Rev. Tom Hagood
We are to do justice . . . to love kindness . . .
and now . . . we are told to walk humbly . . .
the final command of God in our three-part
Micah series . . . walk humbly with God.
I wonder, though, why this one is the third command
and not the first one.
Because, I believe this one is the hardest command
of God out of all of them.
It’s just not easy to humble yourself . . .
it goes against our natural tendency
of being an American superstar . . .
everyone at least wants their 15 minutes of fame . . .
or if you’re really lucky . . . speaking of humbleness . . .
to be one of the Kardashian clan.
Honestly . . . we don’t live
in the most humble of all nations.
In our neck of the woods . . . there is very little
humbleness in the land of the SEC and the ACC
during fall football season . . .
we worship move stars and celebrities
with the adoration reserved for royalty
regardless of anyone’s lack of humbleness . . .
during the mid-term elections,
politicians from both sides of the aisle
tried to make us think that they alone
have all the answers to our nation’s
and world’s problems . . .
and heaven forbid if you mention that the U.S.
isn’t leading the world in every category
from health to education . . .
you would be called unpatriotic . . .
because everyone knows we’re number one.
So much for humbleness.
We want to be in control . . . to have it all figured out . . .
to know where we’re going . . .
and how we’re going to get there . . .
every single step of the way.
Forget humbleness . . . I can figure it out for myself.
And guess what . . . the same is true in the church.
Think of all of the plans churches have ever made . . .
the strategic plans . . . the five year plans.
Follow these 23 steps and your church
will grow and grow.
Do you know where most of them ended up?
That’s right . . . on a shelf collecting dust.
That kind of planning worked well back in the 1950s
and 60s . . . even into the 90s.
Everyone was doing it.
But now . . . we’re faced with a very different world . . .
a world in which the church is no longer
the center of people’s lives . . .
and for many Christians . . .
the organized church has lost its significance
as an effective way of living your life
as a disciple of Jesus Christ.
Actually, I’m not surprised.
The mainline denominations of the 40s
through the early 70s were hardly modest
in their boasting of which denomination was better
than any other . . . be it Baptist . . . Methodists . . .
Presbyterians . . . Lutherans . . . you name it . ..
we all had our corner of the Protestant market.
And one thing’s for sure . . .
you didn’t have a lot of collaboration and sharing
of resources between denominations in those days.
You looked out for number one.
The bureaucracy of the church grew and grew . . .
taking on more and more staff members . . . creating more and more programs . . .
all to keep the church viable and operating.
In one sense . . . it took on a corporate character . . .
It became about the numbers . .
keeping those pews filled . . .
so the cash flow would continue . . .
to support the business of the church.
Unfortunately, the church took a lot for granted.
It assumed that as long as things
were going along well . . . don’t change it.
But somewhere along the way . . .
the church lost its way.
Now don’t get me wrong . . .
even in the midst of all that . . . the church . . .
even my home church . . .
did some wonderful and outstanding things
in the name of Jesus Christ . . . here and abroad.
I grew in the faith because of the church.
And this very church . . . Columbia Presbyterian Church
. . . has a rich history of worship and mission
and discipleship to this community.
But somewhere along the way . . .
the church lost its way . . .
younger generations began to question the validity
of giving money to an institution
rather than directly to special causes
and people in need.
Why should I give money to help keep a building’s
lights on and air conditioner working?
Why should I pay a pastor a salary . . .
aren’t we all ministers?
Why do I have to worship God that way . . .
I don’t even know what those words mean
and I certainly don’t know those songs they sing!
Did Jesus really want us to create a church bureaucracy?
And then the worst judgment of all . . .
Christians are just a bunch of hypocrites . . .
why should I become one of them?
And you know what . . . we have to admit
that those are good questions.
Because the truth is . . . we’re not the church
we used to be 40 years ago.
But that’s ok . . .
because I believe something wonderful
is going on in the life of the church today.
We’ve been forced to go to our knees
and humble ourselves before God.
And that’s never a bad thing to do.
Because when you’re on your knees . . .
you have to admit that you don’t know what to do.
You have to admit that you’ve screwed up
and you need some help.
You have to admit that you can’t
figure it out by yourself anymore.
You have to admit that you are powerless . . .
even hopeless . . . without God leading you.
And that’s the first step to walking humbly with God.
But here’s the Good News!
God hasn’t abandoned the church . . .
and particularly not our church.
God is very much here . . . in our very midst . . .
and God is doing a new thing . . .
in the life of the PCUSA and in particular . . .
the life of Columbia Presbyterian Church.
And each of us . . . are a part of what God is doing.
When God speaks to us with the words of Micah . . .
those words aren’t spoken to each of us individually . . .
no . . . when God uses the pronoun “you” . . .
it’s a plural pronoun . . .
God is speaking to all of us . . .
we are to do justice . . . TOGETHER . . .
we are to love kindness . . . TOGETHER . . .
and we are to walk humbly with God . . . TOGETHER.
But how we do that . . .
is dependent upon God showing us the way.
That’s why we’ve spent these last few weeks talking
about God’s blessings
and the mighty words of Micah 6 . . .
we have been praying and discerning
for the will of God together.
So what has God shown us?
God has shown us that most of us have a passion
for child advocacy and the issues of poverty
That really doesn’t surprise me.
I think we’ve been humbly following God
in that direction for some time . . .
through our work at Hagar’s House,
the homeless shelter for women and children . . .
our devotion to Our House,
the homeless childcare center
right here on our own church grounds . . .
our support of the Clifton Men’s Shelter
through our Souper Bowl youth program each year . . .
our love of every child that comes to Columbia
who is valued as a child of God
as well as our outreach through Vacation Bible School to refugee children . . .
our food co-ops for the disabled,
the elderly, and the Veterans . . .
and so much more this little church does
here at the corner of Kirk and Columbia.
We may not be the size church we were back in 1969 . .
. but I can guarantee you . . .
that the love and devotion
each of you have for Jesus Christ . . .
fills this entire sanctuary to the max.
We are told to walk humbly with God.
Why do we do that . . . why do we follow Jesus?
Well look behind me . . . these are your words . . .
you wrote them . . .
LOVE . . . FAITH . . . SAVIOR . . . BELONGING . . . GRACE . . . ALLEGIANCE . . . SERVICE . . . LIFE . . .
HOPE . . REDEEMED . . . CONSCIOUSNESS . . . AGPAGE . . . SHARE . . . THE CROSS . . .
all words that define our commitment to Jesus Christ.
And then you went on to share how
you will live out that commitment to Jesus Christ . . .
that’s what all those other words are . . .
the action words you wrote
after discernment and prayer.
I think they make a powerful testimony to your faith
and devotion to the work and ministry
of Christ here at Columbia.
I believe they are a visible sign of your humble walk
with the Lord.
Humbleness is the heart of why this church is still here .
. . and will continue to be here to serve the Lord.
Is the church still necessary . . .
you bet it is.
But we can’t make it in this world as individuals . . .
we still need each other . . .
and God has shown us that over and over.
We must not focus on worrying about bank accounts
and numbers in the pew . . .
instead we must focus on building loving
and sustaining relationships with each other . . .
and with those who will come through those door . . .
as well as those we will meet outside of this place.
It’s all about service and humility and God’s grace . . .
God will take care of the rest . . .
even for the next 40 years . . .
and the 40 after that.
I really like the way Anne Lamott writes
about walking and serving humbly with God . . .
and the joy of being part of a church . . .
listen to what she says:
“Gratitude begins in our hearts
and then dovetails into behavior.
It almost always makes you willing to be of service,
which is where the joy resides.
It means you are willing to stop being such a jerk.
When you are aware of all that has been given to you,
in your lifetime and in the past few days,
it is hard not to be humbled,
and pleased to give back.
Most humbling of all is to comprehend the lifesaving gift
that your pit crew of people has been for you,
and all the experiences you have shared,
the journeys together , the collaborations,
births and deaths, divorces, rehab, and vacations,
the solidarity you have shown one another.
Every so often you realize that without all of them,
your life would be barren and pathetic.
It would be Death of a Salesman,
though with e-mail and texting.”
Lamott, Anne (2012-11-13). Help, Thanks, Wow: The Three Essential Prayers (p. 57). Penguin Group US. Kindle Edition.
Now I’ve got a surprise for you . . .
and I bet you didn’t see this coming.
Today is what we used to call
Stewardship Dedication Sunday.
But it’s going to be done a little differently
than we used to do it.
The ushers are now going to hand out
commitment cards and envelopes to you.
It’s quite simple . . .
I just ask that you spend a few minutes
right where you are . . . and pray . . .
and consider how you will support
the work and mission of this church
through your time . . . your talents and your money.
And then I want you to write that commitment down
as simply as you can on the letter. . .
put the letter in the envelope and seal it . . .
and address the envelope to yourself.
No one except God and you
will know what is in that envelope.
And then . . . during the time for offering . . .
I will invite you to come forward
and place your envelope along with your offering
on the communion table.
I will mail your letter back to you in about six months.
How you decide to walk humbly with God . . .
is up to you . . .
and your Lord.
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.