Making Disciples @ God’s Home Address 11-9-14

I’m offering a sermon series this month about God’s Home Address. The title implies a question, “What is God’s Home Address?” Where does God live? There are people who can tell you exactly. If you look it up on the internet, some people can tell you about a planet or the number of heavens created in the Bible and where they might be. As you heard last week, I take a different approach than those esoteric explanations. Last week, I suggested that God lives with our ancestors, and our ancestors live with God, a great cloud of witnesses within and among us, as close as our memory and our love and as mysterious and distant as loss and longing. This is an ancient and common cultural understanding, with many different interpretations.
In truth it’s only one aspect of God’s home address. Today, I want to notice how God lives in human discipleship, how God actually lives in our service, our generosity, and our mission. Listen for the word of God for you this day – a word about the body of Christ, where God lives.

Ephesians  4:11-16 And to some, the gift they were given is that they should be apostles; to some, prophets; to some, evangelists; to some, pastors and teachers. These gifts were given to equip fully the holy ones for the work of service, and to build up the body of Christ until we all attain unity in our faith and in our knowledge of the Only Begotten of God, until we become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. Let us then be children no longer, tossed here and there, carried about by every wind of doctrine, or by human trickery or crafty, deceitful schemes. Rather, let us speak the truth in love, and grow to the full maturity of Christ, the head. Through Christ, the whole body grows. With the proper functioning of each member, firmly joined together by each supporting ligament, the body builds itself up in love.

Nov 9, 2014

Making Disciples @ God’s Home Address

When I was in high school, my best friend Phil went to the pastor and asked him if there was something he and our high school youth group could do to help the church. The pastor made some of the usual suggestions you would give to our youth – a car wash, a bake sale, visiting the home bound, doing a lunch at the homeless shelter. They went through a bunch of options, none of which seemed to excite my friend.
As Phil got up to go, the pastor made a joke – “well, you could raise $30,000 for a school in Columbia.” Phil said, “Yeah, that’s more what I had in mind.” Within a few months, there were posters all over the church and even flyers going home to parents and friends at our school. They showed a picture of a girl named Maria who needed a school in Columbia. Within a year, Phil and our friends in our church had raised $30,000 to build that school.
It started as a joke, a throw-off line, that led to a vision and a strategy. I think about that effort every time I think about what a little church can do, what people committed to God’s vision can do together.
God’s home address is in human service, generosity, and mission. Does that makes sense to you? One of the key places any of us find God is in the love and faithfulness of Christian disciples, followers of the Living God. That’s what inspires us, that’s what shows us where God lives.

Three weeks ago, Rick Hellberg came up before the offering and talked to us about this year’s stewardship campaign. Two weeks ago, Marilyn Arnott spoke up challenging us to stretch ourselves in our giving for 2015. Today, I want to make the goal a little more explicit.
First I want to acknowledge that folks here have stretched in the past year to do things that we didn’t imagine we could do. Just a year ago, we had no idea that we would be sitting in a beautiful new sanctuary. It was like a joke, a throw away line, when Rick and I listened to a presentation by a representative of the bishop asking us to be part of their “Fulfilling the Covenant” project to assure the retired pastors in our conference that they will receive the pension that they deserve.
When the speaker said that we could raise $70,000 for our own church while helping the conference with their $3 million goal, a light bulb went off for both of us, as we realized we could do it if we set our mind to it. We had no idea last November that we could exceed that goal and get all this work done in less than a year. We are one of about a dozen or so churches in the conference that took on the most ambitious goal and pulled it off. I talked to one of the other pastors, a guy from Lancaster, who serves a church that did it and he was as giddy as I am about the accomplishment.

Some worried that giving to the “Initiative for the Future of St. Luke” would hurt our regular giving to the church. I’m not sure whether that’s happened or not. Our regular giving is down a bit this year – up significantly if you count what we raised for the Initiative of course, but down for our regular giving, and I’m not sure why. I know there’s a few people who have had a hard time this year, and may be a little behind. I’d be glad for any feedback from you about what is happening in your giving and whether we are going to be able to catch up this next month.
I do know that there’s a lot of enthusiasm in our small congregation for what we are able to do when we put our mind to it. I know that all of my friends and visitors to our church feel the fresh energy that is flowing in this place. We had visitors yesterday morning who were very impressed. I personally am more excited about the ministry here than I have been in my whole 18 years as pastor.
I went to a workshop a couple of weeks ago about stewardship. The leader of the workshop recommended that all of us pastors be clear with our congregations about our own personal giving to the church. I hadn’t meant to make the sermon this morning be so much about money, but let me tell you exactly how I determine my giving to St. Luke.
The church voted at the Charge Conference to raise my yearly salary to about $58,262. That means that the amount that I have to give away next year will be $5,826. I will not count my pledge to the Initiative for St. Luke as part of my tithe. I am pledging $4,320 to church in my regular giving, and that means that I will have $1500 or $125 a month to give to God through communion offerings and outside the church gifts.
I really enjoy giving this money – both to and through the church and to other important and deserving causes. I read some research lately that showed that giving to others leads to significantly higher happiness levels in our lives. They gave money to 2 groups of people and told one that they could spend it on themselves in Starbucks and told the other that they could give the money to someone else to spend at Starbucks. The first group had no growth in their happiness, but the second group had a spike in their happiness and well-being. Well, duh, that is not too surprising!
It’s true because God lives in our service, our generosity, and our mission. As it says in Ephesians, we are part of God’s body and we know it especially when we live out our purpose as God’s hands and feet in the world. We don’t do it to make ourselves happy. We do it because that’s who we are. We are part of God’s body, God’s home address. God lives in us and through us and we are most fulfilled when we are living out that discipleship, that mission in every part of our lives.
This is God’s home address. God doesn’t go south to some other planet in the winter. God doesn’t have any summer home. God lives in this creation; God chose this planet as the place to have a body. We’ll be celebrating that incarnation soon, but for today I want you to look at your hands. These hands are God’s hands. These hands are God’s hands, luckily not God’s only hands. Take the hand of somebody near you. Look at them and tell them “God is with you.” “God loves you.” “Thank you for helping to build God’s home.”

Responsive Hymn: 2220  We Are God’s People