We love to have fun together! Each year we get together for a Talent Show, a Super Bowl Party at a member’s home, a Game Night/Silent Auction, and a Holiday Progressive Dinner.
Who are we?
The people who gather together as Second Baptist Church have been doing so for a long time. In 1833, after the very first Baptist Church in St. Louis disbanded, a few brave souls founded Second Baptist Church. For 180 years, through various and sundry pastors, in several buildings, Second Baptist Church has remained faithful to its original calling- to be people of faith in this place.
Sunday, February 3, 2013: Pastor Steve Mechem
Who are we and where are we going?
We are a people of legacy
We are missional.
We are baptists.
We are a generous people.
I don't use the word generous in the usual way we think of generous, spreading the material wealth, but that would still be a true statement as well. Second Baptist Church has been generous in its mission giving, its community outreach, in starting new churches, in serving this community.
When I say we are generous I mean that we are generous of spirit. This church, from its earliest days has practiced a openness and a tolerance of spirit. We welcome folks who look like us, and those who don't. We welcome folks who talk like us and those who don't. We welcome folks who believe firmly, who doubt loudly, who challenge the preconceived “we believe because we are supposed to believe” mantra. We welcome folks who think like us, and folks who don't.
I like to believe that at Second Baptist Church, we practice a generous orthodoxy. I love the phrase “generous orthodoxy.” I first heard the phrase when I read the book by the same name. In the book we learn that a generous orthodoxy is an orthodoxy that aims for Jesus, is driven by love, and is defined by missional intent. In other words, our focus is Jesus, our motive is love, our purpose is to make a difference. Everything else is minutia. As the Mission Year motto touts, “Love God. Love People. Nothing else matters.” We have, throughout our history, refused to be wedged into a way of thinking that requires cookie cutter responses and group think answers.
Words from our decree “This we believe…” “It is not agreement that we seek, but truth, vision, and friendship in order to build the bonds of unity for service to God.”
As a follower of Jesus, I believe God's love is bigger than my personal belief system. And if God calls me to love others, then I am called to look past our differences, and beyond our belief structures.
We practice generous grace.
Grace is a word that is defined so simply, but becomes confusing when we see people who claim it practice something different.
Short definition: “Grace is acceptance.” It is acceptance based on God's love for us and not on our actions and behaviors. Grace simply accepts.
I follow the author, Greg Boyd, on twitter. This past Friday, he randomly tweeted “if any of my kids doubted my love, regardless of what they did, it would break my heart. So why not give God a break and just accept it?” God has accepted us, period. And we accept his grace for us and for those around us.
The problem is when people who claim to be people of grace come out as judgmental, condemning and hateful. Grace gets fuzzy. And I confess that sometime I fail in this regard and repent for when I, as a advocate of grace, have chosen judgment instead.
Grace is acceptance. Radical acceptance. Grace says, whoever you are, from wherever you come, whatever your thing, God loves you and accepts you and so do I because God has loved and accepted me.
We learn grace from Jesus and his ministry.
To those vexed by religion he would say, “come to me and find rest in me”
Of the children he would say, “let them come to me for theirs is the kingdom.”
To the caught woman, he said, “neither do I condemn you.”
To the disgraced tax collector, he said, “I am going to your house today”
To one person after another, he said, “your sins are forgiven.”
The folks society defined as sinners, prostitutes and lawbreakers, flocked to him, leaving us with the tough question, “Why is it that the very people who were drawn to Jesus are repelled by his followers?”
To the societal outcasts, Jesus would come to them, touch them, heal them, change their lives.
We print a welcome statement in the bulletin every week. The state is not just a bunch of pretty words, it expresses our desire to practice generous grace to all.
We, the community of faith known as Second Baptist Church, invite into our fellowship all persons who name Jesus Christ as Lord, without regard to race, ethnicity, age, gender, ability, sexual orientation, level of education, economic status, marital status, or any other status that may be misunderstood as a barrier to authentic fellowship.
We further welcome all who seek God, all who reject easy answers, all who have questions about faith, and all who feel out of step with the religious mainstream. We strive to be an open community where people feel comfortable and encouraged as they search for meaning and purpose in life. We invite you to join us as we discover grace together.
We practice generous grace
We practice generous graciousness
Graciousness is simply the modeling of grace.
As you and I have been showered with grace, it becomes a way of life for us to shower others with the grace shown us.
I don't usually look to politicians for theological understanding, but I think President Obama was profound when he observed, “what we can do, as flawed as we are, is still see God in other people, and do our best to help them find their own grace.”
Being gracious means helping others find the grace that is offered them.
In his book, The Vital Balance, Karl Menninger tells a story about the 19th century artist, Sir Edward Burnes-Jones. Sir Edward was visiting his daughter one day when he observed her disciplining her daughter. After a moment of impropriety, the mother made her daughter stand in the corner with her face to the wall. Sir Edward was reluctant to interfere with his daughter's discipline practices, and so, said nothing. The next morning he arrived back at his daughter's house with a satchel full of paints and brushes. He walked over to the wall, the wall where his granddaughter stood and stared, and began to paint - a puppy chasing its tail; lambs in a field; flowers in bloom, goldfish swimming, kittens playing. His granddaughter was delighted. And grandad took heart that if his granddaughter ever had to stand in the corner again, at least she would have something at which to look.
We, You and I, have been given the responsibility of painting color in a world that finds itself all too often standing in the corner.
Let's be generous with grace… as we live graciously in a world in need of grace. Amen.
Sunday, January 27; Pastor Steve Mechem
Who are we and where are we going?
We are Baptists.
We have a bit of a problem. The problem is with our name - Second Baptist Church.
There is no problem with the word “Second.”
There is no problem with the name “Church.” Although some churches have decided to change the word “church” to “fellowship” or “ministries.” Church, the greek ekklesia, assembly, was good enough for Paul, Peter and the early leaders of the movement, then its good enough.
The problem is with the word “Baptist.” There are some people who would not set a foot in our door because we call ourselves “Baptist,” and they have a preconceived notion as to what that means.
For some, the title “Baptist” brings to mind a small church in the midwest that has made a reputation for itself by protesting at soldiers' funerals and carrying signs that read “God hates gays.”
For some, the word “Baptist” brings to mind the even smaller church in the south that made news by promising to burn the Q'ran during a Halloween service.
For some, “Baptist” implies a male dominated church where women are not allowed to serve in leadership roles.
For some, “Baptist” means narrow minded and “group think.” I drove by a church in East Tennessee once and noticed the sign out front which read, “First Independent King James Only Bible Believing Fundamentalist Pre-Tribulation Rapture Baptist Church.” Below the Church title were the words, “All are welcome.”
For some, the word “Baptist” evokes images of long sermons peppered with hellfire and brimstone, followed by an equally long invitation to respond that includes all the verses of “Just as I am” and an admonition to “close your eyes,” and “raise your hands if you want to accept Jesus” with a smattering of “I see that hand.”
For some “Baptist” means an organization that doesn't like women, or gays, or immigrants, or people of color, or folks with a different faith, or questioners or skeptics.
For some “Baptist” means political overreach with leaders who blame the “others” in our society for all our national problems.
For some, the word “Baptist” reminds them that they are guilty and shameful.
For some “Baptist” implies judgment, and meanness, big hairdos, church ladies and grumpy deacons.
There are some people who will never step through our doors because we are a baptist church.
And there are others who come expecting something that we are not. They are expecting the Baptist Church in which they were raised and find that we are not that church.
And so, the name “Baptist” is a problem.
On the other hand, the title “Baptist” presents opportunity. While the word means a lot of different things to different people, there is an unequivocal historical reality to the meaning of Baptist. Baptist, from the beginning, has meant something very specific. And while many who wear the title “Baptist” in our culture do not reflect this sense of history, Second Baptist Church strives to reflect the history from whence we came.
The hallway in the educational wing is lined with posters reminding us of this heritage. The posters tell of certain Baptist distinctives that make us unique- most of which you know well…
Separation of Church and State
Priesthood of the Believer
Local Church Autonomy
These are the distinctives that we learned in “who are the baptists” class.
But there are distinctives whose roots go back farther, before those early Baptists in America and England. Some of us believe that Baptist thinking is beholden to our Anabaptist Forbears of the 16th and 17th century. From these hardy and radical believers, groups like the Mennonites and Amish come. And there is most certainly strong Mennonite influence on those early English Baptists.
And at the heart of Anabaptist thinking is a specific understanding of Jesus. There is a belief that Jesus is Lord, Redeemer, and Friend. And He is also our Example. Quite often in church thinking, Jesus' life is relegated to the background as his death and resurrection are the focus, but in Anabaptist, and thus baptist thought, Jesus' life and teaching serves as a example for our own living.
There are many who believe that teachings like the Sermon on the Mount are not possible. They say Jesus' teachings represent a life best lived, but not attainable, and therefore not actually necessary. But we believe that Jesus' life and teaching are not only inspirational and elegant, we believe that we are called to live our lives based on those teachings.
Look at the windows in this sanctuary. They represent Jesus' call to us to live lives based on His life.
~Blessed are those who feel their spiritual need, for the kingdom of God belongs to them.
~Blessed are they that mourn for they shall be comforted.
~Blessed are the humble, they will inherit the earth.
~Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness for they shall be filled.
~Blessed are the merciful, they shall find mercy.
~Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
~Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.
~Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness' sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
~Seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these things shall be added unto you.
And beyond these windows, as we look at Jesus's teachings in the book. We hear our calling …
A new command I give to you, love one another.
Turn the other cheek.
Treat others the way you want to be treated.
Pray for your enemies.
Let your light shine.
As I have served you, serve each other.
As you go, make disciples.
Take up your cross.
Ask, Seek, Knock.
Love your neighbor. Everybody is your neighbor.
Feed the hungry.
Care for the poor.
Accept the stranger.
Visit the prisoner.
Come to me with child like faith.
Our Anabaptist forbears believed that Jesus' words were not only important, but imperative.
And so do we. Yes, we cherish the Old Rugged Cross. Yes, we celebrate that He is risen. And we have decided to follow Jesus: to learn from the way He lived and make his teachings a way of life.
How does carrying the name Baptist give us opportunity? While we may not represent much of what passes as “Baptist,” in the prominent religious culture in 2013, I would like to think that we represent what is means to be “Baptist” in its truest sense.
As Baptists we practice openness.
As Baptists we practice tolerance.
As Baptists we are missional.
As Baptists we practice grace.
As Baptists we extend mercy.
As Baptists we are growing as disciples.
As Baptists we are called to radical Love.
We are Baptists.
So being Baptist presents some obstacles and also affords us possibility. How might we overcome the obstacles while embracing the possibilities? The answer is that we need to live out who we are.
We will live out who we are. We will welcome, with enthusiasm and joy, all who come through our doors- old, young, men, women, straight, gay, married, single, divorced, widowed, people of every hue, regardless of language spoken or national origin, the wealthy, the less than wealthy, folks who have succeeded and folks who have messed up. We will not miss the opportunity to embrace and welcome all who come through our doors.
We will live out who we are. We will invite others to join us on the journey. I get the question all the time, “how can our church grow?” I am convinced that churches don't grow because of pastors, or music, or programs. I am convinced that churches grow when the people of the church invite friends and family and acquaintances and neighbors to join them on the journey of grace. That invitation is often spoken, but it is also extended through our loving response to circumstances and situations in our everyday lives.
We will live out who we are. We will, as individuals and as a faith community, live out all that it means to be followers of Jesus of the Baptist persuasion. We will reject common notions of what “Baptist” means and embrace the call of Jesus to engage with our community and our world in a spirit of grace and graciousness.
We will, as the Apostle Peter reminds us, grow together into the spiritual household of God, offering the spiritual sacrifice of our lives daily as we live lives that reflect God's love, God's mercy, God's grace, and God's kindness.
Sunday, January 20, 2013: Pastor Steve Mechem
Who are we and where are we going?
We are a missional people!
After his resurrection, just before his ascension, Jesus said to his gathered disciples, “Go into all the world and make disciples.” From the very beginning, there was an emphasis that this faith of ours was to be shared. And shared it was.
In a few short years, the story of Jesus spread throughout the known world. Jesus' message was proclaimed, but perhaps more importantly, it was lived out everywhere followers of Jesus went.
Even people who were violently against the Jesus movement had to confess its adherents were something special. The Emperor Julian confessed, “The godless Galileans feed our poor in addition to their own.”
A second century writer recounted, “They, the Christians, love one another. They do not overlook the widow. They save the orphan. When they see a stranger, they take him in under their roof and rejoice over him as a true brother…And whenever they see one of their poor has died, each one of them, according to ability, contributes and they bury him, and if they hear that some are condemned or in prison on account of the name of their Lord, they contribute for those who are condemned and send to them what they need, and, if it's possible they buy their freedom. And if there is any that is a slave or a poor person, they fast two or three days and what they were going to set for themselves they send to them considering themselves blessed.”
Jesus' call to “go and make disciples” has been taken seriously.
Throughout the church's history, mission work has been considered a high calling. And while the value of that mission activity cannot be overstated, there have been negative unintentional consequences as well.
Throughout the church's history, mission work has been considered a high calling. And while the value of that mission activity cannot be overstated, there have been negative unintentional consequences as well.
Please don't hear me being critical of the mission movement; an untold number of people have become followers of Jesus because of caring, diligent and loving missionaries like Adonirum and Ann Judson, John Mason and Sally Peck, Bill and Ann Clemmer and countless others.
And yet, we must be honest and say some mission work has been problematic.
As missiologists have worked to neutralize some of these unintended consequences of mission activity, we have been introduced to the word “missional.”
Simply stated, mission is something you do. Being missional is something you are.
Jesus told his disciples, “Go into all the world and make disciples.” The verb “to go” is in aorist participle form. It is easily and rightly translated, “As you go into all the world, make disciples.” To be missional means that you take the gospel with you wherever and whenever you go. It is not something you do, it is who you are.
Mission is not just the job for special people with a special calling. Being Missional means all of us take the good news of Jesus wherever we go.
If you have committed yourself to be a disciple, it makes perfect sense that everything about you reflects that commitment and “as you go,” the gospel goes with you – to school, to work, in your neighborhood, in your home, on the hiways and byways.
I remember as a teenager, a group with which I hung out would head to the town square in Frankfort, Indiana on Friday and Saturday nights. We would go up and down the street placing gospel tracts behind the windshield wipers of cars parked while the car owners were in the local bars and restaurants. It was evangelism without having to look people in the eye.
A long time ago, I took evangelism training in which I learned to go to a stranger’s door, knock on it, and have a contrived scripted conversation with the person who answered. At some point in the conversation, I was to ask the question, “What would happen to you if you died tonight.” The door was usually shut in my face before then.
In my first ministry, Thursday was visitation night. A small group of lay folks, plus the pastor and I, showed up, were given assignments, and visited potential members and missing members. We did not go from a deep place of personal concern, we went because it was Thursday and Thursday was visitation night. Truth be told, we usually didn’t know the people on our list (as was evidenced when I visited a family for over a half hour before I realized I had gone to the wrong address).
Being missional means not forcing the gospel into car windows, it means not learning to steer a conversation like a telemarketer.
Being missional means engaging people, loving people, serving people.
Being missional means taking Jesus with us wherever we go, not as a gimmick or a mascot, but as Lord of our lives.
“As you go” is a way of life.
“As you go” is a way of thinking.
“As you go” is a way of being.
One of my criticisms with the church in America in 2013 is that it is a church in isolation. We have built for ourselves a ghetto, an enclave, that separates us from those folks out there. We have Christian TV, and Christian Radio, and Christian bookstores, and Christian schools, and Christian dating services, and Christian yellow pages that tell us where we can find Christian plumbers and Christian carpenters and Christian podiatrists, and we isolate ourselves from the very people for whom we are called to serve and to whom we are called to shine the love and grace of God.
Being missional, “as you go,” does not allow us to be isolated.
As missional people. Everything we do we do knowing it reflects Christ (in a good or bad way) to the people around us.
Brian McLaren defines missional this way “to be and make disciples of Jesus Christ in authentic community for the good of the world.”
I think that this a good guiding definition for Second Baptist Church. We are here “to be and make disciples of Jesus Christ in authentic community for the good of the world.”
We are disciples of Jesus Christ. We have heard the invitation of Jesus, “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you'll recover your life. I'll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won't lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you'll learn to live freely and lightly.”
And we are learning to walk in the unforced rhythms of grace.
And we are committed to inviting others to join us on the journey. We don't seek folks who look like us or see eye to eye with us on everything, we invite anyone and everyone seeking grace to join us as we discover it together.
We have chosen this community of faith to work out our faith and our discipleship. We have chosen, with Jesus as our Lord, to walk together, work together, worship together, play together, pray together, live together the life together. Dr. King would speak of the beloved community wherein people gathered together to practice harmony and pursue peace and serve God by serving humanity.
And as a community, our hope and prayer is that our activity makes our world a better place. The way we treat our neighbors, the way we worship, the way we greet visitors and strangers, the way we spend our resources, in the ordering of our priorities, in our outreach and our in reach, we are striving to make a positive difference as we believe we have been invited by our Lord Jesus to bring forth a kingdom based on grace and love and mercy.
And that Kingdom will come as we practice grace and love together everyday, in every way, as we go along our way, with every acquaintance, in every relationship, in every encounter.
I close with the words of Doctor King as he looked over a sea of people on the Washington Mall in 1963, he alluded to scripture as he proclaimed, “I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, that rough places will be made straight and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together.”
May it be so, Lord. May it be so.
Sunday, January 13, ,2013: Pastor Steve Mechem
Who Are We and Where Are We Going? We are a people of heritage
1 Corinthians 1:1-2
In this passage, Paul is writing to a group of folks in the Grecian city of Corinth. They have gathered themselves together in a community called “church.” This group, recognized their common Lordship of Jesus and chose to walk the path of discipleship together. The word “church,” is the translated greek word εκκλησία (ekklesia) and means an assembly, a group of people who have gathered together for a purpose.
In Paul's thinking, “church” has two understandings. First there is the universal church of which all followers of Jesus, regardless of their locale, are members.
The second understanding of church refers to a group of people in a specific locale, men and women who have accepted the call to be disciples who have come together. They come together to worship, to serve, to pray, to commune, to grow in faith together.
Since the beginning, these local communities of faith, “churches” have sprung up wherever followers of Jesus are found.
On January 6, 1833, eleven men and women established such an assembly, such a group in St. Louis. They called themselves Second Baptist Church. There wasn't a First Baptist Church, but there was a Baptist Church in St. Louis before Second Baptist. It was established in 1818 and dis-established itself the day before Second Baptist was constituted. Most of the new members of Second had belonged to the first church.
Second Baptist Church has been an integral part of St. Louis since then. Different locations, lots of pastors, many members over the years coming together to worship, to serve, to pray, to commune, to grow in faith together.
Quite often, when I am having a conversation with one of you, you ask me questions like “what do you think of Second Baptist Church?” or “what do you think Second
Baptist Church should do now?”
Well, after serving as your pastor for six months, I want to answer these two questions as best I can. So, over the next seven Sundays we will address the question, “Who are we and where are we going?”
It makes sense that the first of these messages be focused on where we have been.
For this message, I am indebted to many conversations I have had with many of you about this church and I am indebted to this amazing red book with a white cover jacket titled The Story of Second Baptist.
Second Baptist Church is a church with great heritage and legacy.
By Second Baptist Church, I mean us. Every man, woman, and child that is a part of this community of faith. We are a people of legacy. What is our legacy, you may ask?
We have a legacy of generosity.
We have, for 180 years given time, treasure, talent to engage in ministry.
We have have been generous in service, in grace, in tolerance.
And so, we have a legacy of service.
And we have a legacy of grace.
We have a legacy of inclusion and tolerance
As befits people of tolerance, we have been censured and dismissed from the association to which we belonged, twice. Once because we chose to worship with a Jewish congregation and a offer communion to a person who held Unitarian doctrine, and again, because we chose to offer open membership- membership to all who call Jesus Christ Lord.
It was written of Pastor William Coleman Biting, the pastor for whom the fellowship hall was named, he was a man “of intelligent and broadening faith, theological tolerance and religious cooperation.” I think it is fair to say that this has been a goal for all of Second Baptist's Pastors.
A certain outcome of inclusion is that we also have a legacy of diversity.
In the beginning, both slave and free were members together in the 1818 church.
Second Baptist has been the church of immigrants, refugees, darker and lighter hues worshiping and serving together, men and women providing leadership, rich and under resourced peoples sitting side by side in pews and serving side by side in the community.
Going hand in hand with inclusion and diversity, we have a legacy of social justice.
John Mason Peck, the founder of the 1818 church and member of Second Baptist was an fervent abolitionist.
And while there have been differing opinions among the congregation, it is rightly said that the church has been outspoken in its call for individual freedom and civil rights.
On warm summer days prior to the Civil War, when the doors of the sanctuary were open, pastor Galusha Anderson could look past his pulpit, down the aisle and out the front doors to see a slavery pin on the far side of the street.
While most churches were careful not to speak about the growing political drama around slavery, Doctor Anderson was blatantly anti-slavery and one day preached a particularly sharp pro-union sermon, which was reportedly the first pro-union sermon in St. Louis.
Community response was intense- a deacon was shot, a brick was thrown through a window during worship, and the pastor received death threats.
It can almost go without saying, we have a legacy of ecumenism. We have worked together and worshipped together and served together with folks of differing theological stripes throughout our history.
We have a legacy of education.
Second Baptist had one of the first, if not the first, Sunday Schools west of the Mississippi. We have always made education, for adults, as well as for youth and children, a priority and we have trumpeted theological education for our pastors.
We have a legacy of discipleship. We have chosen to be followers of Jesus together.
We have a legacy of hope. We have believed in and worked for the Kingdom that God is establishing.
We have a legacy of perseverance.
Numerous financial crises
and here we are- 180 years old as of last Sunday.
We have a legacy of worship.
We have a legacy of music, as is self evident every Sunday. Did you know the first step in the design of this building was an acoustical study. The designers wanted the sound to be full and rich because music is such an important priority in worship.
We have a legacy of ministry.
We have a legacy of mission
In the narthex hangs a picture with the names of 19 churches on it. Those 19 names represent the 19 churches to which this church has given birth.
Outreach, through mission trips, mission groups, and mission offerings have always been important to Second Baptist.
Did you know that there is a group of women who meet monthly to engage in mission activity and I would believe it is a true statement to say that they, and those who have gone before them have rolled thousands of miles of bandages to be used in hospitals and medical outposts around the world.
We have a legacy of thoughtfulness
Doctor Biting preached about the Christian's “divine right to think.”
Ours is a congregation that encourages questions, that allows people to struggle with the answers given, that appreciates thoughtful dissent.
Rev. Leon Robison, in the document found inside our hymnals, This We Believe, writes “In this Church, it is not agreement that we seek, but truth, vision and friendship in order to build the bonds of unity for service to God.”
A legacy of thoughtfulness is born from a legacy of freedom.
We have a legacy based on the lordship of Jesus.
I love this sanctuary, and I love the thought that went into it. This room is very simple- for a reason. When one walks into this room, one's sight is not distracted by lots of visual minutia, but is immediately drawn to this cross, the symbol of Jesus' love for us. Here it hangs, in mid-air, challenging us to focus on the One who hung upon a cross.
And then, when our eyes move off the cross, they settle on these amazing windows and the message the windows bring. The “Blessed are you's,” - the fundamental teachings of Jesus to his disciples. This room inspires us to think about the One who brought this community of faith together in the first place- Jesus Christ our Lord.
What do we do with such a great legacy? Before we answer that, it is important to be reminded that while we have a great legacy, we also have feet of clay. We have, as individuals and as a congregation, messed up. There have been times when we have focused on our comfort more than our ministry. There have been moments when we cared more about appearances than mission. We have not always lived up to our great calling. Like the man responding to Jesus, we must be honest, “we believe, but we need help with our unbelief.”
Back to the question, what do we do with such a great legacy?
We can, 1) ignore our legacy. We can pretend that the past 180 years haven't counted. But that would be silly because the last 180 years have counted and are a testament to a people committed to Christ and each other.
We can, 2) bask in our legacy. We can rest on our laurels. We can take pride in who we have been and point to our past successes. We can ignore who we are today and who we will become tomorrow and concentrate solely on who we have been. We can change our name to Second Baptist Museum and celebrate our great past. But that would be wrong. As a community of faith, we are a living organism, and living organisms are always stretching and moving forward, or they will stagnate and die.
Or, we can 3) celebrate our heritage and build on our legacy as we boldly move forward as a people committed to Christ, to each other, and to a world in need of grace and hope. Now this makes sense to me.
Reverend George Humphrey Tolley, pastor in the 1930's wrote, “no church can live on the past. Be aware of it, yes. Build on it, by all means, but strike out into new and untried fields…”
It is silly to discount our past and dangerous to live in it. But it is wise to move forward as we learn from what has been, and lean forward to what is ahead.
And what lies ahead is “possibility” - the possibility of becoming.
… becoming a beloved community of faith where we truly care for each other, and open our doors to anybody and everybody seeking fellowship, and engage with our neighbors, our community and our world with unlimited grace and overwhelming mercy and unconditional love. Amen.
January 6, 2013; Pastor Steve Mechem
Listen to the 1/6/2013 Sermon here.
Cleaning Up After the Party
On Sunday, January 6, 1833, 180 Years ago, eleven people gathered to begin Second Baptist Church. Most of them had been members of the Baptist Church founded in 1818, and dissolved on Saturday, January 5, 1933. We will, as this year rolls by, celebrate this significant milestone in our history. Happy Birthday, Second Baptist Church.
As Judi and I were driving home after the Christmas Eve Service, we were admiring the many light displays along the way. We commented, with a little sadness that this might be the last time we would see the lights, since we would be gone a few days and the Christmas Season was coming to a close and people would be putting up their decorations. I am wondering- who has put away their Christmas stuff already? Who will put their decorations away in the next week or two?
Today, on the church calendar, is epiphany. The official end of the Christmas Season. And so, now we turn to getting back to normal.
When the party is over it is time to clean up.
Cleaning up. A major theme of movies and TV shows involving teenagers is the predicament in which kids find themselves as they have held a party at their homes while their parents were away, and after the party, there is a massive cleanup operation that must be done before the parental units get home. Usually, the task is accomplished just moments before the parents pull into the driveway. The parents, completely unaware of their kids’ illegal party, are none the wiser as long as everything is put back the way it is supposed to be.
When we clean up after a party, the goal is to return everything to a normal state. Trash cleaned up, decorations put away, everything put back in place - everything back to normal!
So for followers of Jesus, after the celebration of Advent and month long Christmas party, it is time for things to return to normal. The question is, what is normal? What does life look like when the party is over?
John 1:14 reveals that when Jesus became flesh and blood and moved into the neighborhood, we encountered him as One full of grace and truth.
And as the Scripture was read today, “From his fullness we have all received grace upon grace. The law indeed was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known.”
It strikes me that if in Jesus' coming we encountered grace and truth, than grace and truth is the normal life of the follower of Jesus.
What does life look like after the party is over. It should, for you and me, look like grace - grace received and grace given.
Grace is God becoming flesh and grace is God's declaration of unconditional love and unlimited acceptance and grace is folks like you and me putting God's love into practice.
We are reminded that grace is the one thing the church can give the world. What does the world like after the party is over, what is normal for the follower of Jesus? Grace.
Grace and truth. We are to live lives of grace and truth.
For me, truth is trickier than grace!
Don't misunderstand me, I believe in absolute truth, but I am aware that I don't hold the patent on it. And I have heard enough preachers and teachers talk about truth to know that claiming the knowledge of truth makes one sound arrogant, not knowledgeable.
I believe in absolute truth. And I believe in God. And I believe truth is found in the heart and mind of God.
And I am acutely aware that I cannot begin to comprehend the mind and heart of God. Therefore I cannot comprehend all there is to know about truth.
Having said all that, I believe that Jesus gives us a glimpse into the heart and mind of God. So if I will listen to the words of Jesus and pay attention to the life of Jesus, I can say I am making an effort to live a life of truth.
What do I learn by paying attention to Jesus?
I learn that the commandment that matters is the new one about love.
I learn that anybody who is in need is my neighbor.
I learn that the Kingdom of God is at hand.
I learn that blessed am I when I practice peace, and humility, and mercy.
I learn that I am to follow.
I learn that being least is better than being the most.
I learn that forgiveness is not an option- it is a must.
I learn that sacrificial living is the norm for the follower of Jesus.
I learn that nobody is untouchable, unlovable, or unredeemable.
I learn that judging others sets me up to be judged.
I learn that turning the other cheek and going the extra mile is not extraordinary behavior, it is normal stuff for the follower of Jesus.
I learn that God is at work in the small and the insignificant.
I learn that love in action is service and service is a way of life.
I learn that the truth shall make me free. Hum. But truth is so hard to understand, so elusive. There are so many layers, so many contradictions, so many voices that declare truth (they can't all be correct).
How do I know truth? I know truth by listening to and following the revelation of truth. “Grace and Truth came through Jesus Christ,” the good book says. If I keep my eyes and heart on Jesus (and not on all the voices that tell me what to think about Jesus), and if I choose to live my life accordingly, I will begin to live a life of truth and grace.
I recently read this simple prayer:
“Steep us in your story, Lord : that we may live its truth today.”
As we get to know Jesus' life and teaching better, we are in a better position to live out the truth of God's grace.
Way back at the beginning of the Advent, I shared a poem by Howard Thurman. It seems fitting as we clean up after the party and return to normal, daily living, that I share it again,
“When the song of the angels is stilled,
When the star in the sky is gone,
When the kings and princes are home,
When the shepherds are back with their flock,
The work of Christmas begins:
To find the lost,
To heal the broken,
To feed the hungry,
To release the prisoner,
To rebuild the nations,
To bring peace among people,
To make music in the heart.”
December 16, 2012: Pastor Steve Mechem
It seems that much of the emphasis during the Christmas Season is focused on the miraculous or the extraordinary.
The movie, after all, is called “The Miracle on 34th Street”
In one special program after another, on TV, in the theater, or at the local elementary school, the plot is simply, “we need a Christmas miracle.”
Google the phrase “Christmas Miracle” and be amazed at the number of poems and plays and short stories that include the words Christmas Miracle in the title.
Many of our myths, legends, and traditions surrounding this holiday focus on the miraculous. The Sanctuary is made more beautiful today because of the Poinsettias so beautifully arranged. Do you know the legend of the poinsettia?
There are several variations, but it goes something like this. Two girls were on their way to the church for Christmas festivities in their small village in Mexico. The custom of the village was that people would bring gifts to the church and present the gifts to the baby Jesus on Christmas Eve. The girls were talking as they walked and were very sad because they were very poor and had nothing to bring to baby Jesus. As they walked and talked, they encountered an angel who told them to pull some weeds from the side of the road to give them to their Savior on His birthday.
It seemed so little, but the girls did as the angel said. They carried the green weeds to the church to present to Jesus. It was not much, but it was all they had.
They entered the church and saw that the nativity scene was surrounded by many many beautiful gifts- hand made woodwork, flowers, candies and treats. They were embarrassed as they carried their weeds up the aisle and laid them in the hay surrounding the manger scene.
To their shock and amazement, the weeds from the road side suddenly transformed into beautiful poinsettias, and were the most beautiful of all the gifts.
Almost every piece of decoration we use during the Christmas season has a backstory filled with wonder and miraculous happening.
Even the story of Jesus' birth found in Matthew and Luke contain elements of the miraculous, the extraordinary, the fantastical - angels appearing here, there, and everywhere, divine pregnancy, exotic wise people, a mysterious star that guides, visions, ecstatic utterances. We are left feeling that this is the most unique of births - miraculous and extraordinary.
I believe exactly the opposite of this. What makes the birth of Jesus amazing is not its extraordinariness, but its commonness. It is not the trappings and wrappings that make the birth profound, it is that when God chooses to become human, God does so just like the other 108 billion or so human beings who have been born on this planet.
If one peels away all the extra-material that is presented with the birth story of Jesus, one is left with the most common story in history- clueless parents and a crying baby.
The dad. A young man, perhaps still a teenager, engaged to the mom. Their engagement may have been based on love or like so many of their contemporaries, their engagement was a decision made by their respective parents, perhaps when they were very young children.
The dad, Joseph knew he would be marrying Mary- perhaps there was genuine love there, or perhaps the love would grow in their mutual experience one with another.
Joseph had been devastated when Mary came to him to tell him she was pregnant and he was not the biological father (certainly not the first time or the last time such a revelation would knock the props from under an engagement).
Joseph, feeling betrayed but still a decent guy, decided to break it off with Mary quietly, not turning her into the focus of a small town's contempt.
However, he decided (with a little help) to stay with Mary and stand beside her. My guess is that his plan was simple, he would marry her, continue to learn the family craft of carpentry, make furniture like his dad did, and maybe his dad's dad did, and build a family. This child, while not biologically his, would be his in every other way.
And now, 90 miles from home, in an public space in a strange town, he holds Mary's hand and speaks soothing words to her as she gives birth to a son.
I am wondering, which dads, or grandparents, or significant others in this room were present in the delivery room? I know that generations before mine did not have the amazing privilege of helping in the delivery. I remember it like it was yesterday as our oldest son, Luke, now 31, was born.
Judi's labor was long, her spirit was amazing, but it was hard work for her.
And as her husband, I got to hold her hand (sometimes it hurt a lot as she squeezed my hand so tightly, but I was not about to complain), I got to encourage her with my words (while she did all the hard work), and I got to be part (insignificant in many ways, but still a part) of the whole experience.
In a side note, I will tell you that a nurse at the Rush County Hospital told me I was the best father/coach who had been through their delivery room. It was heady stuff, until I realized that they told that to all the dads.
This is Joseph's story… finding a little shelter in the small town that was packed to overflowing, helping Mary find a spot where she might be comfortable with a little privacy, holding her hand, speaking words of encouragement as the baby came.
Remarkable. But, with some variation, repeated billions of times throughout history.
The mom. Probably younger than the dad, many scholars guess her age to be 13 or 14.
She knew she would be marrying Joseph, perhaps as she was getting to know him, she was really starting to like the guy. But then, this thing happened. She found herself pregnant, and was left with the task of telling Joseph.
It is important to note that Joseph would know the baby was not his because the couple had not been intimate. So, Mary, taking a deep breath, told Joseph the truth as been as she could. He was skeptical, but came around (with a little help).
As a non-married pregnant woman in her small village, she heard the voice of derision and judgement. It must have been hard to take. The whispers, the gossip, the turned heads, may be what caused Mary to visit her cousin Elizabeth who was a source of comfort and encouragement to her.
It was a long journey - this pregnancy. Mary and Joseph faced it as best they could together, and I am sure that they spoke often of the future, of their hopes and dreams, of the lives they envisioned as a family with their children.
And now, after traveling 90 miles in the third trimester of her pregnancy, Mary found herself ready to give birth. Her mom was not there, her cousin Elizabeth was not there. As labor pangs intensified, as Joseph held her, spoke to her, cared for her, Mary went through the process - the same way billions of other women have experienced labor, the grueling work of bringing new life into the world.
The baby. When my children were born, I counted. Ten fingers. Ten toes. I counted their fingers and toes because I heard my dad say once that that was the first thing he did when he saw his children.
Ten fingers. Ten toes. And lungs that stretched as the baby cried out. A wrinkly body. A body covered with the gunk (technically, its called vernix caseosa) with which babies are covered. An umbilical cord to be cut. A soft spot on his head. DNA. A heart that beat. A nervous system firing on all cylinders. Arms stretching. Legs kicking. In every way a baby. Fragile, completely dependent on his parents, feeling comfort in his mother's touch, brand new to the world.
More amazing than the stories of angels and stars and wise people and shepherds, more impressive than miracles on a street in New York City or an angel that gets his wings, is the simple and profound truth that God became like us, completely like us. He entered our existence, ready to experience the best and worst of us, to show us what life is meant to be. That is truly the Christmas miracle. Amen.
Sunday, November 25, 2012: Pastor Steve Mechem
John, preaching in the wilderness, cried out, “Prepare the way of the Lord.”
Usually, the Sunday after Thanksgiving marks the beginning of Advent. That is not the case this year. Next Sunday is the first Sunday in Advent. Since Advent is the Season of Preparation, next week is the beginning of preparation, of expectation for the coming Savior.
What does One speak about on the Sunday after Thanksgiving when it is not yet Advent. Since Advent is the “time of preparation,” I thought we might talk about preparing for the preparation.
Now, there is lots of preparation to do.
There are rooms to clean
There are decorations to find, and then hang
There are groceries to buy
There are Christmas Cards to fill out and send
There is the making of lists and checking them twice
There are dinners and parties to plan and attend
There is gifts shopping to do
There is the wrapping that needs to be done
There are school event, and and church events and community events for which to plan
There are travel plans to make
All these preparations can be exhausting. I recently read of a survey in which 56% of respondents said they wish they could skip Christmas because it is just too hard.
Maybe you feel that way? At least some of the time.
I know I do, some of the time.
I have, just for fun, prepared a list of simple ideas you might consider doing to make the season of Preparation more bearable, and more meaningful.
In your bulletin you find a page entitled 18 simple ideas. I only filled in a few of the spaces, so if you would like, grab a pen and fill in the spaces as we move along in this discussion.
1. Read the Story. You find the story of Jesus' birth in two primary places. The first two chapters of Matthew and the first two chapters of Luke. Mark begins with Jesus' baptism and John is more esoteric as he writes of “Logos” word becoming flesh and moving into the neighborhood. Luke tells the story of Bethlehem and shepherds while Matthew picks up the story some time later as the magi appear with gifts.
The problem is that we have read and heard the stories so often - familiarity breeds boredom. I suggest, that you try reading the story like you have never read it before.
I would suggest that you read the story several times, usually different translations each time you read. If you don't have several translations, you can find excellent resources on line. www.biblegateway.com or www.biblestudytools.com have many different translations available. Read, and enjoying reading, the story.
2. Pray. Spend some time during Advent in the presence of God. Use that time to center, to settle, to relax, to seek. We sometimes think of Prayer as the act of folding hands and closing eyes and talking to God. But prayer comes in many forms. There is talking, but there is also silence. We can write prayers or paint prayers or sing prayers or dance prayers or think prayers or read other people's prayers.
3. Study the Hymnal. Almost every hymnal has a compilation of Christmas carols and Christmas Hymns. Read through them. Meditate on especially meaningful lines; compare the words of the carols to the Scripture story and identify the points of connection and the places where the hymns are just making stuff up. Its great fun and can be quite enlightening.
4. Write a short story. Rewrite the Nativity story from the view point of a shepherd, or a wise person, or one of Herod's aids, or a passer by as Mary was giving birth. It will cause you to focus on the story as you write it again from a different perspective.
5. Write some poetry. You don't have to be a wonderful poet, or even a good poet- bad poetry from the heart is better than great poetry with no heart. And my personal challenge to you is to find a word the rhymes with frankincense.
6. Bake something. And give it away. You can give it to a neighbor, a friend, (if you are a bad baker, you can give it to an enemy) Give it to a stranger (don't be surprised if a stranger turns down the offer). Make it yourself and give it way.
7. Shop for strangers. There are a zillion ways to shop for strangers during the Christmas season - Angel trees are set up everywhere, there are shoeboxes for children, your kids or grandkids school may have people identified for whom you can buy presents or food. In our church, beginning next Sunday we will have a christmas giving tree set up with ornaments attached. On each Ornament, you will find items listed that may be purchased for a family that is struggling right now. I encourage you to participate.
8. Serve. While serving is a way of life for the follower of Jesus, it seems as if the Advent season presents us with many wonderful opportunities to serve. Most food kitchens, drop in shelters, homeless shelters, and sharing ministries have more need than help at this time of year. Think about ways of serving the under resourced and do something.
9. Listen. Listen to Christmas music. Listen to children playing. Listen to the sounds of holiday. Unfortunately, in our drive to accomplish all that has to be done, we forget to listen.
10. Sing. As often as possible, sing.
11. Invite somebody for dinner. Not a everything has to be perfect, and we better get our the good china dinner, but a simple dinner where the emphasis is on conversation and connection.
12. Declare some “no shopping” days. Seriously, pick a few days during the Advent season and declare them off limits to buying stuff. Make sure you have gas in the car, food on the shelves and won't need to stop to pick up anything. Enjoy a day when you are not in a store or spending money. And when you do shop, try to do some of your shopping at “fair trade” stores. “Fair Trade” means that the products you buy are made by people who are getting a fair wage for their labor and are treated fairly and humanely in the process of production. There are some wonderful fair trade stores around the metro area.
13. Write some personal letters. Is there somebody you haven't contacted for awhile - friend from another place, or ex - co-worker, or a fellow adventurer with whom you have lost touch? Or is there somebody you know who could use some encouragement (of course there is) or is there somebody to whom you should express thanks. Making time to write such notes during the Advent Season seems to be time well spent.
14. Breathe. It can all be so overwhelming. So… breathe. I love the way Anne Lamotte writes, and one of my favorite quotes from her is simply, “Right foot, left foot, right foot, breathe. Left foot, right foot, left foot, breathe.”
15. Take a hike … or a ride. We are blessed to have a plethora of parks and wooded areas in and around the city. There are so many places that are close by that one can sneak off to and enjoy a little nature. Time like that is sacred time, filled with sacred moments and sacred opportunities. Judi and I were recently at Lone Elk State Park. Just down the road, still in St. Louis County. There is a wonderful 3 mile loop around the park where one encounters all sorts of wildlife including Elk that stand on the trail and dare you to pass. Don't enjoy the hike? A drive through Forrest Park can produce a sense of awe.
16. Watch some of the classics. Over the years, movies, TV specials and Christmas episodes of running TV series have become a staple of the Christmas season. Honestly, many of them are hokey and silly, but still there are some that speak to the heart. For me, Christmas viewing includes It's a Wonderful Life, A Christmas Story, The Andy Griffith Show Christmas episode, the Friends' Holiday Armadillo episode, the Big Bang Theory Saturnalia episode, and the Amends episode from Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Do you have some favorites? Make a little time to enjoy them with family and friends.
17. Pay attention to the smells of the holidays. Pies and cookies baking. Candles Burning. The smell of cold air. Fireplaces. Remember to smell as you proceed.
and 18. Experience Advent with your community of faith. Among the best parts of the Advent Season for me are times spent with my church family. The rich discussion of Sunday School, the spirit of worship, the conversation that takes place in hallways and fellowship halls, the special events like dinners and programs and Christmas Eve Service. They are important to me, not just because I am a pastor, but they give meaning and bring joy to the season.
preparation for the Season is preparation for the true work of Christmas. I conclude with the words of the poet
When the song of the angels is stilled,
When the star in the sky is gone,
When the kings and princes are home,
When the shepherds are back with their flock,
The work of Christmas begins:
To find the lost,
To heal the broken,
To feed the hungry,
To release the prisoner,
To rebuild the nations,
To bring peace among people,
To make music in the heart.
Sunday, October 28th: Pastor Steve Meechem
It was a typical day. Up. A morning walk to his spot, unless of course, his home was his spot and he actually lived where he begged. A blanket laid down on the ground. A cloak to cover him against the morning chill. Sitting. Listening for passers by. And when a person, either leaving Jericho on their way to Jerusalem, or coming into town, passes by, Bartimaeus asks, “alms, alms for the blind.”
He hadn't been blind all his life. We don't know how or when it happened, but since that time, life had gotten terribly simple and terribly hard. He lived off the donations of strangers, people who believed that giving to the poor was part of their religious duty. There was no government safety net to help Bartimaeus, no programs for which he could apply. And so, every day, he took his spot.
Every day Bartimeaus took up the cause, of survival. I wonder if Bartimeaus ever wondered if his life could be different. Did he ever dream that change might come? He did what he did now, hoping against hope, that things might one day be different.
You have heard it said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results. I have said it, but I am not sure that it is absolutely true. Sometimes, doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results is the definition of faith and hope. We don't know how it will change. We cannot fathom what will make it better, but we hang in there, believing that someday, someway, something will change. And so Bartimeaus comes to the road every day. Who knows, maybe one day it will be different.
Jesus has been in Jericho and is now on his way out, heading toward Jerusalem for the final showdown. Luke tells us that Jesus has “set his face” toward Jerusalem.
As Jesus is walking through Jericho, a crowd gathers. They walk alongside him, on both sides. They walk in front, they follow behind. They are talking, singing, listening, men and women nudging closer to Jesus, children are running here and yonder. It is very much a spontaneous, street parade.
Of course the people of Jericho have no idea what will happen in the next few days, 16 miles east, up in Jerusalem, as the religious establishment, in a nod to the status quo, finds cause to do away with this miracle working, parable telling, pharisee indicting, kingdom announcing preacher.
For them, it is simply a party in the streets.
As the crowd moves by, Bartimaeus, cries out for alms. The movement and energy of the crowd means there are few responders to Bartimaeus' pleas. He quickly figures out that these are not the typical comings and goings of travelers and merchants, and so he asks what's happening. My assumption is that another beggar who supplies the answer, “Jesus of Nazereth is passing through.”
Batimaeus has heard stories- who hasn't- about feeding thousands of people, about healing the sick, about confronting the establishment.
Today is not so typical, after all.
“Jesus! Son of David!,” Bartimaeus shouts, at the top of his lungs, “Have mercy on me.” His shouts don't make it to Jesus' ears. They are drowned out by the crowd noises. Perhaps like the shouts of the citizens of Who-ville when trying to be heard so their home could be saved, Bartimaeus just doesn't have enough voice to be heard.
Folks in the crowd, on the edges, do hear Bartimaeus' cry. they run over to him, “Shh! Your shouting is a distraction.” “Don't bother Jesus with your shouts.” “He is too important to be bothered by you.” His shouting is considered inappropriate. Of course he is being told this, not by Jesus, but by people who have decided they know what Jesus needs to hear.
Well, Bartemeaus will not be silenced, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me.” Louder. At some point, Jesus hears the shout. Maybe he noticies the commotion as the crowd tries to silence Bartimeaus. Or maybe, like the little one who gave just enough “umph” to raise the combined voice of the residents of Who-ville, Bartimaeus shouted just a little bit louder.
Have you ever shouted out to God? or at God?
Maybe a literal shout, in pain, or out of fear, and all you know to do is shout?
Maybe the silent shout of despair as life appears to be spinning out of control?
Maybe the pensive shout as you strive to believe when believing is hard?
Maybe the shout of faith, “Have mercy on me?”
Maybe the shout of doubt, “Can you have mercy on me?”
“Have mercy on me,” Jesus hears.
Jesus stops. He turns. He looks. He sees him- by the side of the road. Broken, living out a hopeless existence. “Bring him to me.”
The tone of the know-it-alls in the crowd changes. Suddenly, the crowd that was shushing Bartimaeus rushes him, “Get up. He's calling you.” Shouting has paid off.
Bartimaeus moves toward Jesus. The parade has stopped. There is silence as the blind beggar stands in front of Jesus. Folks in the crowd strain to see what is happening.
Jesus looks the man in the face. “What can I do for you?”
He looks into the face of this broken human being, a person from whom most people hide their faces as they ignore his voice, and says, “What can I, the Word of God, the Creator, the Christ, do for you?”
Bartimaeus' answer is simple and direct. “I want to see.”
Jesus response is simpler and more direct, “Okay.”
The story concludes as the parade grows one person larger with Bartimaeus following Jesus.
Shouting is often discouraged. “shouting is rude,” we are told. “Shouting shows a lack of control,” we are warned. “Use your indoor voices,” we tell our kids.
Sometimes shouting is encouraged. The huge lighted signs at the ballpark remind us to “shout” when our team is rallying. There is a praise song we sing that admonishes us to “Shout for the Lord.” The stereotypical drill sergeant is always encouraging his recruits to be louder, “I can't hear you.”
Well, shouting worked for Bartimaeus. He reminds us that God is not dainty or frail, who cannot bear to hear us shout. I have heard from Christian friends that we must go to God with respect and reverence. I agree, but I also believe God can take our disrespect and our irreverence. In fact, I believe God would rather hear our honest shout, than our self-righteous holier than thou platitudes.
Jesus tells a parable, A Pharisee and a sinner pray. The Pharisee, dressed in the right clothes and using the right words, full of righteousness intones to God, “I thank you God that I am so good, that I pray the right prayers, that I give the right amount of money, I speak the right words, that I am holier than that sinner over there.”
The sinner, a short way away, beats his chest in repentance and cries out, “O God, have mercy on me a sinner.”
Jesus asks, “Whose prayer, do you suppose, is heard by God?” The implication of course is that God hears the shout of repentant over the appropriately prayed prayers of the hypocrite.
Bartimaeus teaches us a valuable lesson. As we are struggling along the journey of life, finding ourselves by the side of the road, it is appropriate, more than appropriate, it may be necessary to to shout out to God. And in the midst of our shout, we may just discover that God is already present, ready to hear our shout, ready to respond to our cry.
Sunday, September 16, 2012; Pastor Steve Mechem
You may be wondering why we have waited so long to do this installation. After all, this is my twelfth Sunday here.
It seemed important that we begin to develop this relationship so that when these installation commitments would come from a real place and not just the recitation of words. I wanted to share with you my understanding of church, community, and the path to authentic fellowship and ministry.
So, today, we affirm that we are going to do this ministry together.
Sunday, September 2, 2012; Pastor Steve Mechem
Song of Songs 2:8-12
The Poem begins,
“Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth—
for your love is more delightful than wine.”
or as the Message Bible reads, “Kiss me - full on the mouth. Yes! For your love is better than wine.”
Sunday, August 26, 2012; Pastor Steve Mechem
As we have begun this journey together, as pastor and congregation, I hoped to lay out for you what I think are the essentials of community. And over these past weeks we have concentrated on one chapter in Scripture, Romans 12, as our source material. We have talked about the purpose of your appendix, churches that become bars, orphaned porcupines, Amish grace, the possibility of Linda hitting me in the head with a fry pan, and lots of things Jesus said.
Sunday, August 19, 2012; Pastor Steve Mechem
“Don’t try to get revenge for yourselves, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath. It is written, Revenge belongs to me; I will pay it back, says the Lord . Instead, If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him a drink. By doing this, you will pile burning coals of fire upon his head.”
Sunday, August 12, 2012; Pastor Steve Mechem
“Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.”
“If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.”
Sunday, August 5th; Pastor Steve Mechem
A small group meets in the pastor's office a couple of times a month. The group is called Koinonia (the Greek word for fellowship or partnership). They met this past Monday and I was delighted to take part. When the evening's leader announced that the discussion would be focused around “community,” I got excited. Community is one of my passions. For several years, I have found myself pondering “community” - why it is so important and how it works.
Sunday, July 29, 2012; Pastor Steve Mechem
Text: Romans 12:14
We have been discussing “church etiquette,” proper church behavior. We have been using Romans 12 as our guide. Interestingly, proper church etiquette has nothing to do with the type of music we use, the liturgy we say, the clothes we wear, or the piety of our attitudes. It has everything to do with our hearts, our response to people as we respond to God's grace.
Sunday, July 8, 2012; Pastor Steve Mechem
Judi and I call our parenting blunders “great parenting moments.” We will be reminded of a time when we messed up our parenting, and sigh “another great parenting moment”
Sunday, July 8, 2012 Pastor Steve Mechem
We are spending our first weeks together talking about church etiquette -proper Church behavior. We are not talking about dress, or form, or tradition. We are talking about spirit, attitude, commitment to a life of love and grace. We are using the entire chapter of the 12th chapter of Romans as our etiquette guide.