Sermon for June 20, 2010 - Fathers Day
Heirs of a Promise
Rev. Jim Merritt
Trinity MCC of Gainesville
June 20, 2010 – Fathers Day
I want to say, just one more time, how blown away I was by the events of last weekend. You all are absolutely amazing and I’ll never be able to express the deep gratitude we feel in our hearts having been duly installed again, this time as Senior Pastor of Trinity MCC. Exciting times are ahead of us and I’m looking forward to the journey together. And speaking of exciting times, I promised you we would have a contest for naming “the chicken.” Here’s the way it works; I’ll have this bag with me in the back after the service. If you have a name suggestion for the chicken, write it down on the paper inside your bulletin, and place the name in the bag. The name with the most votes wins. I’ll announce the results in e-talk this week.
Now one word about next week; Al and I will be leaving for MCC’s General Conference on Friday. Rev. Grant Ford will be your guest preacher next Sunday, which is the only one I’ll miss. Please be here and bring someone with you to hear him. While I am away, Deacon Linda Powell will coordinate Pastoral Care. For any administrative needs I will be available by email and I will check the church voice mail once each morning and once each evening. You know one of the most important characteristics of church for me is that it be able to continue with or without a Pastor. This is a time for us to try that on for a few days. I know you’ll be just fine. Please pray for MCC, pray for the conference, and by all means, pray for me. I’m the Director of Pastoral Care for the whole event and I might just have my hands full. Al and I will miss you while we’re away and in the words of ET, “We’ll be right back.”
I like it very much when I can take the titles of my sermons directly from one of the readings for the day. This is one of those weeks. Look in your bulletin at the last sentence of the reading from Galatians and consider this paraphrase, “When we belong to Christ, then we are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to God’s promise.” Well, brothers and sisters, do I have some good news for you this morning; we Do belong to Christ, we Do belong to God, and we Are heirs to all of God’s great promises. Amen? Amen.
Well, I am a firm believe that we are called to do some things to show that we belong to God and that we really are the children of God and therefore heirs to God’s promises. Think about Elijah in the Old Testament reading for today. You remember the story before this reading begins. There’s a little contest set up between the prophets of Baal and Elijah, the prophet of Jehovah. They pile up a huge altar and the prophets of Baal begin to pray for the fire to come down. They pray and chant and dance and sing and do all kinds of interesting rituals and despite all of it there is no fire. They give up and Elijah begins to taunt them. He calls them all kinds of insulting names, mocks and chides them. As a final act of insult he has them bring buckets of water and pour all over the altar. Then Elijah prays and in one split second KABOOM the whole thing blows up in fire and Elijah, having shown the power of the one true God, kills all the prophets of Baal. And you think you need to read fiction to get stories like this.
Well, Jezabel, and don’t miss her in the Bible Study series, “The Bad Girls of the Bible,” is married to the king and she is furious and to make a long story short, determines that she will have Elijah killed in less than 24 hours.
I use all of that to say this: Many times when we respond to God’s call risks are required. We are asked to do things that are difficult or uncomfortable. Sometimes powerful people feel threatened by what we do. And my sisters and brothers, Elijah, and Harvey Milk, and Troy Perry, and Mel White, and Nancy Wilson, and a whole host of others stand before us to show that following God’s calling on our lives is ALWAYS worth it. Why, because in so doing we literally become heirs to God’s promise.
Where are we headed? I want to share ___ dreams of mine with you.
Trinity MCC is a place where Children are welcomed and valued: It’s no secret, and I hope you can see it here, how much I love children. You remember Jesus showed a profound love for children, too. And I’m happy about our children’s sermon that we do here each week. And there is so much more that we will do with children. We are actively meeting with a group of volunteers right now to develop a strong children’s ministry. You may wonder why I keep adding to those pictures out there. Here’s why. Because when families come in that door I want this message to be shouted out to them, “Children are welcome here.” We need to do Children’s religious education. We need to develop all kinds of fun activities to do with our children. We need to get real in our advocacy on behalf of children. We need to make children a priority around here. We need to sing Jesus loves me this I know for the Bible tells me so AND because those people at Trinity MCC in Gainesville SHOWED me so all the years I was growing up there. Train up a child in the way she or he should go and he or she will not depart from it. We all know about the detours we take growing up and we all know the experience of coming back to it. Children are welcomed and valued at Trinity MCC and we are develop meaningful ministry to them.
Diversity is a priorityI’m so thankful that when I look out on you I see a variety of faces. People of color, white people, women and men, from a variety of economic and social situations all come together to make up our church. And we have such a long way to go. We must get this message out to all God’s people right here in the Gainesville area. We will work intentionally and mindfully for more diversity. We welcome people of color, we welcome people from all around the globe, we welcome trans people. We welcome young people, even if that means perking up some of our worship A LOT. We welcome poor people. We welcome all kinds of people. Here’s the working part of it; and we don’t just wait for them to show up. We go out to the places where they are and invite them, pick them up, take them to lunch and take them back home. We welcome them with our love and with our service and yes, with our extravagant hospitality. Diversity is welcomed and deeply desired here and we are working to make it visible.
Christian Education is important here. Trinity is a church that studies the Bible in many, many ways. In just a couple of weeks our Bad Girls of the Bible series begins. After that others will follow on a regular basis. We offer these studies here and in other places; on the university campus, in Ocala and Lake City and Trenton and Cheifland and others areas where we have members and friends. That means your Pastor needs help. He cannot teach in several cities during a week alone. And let me assure you, he is deeply aware that many of you have the ability to teach these courses. We learn to hear the voice of God by becoming familiar with the ways of God in the Old and New Testament. We learn about God from Biblical scholars and from those who have been walking from God for a very long time. We hide the word of God in our hearts so we can follow God’s ways in all of our ways.
Trinity is a place where people come to church; on a regular basis. People come here because God is here. We come because our family is here. We come to learn about God and to make sure there’s always a place for others to come. We come faithfully and we support our church in all ways, including with our regular participation. We make regular attendance a priority in our lives. Trinity is a church where its members and friends show up, stand up and build up the kin-dom of God in Gainesville.
Finally, for today, Trinity MCC is a place of stability and peace. That means our financial house is in order. Our bills are paid on time, and we live in the kind of abundance that means we can carefully fund the ministries to which we are called. We care for our buildings and our property in ways that are responsible. We continue to show our concern for the environment by recycling and using products that are less harmful to our world. And most importantly, we really do love each other. We walk in loving ways, practicing peace in every step. That includes in our ministry and in our business. We nurture the relationships we have with each other as an extremely high priority. We love as Jesus loved.
That’s just a start. There is so much more before us as we set sail on this longer term journey together. One of the most meaningful things I heard last weekend was this statement from Nancy Wilson, “I’ve never met a person that Jim Merritt couldn’t love.” I want people to say that about Trinity MCC. “I’ve never met a person that Trinity MCC could not love.” That is the reputation we are seeking and that is the reputation we will earn as we practice our faith and take our rightful position in this community and around the universe as heirs to God’s promise.
Are you ready? I am! God bless you this morning. AMEN.