“Community: A Communion Of Unity” ~ May 17, 2015 Sermon

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Sermon For May 17, 2015 ~ “Celebrating Community”

Romans 12 ( http://bible.oremus.org/?ql=298857033 )

“Community: A Communion Of Unity”

Franklin Circle Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)

Cleveland, Ohio ~ http://www.FranklinCircleChristianChurch.org

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

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

A video of this sermon can be found online at: https://youtu.be/gPtkc5ka-dY

IntrovertExtrovertHow many of you have ever heard of the Myers-Briggs Personality Inventory? It is a pretty standard questionnaire that seeks to determine a person’s basic psychological and social type. The first of the four scales that it references is whether or not someone is more of an introvert or an extrovert, whether they are more comfortable alone or in groups. I have taken the assessment several times and every single time I fall right in the middle, only a notch or two one way or the other. This feels so true to my own experience, for I am both an introvert and an extrovert... and everything in-between! To look at this positively, it means that I am as comfortable in a crowded community, addressing large assemblies, as I am in speaking with someone one-on-one or even in being completely alone with myself. I attribute any success I may have had as a pastor to this ability to balance these two worlds.

Of course, those of you who are astute will have figured out already that the opposite can sometimes be true: there are moments I am painfully uncomfortable in crowds and times when my skin crawls when I am alone. At my most brazenly honest moments, I see myself as a painfully shy introvert trapped in a chronically exposed extrovert’s life. But, thankfully, these have been few and far between, or at least I have been able to adapt to the dilemma in a socially acceptable way. When I have failed to manage this well, I ask your forgiveness.

ChristInCommunityAnd while both skill sets are helpful, and needed, in being a fully functioning pastor, it is the ability to be comfortable in, to nurture and sustain, and to promote community that I think is the more important ability in the 21st century, and an especially-needed trait in the Church. I say this for all those reasons social commentators and church pundits have been exploring and explaining ad naseum these last few decades, but also because I believe the ability to create and celebrate community is at the core of the Judeo-Christian faith and the essence of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Commentators and pundits have pointed out that due to a variety of reasons, modern American/western civilization’s social skills have become less and less actualized and we have become a far more individualized culture. Robert Putnam’s ground-breaking social commentary from 1997, Bowling Alone: The Collapse And Revival Of American Community, highlighted how our human capital has become more and more focused on private good rather than public good, and how our sense of membership has become more focused on online philanthropy and cyber-activism and less on joining civic-minded groups and long-term participation in them. Added to this is the social media phenomenon where groups of friends, colleagues, even family members are focused, sometimes exclusively, on the small screen in front of them, seemingly to the exclusion of the people physically gathered around them, all the while connecting to others near and far via posts and tweets.


Small Group of Franklin Circle Christian Church serving together at the Cleveland Christian Home.

Small Group of Franklin Circle Christian Church serving together at the Cleveland Christian Home.

o one of the places where community is still in vogue, is still de riguer, is still common is church. Our faith communities are just that, communities, and while drive-in worship services and sermons posted on YouTube get some press, the idea of showing up to church remains the norm, and when we don’t do it there is still a sense of guilt, even if only passing. So my premise has been these last fourteen years of this congregation’s 173-year history, to focus on building community, nurturing community, sustaining community, and celebrating community. And these last five weeks I have tried to share with you how I have been doing that.

We first considered honoring diversity and focused on Isaiah 56:1-8. We then explored what it meant to liberate laughter, and used 1 Corinthians 1:18-25 as our guide. Next we focused on ensuring justice, and heard Jesus’ speech in the synagogue from Luke 4:14-30 as our own clarion call. Last week we discussed the need to nurture love, with Paul’s case for God’s love in Romans 8:31-39 central to the conversation. These four facets of healthy group life make it possible to truly celebrate community, and I have chosen my favorite scripture from when I began to be a part of the church community as a teenager, Romans 12, as my text today. Let me remind you a little of what I said in these past few weeks.

Watch Night Fun at Franklin Circle Christian Church

Watch Night Fun at Franklin Circle Christian Church

Creation is naturally diverse, and God was richly creative in the way in which humanity has been shaped. But given our human inclinations, we gravitate toward the familiar, the comfortable, and the easy – those just like us. This is not what God wants. Period. God created us diverse for a reason, because we learn and grow best when we are around those who are different from us. When we are reminded, cajoled, and invited to look out for those who are most different from us – even when we are accused of being “politically correct” by doing so – then we are better for it. Franklin Circle Christian Church was diverse when I arrived, but no one can deny that we are far more integrated and empowered as a diverse community today, in not only those who come to our programs and sit in our pews, but those who sit on our church boards and teams and those who envision our future.


Holy Humor Sunday at Franklin Circle Christian Church

Humor and laughter provide the lubrication and release valve (to create a weirdly mixed metaphor) for community life… but not just any humor and not just any laughter. Jesus made it quite clear that the foolishness in which God engages is never at the expense of someone else and always looks for the joy that can only come in building people up. Holy humor is humor that understands the true absurdity of life – where amoebas and giraffes, long division and black holes, Laverne and Shirley, Ponce de Leon, and Queen Latifa can all exist in the same universe. God-made-real-in-Jesus knew that if the divine being shouldn’t take her/him/itself too seriously, then we ought not to, either. Franklin Circle Christian Church is such an incredibly important and necessary community of faith, on the Near West Side of Cleveland, in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), and in the warp and woof of humanity that we simply must laugh at ourselves and enjoy the ride!

GodBeforeGunsMarchAnd then there is justice, which just doesn’t happen, but must be ensured that it will happen. It takes hard work, sweat, and sometimes even tears to make sure that the compassion God had for humanity, the love Jesus had for the poor, the widow, the orphan, the immigrant, is made real. We will be confident and unapologetic engaging in acts of charity and benevolence that cares for the least amongst us today, as we seek to empower people to be their own change agents and their own best advocates, AND as we seek to address the systemic causes of racism, poverty, ableism, disease, ageism, illiteracy, sexism, homophobia, and heterosexism. Franklin Circle Christian Church has long been on that arc of the moral universe focused on justice, but we must be vigilant lest we be torn apart by those who use false dichotomies and pit justice against compassion or advocacy against evangelism. We know that to do the will of God, follow Jesus, and build the Beloved Community requires doing justice AND loving kindness AND walking humbly with our God.

Ted & Mary Brogan celebrate their wedding anniversary

Ted & Mary Brogan celebrate their wedding anniversary

Fourthly, whatever we do, whether it be honoring diversity, liberating laughter, or ensuring justice… we must do it with love. Love is the very essence of God and is the ultimate charge Jesus has given to us, his followers. And this has been both the easiest task and the hardest challenge in this congregation. When one gathers folks together, particularly those who have been hurt by loved ones, disregarded by society, and ridiculed by the whims of the world, it is hard not to take out those injuries and offences on those closest to you, those who have opened their arms and hearts to you. But we cannot shoot the wounded! So communities like Franklin Circle Christian Church must love one another and the world around us all the more fully, passionately, even sacrificially. We must love those who are most unlovable, at least by the world’s standards, for that is what Jesus did. We must love humbly, knowing both the majesty of our place in creation and the minuteness of our place in the universe. Our love must be wrapped up with abundant forgiveness, of ourselves and one another, and we must ask for forgiveness as if our lives depend upon it… because they do.

Franklin Circle Christian Church Elders

Franklin Circle Christian Church Elders

And a community that is able to do these things, honor diversity, liberate laughter, ensure justice, and nurture love, as Franklin Circle Christian Church does and will continue to do, is a community that must be celebrated! This church is Good News to a world hell-bent on bad news. This church is a sign of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ and will, if you let it, bring new life to those who are all but dead to themselves and to the world around them. This church is a city on a hill that cannot be hid, it is salt that brings flavor to a painfully boring existence for many, it is a candle that cannot, should not, will not be hidden. No! Proclaim it from the mountaintops! Run or roll or hobble or dance down the streets and avenues and proclaim God is alive and well and living in this community called Franklin Circle Christian Church to friend and neighbor and stranger alike! Celebrate Community, for you are a damn fine community to be celebrated!



Holy Humor Sunday – April 22, 2012

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As a way of both celebrating the joy of life and the power of Christ’s resurrection… and giving our congregation (and myself!) a chance to laugh and unwind, I thought I would celebrate Holy Humor Sunday.  The day was lighthearted, the pastoral prayer was a celebration of God’s good creation, and the sermon time was entirely one joke after another.  I offer these jokes (none of them original to me) as a way of spreading the laughter and love that was certainly a part of our day.

Sermon Sunday, April 22, 2012
Genesis 21:1-6 & Proverbs 17:22
Franklin Circle Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
Cleveland, Ohio
Rev. Allen V. Harris, Pastor & Comedian;
Jake Pruitt, Videographer


To hear the podcast of this “sermon” click here:  120422SermonPodcast

To watch this “sermon” via video on YouTube, go to:  http://youtu.be/ZVU3uC6yIfE
To read the Pastoral Prayer Pastor Allen offered, go to:http://lectionaryliturgies.blogspot.com/2012/04/holy-humorhilarity-alternate-…and scroll down to the “Great Thanksgiving”
To see some of the sites where Pastor Allen found some of the jokes he shared, go to:

A portrait of Pastor Allen on Holy Humor Sunday, by Ryan.

>>A Different Take On Some Familiar Bible Stories:

A little girl decided she was going to read the Bible, so she opened her grandma’s huge, old leather-bound bible that had been passed down through the family for generations.  As she turned the pages, a fragile, old pressed leaf fell out.  She gently picked it up and ran to her grandma, “Grandma! Grandma!  I found Adam’s underwear!”


Abraham bought himself a fancy new computer. He was showing it to Isaac one day. “Look at all the wonderful programs it has on it. And look at all the neat things it can do…”

Isaac was impressed, but a little concerned…”But dad, I don’t think your computer has enough memory.”

Abraham said “Don’t worry son; the Lord will provide the RAM.”


THE SOUTHERN TEN COMMANDMENTS This is much easier to remember !!!

Some people have trouble with all those ‘shall’s’ and ‘shall not’s’ in the Ten Commandments. In middle Tennessee they translated the ‘King James’ into ‘ Jackson County’ language….no joke (posted on the wall at Cross Trails Church in Gainesboro, TN).

(1) Just one God

(2) Put nothin’ before God

(3) Watch yer mouth

(4) Git yourself to Sunday meetin’

(5) Honor yer Ma & Pa

(6) No killin’

(7) No foolin’ around with another fellow’s gal. [OR guy!]

(8) Don’t take what ain’t yers

(9) No tellin’ tales or gossipin’

(10) Don’t be hankerin’ for yer buddy’s stuff

That’s it, plain an’ simple. Y’all have a nice day now ya hear!


A Sunday School teacher was teaching the story of Lazarus to her class. “After Lazarus’ death, many people gathered to console Mary and Martha,” I said. “They treated Lazarus’s body, wrapped him, and laid him in the tomb.  After four days of mourning, Lazarus stood up and walked out of the tomb.  Now, what do you think those people were thinking then?”

One of her students spoke up: “All that work for nothing.”


Jesus and his disciples were walking around one day, when Jesus said, “The Kingdom of Heaven is like 3x squared plus 8x minus 9.” The disciples looked very puzzled, and finally asked Peter, “What on earth does Jesus mean — the Kingdom of Heaven is like 3x squared plus 8x minus 9?” Peter said, “Don’t worry, guys.  It’s just another one of his parabolas…”


>>Out Of The Mouths Of Children:

A 6-year-old went to Bible School at a nearby church, and while telling her parents about it, she referred to the pastor by his first name.

The father corrected her, saying she needed to call him Pastor Chris because he’s a pastor just like Pastor John, Pastor Mark, and Pastor Glen.

“Do you know what ‘pastor’ means?” he asked.

She considered the question and then said, very tentatively, “I’m not sure, but I think it means goofy.”

—Sherry Bennett, Knox, Pennsylvania


When a friend asked her 4-year-old daughter to fetch a can of soup from the pantry, she replied, “But it’s dark and scary in there!”

“You don’t have to be afraid,” came her mother’s calm reply. “Jesus is always with you, even in the pantry.”

The girl thought for a moment, walked over to the pantry, stuck her head in the door, and called, “Jesus, if you’re in there, can you hand me a can of soup?”

—Andrea Miller, Greenville, South Carolina


A woman’s grandson was visiting her one day when he asked, “Grandma, do you know how you and God are alike?”  She mentally polished my halo and I said, “No, how are we alike?”

“You’re both old,” he replied.


A pastor was speaking to a group of second-graders about the resurrection of Jesus when one student asked, “What did Jesus say right after He came out of the grave?”

The pastor explained that the Gospels do not tell us what He said.

The hand of one little girl shot up. “I know what He said: He said, ‘Tah-dah!'”

via Andy Fisher
Denville, NJ


An exasperated mother, whose son was always getting into mischief, finally asked him, “How do you expect to get into Heaven?”The boy thought it over and said, “Well, I’ll just run in and out and in and out and keep slamming the door until St. Peter says, ‘For Heaven’s sake, Jimmy, come in or stay out!'”

— Posted 2 December 2001
Submitted by Teresa


A Grandpa and granddaughter were sitting by a pond talking when she asked, “Did God made you, Grandpa?”  “Yes, God made me,” the grandfather answered.  A few minutes later, the little girl asked him, “Did God make me too?”  “Yes, He did,” the grandpa answered.For a few minutes, the little girl seemed to be studying her grandpa, as well as her own reflection in the pond.  Her grandfather wondered what was running through her mind.  At last she spoke up. “You know, Grandpa,” she said, “God’s doing a lot better job lately.”

— Posted 2 December 2001


A Mother was reading a Bible story to her young daughter. She read, “The man named Lot was warned to take his wife and flee out of the city, but his wife looked back and was turned into a pillar of salt”.Her daughter asked, “What happened to the flea?”


After church one Sunday morning, the family gathered for Sunday dinner.  While eating, the mother commented, “The choir was awful this morning and the soloist’s screeching hurt my ears.”  The father chimed in, “The pastor’s sermon was way too long and communion felt like it lasted a lifetime.”

Their 7-year-old daughter added, “You’ve got to admit, though, it was a pretty good show for a dollar.

>>>Funny Things Heard In Church:


After a very long and boring sermon, the parishioners filed out of the church saying nothing to the preacher.  Towards the end of the line was a thoughtful person who always commented on the sermons.  “Well Pastor, today your sermon reminded me of the peace and love of God!”

The pastor was thrilled.  “No-one has ever said anything like that about my preaching before.  Tell me why.”

“Well – it reminded me of the Peace of God because it passed all understanding and the Love of God because it endured forever!”


The pastor asked if anyone in the congregation would like to express praise for answered prayers.

Suzie Smith stood and walked to the podium.  She said, “I have a praise. Two months ago, my husband, Tom, had a terrible bicycle wreck and his scrotum was completely crushed.  The pain was excruciating and the doctors didn’t know if they could help him.”

You could hear a muffled gasp from the men in the congregation as they imagine the pain that poor Tom must have experienced.

“Tom was unable to hold me or the children,” she went on, “and every move caused him terrible pain.  We prayed as the doctors performed a delicate operation, and it turned out they were able to piece together the crushed remnants of Tom’s scrotum, and wrap wire around it to hold it in place.”

Again, the men in the congregation cringed and squirmed uncomfortably as they imagined the horrible surgery performed on Tom.

“Now,” she announced in a quivering voice, “thank the Lord, Tom is out of the hospital and the doctors say that with time, his scrotum should recover completely.”

All the men sighed with unified relief.  The pastor rose and tentatively asked if anyone else had something to say.

A man stood up and walked slowly to the podium.

He said, “I’m Tom Smith.” The entire congregation held its breath.  “I just want to tell my wife the word is sternum


A man had been shipwrecked on a remote island in the Pacific, and he was alone for 20 years. When a ship finally arrived, his rescuers were impressed with the three buildings he had built and asked him about them.”Well,” the man replied, “this is my house, this is my store, this is my office, and that building over there is my church.  It’s a wonderful church and I just love going there.”

“And what is the building way over there?” a rescuer asked.

“Oh, that is the stinkin’ church I used to go to,” the man replied.  “They’re all hypocrites there!”

via Palmer Stiles
, Melbourne, FL


During his weekly children’s sermon, the Pastor asked the kids, “Why is it so important that we be quiet in church.” A Deacons answered, “Because people are sleeping.”


A middle aged woman had a heart attack and was taken to the hospital.  While on the operating table she had a near death experience.  Seeing God, she asked “Is my time up?”God said, “No, you have another 43 years, 2 months and 8 days to live.”  Since she had so much more time to live, she figured she might as well make the most of it.  So, upon recovery, the woman decided to stay in the hospital and have a facelift, liposuction, and a tummy tuck.  She even had someone come in and change her hair color.

After her very last operation, she was released from the hospital.  While crossing the street on her way home, she was killed by an ambulance.  Arriving in front of God, she demanded, “I though you said I had another 40 years?”

God replied, “Sorry!  I didn’t recognize you.”


A one dollar bill met a 20 dollar bill and said, “Hey, where’ve you been? I haven’t seen you around here much.”  The twenty answered, “I’ve been hanging out at the casinos, went on a cruise and did the rounds of the ship, back to the United States for awhile, went to a couple of baseball games, to the mall, that kind of stuff. How about you?”

The one dollar bill said, “You know, same old stuff, church, church, church.”


“There will be a meeting of the Board immediately after the service,” announced the pastor. After the close of the service, the group gathered at the back of the auditorium for the announced meeting.  But there was a stranger in their midst.  He was a visitor who had never attended their church before.

“My friend,” asked the pastor, did you understand that this is a meeting of the Board?”

“Yes,” said the visitor, “and after that sermon, I’m about as bored as you can get!”

>>>Those Darn Pastors:

When a young minister was still single, he preached a sermon he entitled, “Rules for Raising Children.”  After he got married and had children of his own, he changed the title of the sermon to “Suggestions for Raising Children.”  When his children got to be teenagers, he stopped preaching on that subject altogether.— Rev. Bernard Brunsting


A Churchgoer wrote a letter to the editor of the newspaper and complained that it made no sense to go to church every Sunday.  “I’ve gone for 30 years now,” he wrote, “and in that time I have heard something like 3,000 sermons.  But for the life of me I can’t remember a single one of them.  So I think I’m wasting my time and the pastors are wasting theirs by giving sermons at all.”This started a real controversy in the “Letters to the Editor” column, much to the delight of the editor.  It went on for weeks until someone wrote this clincher:

I’ve been married for 30 years now.  In that time my wife has cooked some 32,000 meals.  But for the life of me, I cannot recall what the menu was for a single one of those meals.  But I do know this: they all nourished me and gave me the strength I needed to do my work.  If my wife had not given me those meals, I would be dead today.”

No comments were made on the sermon contents anymore.


Thinking of Bill & Louise Golicic:

A minister in Florida lamented that it was difficult to get his message across to his congregation:”It’s so beautiful here in the winter,” he said, “that heaven doesn’t interest them.”

“And it’s so hot here in the summer that hell doesn’t scare them.”


Last Sunday, the pastor of a local church began his sermon with a supposedly true story…”I was on a plane last week, flying from Chicago to California, when we ran into some very severe turbulence.  As it got worse, the passengers became more and more alarmed, and finally even the flight attendants began to look concerned.  Finally, one of them noticed that I had “REV.” in front of my name on the passenger list came over to me and said, “Sir, this is really frightening.  Do you suppose you could … I don’t know … do something religious?”

“So I took up a collection.”


A pastor was leaving his area and was saying farewell to his congregation at the church doors for the last time.  He shook the hand of an elderly lady as she walked out. She said, “Your successor won’t be as good as you.” “Nonsense,” said the pastor, in a flattered tone.

“No, really”, said the older lady, “I’ve been here under five different ministers, and each new one has been worse than the last.”


Each Sunday, the pastor would take off his watch, and he’d place it gently on the pulpit in front of him. One day a little girl whispered in her grandpa’s ear, “Grandpa, what does that watch mean?”

Her Grandpa said, “Not a thing, honey. Not a thing.”


>>>In General Humor:

Perspective Is Everything:

Three people were visiting and viewing the Grand Canyon — an artist, a pastor and a cowboy.  As they stood on the edge of that massive abyss, each one responded with a cry of exclamation.  The artist said, “Ah, what a beautiful scene to paint!”  The minister cried, “What a wonderful example of the handiwork of God!”  The cowboy mused, “What a terrible place to lose a cow!”


A man dies and goes to heaven.  St. Peter meets him at the pearly gates.

St. Peter says, “Here’s how it works. You need 100 points to make it into heaven. You tell me all the good things you’ve done, and I give you a certain number of points for each item, depending on how good it was. When you reach 100 points, you get in.”

“Okay” the man says, “I attended church every Sunday.”

“That’s good, says St. Peter, ” that’s worth two points.”

“Two points?” he says. “Well, I gave 10% of all my earnings to the church.”

“Well, let’s see,” answers Peter, “that’s worth another 2 points.  Did you do anything else?”

“Two points?  Golly.  How about this: I started a soup kitchen in my city and worked in a shelter for homeless veterans.”

“Fantastic, that’s certainly worth a point, ” he says.

“hmmm…,” the man says, “I was married to the same woman for 50 years and never cheated on her, even in my heart.”

“That’s wonderful,” says St. Peter, “that’s worth three points!”

“THREE POINTS!!” the man cries, “At this rate the only way I get into heaven is by the grace of God!”

“Come on in!”



How do angels greet each other?

They say, “Halo!”

What did the cabbage pastor say to the people?

Lettuce pray!

How many choir directors does it take to change a light bulb?

No one knows, because no one ever watches the director!

How many Disciples of Christ does it take to change a light bulb?

Change? Disciples don’t believe in change!

What’s the greatest joke ever?

The one God played on death on Easter morning!



Joyful Noiseletter: http://www.joyfulnoiseletter.com/holy_humor.asp

Holy Joke: http://www.holyjoke.freeuk.com/jokes.html


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