our midst. Be transformed by our successes and by our mistakes. Be transformed by the ways that we have been, the ways that we are and the ways that we will always be RCC Strong.
Thanks be to God!