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February 14

Pastor Fowler’s discussion sermon on our Church Vision and Mission statement

February 24, 2019

Micah 6:6-8; Galatians 3:24-29

 

Vision:

 

A progressive Presbyterian Church serving the local and global community. Focus on the word, “progressive.” It is an adjective-meanings include:

1a: of, relating to, or characterized by progress-Definition of progress: a forward or onward movement (as to an objective or to a goal): ADVANCE

3: gradual betterment especially: the progressive development of humankind. b: making use of or interested in new ideas, findings, or opportunities. 3: moving forward or onward; Advancing.

What are we advancing? That God’s will be done on earth as it is in heaven-Lord’s Prayer- That the hungry are fed, peace rules the land, justice is done, the kindom is for all, etc. That is the vision we are advancing progressively.

 

To realize this Vision:

 

We are called to live out the Gospel of faith, grace, inclusiveness, justice, love, peace and reconciliation.

Faith- belief in God, that there is spiritual meaning in the life we live.

Hebrews 11:1 ESV

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.

Romans 10:17 ESV

So faith comes from hearing and hearing through the word of Christ.

1 Corinthians 2:5 ESV

That your faith might not rest in the wisdom of humanity, but in the power of God.

 

Grace-belief that God is for us- grits and grace story. Nothing we can do to earn it. Grace just comes.

 

Ephesians 2:8-9 “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith-and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God-9not by works so that no one can boast.”

 

Romans 3:22b-24 “There is no distinction since all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God; they are now justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption of Christ Jesus…”

 

Inclusiveness- will address later in the document. For now ponder, what does it mean for us to be inclusive?

Justice-

Amos 5:24- “But let justice flow on like a river, righteousness (life rightly in God’s eyes) like an ever-flowing stream!” Our goal is to help make that happen.

Love-

John 13:34-A new commandment I give unto you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another.”

Peace-

Psalm 34:14 “Seek peace and pursue it”

Romans 12:18 “As far as it depends upon you if at all possible, be at peace with everyone.”

- peace poles, peace symbol up at Advent and Christmas, support of peace flame, opportunities to find peace in worship, in silence.

Reconciliation-

Matthew 5:23- 24 “So when offering your gift to God at the altar, if you remember that a brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift before the altar and go; FIRST be reconciled to your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift.” We need to be reconciled to one another in our own community- takes work. God wants us to be reconciled first, then worship.

2 Corinthians 5:18 “All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation.” Jesus reconciled us to God and calls us to reconcile the world.

 

 

  1. Open Hearts-Through our faith in God, our hearts are open to God’s intent-“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. “Matthew 6:21

 

First Presbyterian Church of Ashland strives to:

 

  1. follow the teachings of Jesus(Summed up in Matthew 5-7-the beatitudes, being the salt of the earth, the light of the world, Jesus’ enhanced commandments, etc. And or

Mark 12:29- Hear o Israel, the Lord your God is one; you shall love God with all of your heart and with all of your soul and with all of your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: love your neighbor as you love yourself.”

and demonstrate, in our spiritual journey, those teachings in our community and our commitment to mission and ministry.- demonstration of Christ in the world-Mark 12 passage-Winter shelter, volunteering at food bank, work among the Bangladeshi immigrants , Syrian war refugees,  vet mission, - Matthew 25:31-46- “That whichever you do or do not do to the least of these brothers or sisters of mine you do or do not do to me.” We glimpse Christ when we see others in need.

 

  1. be a true church family,- what does that mean? 

ROMANS 12:4-5For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.”

THROUGH THIS UNDERSTANDING, we can become… a safe haven and an oasis, where we all can come and share our wounds and uplift each other as befits a church that seeks to reflect and manifest the love of Christ.

 

 

  1. Open Hands- open to God and the Spirit’s leading, open to people, possibilities(Try open and closed hand positions. Notice the difference.

 

First Presbyterian Church of Ashland strives to:

 

  1. believe in the biblical call to serve putting our faith into action; committing our time and gifts to promote peacemaking, social justice, and stewardship. (How do we promote peacemaking other than our sign and poles? Are there tangible ways we can promote peace more?

SJ- demonstrating when appropriate, calling for change and working to bring about that change to overturn systems that oppress and are unjust- Fair treatment of migrant families upon our border, against gun violence. See Amos 5:24

 

Stewardship- we do a good job with our finances- helping others- specifics in 2018 annual report, increasing our mission giving in 2019. What about stewardship of the earth? Led lights in 2017 in most of the church facility. Coming in April- pollinator project- possibly pollinator garden to help the pollinators? What else? Need more organization around the issue of stewardship of earth and resources. Genesis 1:28 “God blessed them: “Reproduce! Prosper! Fill the earth! Take charge! Be responsible for fish on the sea and birds in the air, for every living thing that moves on the face of the earth.”(The MSG)

 

  1. be, not only a vehicle for ministry for those who attend our church,(inspired through worship to love and serve God and others, find a vocation/calling/ministry in the world) but a source of doing good for our community through our outreach efforts.- How do we reach out? TO whom do we reach out? LRP working on ways to reach out to our surrounding neighbors- apartment complexes, Trailer park across the street- How can we as a church DO GOOD to them and others?

 

  1. to protect and restore the integrity of the creation entrusted to our care.- See stewardship of the earth above. Need more focus on this issue.

 

 

  1. Open Minds-Open to the Spirit, listening to others through “Holy indifference”- listening, led by the spirit, without judgment?

 

First Presbyterian Church of Ashland strives to:

 

  1. take the Bible seriously, not literally- Do we take scripture seriously? See above! Yes. Marcus Borg quote. Meaning- historical-critical method, looking at the meaning of story or text without needing to know if it happened just as it was written, or a close facsimile thereof?

Are there things that literally happened in the Bible? Yes, many proven by archaeology-. Flood in the ancient holy land, Isaiah’s seal, David’s Stelae. Jesus, Paul,  were real people who walked the earth. Emphasis is on the theological meaning and understanding of whatever the story is, whether it happened literally just as written or not. Meaning behind the story which helps us glimpse God’s intent for our lives. Must look at the historical context to understand original language and culture to apply to today, so that we can live it out in our own daily lives. That is taking the Bible seriously.

 

  1. Commit to a path of life-long learning, compassion, selfless love and spiritual growth.- Big commitment. Are we willing to do this? How do we live this out? Me- reading books on faith- Just finished Nadia Bolz-Webber’s book, Pastorix. Now reading, Almost Everything, by Anne Lamott.

 

  1. Draw from diverse sources of wisdom in our spiritual journey. I tend to rely primarily on scripture, but there is wisdom throughout human and spiritual resources. For example,  Gandhi, “Be the change in the world you want to see.”  Darwin, when looking at species evolution, wrote, “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, not the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.” There is wisdom and certainly applies to us as a church as we consider changing things about our congregation and facility. Life, wise scholars, other forms of faith can teach us valuable knowledge.

 

  1. find grace in the search for understanding and believe there is more value in questioning than in absolutes. As I grow older, life seems to me not to have as many absolutes, as many issues that are black and white to me, and that includes my faith as well. .Movie-“ Rudy” scene- Son, the older I get, all I know is, there is a God and I ain’t him!”

 

 Anne Lamott’s new book, Almost Everything. “But all truth is really paradox, and this turns out to be a reason for hope. If you arrive at a place in life that is miserable, it will change, and something else about it will also be true. So paradox is an invitation to go deeper in life, to see a bigger screen, instead of the nice, safe lower left quadrant where you see work, home, and the country. Try a wider reality, through curiosity, awareness, and breath. Try actually being here. What a concept.”

 

 

  1. Open Table

 

We recognize that God specializes in diversity. No two humans are alike.

 

First Presbyterian Church of Ashland strives to:

 

  1. be a faith community that is inclusive, open and affirming of ALL people, including, but not limited to:
    • Conventional Christians and questioning skeptics
    • Believers and agnostics
    • Women  and men
    • Those of all sexual orientations and gender identities
    • Those of all races, creeds, religions and national origins
    • Those of all classes and capabilities.

THAT IS ONE BIG TENT!!! In order to be like this, we need to have the ability of non-judgmental listening, and start on the basis of love. Have open dialogues regarding sermons and worship. Are there ways we can do this? Those of all races and creeds and religions- not an easy thing to accomplish in our primarily white community. Sexual Orientations and sexual identities- For far too long the church has been a place of judgment and ridicule regarding issues of sexuality. Passages in the Hebrew scriptures and New Testament, which in my mind speak primarily about the practice of sodomy by victorious armies over those they defeated in battle, and in the new testament, which speaks about pederasty in Roman society, were not meant to call those who are LGTBQ sinners or damned! Jesus never spoke once about this issue. My own journey- 5 people who came into my church offices over the decades and proclaimed they were Christian loved God and wanted to attend the church I was serving, but were from the LGBTQ community, and had been that way since they could understand what their sexual identity was. Was not a choice, but was who they were. I believe all of creation is of God and is holy. If that is true, we need to embrace and not exclude the LGTBQ community. The story of a colleague here. Paper available for my understanding of what scripture has to say about homosexuality available in the narthex. There is neither gay nor straight… for all of us are one in Christ Jesus. United Methodist denomination is debating and likely splitting over this very issue this weekend.

 

  1. know that the way we behave towards one another is the fullest expression of what we believe. James 2:17;26 “So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead…26 So Just as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead.”
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