Have you ever noticed there is a critic in every crowd? I don’t mean that in a negative way, but more as an observation of humanity. It’s just how people are and I get that, because sometimes I’m the critic in the room. It often seems for every new idea a person or group has to grow or change there is always someone, somewhere who will find what is wrong with that idea or possible solution. I don’t know why, but that is the way we are made and frankly, it can be quite annoying. And so, it was for Moses, in the Hebrew Scripture account we read today. Moses - an imperfect person if there ever was one, was doing his level best to lead God’s people out of danger and slavery in Egypt. His intention and motivation were good and clearly faith driven. That was Moses’ “why” as we talked about in our Church Council Meeting this last week. That night the question came up, “why” do we do what we do here at Greendale People’s Church? Not how or what do we do, but why? I want to take 5 minutes to show you a TED video (which is a small part of an 18-minute video.) The speaker, Simon Sinek, makes a point about “why” in a clear way.
“Why” is the question we (and all churches for that matter) ought to be asking ourselves as we go about the business of church. Are we here to prop up the building? We do that and we do it in good faith and we ask that the whole congregation share in that activity and cost. In fact, this month all loose donations in the offering plate are going to go directly to fixing the elevator, which is an important part of our ministry here at Greendale People’s Church. Why? We want everybody to have access to all parts of the building and for many people that old elevator is very important. A question we might ask ourselves is, are we about keeping alive traditions or in traditionalism? Here’s a definition of the two to ponder: “Tradition is the living faith of the dead, traditionalism is the dead faith of the living. And, I suppose I should add, it is traditionalism that gives tradition such a bad name.” This is usually the point where some of my friends may say “we do serve the community here at Greendale and we always have!” And I agree with them, so friends, hear me out.
We take a great deal of pride in the Holiday Fair which is coming up in just a month, managed so capably by Dot Christo who never takes the credit for herself. Why? Why the Holiday Fair? The bottom line is that not only does it bring in income which helps us run the building, it also serves as a place for the community, especially a low-income community, to come for a delicious meal at a reasonable price and some low-cost goods that have been carefully attended to. It is also a time when many active church participants work together to get the enormous amount of work done and they do it with mutual love and cooperation. That is the why - that is the way we are taught by Jesus - to work together. If you don’t believe me, read all of 1st & 2nd Corinthians. Paul implores the early church people to stop criticizing and start working together in Jesus’ name. There must be tens of thousands of church fairs, tag sales, auctions and other income producing activities in Worcester, but the ones that really matter are the ones that target the needs of the community. That is a good “why.” How about our Food Pantry? Do we run the thing week in and week out because it’s what churches are supposed to do and it makes us look like nice people? No, we do it because in the Bible we are instructed that God wants us to feed the poor and take care of the widows and orphans. It says in Isaiah 58:7 Share your food with the hungry, and give shelter to the homeless. Give clothes to those who need them, and do not hide from relatives who need your help. And from the New Testament Luke 3:11 He answered them, “Whoever has two shirts should share with the person who doesn’t have any. Whoever has food should share it too.”
Just because it is 2017, doesn’t mean hunger and poverty no longer exist that’s for sure. In fact, there are more poor people right here in Worcester than we can count. So, the “why” we do stuff is really the most important part of what we do and how we do it. Sometimes, calling out the “why” isn’t all that popular, as if we’re not supposed to be talking about it. In my opinion, we should shout it from the top of our tallest Worcester 3-deckers or the Telegram & Gazette building! Moses was a simple guy born to servant parents. He got blessed with a great education, because he was raised as a Prince, quite by accident. God called on him to lead the people out of a terrible life of slavery and cruelty at the hands of the Egyptians. Why did Moses do this? Moses tried to evade this divine directive: “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh, and that I should bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?” (Exodus 3:11). This fallen prince of Egypt knew well the extent of Pharaoh’s power and the futility of an Israelite outcast going against the might of Egypt. Four times Moses framed arguments to convince God to use someone else. He felt inadequate to attempt the task. He asked by what name God would be announced to the Israelites (Exodus 3:13). He expressed doubt that the children of Israel would listen to or believe him (Exodus 4:1). He protested that he was slow of speech (Exodus 4:10). Moses really didn’t want to do what he was called to do but he was given the order directly from God and that, as they say, was that. You don’t really want to say no to God, do you?
Anyway, today is World Communion Sunday and we share in the sacrament of Holy Communion with people all over the planet of different denominations and different ways of looking at Christianity. We have lots of reasons we see things differently with other churches but today is reserved for an Appreciative Inquiry into the practice of Communion of all kinds. Why? Why do we do Communion? What’s good about it? Is it because it is the first Sunday of the month and that is our tradition? No! We do it because we are asked to do so by Jesus Christ himself. I read this wonderful essay by Jim Taylor about Communion that I’d like to share with you this morning entitled:
Communion Keeps Getting Better
My very first communion, I recall, was a disappointment…
I have shared in communion in a college chapel, served by students. I’ve had it in an isolated Indian fishing village on Canada’s west coast, and in a Newfoundland out port, where Atlantic surf smashed against the rocks only yards from the church’s steps…
I’ve received communion in other countries…
I remember especially communion in Africa…The singing, though magnificent, was all in the local dialect. I understood none of the hymns, none of the preaching.
Until the end of the service. When the minister stood, and raised the bread and broke it, I knew exactly what he was saying: “This is my body which was broken for you.”
And when he held up the cup, I knew again what he was saying: This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Drink this in remembrance of me.”
Until then, I had been feeling lost, lonely, a stranger in an alien land. Suddenly, I realized that though I was halfway around the world from my home, I was at home.
I was among fellow Christians, and part of a universal family. The words were different; the Word was the same.
We and people all over the world are not so different really. That is unless we make it seem that way.
The Peace of the Lord be with you
And also with you
Lift up your hearts
We lift them up to the Lord
Let us give thanks to the Lord our God
It is right to give God our thanks and praise