Members of One Another
Pastor Bob Henry
Indianapolis First Friends Meeting
July 16, 2017
Last week was such a wonderful way to begin my ministry among you, our family wanted to thank each of you for such a beautiful morning and the “Oh Henry” reception. I haven’t had a an Oh Henry candy bar for years and forgot how good they are. Thanks also to everyone who introduced themselves, I am diligently memorizing the church directory, but don’t have it quite memorized yet. So please give lots of grace - especially if I call you by someone else’s name or no name at all. (It might take a while - I still don’t get my own boy’s names right half of the time).
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Last week in my first sermon, I talked about the “Business of our Lives” and how we are to share the universal love of God. This morning, I want to give you a picture of what I see as a framework of our ministry priorities together here at First Friends. It is not so much my vision or a mission, because honestly I haven’t been here long enough to know exactly who we are together and our unique contributions to our surrounding neighbors, communities, and workplaces. Yet, I believe the elements, which I will get to in a few minutes, transcend those pieces helping to keep us balanced and knowing ourselves as a meeting.
Much like our children will discover this week in Vacation Bible School, God has created us just the way we are...and for a purpose. And in this same way, I believe God has formed or created us as a meeting. God has drawn together each and everyone of us in this place for a purpose.
Author and activist Margaret Wheatley has said,
“Our twenty-first-century world is descending into aggression, fear, and separation. War, genocide, violence, slavery, pandemics, poverty, natural disasters – all these are commonplace in this new century, despite most people’s deep longing to live together in peace.”
The answer Margaret poses to our condition is simple... we need to “turn to one another” and realize that we need each other more than ever. It sounds simple, but we often take for granted those that are closest to us.
Do you realize that this meeting is not complete without each and everyone of you? Just take a moment and look around you and notice the people in this room that you need in your life, or that have made a difference in your or someone else’s life, or that care, love, and befriend people that you may have a hard time reaching out to. I haven’t been here that long and I already sense your importance in my life and family.
The truth is that we need each other here at First Friends. All of our gifts, talents, abilities, experiences, quirks and particularities are key to our identity and yes, ultimately our unique purpose.
The Apostle Paul echoes these same thoughts in his letter to the Corinthians. He said,
1 Corinthians 12:14-18 (MSG)
14-18 I want you to think about how all this makes you more significant, not less. A body isn’t just a single part blown up into something huge. It’s all the different-but-similar parts arranged and functioning together. If Foot said, “I’m not elegant like Hand, embellished with rings; I guess I don’t belong to this body,” would that make it so? If Ear said, “I’m not beautiful like Eye, limpid and expressive; I don’t deserve a place on the head,” would you want to remove it from the body? If the body was all eye, how could it hear? If all ear, how could it smell? As it is, we see that God has carefully placed each part of the body right where he wanted it.
You are here at First Friends for a reason. We need each other.
I will never forget last year, when I was leading a book study on Phil Gulley’s book “Living the Quaker Way” at one of our local coffee houses in Silverton. There were about 8-10 of us discussing the chapter on community, when I read Phil’s alternate view to what many consider church in our day. Here is what he said:
“...there is another church....It is found wherever and whenever peace, joy, and compassion carry the day...It labors not for its own glory, but for the well-being of all people everywhere. It rejoices when the marginalized are included. It sees in its fellow beings not sin and separation from God but potential, promise, and connection. Wherever people love, it is there. Whenever people include, it is present. Whenever people join together in spirit of compassion and inclusion this church feels at home, for those virtues have been its priority from its earliest days. This church existed since the time of Jesus, but it’s benevolent spirit predates the Nazarene. It is not the province of any one denomination; its adherents can be found in every movement and every faith. While others bluster and rant, its members go quietly and cheerfully about their ministries, determined to bring heaven to earth. This church seeks to learn, understand, and include. It is of the world, loves the world, and welcomes all people as its brothers and sisters. Where borders separate, this community straddles the partition, refusing to let arbitrary lines rule their conscience and conduct. They are, in every sense of the word, members of one another. Community and compassion are their bywords.”
As I read those words aloud many of us were choked up, even tears flowed from some...and one of the members of that study said aloud boldly, “Now, that’s the church I want to be part of.” Everyone at that study agreed.
That’s the church I want people to see right here at First Friends. Right here on our property, in our communities, in our parks, our workplaces, the restaurants we frequent, wherever we (the Church) find ourselves.
In one of my former ministries we had a slogan that we took rather seriously, “Making visible the Kingdom of God in fill in the city . We at First Friends are making visible the Kingdom of God in Indianapolis, Fishers, Carmel, Noblesville, Avon, Zionsville, or name your town….We are making visible the Kingdom of God in Indiana.
Now, I have to be honest, it is not always that easy. It does take some awareness, some education, and often reflection and action together. And this is where those “elements” I spoke of at the beginning of my sermon come into play.
Several years ago, I attended a conference in Grand Rapids, Michigan. It was not your normal conference. It was put on by three gifted visionaries - Rob Bell, Peter Rollins, and Shane Hipps. The conference was titled “Poets, Preachers, and Prophets”. (I am still trying to figure out which one I am). Over a lunch break, the friend I was staying with shared with me how Quaker principles and values had been instrumental in developing his church’s direction. His church happen to be Mars Hill Bible Church - the host of the conference. Since this was before I became a convinced Quaker, it was the first time I had heard about clearness committees and what he labeled consensus government (and remember - this was not a Quaker Meeting or conference).
I was even more fascinated when he succinctly shared the following six words to describe his church’s main commitments. He said, we at Mars Hill are committed to:
Roots (Looking Backward)
Journey (Looking Forward)
Wholeness (Looking Inward)
Community (Looking Withward)
Serving (Looking Outward)
Celebration (Looking Upward)
But he wasn’t done. He then gave each of the six commitments directions. (Read above).
I found these 6 commitments extremely holistic in nature while helpful in developing foundations for a ministry’s purpose.
He went on to describe each of those in great detail, but in writing them down that day, they became solidified for me as a framework for priorities in ministry and I began to utilize them to bring a sense of balance to ministry. Every meeting or church I have served has had different ways of expressing each of these 6 categories, but I believe they encompass the main elements of that church Phil Gulley described...and also gives us a foundation for our purpose together here at First Friends.
Now, I could easily go through each of these and say where I see First Friends living into these 6 elements, but they are “fluid” elements. They are always changing and developing and creating new opportunities and possibilities.
My hope is that in the coming weeks, months, and years, we will utilize these elements to help balance out our ministry and Kingdom work at First Friends. My hope is that we will ask some deeper queries about how we see those 6 elements in our ministry and work at First Friends. Here are just a few queries I have written to get us thinking:
What roots are important to look back on and embrace for the benefit of our world, today? What do we need to be reminded of and what do we need to learn from in our past?
What journey does First Friends need to go on together? In moving forward what might we have to leave behind or what might we have to take along? Where might we need to get out of our boxes?
When looking inward, where is First Friends not whole? What or who are we missing? What would make us a more healthy, vibrant, and whole meeting?
What communities at First Friends are we creating and how are they helping us dwell better with those around us? Is community being developed in our ministries and are we becoming a faithful presence to the communities in which we participate, currently?
Who is First Friends really serving? How much of our serving is self-serving? In looking outside ourselves and our meeting, who truly needs to be served?
How are we celebrating our life together at First Friends? Are we able to see the reasons for giving thanks, remembering, and appreciating who we are and where we have been?
These are the queries I am pondering as I begin my journey with you. I hope you will join me in taking some time right now to ponder them in our waiting worship.
The following poem was used as the benediction during our meeting for worship.
The Journey Worth Taking
Sarah Katreen Hoggatt
From “Spirit Rising: Young Quaker Voices”
We come from far-off lands,
cultures apart, struggling to
understand a foreign tongue,
another viewpoint, another way to live,
to see, to hear God in different words.
We listen, opening to new sights, perspectives,
ways to love as we discover
we are unique parts of a greater circle,
distinctive expressions of the Divine Life.
Yet our voices together lift up the mountains.
Our chorus pulses the river down the outward
flow into a world needing to hear the rushing tide.
We are on a journey and it may not even
matter so much where we end up,
but that we rise up to take the voyage.
We speak the truth of our lives,
hear each other and are changed.
We can love without complete understanding,
Walking the light together while miles apart.
If in the tension we can find
the one light we are birthed from,
the thread through our stories,
we may discover we are brothers, sisters all
of one skin, one laughter, music, lilting, free,
if we can just find the courage to come together
And take the journey.