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Christ to the World

To celebrate FSBC's 175th anniversary, our May 21st, 2023 worship service comprised of four different meditations from minister and church members alike. Below is part four of our anniversary celebration from our Pastor, Bob Guffey.



Revelation 21:1-6a, The Message

Anniversary Sunday



(Some of this document is made up of notes and prompts, as well as manuscript.

For the sermon as delivered, please refer to the video.)




INTRODUCTION


These four distinctives [what Caitlin and Jack and Madeline have shared] / these truths from the heart of God and the call of God to this particular church for this particular time and place…


A time for listening to the call of God…


Like thinking back to 2016, listening for God’s call to Freemason Street


Hearing from Randy Ashcraft in 2015 and 2016:

Visiting Freemason Street in October 2016, in the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew… the second meeting of the Norfolk Street Choir… 8 singers… the undeniable sense of the presence of the Holy Spirit… I remember thinking, “Wouldn’t it be just like God to start another cycle of renewal through those who like the Lord Jesus, “had no place to lay his head.”


Then on Christmas Eve 2018 as worshippers were departing after an especially meaningful, joyful night … the elderly woman, who I had never seen before at Freemason Street – not unusual for us on such a holy day as a downtown church – using her walker to navigate the center aisle, turning left on the way to the elevator, I in my robe shaking hands … she paused, looked me full in the face and said, “I felt the Spirit here” and smiled warmly and real…


And I remembered again what it means when we commit ourselves to the soft values of the Kingdom of God, learning to listen, being sensitive to those children of God living at the margins – those without a home, or women, children, those elderly, or those addicted to substances or bigotry, work, or hate – too. Paying attention to the soft values – of inclusive love, grace, peace, hope, mercy and justice – makes it less likely to be influenced by the culture or our fears – or power, greed, ego, self-centeredness and more likely to act in the best interest of all.


HERE IN THIS CHURCH FOR ALL GENERATIONS


For all generations…


One of the tasks of older generations is to ground the young in what is most important, meaningful, and timeless. One of the tasks of the young is to pull their elders into the future, even though that sometimes means changing what you may have once thought was important.


All needed to be who God has called us to be… and to reflect back to the world what God looks like…


(healthy churches… post-COVID, esp.)


Mark Tidsworth, Pinnacle Consulting / Pastoral Care, Columbia, SC, an interim pastor who specializes in conflicted congregations


Thriving Churches:

a. Know who they are

b. Disregard Toxic criticism

c. Avoid comparison thinking

d. Proceed with confidence

e. Adapt as they go


Does any of this begin to sound familiar? As hope? As aspiration? As the dawning new reality of the past few years?


The newness God is at work among us bringing/doing


The renewed sense of identity


The need to be disciples of the Lord Jesus first.


The need to embrace our true identity for these times…


Identity for TODAY.


Are we a mission and ministry starter boutique?

Are we to be disciples of the cross?

Are we a hospice?

Are we a comfort station for the way church used to be?

… antidote to the epidemic of loneliness?

… paying attention to what the Irish poet/philosopher John O’Donoghue

called “our (eternal) hunger to belong”?

Are we advocates for the poor, marginalized, many gendered people of God?

Are we …. members of this brand new changing, post pandemic world, being torn

down again and again, and rebuilt just as Downtown has been again and

again?

Are we an alternative of authenticity, warmth, and real life to a world increasingly

unreal, AI driven. living in branded bubbles of deep fake and unreality?

Are we to offer an alternative experience as human beings as a church,

encouraging what it means to be an independent thinker, led by the spirit of

God, caring for one another even though we disagree, making a place for all human beings as all human beings who together give the world the better picture of who God is?


WHY YES! EXACTLY!


THIS CHURCH FOR ALL GENERATIONS WHO CONTINUES TO BE CALLED TO FALL in love with God’s calling to bring the inclusive mercy, grace, love and justice to their worlds HERE AND NOWHERE AND NOW, WHICH IS WHERE GOD IS ALWAYS AT WORK!


This is what is going on in Revelation 21:1-6 … the Kingdom of God coming true on earth as it already is in heaven / Eden finally come true / God’s purposes fully realized / This God in Christ who has come, is come, and will come to walk among God’s beloved creation / AND FINALLY the home of God is among – who? Human Beings.


Kind of changes how you look at how you care for the earth. Kind of changes how you look at your family. Kind of changes how you look at the people you were taught to doubt or hate when you were growing up. Kind of changes how you look at you.


Kind of makes you glad for God’s calling – and that God is with you in living into the calling … to be a church with a compassionate heart – and curious, intellectually honest mind and ever deepening soul – the kind of Church that begins to feel in the heart of the city … like heaven.


Prayer



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