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March 21, 2021

“Offering Jesus -Together”

  (From John 12: 20-26)

Now among those who went up to worship at the festival were some Greeks.  They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and said to him, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.”  Philip went and told Andrew; then Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus.  Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.  Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.  Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life.  Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also. Whoever serves me, the Father will honor.

     At the first Administrative Board meeting, the new pastor requested a report from the Missions/Outreach Committee Chairperson.  He promptly stood up and recited a laundry list of charitable contributions the congregation had made to both local and Conference-sponsored missions over the past year.  What was conspicuously missing from his report was participation by members of the congregation in any hands-on mission projects.  When the pastor inquired about this, he was told that the church building housed AA meetings two nights each week and rented space to an organization involved in social-work.  That, concluded the Mission Committee, summed up the church’s outreach activity.

     I suspect that this scenario might represent an Administrative Board meeting at many churches spanning many various faith-based denominations today.  For many church members mission and outreach activity has traditionally meant providing financial support to charitable organizations, or housing them weekly within the space of the church building.  This pastor, however, had a different concept of mission and community outreach; one that put the people in the church pews in direct contact with those who needed their physical as well as financial assistance.  He volunteered the church to serve dinner once a month at the local Salvation Army, and he called for volunteers to join him.  It began with a handful of those whose arms he was able to twist—including mine.  It was such a great and positive experience, that by word of mouth we grew to a “regular” crew of about 12 people.  The amazing thing we discovered—the folks who were served at dinner were just ordinary people and their families—just like each of us.  Imagine that!

     Last week, I shared with you about offering Jesus and truly being a welcoming congregation, one that practices “radical hospitality” to all who worship with us.  The thing is, radical hospitality doesn’t end at the conclusion of the Sunday service.  We need to be carrying the kindness, love and care we share here when we are together outside of our building and into a hurting world.  Tuesday evening, several of us gathered together via Zoom and shared how our lives were going.  We opened with prayer, then shared about the difficulties created for us by COVID-19 restrictions, prayed together about our various health needs, laughed at how big Nancy Clifton’s puppy has gotten, and felt the sheer joy of being in community with one another.  We genuinely like each other, and that does not happen in every church congregation.  Caring for each other comes easy.  We also consider ourselves a welcoming congregation to all who choose to worship with us.  But, Church, there is a whole world outside of our tight-knit community that cries out for love and care.  And, we are called to respond.  That is what Jesus did in his earthly life: he healed the sick, ate with sinners, and shared his good news with the downtrodden and disenfranchised.  Wherever Jesus found need, he offered himself in love.  In his image and example, he has called us to do the same for others.  We need to step out of our comfort zones and into the mission-field all around us, offering Jesus and his love to others as we care for their needs.

     In my ministry experience, I have found that one of the greatest blocks to offering Jesus and his love to others we encounter outside of our church circle is fear.  We fear what is unknown to us, and those who may be different from us and our experiences.  Many folks have also asked me, “What if someone asks me a question I cannot answer?”  The truth is, no one has all of the answers that someone could possibly ask us.  What we do have to offer others is a personal faith built upon a firm foundation that comes from our own life experience.  We don’t need to have all of the answers to every possible question we might be asked, we just need to offer the Jesus we know and his love as we care for others we meet.  We just need to be present, to care, and to share our faith story.  That is how we live into our calling from Jesus.

     Did you know that as United Methodists we have committed and publically professed our faithfulness as servants of our church and its mission?  It is a part of our Church Membership and Confirmation Service vows.  The pastor asks us, “As members of this congregation, will you faithfully participate in its ministries by your prayers, your presence, your gifts, your service and your witness?  We respond, “I will.”  This is our covenant to do our part in both the service and witness of our beloved church.  The pastor, the paid staff, and the church committees are not the only partners in ministry-we are all in the ministry, mission and outreach of our church together, for we are all a part of this body of Christ called Peninsula United Methodist Church.

     This week, Lynn sent out a new PUMC Contact List (attached).  It has the most updated list of the phone numbers of our church family.  I encourage each of you to call someone—one person you have not spoken with in at least a month.  For those brave souls, I challenge you to call someone that you do not know well, and to share the love of Jesus and learn about what is going on in their world.  If you discover a need you can fulfill, I encourage you to do so, in the loving example of our Lord Jesus.  If it is greater than your ability, bring the need back to our church so that we can determine how best to be of help.  You will be a blessing to others even as you yourself are blessed.   I will close the message this morning with these words of Jesus from Matthew 25:

Then the king will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me,I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was

sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you  sick or in prison and visited you?’ And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’ I know that COVI-19 has placed restrictions on our ability to do hands-on mission.  Yet, these restrictions will not exist forever, and the time to begin thinking and planning for future mission is now. Let us, together, begin to envision new ways to offer Jesus and his love and care to our needy world.  Amen, and let it be so.

Hymn: “Pass It On” (words and music: Kurt Kaiser)

It only takes a spark to get a fire going, and soon all those around can warm up in its glowing. That’s how it is with God’s love once you’ve experienced it; you spread his love to everyone; you want to pass it on.

I wish for you my friend, this happiness that I’ve found; you can depend on him, it matters not where you’re bound. I’ll shout it from the mountain top; I want my world to know; the Lord of love has come to me, I want to pass it on.

LENTEN MISSIONS:

Hudson Community Service Association, serving the Hudson area, including some of Peninsula.  They provide food assistance and non-perishable items for local families.  At the present time, due to Covid, only monetary donations are being accepted.  Checks can be made out to PUMC with Hudson CSA in the memo line. 

Website:  HudsonCommunityService.org 

Also on Facebook:  Facebook.com/HudsonCommunity/