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June 6, 2021: Seed Time and Harvest: Ingredients that make up a quality Body of Christ

Second Sunday after Pentecost

Seed Time and Harvest: Ingredients that make up a quality Body of Christ

Video:

Scriptures: Galatians 6:9 and I Corinthians 12:12-27

  • Sunday, June 6, 2021: Second Sunday after Pentecost
  • A Time for Centering: “Living Bread,” Arr. by Richard A. Williamson; Pauline Olsen, organ
  • Hymn 617, “I Come with Joy,” by Brian Wren; Dorothy Beeman, Ken Burres, Randy Grubbs, Barbara Hughes, Rubye Knodel, Ken Lillagore, Sue Ninemires, Dennis Westeren, hymn leaders
  • Hymn 620 “One Bread, One Body,” by John B. Foley; Dorothy Beeman, Ken Burres, Randy Grubbs, Barbara Hughes, Rubye Knodel, Ken Lillagore, Sue Ninemires, Dennis Westeren, hymn leaders
  • Special Music, “The Whisper,” by S. Boersma & Craig Courtney; Dorothy Beeman, Ken Burres, Randy Grubbs, Barbara Hughes, Rubye Knodel, Ken Lillagore, Sue Ninemires, Dennis Westeren, hymn leaders
  • Scriptures, Galatians 6:9 and I Corinthians 12:12-27; Patricia Guthrie
  • Sermon, “Seed Time and Harvest: Ingredients that make up a quality Body of Christ,” Pastor Brad Beeman
  • Communion
  • Hymn 664, “Sent Forth by God’s Blessing,” by Omer Westendorf; Dorothy Beeman, Ken Burres, Randy Grubbs, Barbara Hughes, Rubye Knodel, Ken Lillagore, Sue Ninemires, Dennis Westeren, hymn leaders
  • “Go Forth for God,” Arr. by Robert J. Powell; Pauline Olsen, organ

According to a whole lot of folks, last weekend was the official beginning of summer. The calendar doesn’t call it summer yet, but for a whole lot of folks, minds and priorities have begun to turn toward warmer weather, more sunshine, summer hobbies, and some sense of relaxation. I realize that we have a church filled with retirees so I’m assuming that things don’t change much at Trinity. Yet, as we begin to look at reopening, as we gather together in worship, and as we continue to seek to put Covid behind us, I thought it time to give you an idea of what I see as the key ingredients to the creation of a wholesome, fulfilling Body of Christ. I was going to bake bread this morning, but time and different priorities have gotten in the way. So, a little more simple today in worship. But, as I begin this short series on communion, let’s talk about the bread portion, the “Body,” or as Jesus said, “this is my Body broken for you.” What does that mean knowing that we, as this church, is a body of Christ? Let me begin with my heart, and more specifically, cardiac rehab.

As I continue through rehab, the health of my body has become a much larger priority. Those who work with me are clear that gaining physical health is key to the prevention of another heart episode. So, they push me hard physically, help me prioritize, and coach me about the specific aspects of health. Every week it makes me think about us, the church, the vineyard, and our health. Like my coaches, I think it’s important that I’m asking the same kinds of questions about us as a Body, as a church. What makes a church healthy, vibrant, and whole? So let’s explore that. To get there I thought about communion, particularly this week, the bread of communion. The bread symbolizes the body of Christ. So, I made bread yesterday. It’s the first time I’ve ever made bread. I found a recipe, gathered the ingredients, read the instructions, and then used a bread machine.

I realized that, very much like what they are doing with me in cardiac rehab, to make quality bread it was vital to have the recipe, the proper ingredients, the right quantities, and have them placed into the machine in the right order. In following that process, the bread turned out beautifully. It was a small loaf but with a crisp crust and soft interior. I believe for us, we have the same situation. To be the Body Jesus would have us be, we need a recipe, the right ingredients, the proper quantities, and things need to be done in the proper order, or with orderly priorities. What I want to offer you is the culmination of a personal, long-term study, including a couple of months away while on sabbatical. Originally, it was focused on what places churches at risk for closure. That changed to what creates health, wholeness, and vibrancy in a church. I found nine consistent elements. And like other types of research, confirmation of findings comes when others come to the same or similar conclusions. That happened with these nine elements. So, we’ll gather the recipe, look at the ingredients, explore the order, and see if we can put it all together. There is a candle for each element, so as we explore each one I’ll be lighting a candle as we seek to be light for the world. So let’s take a look and see how we’re doing here at Trinity.

To begin, like the Ten Commandments, and the Greatest Commandment taught to us by Jesus, we are always to begin with God; particularly a love of God. God is at the heart of all we do; a belief in a power greater than ourselves that, if we open ourselves to it, will fill and direct us toward a greater good. So, number one…

1. A firm conviction that God is to be in and throughout all that we do; a belief in a power greater than ourselves that moves through each of us and every aspect of Trinity. So, including God in all that we do has to be the first, and the highest priority. God is the gardener, the source, the creator and sustainer, the pruner, the planter, and the guide for all we do; all of it, without exception. God brings the power and the focus to what we are and what we do; all that we do.

That power is constantly available and becomes focused when we pray. Therefore, prayer will need to always undergird every decision, every action, every attitude, and every aspect of what we do. So, thats ingredient number one, the ingredient that binds all of the others together, creates the growth, and that eventually makes us whole. What does that mean for us?

For us, today, it means we offer ourselves, as Jesus offered himself, to be used by God. Jesus becomes the example of just how the power of that relationship can work. He talked of an intimate relationship with God, parent to child. He turned to God in times of stress, was totally honest, and sought continually to be filled and refilled by the power God offered. It’s what defined him; every part of him. As followers of Jesus, we are asked to do the same. But for us to be used means we have to have a relationship, a connection that allows for us to receive what God has to offer. It’s what the communion bread is all about. As we receive, we become filled, and once filled, then focused, and once focused, we become action-oriented, that’s how it all works. All of it leads us toward becoming God’s light in the world. (first candle) That brings us to the second ingredient…

2. The next key ingredient is a simple, guiding statement of our mission, and an accessible but challenging vision that unites all of us and moves us in one, focused direction together. (a picture frame)

A group of you worked long and hard on all of this here at Trinity about three years ago. I’ve spent some time looking at the working documents that came out of that gathering. As we move ahead it’s my hope that we can take those documents and simplify them a bit. The goal is to get an easy, one-sentence phrase that focuses on no more than three or four words; a phrase that’s easy to remember, easy to post, and easy to share. Before getting to that, let’s talk a bit about what a mission is, and then what a vision is.

A mission statement is an overarching umbrella under which everything we do must fall. It is the frame within which everything we do is placed. It clearly and succinctly defines what we are and what we do…period. The mission at Aldersgate was basic and simple. It was Aldersgate, an open and accepting Christian community, growing in faith, love, health, and service. Everything the church did had to fall in one of those areas: faith, love, health, service. The vision portion was simple…it involved one word: growing.

A vision allows us to look into the future and name what it is we’re hoping to become. The vision is the guide, and it allows us to form evaluative tools along the way, mile markers, so we know whether or not we are progressing toward fulfilling that vision. Think of binoculars – that lens that helps us see what seems so far away.

Without an easy-to-remember statement of who and what we are, and without a set vision, it’s really difficult to know what to do, and whether or not what we do is what God needs us to do. With both, it focuses us on exactly how to be that light in the world. My hope is to revisit all of this with the Ad Council come Fall. Oh, and as you’ll hear next week, every person who identifies Trinity as their church will have an opportunity to be involved. (second candle) So, now the third ingredient…and it’s why you’re here right now.

3. Active and Engaging Worship. Every aspect of our worship services needs to accurately reflect our belief in the power of God; and include opportunities to engage the power and practice the presence of God. It has to also reflect our mission and vision. It needs to be consistently uplifting, inspirational, positive, joyous, challenging, excellent, always filled with spirit, and always focused on the one we seek to emulate and follow, Jesus Christ. The message has to be relevant, applicable to our everyday lives. The music has to be uplifting, as it creates that deeper feeling of God’s presence. It is the one place where the whole body comes together in one place and at one time. It’s vital that I leave you with a question or two as you depart; something to think about, discuss over breakfast or lunch, and something that assists you to challenge yourselves toward growth in your faith. (third candle) Now, number four.

4. A focus on our growth in faith. A model that grows discipleship. In other words, providing multiple opportunities for discipleship – for growing in our faith – offered at multiple levels. Like any educational program, there have to be courses that offer a beginners look at faith or church or Christianity. From there we move through more and more advanced opportunities for growth. Each level adds to our confidence in living out our Christianity daily. Think of college, those initial 101 courses that then move to the 200 level, to the 300, and so on. Offering those kinds of opportunities allow for growth, confidence, and even accountability. So as we think about that here, what comes to mind? (fourth candle) And finally for today…

5. Opportunities to build loving, trusting, and caring relationships. So finally, for today, this becomes key in being a caring, healthy, vibrant Body of Christ. There has to be a priority and a process for the building of loving and caring relationships. In some churches, those focus on things like small groups. For us, it could be our neighborhood groups, Bible studies, other-focused studies whose purpose is relationship building. It could be specific focus groups, or one I hope to build is the offering of missional opportunities that we can do together. There is a camp not far away that could really use some help. It could be a mission project for the church, that could also build relationships. Opportunities for relationship building are key. It builds trust, unity of focus, and a bond that cannot be broken (fifth candle).

So those are the first five, each needing to be in place, and in that kind of priority order. Now, don’t get me wrong, every one of those is key, needs to be in place to create the healthy Body I think we’re all looking for. These represent the bread aspects of the communion we share. Next week, four that can be seen as the wine, cup, the chalice of a more outward focus. These focus us in, those will focus us out. So, as we think about all of this, let’s pray…