Here is the sermon I preached at First Presbyterian Church, Nebraska City on January 27. My first Sunday with them.
I was watching the inauguration festivities this week and I was struck by something. I was struck by the diversity of the people in the crowd, I was struck by the men, women, young, old, that stretched from the Capitol steps to past the Smithsonian. If you haven't been to Washington, DC, that's a long way. I was struck by my twitter feed and facebook wall. (If you haven't heard yet, I like social media and am on it A LOT!) My feed and my wall which often are filled with disagreement and not always civil discourse was filled with a pause to reflect on the pageantry and the realization that we are, in fact, in this together. I was struck that Paul Ryan, not exactly the President's biggest fan, tweeted "I congratulate President Obama on his inauguration, and I join the country in celebrating this American tradition."
I'll be honest with you, I'm kind of nervous talking about the inauguration on Sunday morning, mostly because I know that there are some deeply held beliefs and positions that can cause conflict or friction. I also believe with all of my being that if we don't acknowledge that we have different views and that that is a GOOD thing, then we, as a country, will continue to be stagnant and the conversations will continue to be filled with vitriol and we will never get anywhere. If we don't accept that a wide spectrum of voices is better than a narrow one and that more voices are better than less, then we will continue to be polarized and feel uncomfortable talking about "those topics."
It is precisely "those topics" that will get us to moving forward to a more civil, a more kingdom-like society. Now what does that have to do with Sunday morning or First Presbyterian Church or our reading from 1 Corinthians this morning?
It means that, Paul was right. "We were all baptized by one Spirit into one body, whether Jew or Greek, or slave or free, and we all were given one Spirit to drink." To put it in more contemporary words, quoting High School Musical, We are all in this together. Young and old, new members and long time members, friends, children.
If we are going to truly be transformed, transformed by the Word, transformed by the Spirit, if we believe, like the Lord's Prayer says, "Thy kingdom come on earth, as it is in heaven.", then we will need everyone, I need everyone. All of you! I know that some of you don't feel like you have a lot to give right now and that's ok. I know that some of you do.
Some of you love planning events and some of you don't. Some of you like me, love meetings. I know it's hard to believe, but we can be honest here. Some of us would rather have a root canal than go to a meeting. Some of us love young people, some don't, some love older people, some don't, some are doers, some are idea people. It's going to take all of us, because we are the Body of Christ! It's going to take all of us, I need all of you, to join with me to be the hands and feet of Christ in Nebraska City, Southeastern Nebraska, the Midwest, the country, and the world.
When I visited in November, my family and I had the pleasure of staying at the Lied Lodge. As soon as you walk in, there in the stairwell, is one of my favorite quotes by Margaret Mead. "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only that that ever has."
What I have learned so far about First Presbyterian Church is that you are thoughtful and committed and you are changing the face of Nebraska City. Through the respite care program, through the Best Flood Friends program, through the Friends of Faith Thrift Shop, and on and on. We, together, as the Body of Christ, will continue to learn and grow from those experiences and they will shape our vision for the future.
Some will be called to be apostles, some as prophets, some as teachers, some will speak in tongues, some will intrepert tongues, the scripture says. For us, right now, that means that some will be sent out with a specific calling, whether that is serving on Session or Deacons, some will be called to vision for the future, guiding us through the sometimes treacherous and often tricky path of change. Some will be called to teach, both young and old, both in the church and in the community, some will be blessed with the ability to speak to those outside our walls spreading the Gospel of Christ in a language that can be understood by those who have never heard the powerful message of grace that God offers.
We will need to listen to our youngest and our oldest, our most active and most inactive, but most of all we must listen to the Spirit that has lead us to this point. The Spirit that led Jan Marion to make a phone call to a youth pastor, who was standing at a bus stop in Washington, DC. The Spirit that led that youth pastor to pray and listen, the spirit that led the search committee to pray and discern and ask tough questions, the spirit that led my family to fly out here, the spirit that was unmistakeable as we got to know you, the Spirit that has led me here, the spirit that has led us here, the spirit that will lead us forward as we seek to be the very reflection of Christ to our neighbors.
You are the Body of Christ, we are the Body of Christ, let us use our gifts, our knowledge, our ambition, our prayers, and God will show us an even better way.
May it be so.