I have been busy, busy writing sermons and working on Christmas presents and family time and just living. Sometimes, I think I get too caught up online, here on my blog or on my Facebook page and forget to live, so I've really been working on living lately. :) So... I've neglected this blog. Today, I decided to share with you the sermon from last week. It was laity Sunday and the theme was Unity.
Unity. To me, unity means togetherness. Unity brings us all together to act as one. So basically, we’re all in this together and yet when we look around sometimes we see anything but unity. We don’t see a lot unity in our government right now, we don’t see a lot of unity in The Church anymore. Our communities have struggled a lot as well lately. In our society today we hear a lot of arguing and fighting. Just open up your facebook newsfeed and scroll through and you’ll see all kinds of us vs. them posts continually. Or if you aren’t on Facebook, turn on the news and listen to the news shows. It’s republican vs. democrat, it’s liberal vs. conservative, it’s young vs. old, it’s faith vs. faith, it’s I’m right and you’re wrong and there is no in between. For quite a few years now, if someone has a different opinion than ours we turn away from them. If someone is different from us in looks or beliefs we push them away. If we don’t like something about someone we often close our ears to them. Sadly, we even see this disunity in families sometimes because of differing beliefs, political or religious, or different life styles.
I’ve always loved the TV show NCIS. It stands for Naval Criminal Investigative Service. For some reason, several years ago, we stopped watching it. Most likely because life got busy on us but recently, I’ve stated watching again on Netflix. I watched an episode recently where a young marine was murdered as he was praying in a park. Fairly quickly we discover that he was Muslim. He had recently converted. As they begin to look more closely at his life, they discover that his father was a chaplain, a Christian chaplain, in the military and that was fairly recent too. As they interviewed different people in the young Marine’s life they discover that he was having some issues in his unit and in his family due to his new faith. Eventually, we discover that his younger brother is the one who killed him because his faith was an embarrassment to his family and the Marine Corps. His father was horrified. I imagine that he was wishing that he hadn’t let this come between their relationship and he lost him before they could reconcile.
Unity. I looked it up in the dictionary, just because, well, that’s what I do, and one of the definitions said, “a condition of harmony.” Doesn’t that sound nice? Harmony. When I think I of harmony, I think of music and the thing about harmony in music, is that it’s several different notes coming together to make one beautiful sound. So, thinking about unity in the same way, unity would be the different coming together to make something beautiful. To be in unity would be to live together in harmony. That doesn’t mean we all need to change and be alike, it means we can come together in all our differences and work together, in this case in ministry. We all work together in ministry to the world. We all work together on the mission that Christ set before us and it also happens to be the mission of the United Methodist Church as well, to go and make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. That’s our ministry.
Now, you may be thinking that ministry is not your calling. You are a lawyer, or a real estate agent, or a soldier, or a teacher or a mother, or secretary or a builder, a clerk, a mechanic and the list goes on and on. And you are right we aren’t all called to pastor a church! We have to have other vocations in order for society to work but we are all called to ministry. Ministry isn’t just preaching, or leading Bible studies, or planning worship services or going to foreign countries to be a missionary and so on. Ministry happens in our every day lives. My daddy used to always tell us that our best witness was the way we lived our lives.
In our reading from Mark today, there is some talk about who can be next to Jesus, who would sit next to him in his kingdom, which we can kind of translate as who will be second or who will be great but Jesus tells them again that they should give up their selfishness, that they should stop worrying about who will be “great” and learn to serve others. To serve, to be a servant. Jesus taught this not only in word but also in actions. He was a servant to all, to everyone. Not just to those who liked him, who thought like him, who believed like him, no he was servant to everyone and by this, through this he made many disciples. Disciples who then were to go out and be in ministry too.
Here’s kind of a funny thing. We are talking about serving people, about serving everyone no matter who they are or what they believe, or what they look like. We like to focus on that, on who we serve and that’s a BIG thing, but this is a good time to also focus on who are ministers and who we minister WITH as well.
First, we have to recognize that all the ministry of the church cannot be done by just one person or even just a few people. It takes all of us!
I remember sitting in a committee meeting here several years ago and someone saying something about how when they go to certain meetings it’s always the same people at all the meetings, that there aren’t a lot of different people and that this was a struggle. They talked about how they wished that more people got involved at which point someone asked, “Well, have asked anyone new to help?” And I remember there was this moment of pause.
See, something I think that often happens in organizations, is that we get used to the same people doing everything. We get used to always asking the same people to do things and forget to invite others into working with us in ministry. On the flip side of this, I think often we sit around waiting to be asked to serve, to be asked to take part. We wait for an invitation when we really we need to be stepping out and letting our talents be known and offering to use them in ministry. It’s a tricky line. The leaders in the church don’t want to push people away by pushing them into serving and then the people don’t want to seem vain, or full of themselves, or are afraid of stepping on some else’s toes. The thing is, there is ministry enough for everyone both inside and outside the church. There is!
You may be thinking you don’t have time to serve on a committee or sing in the choir, or help with the noodle luncheon. That’s ok! You can be in ministry right where you are! Have you noticed the person a few desks, or cubicles or whatever down from you who seems to be stressed or unhappy, or just cranky? Or maybe it’s the cashier at the store, or even a stranger in the hall or on the street. Maybe you could be the person who offers them a smile and a friendly word or two. That’s a huge ministry these days, one that is sometimes very neglected. We all get caught up in our own little space and forget to look out and see who might be in need right in front of us.
Maybe you have a neighbor who could use a visit every now and then. We have several people in our own congregation who would love to have someone to come and visit with them from time to time. Or if you can’t get out they would love to receive a phone call that just says, “Hey, I was thinking about you!”
There are so many places both inside and outside the church for many hands to be in ministry together. Together in unity, even when we don’t always see eye to eye, even we if don’t always agree on everything, we can and should be in ministry together.
We can’t rely on the pastor, the secretary, the education director, the music director, the youth director and so on to do all the ministry of the church alone. We are all in this together. We are all called to be in ministry as one body, reaching out to all those in need how ever we are able.
We can be in ministry with the church down the street or with the synagogue, or mosque, or temple. When we had the string of church fires several months ago, I read an article about a Muslim community raising money to help them rebuild. I know of a Lutheran Church that is shares it’s building with a United Methodist church whose building is no longer standing. I know of another Methodist church that has opened it’s doors to a Jewish community that was in need of a place to worship. I’ve watched this congregation join with other denominations to be in ministry together to this community.
If we all come together, there will be more that can be done to work towards our mission of making the world a better place, of shining God’s light throughout and in making disciples of Christ. All of us together can do so much more than just one of us alone.