Sermon For November 16, 2014

John 6:52-59

“Present In The Body: Being Jesus To A World In Need”

A Sermon Series On “From Bread & Wine To Faith & Giving:

God gives to us at the table and, in turn, God’s giving inspires and empowers our own giving.”

Franklin Circle Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)

Cleveland, Ohio ~ www.FranklinCircleChristianChurch.org

Rev. Allen V. Harris, Pastor & Preacher ~ E-Mail: PastorAllen@FranklinCircleChurch.org

Twitter: @FranklinCircle ~ Pastor’s Blog: https://nearwestclevepastor.wordpress.com

Watch the video from todays sermon online at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=phH2-g7M00E

 

Art Week FourSo with today’s scripture, highlighting the confusion folks had about Jesus referencing himself as “the bread come down from heaven” and that “whoever eats of this bread will live forever,” brings us right back to my first sermon in our Stewardship series about the theological traditions around Holy Communion and Jesus proclaiming “this is my body” and “this is my blood.” You can’t get any more literal, it would seem, than Jesus saying, “for my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me and I in him.” It is absolutely no wonder that in the early days of the church there were rumors rampant about Christians being cannibals!

 

But again, I tell you, Jesus uses such forceful language NOT to get us embroiled in theological debates about transubstantiation and consubantiation, but, rather, to get us to wake up to that fact that faith in Jesus means committing ourselves entirely and unabashedly to him, and to fess up to the fact that we rarely do. It’s no surprise that one of the unfaithful churches referenced in the book of the Revelation of John is one that is so lukewarm that God has to spit it out of God’s mouth… or, more honestly, as in several versions of the Bible, “So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I am going to vomit you out of My mouth,” says God. (Rev. 3:16)

 

This faith stuff is important! In fact, it is of ultimate importance! If we do it right, and isn’t that how we want to live faith? Rightly? If we live our faith rightly it will require all of our body, all of our blood, all of us. John Legend might be talking about the love of a woman or a man, but it sounds a whole lot like faith in Jesus to me…

‘Cause all of me

Loves all of you

Love your curves and all your edges

All your perfect imperfections

Give your all to me

I’ll give my all to you

You’re my end and my beginning

Even when I lose I’m winning

‘Cause I give you all of me

And you give me all of you.

And it sounds a lot like Jesus’ faith in me. And in you. All of me. All of you.  [Watch John sing this by going to: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-kJ5UA3jOJU ] 

 

In 2013 my total income, including my housing allowance, honoraria for weddings, and gifts was $53,463. On top of that I was gifted by this congregation with a wonderful health care plan and contributions to my pension fund. Out of my salary I gave $5,630 to charitable causes, the vast majority of it, $3,941, was given to my church, Franklin Circle Christian Church. Thus I gave 10.53% of my income to charity, 7.37% to this church. I pledged last year to give $75 each week to help support the mission and ministry of Franklin Circle. I was pretty close in giving that.

 

Today I am pledging to give $80 a week to Franklin Circle Christian Church in 2015. I also pledge to continue to give a tithe to charity, a tithe being the first 10% of my income. In the Hebrew scriptures the tithe was the first and best 10% of your resources received, whether fruit of the land, cattle of the field, or money in the bank. (Leviticus 27:30; Numbers 18:26; Deuteronomy 14:24; 2 Chronicles 31:5) It was always meant as a way to reorder one’s priorities to show that one’s faith in God was the most important thing in one’s life, and that all of me was committed to all of the divine YOU. It was never meant to be a magical number, but always a symbol of everything that a person is. The fact that it was the first fruits was as important, if not more important, than that it was 10%.

 

In the Christian Scriptures there is less emphasis on a percentage and more emphasis on giving according to one’s ability, as in 1 Corinthians 16:2, and in diligently praying as to how much to give, as in James 1:5. The ultimate advice on giving in New Testament comes from Paul in 2 Corinthians 9:7 “Each of you must give as you have made up your mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”

 

How do we give cheerfully? Let me tell you how. It is because this is more than being about the what to give and the how to give. I have to tell you the reason I don’t preach about tithing and stewardship as much as many would like because I believe ultimately that conversation gets us hung up on the what and the how. It is all about why I give. I want to tell you why I give my hard-earned money to this church. I want to tell you why I give my very best creativity, my most passionate energies, the vast majority of my waking day and quite often an awful lot of my sleepless nights, to this bizarre, wonderful, diverse, loving, frustrating, quirky, historic, urban church on the near west side of Cleveland, Ohio.

 

> I give to Franklin Circle Christian Church because I believe with all my heart, soul, mind and strength that living in community is better than living alone. Here we are community!

 

> I give to Franklin Circle Christian Church because I believe with all my heart, soul, mind and strength that the only way to live in community is to intentionally include in the life and leadership the rich diversity of God’s people, and that means individuals and families from vastly different walks of life, even if this means giving up some of my power and privilege and comfort to do so. Here diversity is our strength!

 

> I give to Franklin Circle Christian Church because I believe with all my heart, soul, mind and strength that God spends very little time worrying about the “who” I love and far, far, far more time worrying about the “how” I love and that I love God and neighbor alike. Here, I am accepted not in spite of who I am, but because of who I am!

 

> I give to Franklin Circle Christian Church because I believe with all my heart, soul, mind and strength that if we do not work to create progressive, diverse, egalitarian communities of faith and work to get word out about how such communities are rehearsing the kin-dom of God, then communities that are focused on fear, exclusion, hate, and rigid uniformity of thought, practice, and message will rule the day. Here we show the world a different way to be Church!

 

> I give to Franklin Circle Christian Church because I believe with all my heart, soul, mind and strength that if people who are seen as being so very different from one another out there in the world sit beside each other to pray and play, to learn and laugh, to serve and sing, to cry and create, to analyze and advocate then maybe, just maybe, when we return to the world we might just get along a little better. Here we retrain our worst selves to be our best selves.

 

> I give to Franklin Circle Christian Church because I believe with all my heart, soul, mind and strength because I believe that a present without a past is rootless and prone to wither and die, and a past without a vision of the future is the same as being buried six feet under. Here we celebrate the past and work like hell for the future!

 

I invite you to join me in pledging to the future of Franklin Circle Christian Church, a dynamic and diverse community of faith on Cleveland’s near west side. You see, it isn’t about the amount – that’s between you, your loved ones, and God – it’s about the commitment. If we are not committed to sustaining communities like this one, they (we) will eventually fade away and die. The money we have in the bank that we are currently living off of has been a gift from the saints of the past that has sustained us through hard times. I do not apologize for using endowment monies to help this congregation do its mission and ministry during some difficult financial and spiritual times. But the time has come for this vibrant community to wean itself off of our historic monies so that they can be available for future emergencies, difficult times, and honking big projects.

 

Whether you are a long time member, or a mid-term member, or a new member… Whether you are a participant who has been very much a part of our church for years or just a few months. Even if you are a visitor today and you foresee this congregation as part of your future, I invite you to fill out your commitment card and place it in the small church, a gift from our former Church Secretary Carol Sauer and her sister, Gloria, and it will be carefully honored by our treasurer as a statement of faith in the future of this great church. Obviously, if your circumstances change you can change your pledge – no questions asked. You can always tell us that you need to give less during the year… or more!!! This really isn’t a contract at all, but a commitment, a promise between you and God that helps you be the best person you can be in the coming year.

 

I hope your commitment will do one primary thing: remind you why you give your all to God and support God’s work through this church. Your body… your blood… your very self. I know that my pledge will help me to do that. All of me. All of you.

 

Amen

 

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