Blessing and Sending

I preached this sermon on May 10th during morning worship. While I write everything I plan to say on paper, I never say everything and say things that aren’t on the paper.

Here’s the audio link: http://fbcsylva.com/podcast/blessing-and-sending-kelly-brown-5-10-2015/

This year we have set out to Love God, Love Others and Be Fearless. Meaning we will respond when God calls us, we will reach out to people in our community and beyond, and that we will be bold in our commitments to serve God and spread His love.

This past week I read an articled titled “Becoming a Green Light Church, Again” it talked about how churches must promote creativity amongst its members and encourage them to serve using their skills and gifts. I’d like to share with you a small excerpt from the article.

Dees (a person of faith) said to Jones:

“What happened to the church?!?“  

“What do you mean”, said Jones.

“The church used to be the source of much of the innovation and entrepreneurial work in the world. But, sometime in the 1970’s the church seems to have stopped trying to be creative and innovative with regard to healthcare, education and poverty. You gave that role up and lost your imagination. You abdicated creative imagination to corporate interests and other non-profits. Now, the church is seen as the yellow light and red light people. Rather than being people who imagine and improvise and encourage progress, the church appears to decelerate progress.”[1]

Lets be honest the church has a lot of work to do and it takes all of us to get it done. We need Indians and Chiefs, we need each other’s skills and gifts, and we need willing hearts and hands. We have to support our members and those in our community. We have to cultivate a sense of calling, passion and leadership among our members. One of my favorite quotes by Frederick Buechner says, The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.”

We HAVE to quip and bless congregation members to go out and do the work at which Christ has called them to. Today our adventure takes us to the Book of Acts, before we began reading together, I invite you to hear this scripture with your own calling and church in mind, reflect on how the church has supported you and nurtured your call.

(Read Acts 13:1-3)

Saul and Barnabas heard their call while they were engaged in worship at church and the entire congregation became a part of the experience. As a sign of approval and celebration: the church blessed them, laid hands on them, then in a prayerful and joyful spirit sent them out to serve.

Notice that the entire community became involved in the calling of Saul and Barnabas. A few weeks ago Jeff mentioned the word Koinonia, the word Koinonia isn’t just something we hear about at camp. It is modeled for us in Acts on several different occasions and we see it modeled in our own church. Koinonia is a transliterated Greek word, which means communion, joint participation or contributions; to share what one has in everything. It embodies what should happen within the fellowship and unity of the church.

We modeled what Koinonia means last week when we recognized Team Leaders who lead us in various capacities over the past year and welcomed new Team Leaders who will lead us over the course of the next year. Each Team Leader has skills and gifts that pertain to the area in which they lead. And, I would dare to say some feel a sense of calling and passion in the areas they lead.

We all have been called to something, for some of us we get to live out our calling everyday through our vocation. Some of us live out our calling through our service to others. Some of us live our calling through volunteer work. Some of us live out our calling by spending time. Some of us live out our calling through missions.  Okay, maybe you get what I’m saying here, we all live out our calling differently.

First we have to understand a few things about calling – see calling is tricky. Calling is hard to understand because it changes, it’s hard to know you’re called to something because; well God doesn’t yell at you or put it on a billboard. Sometimes you just fall into your calling, remember how Jesus called the disciples? They were just fishing, then he walked up to them and said, “Hey, would you like to go with me and see what happens…” and they went. I can’t authoritatively say I would have been convinced to leave my family, my job and all of my security to just go with some random that could only tell me he would make me fishers of men – what does that even mean? Fishers of men, huh? I can’t fish for people on the sidewalk – that would hurt, oh silly Jesus dude.

Perhaps is safe to say Jesus knew these fellas were good at fishing so he decided to maximize on that and Jesus spoke to them in a context fishermen would understand. My guess is these guys were good patient fishermen because I don’t enjoy sitting they’re, waiting, and waiting, and waiting, oh and waiting, and then waiting some more, then waiting again. AHHHH! The madness. Y’all, I’m a bit gullible too. I probably would have taken my fishing pole and tackle box. Ha. Perhaps, I can be bold here and say we live out our calling on a daily basis in some form whether we realize it or not.

Barbara Brown Taylor says this how we live out our faith and calling as we go through life. “To make bread or love, to dig in the earth, to feed an animal or cook for a stranger—these activities require no extensive commentary, no lucid theology. All they require is someone willing to bend, reach, chop, stir. Most of these tasks are so full of pleasure that there is no need to complicate things by calling them holy. And yet these are the same activities that change lives, sometimes all at once and sometimes more slowly, the way dripping water changes stone. In a world where faith is often construed as a way of thinking, bodily practices remind the willing that faith is a way of life.”

So, for those of you who teach,

Those of you, who preach,

Those of you, who build,

Those of you, who sing,

Those of you, who draw,

Those of you, who visit,

Those of you lead,

Those of you, who paint,

Those of you, who care,

Those of you, who invent,

Those of you, who heal,

Those of you, who love,

Those of you, who counsel,

Those of you who…well, you know fill in the blank.

You have been called to do the work of Christ.

As the church we are all called to do a multitude of things and it will take all of us bringing our skills, gifts and passions to the table!

[1] Becoming a Green Light Church, Again (Wilson 2015)

Cuba Presentation

I was able to share these words with members of our congregation about my recent trip to Cuba.

One of my teammates said this about our experience in Cuba, “like Saul in Jeff’s sermon last Sunday, we had transformation of sorts from one culture to another, from a world where we can easily communicate to one where the language make little sense, from a world where you can safely eat and drink to a reality where you have to make sure the food and water was safe for us fragile Americans and from a world where technology is everywhere to using our cell phones only as a camera.”

Prior to our experience in Cuba I had been out of the country to several places, however I never had to fully immerse myself in the culture. When we got off the plane in Camaguey it was safe to say we weren’t in American anymore, we stuck out – we didn’t know where we were going, we didn’t speak the language, and we had to meet a man with our visas, the airport was crowded with people speaking a language we didn’t understand. We went outside of the airport to find our ride, which was a challenge in itself. We eventually found our friends, then began to cram all of our luggage and tired bodies into a VW BUS, so you know 9 people VW is a great way to start some intense team bonding. All exhausted we began a late night drive to Holguin; we stopped and had dinner at a traditional Cuban restaurant. Could you imagine sitting in a restaurant and not knowing the language or really being able to read the menu and depending on someone else to order for you? At this point it’s safe to say we were immersed in the culture immediately.

We stayed in Bed and Breakfasts with Cuban families, who didn’t speak much English, which always made for some interesting encounters when we went had breakfast or the innkeepers had questions for us.

We had to learn a lot quick. We had to remember our fragile American bodies couldn’t handle the water so that meant, we couldn’t brush our teeth using water from the sink, we couldn’t have fruit that had been washed in the water, we had to always ask if the water had been purified, which is something you have to train your mind to do since it isn’t something we’re accustom to doing.

We spent lots of time around tables and in homes with sharing with our new friends learning their stories and sharing our stories with them. We now have their faces embedded in our hearts and minds when think about them and pray for them. One afternoon our team divided into several groups and went to the houses of church members where we spent time with their families and shared a meal. I got to take a tour for the neighborhood of the lady I was visiting with. I learned that Maria sometimes walked for 45 minutes or more to get to church, as we headed back I began to think in my mind how happy would be walking for 45 minutes, Maria then said we may find a bus to taxi who knows we will see, well the next thing I know Maria is yelling stuff I can’t understand and we take off running to the bus. Come to find-out Maria was yelling the Lord answers prayers and provides. Needless to say I was thankful and was truly feeling immersed in the culture at that point.

Using the restroom was another challenge and learning experience. Spoiler alert this might be more than you want to know. Toilet paper doesn’t get flushed; it goes in a wastebasket next to the toilet. Well this American had a hard time remembering this one and may have flushed toilet paper down the toilet a few times, but had a hard time remembering to flush toilet paper once I returned home. Could you imagine asking to use the restroom while visiting one church and the lady saying hold on while she took water from the baptisty to the toilet to flush waste? Eek.

We became immersed in Cuban culture so much that we began to learn Spanish and could almost order a meal without any help when we went out to eat. Cubans shared their stories with us and educated us on what it was like to be Cuban. By the end of the week we all had a sense of community, we all were Cuban, we knew some Spanish, had favorite foods, and had memorized dances, music, and recipes. Some of us even came back with new haircuts. We are Cuban, we are American, and we are all Gods children.