Now You Are God’s People 5-18-14

I Peter 2:2-10 Like newborn babies, be hungry for nothing but milk—the pure milk of the word that will make you grow into salvation, now that you have “tasted that our God is good.”
Come to Christ—a living stone, rejected by mortals but approved nonetheless, chosen and precious in God’s eyes. And you are living stones as well:  you are being built as an edifice of spirit, to become a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices to God through Jesus Christ
For scripture has it, “See, I’m laying a cornerstone in Zion; an approved stone, and precious. Those who put their faith in it will not be shaken.” The stone is precious for you who have faith.  But for those without faith, “The stone which the builders rejected has become the cornerstone,“ and at the same time, “an obstacle and a stumbling block.”  Those who stumble and fall are the disbelievers in God’s word, it is their destiny to do so. You however, are a “chosen people, a royal priesthood, a consecrated nation, a people set apart” to sing the praises of the One who called you out of the darkness into the wonderful, divine light. Once you were “not a people,” but now you are the people of God; once there was “no mercy for you,” but now you have found mercy.

May 18. 2014

Now You Are God’s People  

When I first came to St Luke church, people here told me that they had about three more years as a church. With an older congregation getting older and money dwindling, folks were discouraged and feeling like they would soon have to merge or close our doors.
Eighteen years later, our doors are still open, and the church has begun to believe that we have new life and more than a few years left.
Once you were not a people, but now you are a people of God.

Early in my time as pastor here, a group of us decided to spend a week at Cookman United Methodist Church. Jon Cumming, Lisa Santomen, Scott Friedgen-Veitch and I slept for a week on grodie couches, cooking for ourselves in a dirty kitchen. As we dealt with the trials of that week, we became closer. The challenges and the issues we were facing at times caused tensions among us, but over time caused us to feel like we needed and depended on each other.
Once you were not a people, but now you are a people of God.

In the early Christian church, there were some people who argued that only Jewish Christians should be allowed in the church, and other people argued that Gentiles had to be allowed in. When Gentiles became the center of the movement, they sometimes had trouble continuing to allow room for the Jewish Christians.
There have been many arguments over the years about who is in with God’s love and who is out and under what conditions. At annual conference this week, that argument continued, with some people arguing that LGBT people are included in God’s love and community without conditions, and others arguing that our small segment of the church can’t make decisions about marriage for the global church. It’s a real argument with sincere people on both sides.
The issues were not resolved at annual conference. So far, we only have an agreement to keep talking and trying to figure out how we can continue to be the people of God. Once we were not a people at all. Now that we know we are a people of God, how do we hold each other in love?

All we know is that once we were not a people, and now we are a people of God, and today we add two people to who we are as a people of God, officially welcoming Peter Ressler and Robin Crawford. I would like to introduce them as part of my sermon today.
Peter Ressler grew up in Carlyse, PA near Harrisburg. His last church home was Middlesex UMC. His extended family all went to church. In fact his grandfather was a kind of patriarch in the church. He kept the church together. Peter’s mother died with breast cancer when he was just 9 years old and his father and the church helped him keep his life together.
So when he comes to this church looking for a church home for his kids, LP and Will, he knows what a church home can be. The commitment he makes to God today is a commitment that re-grafts his life onto this community, renewing his connection to the Living God.
Once were not a people, but now you are a people of God.

Robin Crawford was born in Shippensberg, PA. She grew up Roman Catholic and her two girls were baptized in the Catholic Church. She teaches gymnastics at the John Pancott Gymnastics Center and the Heritage Christian School. She has been struggling to find her balance, especially after a serious injury to her ankle last September.
Her favorite scripture reading is “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” She has a strong commitment to Jesus, and a sense of Jesus’ presence in her life. She is ready to help create the community of faith that she wants to be part of.
Once you were not a people, but now you are a people of God.

I Peter was written in the early days of a fledgling Christian church, when they were still struggling to gain their own identity as separate from the Jewish community out of which they were birthed and claiming their identity in their connection to Christ as the cornerstone of their faith.
“Come to Christ—a living stone, rejected by mortals but approved nonetheless, chosen and precious in God’s eyes. And you are living stones as well:  you are being built as an edifice of spirit, to become a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices to God through Jesus Christ”

We take these stones with us today to remind us that we are all part of the building blocks of God’s church. We take them in honor of the two new building blocks who have committed themselves today to God’s love and God’s work.  They become part of what we are doing; and we become part of what they are doing in the world.

Responsive Hymn:  3149 A Place at the Table