Monday, October 25, 2010

Imagine the Possibilities!

For the 2011 Stewardship kickoff dinner we were asked to reflect on the question "What could Faith Outreach do with unlimited funds?" Here is the response I offered to the congregation...

What could Faith Outreach do with unlimited funds?

Wow, unlimited funds!

I suppose Dr. Jenny Chapman could stock and staff a full service clinic in Haiti? Maybe even build a hospital?

I suppose we could fill several South African preschools with books and music? Wouldn’t that just fill Miss Shan’s and Nancy Hamilton’s hearts! And while we were at it we could assure adequate care for the children in eGoli’s HIV/AIDS orphanages? Kaylynn Campbell would be ecstatic!

I suppose we could eliminate the debt for the Presbyterian Home for Children? Maybe even start an expansion? That would bring tears to Anne Whitfield’s eyes!

Every child at Morris Elementary could go home with food for the weekend. Whitesburg Elementary could have full after school care and tutoring. Libba Nicholson and Sara Curtis’ dreams would be fulfilled!

Maranatha could have up-to-date facilities and year long programming. Gene Joiner and a long list of us would see dreams fulfilled.

And just how many Habitat houses can Doug Franklin build?

This is just a short list of dreams come true for only a few outreach ministries that are near and dear to Faith Church.

Now the chances of us achieving unlimited funds are pretty remote. But you may have noticed that each one of those ministries have people that are passionate about them. People that understand these are things that God is calling and equipping them to do. Actions they undertake just because they love God and want to share God’s love with others.

That’s my dream. My dream is that we can nurture folks along in their faith so they can grow into the servanthood that God wants for them. My dream is to develop that sense of calling in each of us so we can establish team based ministries that don’t over burden or burn out a few. Respite care and Downtown Rescue Mission worship are very successful examples of such ministries. They rely on teams of volunteers and require essentially no money. My dream is that we don’t spend all our “church” time within these walls. My dream is for us to be joyful givers and a sent people and to understand how that comes as a natural response to God’s grace; not as obligation.

To get to that point, I’m afraid, will require us to pledge something more precious than money. We are going to be required to pledge our time and ourselves. We will be required to challenge ourselves to step out in faith to seek, learn, and try. Are you ready?

This entry prompted me to look back at this one: from June 2009. Not that much different.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Church Scars

During the visit from our South African friends I had the pleasure to be their driver for their trip to Cullman. Besides the Ava Maria Grotto we also visited a Catholic shrine down there. It was a most impressive place; huge, beautiful, spiritual. But it left me with a very uncomfortable feeling I can’t put my finger on. Obviously I must still have some unresolved Catholic issues from my youth. I have had these feelings before; see “Pew Time.”

I have also been struggling with my attitude toward Faith Church. Struggling with some scars and resentments left after the great turmoil. That is going to happen when a family of faith that has been so deeply instrumental to my faith development acts so uncharacteristically un-Christian. It shook my foundations. Even now as we move forward, I know there will be scars that get reopened. Will we be able to work through those scars or will they prevent Faith Church from becoming what God wants it to be? I suspect church scars are the deepest for just that reason. The relationships where you trust the most, open up the most, and love the most are the ones that cut the deepest.

I have also been attending one of Rev. Maricarmen Castro’s small group meetings. I have truly enjoyed these meetings. The meetings are still young, fresh, and full of Christ’s love and promise. I can see how they can be welcoming oases for many folks struggling with their faith or their church. But my pessimistic side can also see how, as these groups grow, they will be subject to the same human temptations that often turn churches into less than hospitable places.

And finally I have been attending Jerry’s Companions group. It has only been a brief time as it just started, however I feel very at home there as it is full of folks I have known for a long time and trust easily. We have been discussing God’s grace. The daily reflections concerning God’s grace in Companions as well as God’s holiness and grace in the Old Testament for Maricarmen’s group have highlighted the many, many instances of grace I have experienced. Experiences of grace I have had through friends, family, Faith Church, mentors, Maricarmen’s group, and other churches in the Presbytery. But I am also reminded of many instances when we, and I, turn away from grace; instances that are part and parcel of the human condition.

So, how do we deal with our scars and the wounds that are still to come? Yes, there will be wounds to come, because we can’t stop loving. If we stop loving we die.

It all rests in God’s grace. The grace that:
  • Brought me to Faith Church and found my faith.
  • Brought Marilyn and I together.
  • Nurtured me through raising a family.
  • Sustained me during Faith’s turmoil.
  • Brought me to a Rescue Mission worship that showed me true service.
  • Took me to Big Cove First Light for a message I needed to hear.
  • Found me in a Companions group that has quickly become a place of grace and healing.
  • Found me naturally making the Catholic “sign of the cross” as we remembered our baptisms by placing our hands in water.
  • Brought me to participate in a baptism that reminded me of our unity through Jesus Christ.
  • Urged me to connect with Maricarmen’s missional group of other scarred and searching folks.
  • Brought substance to the concept of incarnationally loving others in that group.
  • Brought me, as I was struggling with this entry, to a Sunday of serving communion to folks I love as well as ushering to folks I have grown distant from.
  • Reminded me why I love those folks too!
  • Repeatedly keeps me at Faith Church for whatever God has planned there.
It all rests in God’s grace. The list goes on and on each day. And the question is the same each and every time, “Do I accept this grace or do I turn away?” Like the prodigal brothers (Luke 15:11-32), what happens after the text? Do we accept the grace given and find forgiveness or do we reject the grace to live separated from God?

What will you do today with the graces you will be given; accept them, turn away from them, share them?