Saturday, June 19, 2010


Well, we've come to the end of our spring series of presentations on Worship and Justice. Someone asked me today if we were "ever going to have another sermon?" While not every one of our speakers has been an ordained clergy, I told this person that each of the presentations we had heard the past nine weeks was, indeed, a sermon. I was reminded of the quote attributed to St. Francis of Asissi who said

"Preach a sermon everyday, and if necessary, use words."

Each of the speakers we have heard has brought a challenging message to our congregation about what it means to live as a Christian in our world of hurt, need and injustice.

It's not about us after all.

No, it's not about hearing a comforting, reassuring message of how much God loves us when we are so overly saturated with God's blessings and love, we hardly pay attention anymore. It is not about sitting in a comfortable pew and getting our weekly dose of "spiritual Benadryl" spooned out. It is about laying our lives out before God in such abandonment and devotion in our worship service that the moment we leave the doors of our church, we are servants who preach sermons about what we think of God every day.

Sometimes those sermons reflect more of our concern about God taking care of us and prospering us.

But perhaps, just perhaps, worship is more than that. Maybe genuine worship is coming alongside a teenage mom and introducing her to a Christ who loves her unconditionally, even when she has been ostracized by friends, family and society.

Maybe genuine worship is taking a refugee family in and helping them find employment, learn how to shop in our stores, and navigate all the complicated systems of government so they can find the help they need.

Maybe genuine worship is handing out food at the local food bank; or counseling at a camp for teens and children who are terminally ill with HIV/AIDS. Maybe worship is more authentic when we are shoulder to shoulder with Nicaraguans who are in need of dental and medical care or Africans who lack safe water and basic schools. Maybe worship is best defined by our financial support of an orphan or of an organization that works to free young girls from the sex slave industry in the far east.

Where would Jesus be most comfortable? In one of our cultures prescribed worship services or somewhere out in the world; beyond the walls of the church building we call home. Would Jesus stand with us in those places of great need along the borders of our country or in the walled areas of Palestine, or in the home of an African teenager who is trying to hold a family of four other children together because her parents have both died? Would Jesus be out pounding nails to build someone a house, or touching the sick, visiting the poor, homeless, weak and imprisoned? Hmmm. I wonder.

So next week, we go back to more "expository" sermons, plumbing the depths of St. Paul's theology of grace and justification and what it means to live in the freedom of the spirit instead of under the curse of "law." That will be good. I am sure we'll learn lots. But it won't be as meaningful if we forget all the lessons we have been taught about meeting the needs of the world's people and working to be agents of God's transforming grace.

So, bring your Bibles. Settle in. But don't get too comfortable because I think you will agree that Paul echoes most of the thoughts we have focused on the past few weeks: genuine faith and worship result in an engaged life of service and compassion.

In the mean time, preach a sermon every day this week and if necessary, use words.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

LOVE, HOPE, COUAGE - Reach Ministries of Tacoma





Reach Ministries of Tacoma is the focus of our services this week at Calvary. REACH is an organization that doesn't just undestand the stigma, pain, fear and dispair that assaults a child, who, through no fault of their own, have contracted HIV/AIDS, it seeks to do something about it.

Providing opportunities to experience life as children and to show the unquenchable, unconditional love of God, REACH touches the life to these children and their families through advocacy, mentoring, camps and high school programs.

The worldwide pandemic of HIV/AIDS is not, in contrast to common misperception, exclusive to homosexuals, intravenous drug users or people in Africa. It is a reality that affects many - often innocent children and youth. The effects of the disease and its associated life-threatening illnesses are made worse by the isolation, loneliness, fear and stigma they experience.

REACH seeks to network and mobilize medical professionals, individuals, and groups to donate their time and resources to serve those in need in the name of Jesus.

One day, when Jesus was just beginning his public ministry, a man with leproosy came along and begged him, "Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean." (Luke 5:12ff) Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. You have to understand, leprosy was the first century equivalent of HIV/AIDS in many ways. Lepers were considered unclean. People feared and ostracized them, fearing they too might contract the disease by touch or association. Lepers, it was believed, were being punished for sin. For Jesus to reach out in love, compassion, grace and power to touch and cleanse the leper was radical. No conditions. No prerequisites. No judgment. No stigma.

HIV/AIDS victims are similarly ostracized, judged and feared. Yet so many have been stricken with this disease through no fault or act of their own. An infected partner or parent, a contaminated transfusion needle, or some other cause has left children in modern day leper camps as orphans or victims.

REACH offers the touch of Jesus. REACH offers Christians the opportunity to be the tangible, visible expression of Christ's love. Or, as Mother Teresa once said, "to be a small pencil in the hand of God writing a love letter to the world."

Last fall, I had the chance to stand surrounded by over 100 children in a small village outside Lusaka Zambia. Dirty hands and faces reached out to touch and to be touched. Over half these children were either single (one parent) or double (both parent) orphans due to HIV/AIDS. No doubt, some of them were infected as well. My heart was broken to see how starved for love and for touch these kids were.

The reality is that we don't need to go overseas in order to positively (pardon the pun) affect the life of a child who is, in some way, a victim of HIV/AIDS. There are opportunities for that love, that compassion, that grace to be shown here in our own backyard.

James says, "religion that God finds acceptable and pur is this: to look after the orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world." REACH MINISTRIES is practicing religion that is pure and acceptable to God. We can partner with them by showing the love, hope and courage that comes from knowing and following Christ.