When setting out on a journey do not seek advice from someone who never left home
So, he came and proclaimed peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near; for through him both of us have access in one Spirit to the Divine. So then, you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ as the cornerstone. In him the whole structure is joined together and grows into a holy temple in the Lord; in whom you also are built together spiritually into a dwelling-place for God.
MESSAGE “I Knew It!”
Love God with your heart, soul, mind, and strength. We begin our Stewardship Campaign today. We will talk about today and over the next several weeks, why we give. For those of you familiar with our service, before COVID, before we were separated as we are, and even now we talk about, “Because We Give.” We talk about what we do as a church in ministry, for one another and for the world around us. Because We Give.
Today our focus is on our beautiful building and grounds. Maddi talked about our beautiful sanctuary, the baptismal fount, our music and all we do in here for our worship that feeds our hearts and souls. But it is more than that, throughout our building, we offer spirituality, we offer education, we offer opportunities to learn more about how to be the church, grounded and led by our staff. That is the focus for this Sunday in our Stewardship Campaign.
So, what is the church? I think about a conversation I had the other day over coffee with a friend of mine, Darrell. We talked about how we are in a different reality right now as the church. We have been accustomed to gathering for worship, for classes, for meals and celebrations, and now we can’t do that. We talked about how this might change our understanding and concept of church for the future when we are on the other side of this pandemic. As we begin again gathering as a community of faith, will it go back to normal, whatever normal was? Will we make changes? Will we do it differently?
We have already learned especially during these days, that the church is not a building. We have heard that perhaps often along our journey of life and faith. The church is the people, the church is the work of outreach, love, compassion that we share in the world around us. However, the building is important! We work really hard here at FUMC to maintain our facility, to maintain those on our staff who help us maintain our facility; cleaned, repaired, and keeping it in good condition, so we can gather to be with one another, to learn, to pray, to worship, to share together the life and ministry to what Christ calls us to be.
I think about that as I drive to the office in the mornings. I always look for the steeple when I come down Dodge Street, just about the time I get to 90th, I can see it up through the trees. It’s a landmark, it is a vision, a symbol, a marker. So, in terms of moving toward a new reality what will church look like beyond these things.
Today I have pictures. Some of you may recognize these. They are Cairns, markers, landmarks, often times for travelers, or those who are hiking so they know where they are, know where to turn, or maybe it is a marker for where there is water. They are a sign for us. Now, like anything, they can be good or bad. Some of the articles I have read in preparation for today indicate they have become so popular that people build them anywhere and everywhere. These leads to problems; leading a hiker astray, they affect the natural surroundings, wildlife, and streams. So, it is important that we are careful about building a Cairn, careful about where we place landmarks, where we place signs to help us on our journey. It is important that we treat the environment carefully. Our facility is a large landmark, a landmark on a hill for not only us, but for many in our community. Whenever I tell someone I am from FUMC here in Omaha, they will almost always say something to the effect of, “Oh that’s the church on the hill!” People know First Church. They know our landmark. They know who we are and what we are about. Our building is important. It is a portion of, “Why We Give.” It marks for us a step on our journey. As you know our history, this isn’t the first building we have had and who knows, it may not be the last one, though I don’t see this one going anywhere anytime soon. Our building is important as a gathering place, as a landmark, as a sign… however, the real work of the church happens out in the community.
Paul, or one of his followers, wrote in Ephesians, “Christ is the cornerstone. In him the whole structure is joined together and grows into a holy temple in the Lord; in whom you also are built together spiritually into a dwelling-place for God.” You too, are a Cairn so to speak, of the Kindom of God. When people see us and how we act, interact, and behave with others they should see a mark of the journey of faith in Christ.
Landmarks are important and sometimes we can lose sight of those. I remember an experience I had years ago when I had just started the process to enter the ministry. We lived in a little town in southwest Kansas and I commuted about 80 miles one way, some semesters 3 days a week, some 5. I would leave early in the morning and if I could see the red light of the coffee maker in the little café in town I would stop and get a cup of coffee. I learned, as one does in rural areas, there were paved country roads off the main highways. These I refer to as fast cuts, not shortcuts, they did not shorten the trip, but one could drive faster. Anyway, this particular morning it was foggy when I left. The longer I drove the denser the fog became. Soon, I was lost. I needed to find my turn and I drove back and forth, and back and forth trying to find the road. As the sun began to breach the horizon, even though the fog was still heavy I could see just a bit further. Sure enough, soon I found the sign that was at the intersection where I needed to turn, I was late to class and not sure the professor believed I had gotten lost.
Signs and landmarks are important for life in general, they are also important for us in our journey of faith. Such is a church building, and one like ours it is important that we maintain it. Because it is a landmark, it is important we support things like our Sustainability Master Plan. As our facility is large so we need to work really hard to reduce our carbon footprint to help take care of this good green earth, and we can do that Because We Give.
I want to say thank you to those of you who continue to support our ministries through your pledges. As you think about how and what you might pledge for the coming year, be in prayer, support our buildings and grounds, and our staff. This is all an important piece of what it means to be followers of the Way. May we continue to be that landmark of justice and compassion.