The Once and Future Church: The Story and the Gift (2015-1101)


2015/11/01 Christ Church, Mountain Top, All Saints
Call to Worship, the Lord’s Table (Prayer of Humble Access)
Children, the Lord’s Table (Words of Institution), Golden Anniversary
Message, Deuteronomy 26.1-19

Five years ago, upon the 50th anniversary of the dedication of this sanctuary building, built in 1959 and 1960 for $147,974, a collection of formal church history and oral history was provided. I’ve enjoyed reading through much of that, along with some other treasures that Suzanne has discovered in the church office. And, I’m really excited to see our timeline develop and fill out on the wall. Please bring in your pictures and share your stories – and some video testimony would be great too!
      We have always celebrated our anniversaries from the date of consecrating the building, December 4, 1960. Our cornerstone, laid earlier in 1960, is actually dated 1959. The groundbreaking was 1959. The church was named in 1956. But the formal vote that created Christ Church as a merger of the former Albert and Mountaintop churches was taken on November 5, 1955. Like many of the most important developments in church history, it was led by our young people. The youth already had been meeting together as a joint youth group for several years and they, along with the visionary leadership of the churches, were able to win over any reluctant persons in the prior congregations. Every single family of the prior congregations except one (which left because they were in the coal business and the church decided to heat with oil), made the commitment to the new Christ Church. On that consecration Sunday in 1960, there was standing room only. Harry and Marion Taylor could not get into the building. Les Shupp was one of the acolytes, along with his friend Bryn Kehrli, who was here just a few weeks ago, visiting in worship from his home out of state.
      The formal history of building projects and pastoral changes is interesting. For example, the building was expanded in 1981 and 1993. The 1993 expansion cost $492,000, three times what the original unit cost. Inflation!
      But what interests me most is the informal history, the oral history, the surprises and details that add color. Grace Engler, who died in 2010 at the age of 91, told the story of Russ Shupp, leading the opening of Sunday School at the time, stepping down from the front of the church to reprimand one of his sons. Gary or Les – which one of you was it? Grace also remembered the big spaghetti supper prepared by the women, who then spent all night sick with “food poisoning”. Of course, that was the days of coal-fired cook stoves with everyone cooking at home and bringing it to the church for the event.

Stories are at the heart of faith, and at the heart of life. I want to share with you some of the stories from the confirmands who made their vows earlier this year. Show slide show with video.

At the center of our faith is story, particularly the story of the cross and resurrection.
      “Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again.”
“As often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes” (1 Corinthians 11.26).

At the center of the Jewish tradition is another redemption story, the story of slavery and exodus.

A wandering Aramean was my ancestor; he went down into Egypt and lived there as an alien, few in number, and there he became a great nation, mighty and populous. When the Egyptians treated us harshly and afflicted us, by imposing hard labor on us, we cried to the LORD, the God of our ancestors; the LORD heard our voice and saw our affliction, our toil, and our oppression. The LORD brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, with a terrifying display of power, and with signs and wonders; and he brought us into this place and gave us this land, a land flowing with milk and honey (Deuteronomy 26:5-9).

Both stories involve a meal. First fruits are brought to worship as a meal for the family who brings them, for the Levites (the “staff” for the worship center), for the aliens, and – by extension – for the LORD. Broken bread and poured cup are presented and shared. Jesus invites us to his table and into his family circle.

Both stories shape our relationships with outsiders. The story in Deuteronomy reminds us that we were once oppressed aliens in Egypt. Now that God has brought us into the land, we must not oppress the aliens among us. In fact, faithfulness goes much further. We actually tithe to support the aliens! The story in the gospels reminds us that we are loved deeply and perfectly, despite our sin and other imperfection. As those loved and forgiven, we are called to love others – even our enemies, and to forgive others – even those who hurt us most, and to welcome others – even those who make us uncomfortable. We forget, sometimes, that we all started as “outsiders”. Maybe we were “drug” to church by our parents. A friend of mine calls that “having a drug problem”. We still began outside until we were “drug” in. Many of us came to Jesus as adults, or returned to Jesus as adults. For every one of us, there is a story of how the Lord has been kind, been good to us. What is yours? One of our saints whom we lost this year, Alice Davis, tells her story, on video in 2014, of coming into the church through the invitation of a friend. Show video.

Both stories involve the giving of gifts. We give because God has given first. We give because God has chosen and loved us. We give because we are profoundly blessed. We don’t collect an offering in worship to support the budget and keep the lights on. Of course, it does that for us, and so much more, and much more important work transforming and blessing our entire world. We collect an offering because people who have been richly blessed by God can’t keep from telling the stories and giving back to God. In Deuteronomy, the giver presents his gifts AFTER telling a story, and then concludes with a promise that they have not skimped, they have not held anything back that rightfully belongs to the God who blesses.
Today you have obtained the LORD's agreement: to be your God; and for you to walk in his ways, to keep his statutes, his commandments, and his ordinances, and to obey him. Today the LORD has obtained your agreement: to be his treasured people, as he promised you, and to keep his commandments; for him to set you high above all nations that he has made, in praise and in fame and in honor; and for you to be a people holy to the LORD your God, as he promised (Deuteronomy 26:17-19).

Sister Helen Fogleman:
Tithe before eating
Sue, what the ****, give it all (relay for life)
      Estate gift cared for the parking lot

What is your story? How has God touched you, saved you, delivered you, helped you, connected you to other people who blessed you? Our generosity begins with the story of God’s generosity to us, and the understanding that all we have and are comes from God.

Mike Bealla, Consecration Sunday speaker, grew up in Wilkes-Barre
      To his dad, re the property line: “It’s all God’s anyway”


Today you have obtained the LORD's agreement: to be your God; and for you to walk in his ways, to keep his statutes, his commandments, and his ordinances, and to obey him. Today the LORD has obtained your agreement: to be his treasured people

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