Sunday, July 3, 2016

Where Do We Begin? Sermon, July 3, 2016

Community UMC, Quincy, CA
“Where Do We Begin?”
Pastor Andrew Davis
July 3, 2016
Luke 10: 1-11, 16-20

        It feels so much like Christmas Morning. - You know, that feeling when we were all children?  No matter how late we went to bed, we still woke up early on Christmas Day with that sense of anticipation, just waiting to see what was laying beneath the Christmas tree, or what waited in our stockings on the fireplace mantle or wherever the stockings were hung. -- Likewise, today also feels like the first day of school, slightly along with that same sense of nervousness of not knowing what to expect, not knowing who will be in the same class, or whether or not you’ll like your teacher. -- I think both feelings can sum up how both of us may feel this morning, this first Sunday together as pastor and people. - We both come into today with a sense of anticipation, a sense of new energy, but perhaps a sense of nervousness as well, - not knowing what to expect from each other or how we will receive each other. 
-- Nevertheless, it is an exciting day and it is a true honor to be standing before you as your newly appointed pastor here at Community UMC, Quincy.  It has been a long journey getting to this point and one of hearing and even resisting God’s call until finally saying yes.  Now I could stand up here and talk all afternoon about my call story and how I came to be here, -- except we will have a lot of opportunity in these coming days to share each other’s stories of faith and our own journeys in the days to come.  But, today is a day of new beginnings, a day to give thanks for the four years of ministry you have shared with Pastor Donna, but also a day to think of the places that God calls each of us to go; or in the case of our Gospel lesson this morning, the places where Jesus sends us to go.  --
As I begin my ministry with you here in Quincy, I first have to say that I am very thankful that I am not coming in here like a lamb among wolves, - as I have been warmly received by those of you I met before today.  When my friend Josh, who was my roommate at Wesley these last two years, and I stopped by on the way back from DC, both of us were warmly received and it left a good first impression.  - I have also enjoyed my correspondences with Angela and members of SPRC, and Pastor Donna leading up to today and it has made for a good new beginning.  I look forward to knowing you more in the days, weeks, and hopefully years to come.  However, like me, some of you may also be asking, where do we begin? --
I would say scripture is always a good place to begin.  As we engage with our Gospel lesson from Luke this morning, we find seventy who are being commissioned by Jesus, ready to be sent out to the towns and villages ahead of him. – Now there’s this great harvest, or mission field before the seventy, but not enough people to work that mission field. - At the same time, Jesus also warns the seventy that it might be like going out like “lambs among wolves” as they go out to the towns and villages ahead of him (Lk. 10: 3, CEB).  Just to make things more challenging, they must go without money or any essentials for that matter except for the sandals on their feet and the clothes on their back. -- Doesn’t get more primitive than that, does it?  It’s kind of like embarking out into the wilderness, -- perhaps going for a hike on the Pacific Crest Trail or other trails nearby, or venturing out to Lassen Volcanic National Park without provisions or the bare essentials.  Quite a challenge indeed!  - It seems like a lofty task to be sent out by Jesus like “lambs among wolves” and even downright scary, - but it’s a start and Jesus is adamant that the seventy go in pairs, as the “buddy system” was alive and well back in that time too.  --
        But it’s the specific instructions that Jesus gives as to where to begin...start by saying to each house, “May peace be on this house” (Lk. 10: 5, CEB). -- The mission of the seventy begins with a message of peace, and seeing if the households return that message of peace. - If not, the disciples are to shake the dust off their feet and move on.  But fortunately, the seventy do not have to worry about that because each household receives them, -- as each of the seventy is able to declare that “God’s kingdom has come” to each of them (Lk. 10: 9, 11, CEB).  Almost one of those perfect-world scenarios.  If only it was like that today!! --
  AS Jesus tells us that “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field” (Lk. 10: 2, NIV), we begin by looking at what we have.  --- I believe that we have a rich mission field outside our doors here in this neighborhood and all throughout Quincy.  – From what I have observed in researching about Quincy and Plumas County, we have SO many opportunities to engage in mission in our local community, -- as our Gospel lesson this morning is also called “The Mission of the Seventy.”
-- Where do we begin?  We begin by following Jesus, - seeing what we have and being sent out in his name, - being sent into the mission field withing our community, and in turn, - our greater world. -- We have a chance to engage with people who may not have a church home, yet still believe in God and still yearn to belong to something. -- We have a golden opportunity to engage with people when we are fishing or enjoying the many lakes here, hiking the trails, or enjoying the various outdoor recreation that Plumas County has to offer. -- The community dinner on Wednesday night is also an excellent time to engage with others!! -- We also have the opportunity to engage with the various people in our neighborhood when we are out and about, - building essential relationships with each other when we share the peace of Christ and the Good News of God’s love for all of us. -- One place we can begin is by continuously engaging the people of our community when we see what we have.  --
At the same time, there may be times that going out in Jesus’s name may be like going out like lambs among the wolves, or in the case out here, the mountain lions, coyotes, or bears. -- However, there are times that the world outside these walls can feel like being among the wolves.  Quite frankly, we can’t escape the news cycle as of late with the images of violence, hatred, political battles, - and other happenings that may give us less than a sense of hope. -- Yet amidst these stories that consequently make us want to just stay inside and avoid things altogether, WE need to be the ones who are out there to bring the Good News of the Gospel to the people, bringing with us a message of peace, love, and hope just as the seventy were to offer a message of peace to the places that they encountered. -- We are also seeing an increase of violence in religion’s name, - which is a wolf in its own right and something we need to show is not the case with all religion.  We need to have the gentleness of lambs.  ---
As followers of Jesus, we have an increased need and urgency to bring Good News to everyone around us, showing everyone that our God is a God of love as shown through the ministry of Jesus Christ, - who invites us into that deeper relationship with God. --- Just as we shared the signs of Christ’s peace with each other earlier in worship, we too must be willing to share signs of Christ’s peace with the rest of the neighborhood and the rest of the world. - But remember that our actions will speak louder than our words. -- We must remain humble and gentle, like lambs, showing love towards everyone we engage with, - not just those who come through our doors, but those we encounter out in the neighborhood.  Where do we begin? -- We can begin, sharing the peace of Christ with each other and those outside these walls. --
As we approach the harvest and engage with the mission field as Christ’s workers, we can also begin by practicing the three simple rules of Methodism’s founder, John Wesley by - doing no harm, - doing good, - and staying in love with God while we work together by bringing God’s kingdom here on earth today. -- As we go about our neighborhood together in the coming weeks and engage with the mission field, we need to keep these practices in mind, -- especially when it feels like we are lambs in the midst of wolves. --- It is important that we keep in mind these three simple rules of Wesley’s as we begin our time together. - There are some in our world who may see us as wolves, and we need to show them that we are not. -- Along with sharing signs of Christ’s peace with one another and with our neighbors, we begin by doing no harm, doing good, and staying in love with God.  ---
So as we embark on this new adventure together this morning, it is an adventure that I hope will be fulfilling and challenging -- especially as we work together to bring Good News to the people of Quincy and the surrounding areas in Plumas County, and beyond. --- As we go into our week, I would like to invite you to think about and reflect upon these questions:

·         Where are the places that we need to be sent to in order to bring Good News to the people?  ----

·         Where is God sending YOU to do God’s mission in the community and greater world? ----

·         Where are WE called to BE the hands and feet of Christ in OUR community, even when it might feel like being sheep in the midst of wolves? ----

As we continue asking ourselves about where we begin, I invite you to pray about these questions.  I also invite you to come by and visit at the church office, or join me later this week in visiting some of our members who cannot make it to church regularly, but also join me in exploring this community. -- I also invite you to join me for lunch, or even coffee and reflect together upon these questions that I ask and any other questions I may ask in my sermons.  And feel bring your own questions too. -- Finally, - I invite you to share your stories with me as we get to know each other. -- So, where do we begin? 

In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Amen.  

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