Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Tuesday Morning

It’s raining, I’m preparing for a funeral later in the week, and I haven’t started my sermon for Sunday.

Whine over.

I’ve been thinking about what someone said to me this past weekend, that she saw the real work of the church being done—the support, the caring--around the death of one of our members. “That’s what the church is supposed to be about,” she said, “not the service on Sunday and whether you go or not.”

And she’s right. When our churches turn inward and focus on “inside activities,” like fundraisers and social hour and Bible studies, to the exclusion of those things that lead us out of the church, like community work, or missions work, then the church is stagnating. At one church I served, I knew we were in trouble when we could get lots of turnout for the annual Fall Festival fundraiser, but no volunteers for the CROP Walk for Hunger.

Here in Windsor, my involvement in community projects is about more than raising the visibility of the church. It’s about making visible God’s love in ways that are needed here and now, in action rather than talk. Members of the congregation are part of what we’ve done, too—it’s not just RP here. We’ve been a collection point for funds for a young man who was gay-bashed into a coma; we’re working in various ways on support for GLBT teens; we work with the local Pride committee; we’re helping to coordinate a breast cancer awareness program for health care providers on the obstacles faced by lesbian and bisexual women, and a separate program for the women; we’re looking into establishing a GLBT community centre. In every case except the breast cancer awareness program, the involvement goes beyond me, to the congregation as a whole.

I’d like to see us move beyond the GLBT community as well, and work on a Habitat for Humanity house, or donate regularly to one of the food pantries in town, or work with one of the soup kitchens. That’s further down the road, but I think it’s the next step.

Worship services are important—they remind us of who we are and whose we are. But without the work, without the service, our worship is empty. We say to God, “we love you and praise you.” God says, “Show me.” Remember the great commandment: “As you have done it for the least of these my brothers and sisters, so you have done it for me.” Worship is part of our love and praise of God, a way to take time and remind ourselves of what we are about each week; but service is the heart of it.


Marie said...

I think that's true. Church isn't for those on the inside, but for those on the outside.

Songbird said...

Contrariwise, worship is the place we get fueled for doing the work. So, yes, checking off who is there and who is not isn't the important thing, at least not if it's being done competitively, but being there does mean something.
Also, if you look at the lectionary passage from James, I think you've got a sermon right here.

Rainbow Pastor said...

You're both right, of course. It's a cycle--we go to worship and are strengthened for the service we give, which inspires us to return to worship and praise, which feeds us so we can work, and on and on.

A lovely spiral, as someone called it.

Clarence Darrow--Beyond Scopes and Leopold & Loeb

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