November 2015

May our Building be renewed for Holy Space and Mission!

This is a sermon I did not get to preach. You may recall I was working my way through a series on the Five Prayers of Calvary when I was sidetracked for surgery and out for a Sunday. But this prayer is too important to drop. So here’s a shortened version.

The People of God express their faith journey through their dwellings. As Churchill famously said, we shape our buildings and then our buildings shape us. For the people of God it may be the Tabernacle that teaches reverence for God even while on a journey through the wilderness. It may be the Temple that teaches them the value of boundaries and what it means to worship God “in the beauty of holiness.” It may be the synagogue where the furniture focuses the worshipper to the front where the scrolls of God’s word wait to be read and applied. It might be the house church of the New Testament where forty or so people gather to worship Lord Jesus in hymns and songs and share the fellowship meal.

Or it may be this building of red brick and mortar located at 700 Market Street, Lemoyne, adorned in stained glass windows and crowned with a ten foot red cross. In this building we worship God and pass the faith to the next generation. Here we order the life of our congregation and minister to the urgent needs of others.

In my time at Calvary, three years this December, I would describe our relation to the building as “reactive.” The building holds the script; we’ve tried to play our parts. First there was a long list of issues the Insurance company identified as potentially hazardous. Some of them such as the highway dividers for the parking lot next door took a couple of thousand dollars. Others like the exhaust system for the oven in the kitchen took ten times that. Then there was those well used items that simply gave out: repairs here, replacements there, some a few hundred dollars, one, the AC unit, several thousand.

If our prayer had been, “May our building be maintained for holy space and mission,” our prayer would have been answered. We have reacted well. But our prayer is not for maintenance; it is for improvement. Through the last few months we have identified the area just to the left of sanctuary, the Adult Sunday School Room, as our main receiving area for visitors to the worship service and many of our ministries. And we are agreed that in many ways this area is “lost in the sixties,” or maybe even the fifties. It has some glaring defects such as inadequate handicap accessible restrooms. And it has some cosmetic defects such as dim lighting and dated ceiling, flooring and windows.

I am asking if we have turned a corner on a new season in our congregational story. I am asking if instead of waiting for the next shoe to drop, or at least before the next shoe drops, could we start to do some serious improvement on our building, especially in the area of the public interface, the place where our guests form their first impressions of the building and of the congregation that dwells here?

The Council has agreed and the Trustees have engaged an engineer to do a study of our former Adult Sunday School area and to come back to us with some images, concepts, plans, and budget projections that we could use should we decide that we wanted to get serious about addressing the untapped hospitality potential of this building. We will be sharing some of that information in the weeks ahead.

For now I invite you to join me in the question. Have we turned the corner on a new season in the congregational story where we not only maintain but also improve our building for holy space and mission? May it be so!

Pastor Lew

 

September 2015

What would Jesus say now?

The first confession of the first Christians was simple: “Jesus is Lord!” It was a daring statement. The monotheistic Jews among them knew they were applying God-talk to the man from Nazareth. The Romans among them understood that if Jesus is Lord no Emperor could be. And persons from all walks of life, the high and the humble found purpose and direction in obedience to the Risen One. What the first Christians experienced they hoped for others, that one day “every knee shall bow, every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.”

Jesus got bigger when he became Lord! I know that may sound odd, but hear me out. When God raised Jesus on the third day and vindicated Jesus’ claims to be the Father’s Chosen One, Jesus was elevated above his environment. He was no longer poster boy for a first century Judean Jew. He was Lord and potential Lord for Greeks, Egyptians, Ethiopians in the first century and persons on the Lower West Shore in the twenty-first century. It had to be that way if every knee were to bow and tongue confess. Jesus must be able to establish his lordship in our time and place too.

But a Lord talks back! A Lord is not a window manikin you can dress to suit your whims, Lord Jesus as progressive Democrat, say, or Lord Jesus as conservative Republican. The Lord deflects our projections onto him whether they come from ignorance or cynical motives. “I am who I am,” says Jesus like Yahweh before him, “deal with it!”

In the sermons this fall I ask the question, “What would Jesus say now?” I will try my best to do what every preacher should: get out of the way and let Lord Jesus speak for   himself. But I don’t want the Jesus who is stuck in the past. And I don’t want the Jesus we invent to promote our causes today. Just, Lord Jesus. I look forward to your participation in the Sunday worship. The adult class will study the texts and subjects in detail at 9:00 AM in Fellowship Hall. The Book Study for this series will be N. T. Wright’s Simply Jesus. May this autumn see an abundant of harvest of spiritual growth as together we reaffirm the lordship of Jesus Christ.

Pastor Lew

 

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