LAITY SUNDAY 10-18-2015
Let us pray. We ask you O Lord
for the gifts of your spirit.
Enable us to penetrate the depth of the whole truth
And grant that we may share with others
The goods you have put at our disposal.
Teach us to overcome divisions.
Send us your spirit to lead us to full unity and charity in obedience to your will, through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Excerpt from the Litany for Christian Unity UMH 556
Do you recognize your power?
What makes a person powerful in our world today?
Is being happy and enjoying a sense of well-being a form of power?
It is tempting, when we have some power,
to want to use it mostly to feel good about ourselves.
But the message of Jesus is that when we have power,
the best thing we can do is use it to help others feel good about themselves.
This, says Jesus, is the greatest power we can ever hope to have,
he said he didn’t come to be served but rather to serve
and to give his life to liberate many others.
This, says Jesus, is true power.
Do you use your power to make others more powerful?
Would you be willing to relinquish some power in order to help the powerless?
The NE Conference put out some sermon seeds for Laity Sunday which suggested this:
In the church, we sometimes think that the pastor has [or should have]
more power than the lay people.
We think that because he or she has that degree, or that title, or that salary, that the pastor is the one who is called to share the gospel with others, and lead people in prayer, and invite people to church.
I suggest a degree, title or salary works along with a call.
When we talk about a call to ministry – whether lay or clergy –
We are saying that God has touched their heart.
Perhaps that sums up my definition of the word “call.”
Today, as we celebrate the ministry of Lay folks –
I suggest that it is the job of the pastor –and the lay people of the church – to equip everyone to pray, to share the Good News and invite to others to come to church.
Giving away power is a sacred act, but it is meant for all of us!
Jesus says if you have it, you must give it away in order to help the powerless.
Strong language! “must”
The first must become last.
The great must become servants of all.
Power is only worth something if it helps to empower another.
Could that be part of our UM call – to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the Transformation of the World?
You may not realize that talking about making disciples is a problem for me. I have a love/hate relationship with those words.
Yet here I am, Lay Leader, on Laity Sunday, wanting to bring a message about how our mission is to equip others to know God as we know God – in fact to help others reach their potential – or perhaps go beyond our own meager relationships – “toward perfection” as our forefather John Wesley liked to say.
I’m going to lean on the United Methodist Book of Discipline to explain it for me –
Yes, indeedy folks, there really is such a book,
(it is updated every four years after our general conference.)
More about that another time!
Very early in the UM Book of Discipline
(signifying its importance, I think!)
It talks about our Rationale for Our Mission ¶ 121
The mission of the Church is to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world by proclaiming the good news of God’s grace and by exemplifying Jesus’ command to love God and neighbor, thus seeking the fulfillment of God’s reign and realm in the world.
The fulfillment of God’s reign and realm in the world is the vision Scripture holds before us.
The United Methodist Church affirms that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, the Savior of the world, and the Lord of all. As we make disciples, we respect persons of all religious faiths and we defend religious freedom for all persons.
Jesus’ words in Matthew provide the Church with our mission: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you” (28:19-20),
and “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. . . . And you shall love your neighbor as yourself” (22:37, 39).
So here’s what I just heard:
Proclaiming is power
Exemplifying is power
Seeking fulfillment is power.
Obeying is power
And loving is power.
Okay, are we good with that?
Good! Y’all make great Methodists!
Now that leads to the question of the day –
How can we support each other in ways that help us to give away power?
What we used to call Outreach – (now a Compassion Ministry) is one way. If you don’t think you have power – Or you think I’m talking to someone else – consider how it would be to struggle to pay the rent and put food on the table –these are people who feel powerless… and don’t make me talk about white privilege! In this room, there is power!
Dr Mosely, a speaker I heard at a recent conference suggested that it’s important to be vulnerable – he said that explaining our similarities,
“I have been in the desert and look – I made it out” is a powerful witness to someone who is struggling. Did you hear it in last week’s sermon?
Helping folks to survive and thrive is one way to share the wealth.
What are some other ways of sharing the wealth?
Ha! Here’s my spot for a commercial…
If YOU don’t sign up to help with the ministries at Faith, we end up with a few people calling all the shots. (i.e. having all the power)
I believe the current leaders at Faith are committed to sharing the privilege and responsibility of providing meaningful worship for the glory of God, Nurturing others in faith, And providing opportunities for spiritual growth. We want to share the power — with YOU!
~~ Back to the sermon – and the question of the day —
How can we support each other in ways that help us to give away power?
Creating unity is a way to make us as a group more powerful.
When we align with other agencies, we can make more of an impact on other’s lives.
Setting our focus on learning is power.
When we listen to others and when we share our stories, when we hear their experiences and share our particular knowledge, we come away with the gift of new, renewed and/or deeper understanding.
Pastor Kristabeth and I were just at the Northeast Jurisdictional leadership event where the theme was transformational leadership – the logo said “See Know Love” – Much of what we heard was about how to give away power. They said all leaders–lay and clergy alike – are seen as experts.
Yes! Even if we don’t feel much like experts,
Dr Mosley felt that the ability to see potential in others is a leader’s power.
He said that their position of leadership allows them to have a voice – to say what they see and do some truth-telling when needed, but that transferring their power to others and engaging people to be in ministry with them, is what makes an effective leader.
Another of our speakers Nadia Bolz Weber talked about how we are in age where personal experience has authority.
She used the example of AA – They have meetings everywhere and they don’t advertise – Nor do they worry about getting new members.
They just keep offering “sinners” a place to be accepted ~ over and over again ~ at whatever stage they can manage, without judging – They tell the truth as they know it. And so should we. They share their love for God and their struggles with those other “things they love” which happen to get in the way of living a healthy life. Aren’t we the same?
Nadia continued saying that being friendly is different than being welcoming.
Being friendly is about inviting others to come on in and fit into our structures.
Being welcoming thinks about how it feels to walk in to a church for the first time ever. Being welcoming is about offering those outside of our structures with a way to belong, to feel normal, accepted and valued – rather than awkward, uncomfortable and unloved.
How hard is it to focus on an uplifting message when you are trying to figure out what you are supposed to do next?
How can someone be spiritual when they are hungry, tired, lonely or afraid?
She advised us to go to the places where we will meet people who are dis-similar to us. – She said to walk with them, in their space, then bring them into our home churches. She said to invite in diversity and form friendships outside of our bubble.
You may not be too worried about me hearing these messages –
but remember, Pastor Kristabeth heard them too!
Don’t worry – we have Jesus on or side.
We are sinners, knowing the value of grace.
We’ve heard and internalized the Good News. That gives us all the power we need. The Lord knows the truth for which we are responsible and that for which we are a victim.
We have help; we have an excellent role model in Jesus.
Let’s strive for unity, let’s tell the truth – Let’s share our stories,
let’s be vulnerable, And let’s give away our power.
In the end, I believe we will be stronger and happier and who knows,
with God’s help – we might even be transformational!