The Gospel According to Dr. Seuss
“Green Eggs and Ham”
Call To Worship
We gather this day after a week filled with needs and demands.
We long to reach out to our neighbor and, in joy, shake hands.
So as we gather this morning, may we open our hearts to love.
Ushering in the grace and reconciliation of our great God above.
It is the Spirit of God who brings us together for prayer and praise.
So, as the family of God, may we raise our thoughts and raise our gaze.
Great God above all compare!
Hear us now as we declare:
Thank you Lord for open hearts and creative minds
Looking for ways to connect with people of all kinds.
Teach us, now, to be persistence in sharing your Good News.
But, at the same time, keep us from putting people into a deep snooze.
Be with us in this grand worship space,
As we savor your amazing and steadfast grace.
In Jesus’ most precious name,
The One who is our heart’s only aim. Amen.
I want you to try and remember back to Pentecost. That was ten weeks ago. I’m sure you all remember the finer points of the sermon and our worship that day, yes?…
Well, perhaps you do remember that we had a little activity in worship. I had you write a vision or dream that you have for our congregation/ where you felt the Holy Spirit was leading us as a family of faith.
Well, I thought I would share some of those beautiful dreams that were turned in:
– I dream to see our church and the Universal church grow! More people to support and to share.
– I dream that our church will be a family united in God’s love. Ready to work together.
– I dream our church will be full of children of all ages.
– I dream that the Church worldwide will overcome terror in the world.
– I dream that we will be a welcoming and loving church to all people.
– I dream that our church will continue to inspire the community and be active community servants.
– I see a vision of growth for our church, through faith and involvement and an acceptance of diversity.
– I dream that the Holy Spirit would lead us all!
Good dreams. There are a few themes that make themselves known in your visions, aren’t there?… Growth, unity, welcome, collective service, working together to achieve something.
So the question I have been mulling over, and the question our leadership will be mulling over soon as they begin to consider these dreams, is: how do we get there? How do we create a space where these dreams and visions can be pursued? How do we follow the Holy Spirit in this?
And this is where Sam I Am comes into play – who is perhaps the most brilliant evangelist of all time… even if his gospel is just ham and eggs. Sam I Am, holds the answer!
Let me ask you this: Have you ever had a deep love for something, and so wanted your family and friends to share in that love? So much so that you tried again and again to invite them into that experience just to have them turn you down…? It happens.
Sam I Am, so loved Green Eggs and Ham that he couldn’t bear the thought of his friend missing out. But rather than take a passive invitational approach, he took many rather persistent approach. And when one approach didn’t work, he was adaptable/ fluid in his methods.
And this is an awesome example of how congregations actually do meet their dreams/ their Spirit given goals! Persistence and Fluidity (or adaptability).
How do we grow the church?
How do we become more unified?
How do we become Christian leaders and servants in our community?
Shoot… How do we, as the church, concur the big things like global hunger, oppressive economic disparities, human trafficking, terrorism…
Persistence and Fluidity.
Persistence we get, even though it makes us incredibly uncomfortable or just exhausted thinking about it. We have to keep trying, keeping sharing, keep pursuing, keep inviting.
When talking about following congregational goals, it always pains me when I hear people say, “The church will never be this… The church can’t tackle something as big as that… The church will always be (blank)…” These concrete words are an excuse of check out or wash our hands of responsibility. One of the great things, and most challenging things, about being Congregationalists is that our polity and structure doesn’t really allow us to not be involved! The church is the gathered (involved) body of Christ- and as a body we pursue dreams and goals together.
Persistence is demanding! Of our time, of our skills, of our ability to build and maintain relationships, of our resources… and of our innovative minds!
Persistence means that we can’t check out and not care.
Now, fluidity… that, quite frankly, is something we (and many churches) could work on…
Sam I Am’s true spiritual gift was looking for ways to meet people where they are! He was great at being relational in whatever environment that they find themselves! (In a house! On a boat! With a fox)
Let’s zoom in on that dream of church growth for a moment:
As a congregation, quite often, we ask people to come to us – meaning to our meeting house. But for a growing number of people when they step into a church, they step into a time warp and struggle to connect.
Now, I’m an oddball (and maybe you are too), because I grew up in a strong/loving church and because I’m in vocational ministry, when I step into a church I feel like I just came home. It’s a welcoming embrace. And, usually even before I meet the congregation I know I’m among friends!
But for more and more people, that is not the feeling they have in a church. They find the church to be a nice relic, just another community gather place, or even something that bears painful memories. So they need the relationship/the connection to community/the assurance that they are loved and appreciated far before they might ever find themselves at home in a house of prayer. (When I think about that shift in perspective in our culture, I can’t really find fault in it… it’s real and valid.) The compelling nature of the Gospel and the need for Christian community hasn’t changed, but our culture has. How do we bring those together? Fluidity. Adapibility.
Nowadays, churches don’t grow by denominational loyalties, or even by providing solid/ up to date/ ever-evolving programming, engaging worship, or wonderful fellowship inside the church (although these things are incredibly important). The Body of Christ grows when we put in the effort to meet people where they are. Sharing what God is doing in our lives with people whom we love! By being God’s hands and feet in the community! By looking out for those who are in hardship or isolation and blessing them with provision and relationship!
The challenge is fluidity. Meeting people where they are first.
There is no model for church growth, no evangelical tract, there is no branding or programming for growing the church that works better than authenticity and relationship first. Shining forward that love and grace of God wherever, whenever… it’s free flowing.
I know that when I think about this, I sometimes find this so frustrating- and not just because I’m kind of an introvert- but because we often find assurance and focus in tested models of church growth! Church growth isn’t something we can zone out on, sit back and write a check for, ask our pastor to do for us! Being the Church, the bride of Christ, is all about what you do (what we all do) outside these walls! When we gather once a week to do “church”… we worship! We give praise! We raise our hearts and voices and souls to God! There is no agenda to be meet other than that. And that is a beautiful thing, but this (worship) is not where the church grows best. It grows best in you!
Now, in our Gospel lesson today, we see Martha and Mary (two sisters) who are hosting Jesus and his crowd in their home. And as Jesus was speaking, Mary takes a seat with the disciples to listen and learn. But Martha was left doing all the work of a good host.
Martha grows upset at having all the work dumped on her (which as anyone who hosts parties can tell you is significant) and eventually she butts in on the lesson Jesus was giving to call her sister out for abandoning her.
But, Jesus points out that Mary has the right idea. There is no concern or task to be completed that is greater than savoring this time with Jesus.
Traditionally we hear this story for what it is on the surface. Jesus reminding people that his time is short and being with his is all that matters… and we shake our finger at Martha. But Martha wasn’t doing anything wrong- she was doing good/loving/solid work. She was meeting the needs of the people, blessing them with hospitality in her home (which for an ancient/primarily Jewish people that was a BIG deal). She was meeting expectations of her.
So when Jesus corrects her, he is in essence breaking down expectations and opening up Martha’s (and our) eye to new possibilities.
Reminding us all that there is no structure, no expectation, no formality, or way of doing things that is more important than being the Body of Christ.
So, that begs the question… What would it look like to let go of structure and formality and expectations in this congregation and put growth or service or one of our other Pentecost goals first?
What does that look like in a traditional family style worshipping community?
I want you to think about that.
What we do here in worship and in education and in our fellowship is really important, and it is good.
But just as Martha did good and blessed work, perhaps we too are being led into a season where we cast off expectations and build a congregation that is persistent and fluid in our ministry – throughout this community, throughout this world.
What does the ministry of FCC Saugatuck, of which you are a partner in- there is no escaping that, look like outside these walls Monday-Saturday?
It’s a day of questions: I want you to mull that over this week.
As our leadership and ministry teams begin to examine our Pentecost dreams and visions, perhaps we can continue talking about this together!