Thursday, May 02, 2013

Simon Says, Part 4

OK, so the sermon has four parts, not three.  Ooops.
Consider this.  In West Virginia, one in three children lives in poverty.  Almost 10% of babies are born with low birth weight.  In our schools, 55% of students are approved for a free or reduced lunch.  Over half of all fourth graders in West Virginia cannot read at what is considered a proficient level.  Children who lived in poverty are more likely to have children outside of marriage, to be arrested, and to have severe health problems.  What can we do about this kind of darkness?

A group of United Methodist Women in my church, called the Lydia Circle, heard these statistics.  The teachers in the group told them that some of the students approved for free lunches in our schools go home every weekend and dodn’t eat again until Monday, because school food is their only food.  These women stopped focusing on their dwindling membership numbers, their increasing age, and their busy schedules.  They stopped worrying about what they could nod do.  They listened to Paul and they joined him in following Christ.  They started a back-pack ministry. 

Each week these women pack a weekend’s worth of food in large plastic Ziploc bags.  They deliver the bags to a neighborhood school where the bags are placed in the backpacks of 10 specific students.  Each weekend – every weekend -- these 10 students have something to eat.  They are no longer hungry.  The Lydia Circle has plans to expand the ministry so that no child in that school spends the weekend without food.  They are punching holes in the darkness.

Paul stands in prison and says, “Join in imitating me.”

The Lydia Circle stands in a school-yard and says, “Join in imitating me.”

When Judy and I were working out the order of worship for today, she asked me to send her the scriptural focus for the day and to choose hymns for worship.  I spent some time in prayer and then I worked through what I thought the message should be.  I chose several hymns I thought were appropriate and then narrowed it down to three.  I put them in the order I thought they would work, and then I looked at them.  And then I saw what hadn’t been obvious to me before; God had chosen the music.  God placed You are Mine before the sermon, as a way to sing over us and remind us that we are his beloved children.  Listen again to the words as if God is speaking them to you:

I am hope for all who are hopeless
I am eyes for all who long to see
In the shadows of the night,
I will be your light
Come and rest in Me

Do not be afraid, I am with you
I have called you each by name

Come and follow Me
I will bring you home
I love you and you are mine

We stand here this morning, secure in the knowledge of the love of God.   – we are not afraid.  We read Psalm 27, which says, “The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?”   Paul reminds us that we are transformed, from humiliation to glory.  We have the opportunity live into the persons we were created to be.  We are citizens of heaven.

We are called to stand firm in the Lord.  We are called to pick up our cross and push back the darkness in the world.  We are called to choose to follow Christ – not to be transformed by the world but to allow God to change the world through us. 

Before the sermon, we sang, You are Mine – God’s reminder to us.  Our song of response after the sermon is I am Thine, Lord.

Who will you follow?  Who do you belong to?  What holes will you punch in the darkness?  Where will you stand today?



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