I watched in horror as the images coming from Charlottesville were broadcast. It was obvious that hate is alive and well in the United States. Then I saw more, up close reports on Facebook, and those made me physically ill. The words and beliefs that were coming out of the mouths of many of those people (mostly white men) shocked and sickened me. I guess that part of me thought we were beyond this as a nation. But it is clear that we are not.
Racism stands against everything that Jesus stood for. If we claim to be his followers, then we must live like Jesus did. This begins and ends with love—love for God, love for neighbor, love for one another, and love for our “enemy.” You cannot call yourself a Christian, and hold racist or prejudiced beliefs. These two things are completely incompatible. As the writer of 1st John shares, “Those who say, ‘I love God,’ and hate their brothers or sisters, are liars; for those who do not love a brother or sister whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen. The commandment we have from him is this: those who love God must love their brothers and sisters also.” [1 John 4:20-21] Whenever racism or prejudice rears its ugly head, we have a responsibility as Christians to denounce it.
This is exactly what we are trying to live out at Centralia First UMC. It is why we welcome all persons regardless of their race or gender or status or sexual orientation. This is in keeping with Jesus’ ministry as he reached out to all people, particularly those who were ostracized from society. Jesus’ life and ministry is the model for how we are to be in ministry.
This is also why it is important to go on record as a congregation that openly welcomes all persons. Not all churches are so welcoming. At some churches, you must meet certain criteria before you are welcomed into their fellowships. Our only criteria is that one is a child of God (this includes everyone), and so we are called to live out a radical hospitality in which everyone finds a warm welcome in the life of our congregation.
Charlottesville reminds us that there is still much evil in the world. It shows us that hate is still being handed down from generation to generation. But what is learned can also be unlearned. I agree with Nelson Mandela when he said, "No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin or his background or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite." Love comes more naturally for us because we are all children of God, and as such, we are made in God’s image.
As long as there are those who are trying to spread hate and racism, we will be here to spread love and compassion. For this is what Jesus would have us do. I’ll see you in church.
Sermon Texts, Themes, and Titles for September
We strive to make worship meaningful, relevant, and challenging each and every Sunday. You are challenged to make worship a regular part of your life. You are invited to take some time to read the Scripture and reflect on the passages before each worship service.
September 3rd: Do This, Don’t Do That! The Scripture passage will be Romans 12:9-21 and the theme will be rules for living in community.
September 10th: God Is Sufficient The Scripture passage will be Acts 17:22-34, and the theme will be God’s all-sufficient grace. This will be the first in a 5 part series on discovering the essence of who God is.
September 17th: God Is Good, All the Time! The Scripture passage will be Mark 10:13-31 and the theme will be God’s goodness.
September 24th: God Is Trustworthy! The Scripture passages will be Psalm 62:5–8; and Matthew 6:9–13 and the theme will be trusting in God’s promises.
October 1st: God Is Self-Sacrificing! The Scripture passage will be John 10:1-21, and the theme will be God’s sacrificial work on our behalf.
Worship is a vital part of a growing and vibrant faith. So make sure you attend on a regular basis. And bring a friend or two with you. It’s a great way to introduce someone to Jesus.
Centralia First UMC's Strategic Plan
Vision: To practice extravagant hospitality and live out the radical inclusivity that Jesus Christ modeled for us so that all persons find a safe harbor in this church.
There are so many people in our community who have felt unwelcomed by the church in general. Particular subgroups (LGBT and those who struggle with mental illness for example) have been judged and condemned, and often feel that the church is an enemy as opposed to a source of comfort and support.Throughout his ministry, Jesus was constantly reaching out and incorporating into his ministry the disenfranchised and marginalized.His unconditional love and acceptance of others was the catalyst of reconciliation and transformation.
Our target audience is all those who have felt unwelcomed by the Church, as well as the millennial generation who do not see homosexuality as a sin. Given the progressive nature of this vision, those of a more liberal mindset would also be targeted.
One of the first action steps would be for us to launch a study on officially becoming a Reconciling Congregation. The Reconciling Ministries Network only has one official step in becoming a reconciling congregation, and that is to craft a welcoming statement.After the church officially adopts this welcoming statement, individuals would be given the opportunity to declare themselves Reconciling United Methodists.
A second action step in this plan is to rework our published information regarding our church to reflect this change. Newsletters, websites, Facebook page, brochure, etc. would all have to be updated.
A third action step is to establish and nurture a deepening relationship with the student body at Centralia College. In order to reach out to the millennial generation, we would take advantage of our close proximity to Centralia College.Some actions steps include strengthening our connection with the College by holding a Pastor Chat type gathering on a weekly basis at the new Student Union building upon it’s completion.
Another action step is to erect a chalkboard of some sort that engages the students in thought-provoking ways. For example, on the chalkboard are printed, “My Biggest Regret…” and people are invited to share their thoughts.At another time, the words, “Love is…” are printed on the chalkboard, and students are again asked to share their thoughts.This could be an ongoing interaction.Results would be posted on our Facebook page as well as our website.
The timeline for these action steps vary. The goal of becoming a Reconciling Congregation can begin immediately so that it is completed by the end of January 2017.
The chalkboard outreach is in process and should be up by the end of 2016.
And as soon as the TransAlta Student Commons is completed (scheduled to be done by September 2016) we will begin to hold our Pastor Chats there. The hope is to offer the students an opportunity to meet and get to know the pastor, and maybe even engage the pastor in some theological conversation.Hopefully, these contacts will eventually lead to more millennials worshipping in our church.
Benchmarks we will be striving to meet include a greater participation from the LGTQ community in the life of the church.
Another benchmark will be increased participation in worship, outreach, missions, etc. from the millennial generation. The millennial generation is defined as people born between 1977 and 1994.
The stakeholders include the pastor and all the leadership team. They will be primarily responsible for carrying out and sharing this vision.
Most of the action steps do not require any additional funds.
We will begin by sharing our vision with the rest of the leadership team. Their buy in will be key.We will also use publications such as our newsletter to communicate the plan to the congregation.Our website and Facebook page will also be key in spreading the word.