Sunday, February 10, 2002

It Makes You Want to Smile

Asbury First United Methodist Church

Text: Matthew 6

(Today's sermon describes the outreach, care, and mission of our church in 2001 through the presentation of six (invisible) slide photographs.)


This year I am extolling the blessings of three, simple existential rituals. They probably do not reach way up to the height of Acute Sacramental Piety. Apologies to the Jesuits. Nor do they, perhaps, plumb the depths of Anabaptist Piety. Apologies to the Fundamentalists. They may work, though, for the broad middle stream of life, personality, temperment, culture, tradition and experience with which, for all our messy middle of the roadness, we have the most experience.

Breath. In and Out. It is a refreshing pause, and brings a healthy reminder that we are all creatures of our God and King-sheep in another's pasture. We are made in the image and likeness of God. We are more human than anything else.

Listen. Hear and Overhear. While this is a matter of the ears not the lungs, of the soul not the body, it is the one single posture, a kind of relational bending of the knee, that represents our faith, the faith of Jesus Christ, who has listened to us, who has forgiven us, that we might, in Him, listen to others, that we might, in Him, forgive others. (Now look at that. Just like a preacher. Talking...about listening. Has there ever been a preacher who could listen?) We are Christians. American Christians, not Christian Americans. Methodist Christians not Christian Methodists. Human Christians, not Christian Humans. Listen. It is who we are.

Smile. Laugh and Sing. It is the response most befitting those made in God's Image and those forgiven in Christ's Death. We have nothing to defend and everything to share. It is what happens when you finally realize, catch the Spirit, get religion, find love, learn to sing, recline into God in Christ, become aware of what God has done for us. It makes us the singing Methodists we most want to be.

Photo: Christmas Eve, Asbury First

Focus: Candles and Choir

Text: No Trumpets before Alms

Point: Modesty of Community

Hymn: Hark the Herald Angels Sing

The graceful modesty of a people who do beware sounding trumpets before alms does make you want to smile!

Photo: Africa University

Focus: Jerome DelPino, Janice Huie

Text: Left and Right Hands

Point: Connected Giving is Powerful
(2002: $175,000)

Hymn: Marching to Zion

The methodical sacrifices of this and other generations to spread scriptural holiness in a concerted way make you want to smile!

Photo: Annual Report Work

Focus: Hank Dixon

Text: Go into your room and shut the door

Point: It is not well known, but this church gives away a great deal on top of our regular plan. (2002: $100,000.)

Hymn: A Charge to Keep I Have

Tithed pledging is good, planned giving is better, designated giving is best and most fun! It makes you want to smile!

Photo: Honduran Mountains

Focus: Aguinaldo Sauceda

Text: Father sees in secret

Point: We are building a set of relationships, in part supported by outreach grants (2002: $20,000)

Hymn: Life is Like a Mountain Railroad

The courage of life's pioneer mountain dwellers is an inspiration that makes you want to smile!

Photo: Asbury Daycare Center

Focus: Ellen Donovan

Text: Your alms may be done in secret

Point: As a culture we talk a good game about children, but our real investments tell another story. This church is fighting the good fight for kids in daycare and nursery, for poor kids in dining center and storehouse, for all kids in community and connection. (2002: ?$)

Hymn: Jesus Loves the Little Children

Some do all the good they can, all the time they can: it makes you want to smile!

Photo: Dining Center

Focus: Bible Study, Volunteers and Clients

Text: Rewards in Heaven

Point: We develop as disciples by serving the poor. (2002: $125,000-basic support only)

Hymn: Brightly Beams our Father's Mercy

The willingness of volunteers to give time in direct service makes you want to smile!

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