The State of the Church: Jesus’ Bottom Line
Sunday, November 12, 2006
Luke 10: 25-37
“A lawyer stood up to test Jesus.” Wouldn’t you know it?
The question the lawyer asked was one lawyers often ask, Jesus, what’s the bottom line? What must we do to inherit eternal life? The lawyer already knew the answer:
“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” (Luke 10: 28)
Love of God and love of neighbor…it is Jesus’ bottom line. It was John Wesley’s bottom line when he founded the Methodist movement…his golden text.
Love of God and neighbor.
morning I want to take a look at the state of
Here are a few celebrations:
First: Love of God. In 2006 we have beautified our sanctuary and made Foundry a more worshipful, a healthier and safer place.
is a historic tension in the life of this congregation which pits the
building and mission against each other.
Luise Gray, who died just a week and a half ago, was chair of the church board in 1984, and the meetings were, I understand, stormy. The argument was that we should not be spending money on our building which benefits ourselves but on mission which benefits others.
This tension has been part of our life ever since, and, as Charlie Berardesco, our Council Chair, says, “It is a good tension, part of what makes Foundry unique.”
But we have not spent the money we needed to spend to take care of our building. Alan Zabel tells me, for example, that all the heating/air conditioning valves in this building, when they broke over the years, not one was replaced, but they were simply frozen in the open position. Not a single one was ever replaced. It is one reason the heating and cooling in this building is so difficult to control and so very inefficient, Alan tells me. And this is only the tip of all the things we’ve chosen not to fix since 1984.
I relish this church’s commitment to mission. I relish it. But, of course, we should not have been paying for mission by deferring the maintenance of our building.
So I am greatly appreciative for all of those who participated in the capital campaign 5 or 6 years ago that paid for some of the work we have done on the building this year. I am grateful to the Trustees, Building Committee, Finance Committee, and Church Council who made very difficult decisions this year to spend money we needed to spend to make our building more accessible and safer.
And I am grateful that our proposed 2007 budget includes more resources for building maintenance. I am grateful that our leaders are facing all the additional work that will need to be done in this building to make and keep it a safe, healthful, and beautiful place to work, study, worship and serve.
I was appointed to my first church as pastor 38 years ago, and in those 38 years I have learned this about church buildings – pay now or pay later. Pay now or pay MORE later. So it is good we are paying now.
Second: Love of God and neighbor. We are planning. This is very exciting. We are in the second phase of a three-phase planning/self-study process asking three questions: Who are we? Who is our neighbor? And what is God calling us to do? And then we will address a fourth question: How do we need to be organized to do what God is calling us to do.
I am grateful for the various study groups who have done this work so far, and to all of you who have participated in study/listening sessions.
Loving God with all our heart, soul, strength, and mind includes being intentional in our planning for ministry.
believe we will need to be open to new structures and new ways of organizing
ourselves. Each year the Lay Leadership Committee nominates 200 people to
fill 200 offices. They do a great job but I believe we need to figure out how
we can free you up, support you, and empower you to do the ministry and mission
God is leading you to do rather than recruit you to fill offices. So I am
Love of neighbor. What you –
This past year and a half has seen the birth of a new ministry with our neighbors that is as exciting as any ministry any church is doing anywhere.
started with our minister of mission
Eventually some of the day-laborers began meeting with some of our volunteers here in Helen Harris Parlor on Thursday evenings to ask how their lives might become better. Eventually they invited others, like the Mayor’s Office for Latino Affairs, the Employment Justice Center, the Columbia Heights Shaw Collaborative to meet with them, and the Union de Trabajadores of Washington DC was born in Helen Harris parlor, under the watchful eyes of Helen Harris’ and Lucy Hayes’ portraits. The workers have now incorporated, held a membership drive, and have registered over 100 workers.
Our relationship with the day laborers at 15th and P brought us into relationship with the day laborers at Home Depot. Jana and our volunteers have done great work facilitating dialog between the workers, business owners, and the community.
The ministry has also developed health and legal
components. Yadira has helped workers sign up for the
Our relationship with the day laborers at 15th and P then led to us becoming involved in efforts in seeking justice for immigrants. It was wonderful to see members of Foundry, like Jane Northern and TC Morrow, walking alongside our worker friends in immigration marches this year.
All this also led to the rebirth of our
English-As-A-Second Language mission.
Jana asked me to be sure to tell you that the ministry is not perfect. It is a ministry of building the bridge while you walk on it. I am grateful to everyone who has pioneered this ministry. It is an amazing example of love for God and love for neighbor. It is as exciting as any ministry any church is doing anywhere.
is much more I could say about 2006. In 2006, after months of study, our
Council made a very difficult and painful decision to discontinue our
I am very grateful that our CDC cots and other
materials have been shipped to a United Methodist-related day care center in
We have continued to wrestle with our denomination, and to pull our hair out about denominational policies that discriminate against gay and lesbian people. I am appreciative of the leadership that Foundry continues to provide in this area. We are committed to the full and equal inclusion of gay and lesbian persons in the life of the church, not just at Foundry, but throughout United Methodism.
I am grateful for the growing presence of children and youth in our church’s life and for all those who work with children and youth. I am grateful for those who sing, for those who teach, for those who serve on committees, for those who evangelize, for those who lead fellowship groups, and for our competent, caring and committed staff.
I want to say a word about three specific ways I believe we are being led to love God and neighbor in 2007.
First: Love of God and neighbor: I am asking our Church Council to lead us in a process of addressing the question of same-sex unions here at Foundry. We are part of a denomination I love, but which has been wrong in the past –wrong on race and wrong on the ordination of women, and it is wrong again. Currently our denomination has a rule which says: “Ceremonies that celebrate homosexual unions shall not be conducted by our ministers and shall not be conducted in our churches.”[i]
A study group has been considering options about the next steps of how to handle this prohibition. While the decision to do a wedding or not is ultimately the decision of clergy, Dee and I do not want to move without a sense of your support.
So we are asking the Council and the entire congregation to deliberate with us about this issue. I do want to say this: My conscience will not allow me to continue indefinitely to not celebrate the love of gay and lesbian partners who want their church’s blessing. Something has to happen.
Second: Love of God and neighbor: We need to reflect more of the glory of the diversity of the humanity God has created. We need to become more global.
We’d like our worship to become more global. Eileen is committed to this. One of her goals is to include music from non-European cultures in almost every worship service in 2007. I’ve said to her, why not every worship service? Why not?
We want everyone who walks through these days to see some of their culture in our shared worship. No one does global music better than Eileen, and I hope we all support her as she leads us even more deeply into a multi-cultural experience of worship and music.
Our staff needs to be more global and diverse. Our Staff Parish Relations Committee is determined to create and fill a new Racial-Ethnic Minority Fellowship and we are asking council to create an issues working group to help us build a staff and congregation that reflects the cultural and racial richness of God’s good creation.
The third big way of loving God and neighbor in 2007 is this:
our new ramp that we are going to dedicate today for the first time this past
Friday for the Concert for Life. Nancy Blasdel, who has been attending
me say this: There are barriers of all kinds that the
We can be the church that breaks down every barrier between people and Christ.
convinced that we are living in a time of
Our staff is working hard to develop plans and goals to strengthen our making and growing disciples of Jesus Christ. We want to increase our worship attendance by 5 percent in 2007, to increase the number of new members by 5 percent in 2007, and to increase the numbers of those of us actively engaged in ministry and mission by 5 percent in 2007. Each staff member has developed 4 to 6 goals that will help accomplish this.
We want to help you go deeper spiritually. We want to invite others into the adventure of being disciples of Jesus Christ.
We can’t love neighbors we exclude or ignore or don’t make feel welcomed or open our hearts to. We can’t love neighbors when we walk by on the other side of the street.
Let’s let God break every barrier down in our hearts, in our church, in our world. Let’s go deeper, let’s build ramps in our souls in 2007.