Faith United Methodist Church

June 19, 2016

5th Sunday after Pentecost

Rev. Kristabeth Atwood

Scripture:  Acts 2:44-47

Sermon:                                        Do I Have To?                                 

Before we jump into today, I’d like for us to begin with a time of centering prayer. Does that sound okay? I will lead us through a kind of guided meditation, so get comfortable and settle in for a few minutes. And if you have little ones with you today, don’t worry if they move around or make noise. That’s all part of what it means to be present in community. Okay? Let’s begin.

Sit comfortably with your feet flat on the floor. Make sure your chest, neck and head are in a straight line. Close your eyes. Allow your hands to lie loosely on your lap. Do what you need to do to relax your body. Because we often hold tension in our faces, I especially invite you to relax your jaws; let your mouth drop open slightly. Relax all the muscles around your mouth. Iron out all the wrinkles in your forehead. Let your eyes be soft. If anyone were to look at us right now they would say, “The peace of God resides in these people. Look them. You can see it on their faces.” So, picture yourself being serene and calm. (Pause) Hear yourself becoming calmer as your breathing becomes easier and deeper and your heart beat slows down. Feel yourself becoming more relaxed. (Pause)

In this state of peace and calm, imagine you are floating in the sky above the church. You have x-ray vision, so you can see through the roof. You see yourself participating with other people in an activity. Watch yourself for a few moments. (Pause) As you do this, think about what makes this place special for you. Who do you look forward to seeing when you come here? What are some of your favorite activities in this place? Which activities seem to feed your soul? (Pause)

Now, what would you miss most if some catastrophe struck this congregation? Think about never again being able to come to this place or to be with these people. What kind of hole would that create in your life? (Pause)

Think now about all the things that you have learned as a result of your participation in this congregation. Where has this congregation given you space and opportunity to grow and develop as a person? (Pause) How has your relationship with the holy, Mysterious One, the one who is God, changed as a result of your participation in this congregation’s life? How has being part of this congregation helped you become a more loving, compassionate person? (Pause)

Finally, think about the early Christians as described by Luke. How did they experience God’s blessings in community? (Pause) How do we experience God’s blessings in community? (Pause)

Let us begin to bring our focus back to this room. Lord of all creation and mystery, be with us in this time. Guide us in the words that we speak and the thoughts that we share. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Our topic for today is presence. In our membership vows we promise to share of ourselves through our prayers, our presence, our gifts, our witness and our service. What does it mean to you to share your presence with this congregation?

Presence is, most simply, showing up. Walking through those doors. Do we have to show up? No. No one is going to come to your house on Sunday and drag you out of bed. No one is going to force you come to church. (Maybe me, but not you!) So why do you come? What brings you to this place week after week? What were some of the thoughts that came to you during our centering time?

We come for fellowship. For learning. To give praise to God. To be recharged. I might suggest that we also come for each other. There may be times when our main purpose in coming to church is not for our self, but for someone else. Do you know what I mean? The poet and writer Wendall Berry suggests that, “…healing is impossible in loneliness, it is the opposite of loneliness. Conviviality is healing. To be healed we must come with all the other creatures to the feet of creation.” Sometimes we need the healing. Other times we are here to accompany another on the journey of healing. In either case, I would agree with Wendall Berry that it cannot be done apart from community. And that requires showing up.

That’s not to say that church is some kind of mini-paradise. In the passage from Acts we hear how the early Christians ate together and prayed together and worshipped together and shared everything in common. Do you think they ever argued or got annoyed with each other? Sure they did! Mary might have chewed with her mouth open and John probably sang off key. We don’t have to read too far in the book of Acts to find that this first community wasn’t idyllic. But they were intentional about their community. They showed up.

For the past few days Tricia, Julie, Tim and I were at Annual Conference. You heard from them this morning and you’ll hear more about it from me next week. So much happened that I am still processing the events and decisions that came out of it. But lets just say now that much of it was a painful and grueling. There were moments of joy and moments of hurt and confusion. There many tears were shed. And still we showed up. We didn’t have to, but we did. Some 800+ of us. And there were moments when there was no doubt we were the church together.

I did a little research on-line this week, looking at website for various United Methodist Churches. One church encourages the sharing of presence saying, “God will be here whether the sermon and music are good, bad or indifferent.” Worship is not a performance. Sometimes it’s right on. Sometimes it’s, well, not so much. That’s life. When we come not looking to be entertained, but looking for an encounter with God through Jesus Christ and fellowship with other believers our presence becomes a visible witness to our faith.

Earlier we sang one of my favorite hymns:

I am the church. You are the church.

We are the church together.

All who follow Jesus, all around the world,

Yes, we’re the church together

In all honesty, the church does not happen if we don’t show up. So, what keeps you coming back week after week? And what would you miss most if you found Faith Church had up and disappeared between now and next Sunday?

We don’t have to come to church. No one will force us. But I am really glad you showed up this morning so we could be church together. I thank God that you are here. Look at someone now and say that: I thank God that you are here. Amen!