In worship this week, we read the story of the Prophet Elijah visiting a woman. If you’re reading along at home, I Kings 17:7-14 is where you find it. Elijah was traveling and was visiting a town with a bad drought going on. There he met up with a widow with a son. Now, things are bad for single moms today, but in the society of the time, well she was not even allowed to own anything. When she met Elijah, she was gathering firewood to cook a last meal for her and her child.
You see, she had a small amount of flour & oil left. She truly believed that was it. They had no more food, and the drought had brought a famine, and they had no hope for future food. They were going to die. Elijah still insists she cook him a small meal with the flour & oil, but promises that she will not see the end of that supply of flour & oil while the drought persists. In other words, she and her child WILL make it through the crisis, if they step out on faith.
Kinda of relevant today don’t you think? No, thankfully, we don’t have a real drought around here, even if we did, we have lots of ways to get water for drinking and farms But we’ve been in a financial drought in this country for years. Worse still, here in Toledo, we tend experience the drought first and the recovery last. But some rain clouds are starting to gather finally. Eventually, they’ll pour down and end our drought, but we’ll see that last here.
Cheri, and myself as well, had three confessions: First, we worry about money; Two, Money causes stress in our relationship; Three, we are human. That’s right, ministers and their spouses as well, are real, flawed, human beings. Say it ain’t so Kurt. That being said, in our lives, we want to be free of worry. But the only way to be free from worry is to trust God. Now, this does not mean we can just simply hand it to God and go along our merry way. But, it still has to start with putting our trust in God.
Yesterday, the Lead Team of the Village were at the Northwest Ohio Association of the United Church Christ’s Annual Meeting. For those who are Methodists, Association = District, for Catholics = Diocese, for the rest of you, a big gathering of churches from a geographic region. It’s a big business meeting, where lots of decisions have to be voted on. One of the reports that had to be presented was on new church starts and re-development and we got to be the stars of the show. Joe, Kristie & Tianda performed “There is Always Room In The Circle”, bringing down the house, as Cheri showed a Power Point Slide Show of our first year. It was amazing.
Even more so was the celebration that The Village was a church they had birthed. The Association needed to celebrate this with us, because it was not an easy decision for them to step out on faith and help found us. First, there was the fear we would not help, but instead kill Nu Vizion, our sister UCC plant. Second, there was that little economic drought I talked about earlier. Worse still, the UCC had gotten report after report about how, as the oldest demographically, denomination, they’re dying. But they took that leap, they still made budget, and Nu Vizion is still going strong, and has helped us while we help them.
While Cheri was there, and at other clergy gatherings as well, she just wanted to talk about how wonderful things are going. How we are on track according to plan, how we are gearing up to start worship service number two, how we are changing lives, etc. But instead when Cheri was asked, she found herself answering that she was worried about money. Here’s why, the church is $15,000 in the red. While our budget is $165,000, we’ve already raised $130,000 of it. We could celebrate that were only 10% behind, putting us up there with most churches. We could celebrate that we’ve raised 7/8th of our budget through grants and pledges. But Cheri is worried about the other $35,000.
Guess what? Worry is not going to raise that other $35,000. Trusting in God is a good place to start, but a plan, that’s what is needed. And a plan is underway, but for today, that’s not the kind of financial worries we are talking about. Today’s blog is about you. We are starting a multi-week sermon series on dealing with real problems. It’s called “Hope 4 Real People w/ Real Problems”. As followers of Jesus we say that we are going to follow the way of Jesus and trust that God will show us the way when we don’t see one. One of these areas of concern when Cheri surveyed our congregation was finances.
What about your money situation worries you? Lots of us worry about money. Some of us have real issues, underemployment, unemployment, disability, etc. But for most of us, much of our financial stress comes from the choices we make. Not facing these issues, head on, and from failing to ask God to help us, to trust these problems to God, and failing to work the problem with God.
If you worry about money, if you can’t make ends meet, if you and your family members argue about money, you need to take some simple steps, some baby steps, to begin to take control of that problem, and start to move from worry to freedom. These are the same steps we are taking at the Village, and that Cheri & I are taking at home.
The first step is to assess the situation, get the data and talk about it. To figure out how to get out of hole, you need to look at how deep the hole is. That’s what Cheri and I had to do to deal with our situation. Our hole, well we had to debate whether to share that, but we could not be leaders without admitting our flaws. So, here it is. We were in a BIG hole. Frighteningly, not that far out of line with the norm in our country today, but a hole.
When we got married we had a thousand or two apiece in credit card debt, and I had tens of thousands in student loans. Then Cheri took a 40% pay cut to turn another church around, and we added two kids. So, at it’s peak, we were at $13,000 dollars in credit card debt. That’s what happens when you spend without thinking. You get in a hole. How you get out, well first you assess the hole and then plan on how you get out.
We sat down, with help from friends, and made a list of our debts. We made a budget and started to work on sticking to it. And we communicated. Cheri does our bill paying. Neither of us are good at that, but Cheri is better. But for a time she tried to keep things from me, saying she didn’t want to worry me too much. Now, we share, because that’s the only way out of the hole. You need to trust God, but you’ve got to work the problem, together.
The Second step, is making your budget, to consider your values. Does the situation you’re living in financially reflect the values you want to live by? Budgets, personal and governmental both are moral documents, according to our friend Jim Wallis. Our budget, sadly said we valued eating out and vacations more than our future and our church. We, like most of the population found ourselves spending 10% more than we made. We used credit cards, which are a way to but something we want but can’t afford.
But we decided to make a budget that reflect our beliefs. Sure, we would still take vacations, but ones more within our means and not splurge on new clothes or furniture until we absolutely needed such things. Others have gone further, our friend Mike Slaughter didn’t want to mortgage his kids future, so he sold his beloved, classic car to help fund his kids’ college educations. We made a conscious decision to strive to what the Bible tells us God wanted.
As Christians, we believe all we have is ultimately God’s. The Bible says we should give back 10% to our church and other good causes. The concept is called the Tithe. Further, financial experts tell you, it would be best to be saving about 10% of your income. Which means the formula should ideally be 10% to God, 10% to savings and 80% to your needs and wants. Cheri and I are working on this. I did not go to church on a regular basis as an adult before meeting Cheri, and Cheri tithed. Together we have been working towards that 10%, and we do give $500 per month to the Village, and have been since before most of you have heard of the Village. We believe in the Village, it’s values are ours, and we’ve made it so our budget reflects that.
The third step is the least popular, because it’s the hardest, WORK THE PLAN. It takes time to get into financial difficulty. We managed to add our combined debt together, then run it up another 200% more, but it wasn’t over night. We just didn’t get up one day and say “hey, let’s go on an around the world cruise; or we need a playroom with a big screen TV, a bar, pinball machine, etc”. We did it over time. That’s the way we’ve gotten out. Over the last several years, $13,000 has become less than $1,000. But only slowly, with work, with sacrifice, with following a plan. It is something you train to do, like a marathon or long bike ride.
The final step, this one’s actually the hard one for me, is to trust God and be ready to God to work with you in your plan and surprise you. Ask God to hep you. Ask God’s wisdom in guiding your money decisions. Ask for the feeling and belief that “the Earth and everything on it belongs to God”.
At the Village, we are a place where we want to connect with real people, and help them deal with their real problems. So, this is not just a sermon, but the start, we hope, of a ministry. We have wonderfully talented people who can help people learn how to get their financial houses in order. We are going to try to learn together and teach others how to deal with these kind of challenges. Are you ready to get help? Are you ready to help? Come join us at the Village if you are.
Sunday, April 25, 2010
Sunday, April 18, 2010
Have you ever just had to take a leap of faith? Ever have to just do something? Just because you had no choice, but to move forward? This week in worship at the Village we talked about having to do just that. No better way to show that kind of situation than a good movie.
In Indiana Jones & the Last Crusade, Indy has to take a leap of faith. His father has been pursuing the Holy Grail, the cup from the last supper, for his whole life. Indy gets sucked into the quest to find this cup, which now supposedly has miraculous healing powers. To make sure he will get the Grail, despite a scary set of traps, the “bad guys” shoot Indy’s Dad. So he has to get the Grail to save Dad. The last trap is “The Path of God”, which is a leap of faith. He has to cross, with no bridge, a huge gap. Indy steps out on faith, not something easy for a man who is a man of science and reason, and discovers the way, rather than plummeting to what would be a certain death. Sometimes, you have to just trust in something. Cheri’s mantra, yes you can have a mantra and be Christian, it’s just repeating something, is “Trust God”. She had a version of it on her ordination banner, she says it regularly. But, sometimes that leap looks as scary as Indy’s.
In late 1994, I had one of those kinds of leaps to make. I was in a dead end job in Cleveland. How dead end? Well I was already the longest survivor in my position and had been fired and re-hired once. But, Cleveland was familiar. Despite a life of moving every two years when I was a kid, I had thrown down roots. My friends were there. My favorite places and some of my favorite teams were there. I was comfortable. But I was not going to make it physically and spiritually in this job. So I needed to do something.
I took a leap of faith, expanding my job search statewide. I found a job in Toledo. I had family in Toledo, but no friends, no professional contacts, a firm that was a step up, but did have a reputation for running through people like me. But I knew it was better than where I was. Now, later, I can tell you that all I am now, is due to that leap. Without that leap, I would not be where I am in my career; I would likely never have met the love of my life and married her; I would not likely have returned to a church; I would not have become a father; and I would not have the incredible faith community that is the Village.
Cheri had one of those experiences too and the chance to share it with others. When she was twenty-four, she was put in charge of a camp for foster kids, “juvenile delinquents” and other kids in trouble. She was put in charge of a summer camp on an island, where with a group of 2-3 adults, she would take groups of 12 kids and help them turn around. They would camp out, learn to water ski, and recharge their self-worth and self-esteem. Cheri will tell you that she is not a camper. Our version of camping is a lodge, walking in the woods, hiking, boating, etc but sleeping in a nice bed with a nice shower. This was the polar opposite of the camp, which had none of the above.
Cheri’s favorite part was helping get the kids the confidence to take a leap out of their shells. She remembers one really skinny, frail, African American, young man. He had been home to home and had no confidence in anything. He had never been out on a boat, he had never been up on any form of skis. To ski, he had to trust Cheri to care for him, keep him safe & teach him right. He had to trust in the boat to pul him up. Eventually, he did and the smile on his face as he skied for the first time, was all the proof of the concept Cheri needed. Cheri thought the man who hired her for this job was crazy, putting her in charge of a skiing and camping club. But he knew what Cheri would discover. These kids needed to do things they had never done before. They needed to be loved and taught they were worth something, too. But they needed to take a leap and make something happen by doing something. They had to experience love, acceptance, accomplishment and freedom. Sometimes you just have to let go and take a leap of faith, trusting someone or something.
Cheri, and therefore me as well, has spent a lot of time talking about Palm Sunday’s baptisms at the Village, but it was an incredible event. Sara was part of that group. Sara began living with her Grandma not that long ago. Before then, her life had been very unstable. She had been told she had to come to church with Grandma at one of our first preview services. She came, but with her arms folded, ready to not have a good time. Instead, she found a home, a place of acceptable, a place where God could begin the process of leading her to a new life.
As Cheri prepared her and others for baptism, Sara had more questions than answers about God. She was not sure about God, other than that she was loved by God. She was not sure whether she should get baptized asking questions. But, Cheri assured her baptism was not the end of a journey, but a commitment to start a journey. With that Sara said yes. She decided to take a real leap of faith, not knowing all that it could mean.
Sara has started making decisions in her life. Imagine the path she has ahead. She is only a junior in high school. She will face many hard choices in the coming months and years. Every day she has to make choices we’ve all had to make as teenagers and then some. But she has made that leap and is now taking the steps down the path that follows. It won’t be without wrong steps, it won’t be without tears, but it’s a better path.
Peter and the Disciples took that leap too. They put down their nets (or whatever was holding them back) and followed Jesus. But today’s story in worship involved another leap. For those of you reading along at home, pick up Matthew chapter 14, verses 22 through 33. Jesus sent the disciples out on a boat ahead of him. In the midst of a storm, he joins them, by walking on water. Peter, eager to believe, agrees to leap out of the boat, and he walked on water for a few seconds. Of course, he’s not the Messiah, and he begins sinking.
Every day, we have to make decisions: do I take the $20 bill I found on the ground or not; do I cheat, just a little on my taxes or not; Do I give money to the homeless person who just panhandled me or not; do I stay in this dead end relationship, because it’s comfortable; Do I leave the job that is killing my soul; How do I react to getting fired or laid off; do I stay in the hole of depression I am in; or do I take a leap of faith.
What’s your leap of faith today? Can you see something God is challenging you to do? Something that scares you. You know the next step but not the outcome. Are you ready to take the next step?
Sunday, April 11, 2010
Thankfully, my doubts are not about the important things in life. When you are born to two parents who loved each other, who desperately wanted to have kids, and have a middle name that literally means “Gift from God”, you’re pretty much going to get the point that God loves you.
No, my doubts are mostly about inconsequential or ridiculous things: “Yeah, right, the guard from my favorite basketball team will make that shot”; “the Bengals will someday win the Super Bowl, yeah, as if”; “The Indians &/or Reds will absolutely be in contention this year for sure”, Etc.
But our friend Robin, now she’s experienced the big doubts. As you know if you’ve read our blog, Robin is a Gulf War & Iraq War veteran. She’s spent the better part of two long years in her version of hell. She not only faced an enemy that wanted to kill her, but also a lack of acceptance of her by her own “brothers in arms”. Robin went to Iraq a solid, believing Christian. But over there, she experienced a situation where even her own fellow soldiers did not believe (oh, sure they wanted her to pray before patrols, but then mocked her beliefs later). Somewhere in the Deserts of Iraq & Saudi Arabia, Robin lost her connection with God. She thought God had abandoned her.
In worship this week, we told the story of the early Christian believers having the same feeling. If you want to read it at home, open up to John Chapter 20 in your Bible and read verses 19-31. The disciples, Jesus’ inner circle of friends, had really had a bad week there. Jesus was arrested, beaten and killed. They were relatively sure they were going to be following him. But then, Jesus appeared to them in a locked room. Jesus offered them peace and reassurance, all but poor Thomas.
I do feel sorry for Thomas. He was not there. Take away 2,000 years of Christian teaching and put yourself in his shoes. You’re out and about, and come back to hear your dead teacher has supposedly appeared to your friends and offered them peace. “Yeah, right, you’re not pulling that one on me guys” is thought that enters my mind, I’ll believe it when I can put my finger in his hands and my hand in his side. But Jesus comes back and helps out even Thomas. You can stick your hand in my side if you need to Thomas is the response of Jesus. Thomas, seeing, believes.
But many great Christians have needed that kind of experience. Mother Teresa, you know the champion of the poor in Calcutta, founder of the Missionaries of Charity, winner of the Noble Peace Prize, wasn’t always the world renowned figure. In 1946, she was a young nun. But she was given a great gift. For a time, she had regular conversations with a voice she knew to be Jesus. He called her his “Little One”. He shared his hope that she would be his embodiment of compassion for the poor and those who thirsted.
However, unbeknownst to the rest of the world, long before she became the symbol of Christian compassion to millions, if not billions of people, she lost that voice. According to her confidants and her diary, she lost the voice of God forever. She was in darkness and doubt the rest of her life. Imagine, the woman who inspires many to this day, years after her death, was lost and seeking and fearing. She was able to accomplish what she did by that one period of close contact and faith in holding onto the message she received.
Do you have that moment or those moments in your life that you can hold onto? For both Cheri and I, we’ve never actually had that long, intimate encounter with God, but we’ve both had shorter, more of a medium experience, of God’s presence. For Cheri, she talked about several in her message today. She felt God at Summer Church Camp, in communion services in Seminary, etc. Her biggest though, was around the death of her father.
Cheri’s father James died suddenly while she was in Seminary. She went to bed not even knowing her father had been taken to the hospital. She didn’t know he was there, as her mother had been sent home, being told he would be fine. But when she woke in the morning, Cheri received word he had died from a blood clot on his lung. Thankfully, she was surrounded, far from home, with a community of God’s love and support. So not one voice, but many were there to give her God’s message of love and peace.
Decades later, I had a similar episode like her Dad. I was at Church, working on improving the tech booth at our last church, when I experienced the onset of bad paid and a shortness of breath. I had Cheri take me to the Emergency Room 3 times over the next 4 days. Finally, they admitted me to the hospital and did a test where they used the same scope they use for heart catheterization and discovered I too had not one, but two blood clots, one on each lung. The first night, Cheri would not leave my side. But on night two, Cheri was finally able to go home.
There I was, helpless, weak, as close to death as I have ever come thus far in my young life. I was pitiful. I always picture myself in the role of the warrior, the protector for my clients and my family. And here I was not only helpless, but facing a chance that I would leave my wife, like her father had left her family and my father had left mine. Worse still, my Dad died when I was 15, Cheri’s Dad died when she, the youngest was in seminary. Becca was about 4 ½ and Jamie was not yet a year old. In other, words, I would be leaving a widow and two kids who would never remember me.
As I lay there, having to lie perfectly still, as they had opened a major artery to do the test and it needed to close, I was feeling as alone as I could get. But then, on the blank wall of my room, I kid you not, appeared a cross. I was formed by the lights outside my room coming through the blinds. It was never there before and it would never be there any other of the nine nights I spent in Toledo Hospital. But it was there on my darkest night. Then, and only then, could I let go. I finally relaxed and realized one of two things was going to happen. I was going to either make it or not. Either way, God was with me and God would be with my family. I found peace, I head a voice that basically said, “I’m here with you, I’ll be there with them, I’m never gone, just be quiet and look harder when you feel the most alone, you’ll find me”.
That was something we heard in worship today, over and over again. Cheri gave us a chance to share any stories we had like this and we had some great ones. Our friend Kara (not her real name, but she loved when I suggested we use Starbuck from the New Battlestar Galactica’s name) shared her story of God being there. First, when he helped convince her to get help for addiction to prescription and other drugs. Then again, later when she convinced Kara to trust in her, and know she was loved. It was an amazing service with multiple great stories and few dry eyes.
Jesus said to Thomas, so you believe because you’ve seen with your own eyes, but even better blessing will be in store for those who believe without seeing. That’s what the Christian life is all about. It’s about paying attention to those moments when we experience the presence of God, when we see God in places like the Village community. So, later, when we feel lost from God we can remember these moments and hold onto them. There are times when we need to trust God and it will be really hard to see God or feel God’s presence. Those are the times we have to rely on our memories of God. Here’s hoping you hear that voice from God this week.
Sunday, April 4, 2010
Do you have those family stories that get told differently? Cheri, I, and our friends sure do. One of my favorites is about the start of our friends’ band, the 3rd Floor Band. If you’ve never heard them, and many of you have but still more have not, they are a Christian Rock Band and they do a fantastic Christmas concert called “Blues Christmas” where they re-tell the Christmas story via classic rock, etc.
David Harris, their leader, and Cheri will tell you different stories on their founding. Was it David’s idea, Cheri’s idea, someone else’s idea, or some combination thereof? Did they play their first gig at our former coffee house service that was the Grandmother of the Village, the Back Door Coffee House, or was a district ministers event for David? Even the band isn’t sure any more. But one thing in common in all stories is what the band has done for Toby, and by extension hundreds of other folks.
Toby is the 3rd Floor Band’s bass player. He played the bars in Findlay, Fostoria & Fremont for years with Mary & Bob from the band. One night they invited him to come play in a band with them. They just neglected to tell him he was playing a church event. All we know for sure is that Toby’s life was not the same again.
Toby had a lot of pain and loss in his life. He had gone through all the places that kind of pain puts you, drink, doubt and fear, etc. But being a part of that band, that family, transformed Toby. It turned him into a follower of Jesus. He found hope through horrible times, including a stroke that threatened to take away his loves of playing music and transforming the world with his hands.
After being healed of his hurt, Toby has become a force of hope in this world, with the 3rd Floor Band’s musical efforts and beyond. By the way, that includes not only going to a prison on Christmas Eve and sharing that hope and joy of the “Blues Christmas Concert” but also going to Mexico to build churches and homes. Toby’s life and that of hundreds of others have not been the same since that first time he played with the 3rd Floor Band.
Stories with different versions are not unusual. We read one of the stories of Easter morning in worship. There are four main versions of Jesus’ life in the Bible, the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke & John. We read John’s which is in chapter 30. In the different versions of the Gospels, details vary. Did Mary Magdelene go alone? Did two disciples come with her later? While they were at Jesus’ tomb, did they see one angel, two or none? The stories do have a common thread though and they all agree, as do we, that the world’s never been the same since.
On Good Friday, we had a wonderfully moving service at the Village. We re-experienced that story. If you don’t know the story of Good Friday (and my son can’t grasp why in the world it is called Good Friday, he likes the Latin community’s version, Holy Friday) Jesus was betrayed by one of his closest followers, Judas. He was handed over to his enemies, beaten and tormented. Jesus was abandoned by one of his best friends, the one he was grooming to lead his movement when Jesus was gone, Peter. He was tortured and killed in a horrible way. We experienced the darkness that moment brought on the world in worship Friday night, by snuffing out candles in a darkened room, one at a time, as the details unfoled.
But Easter morning, Mary and maybe others, went to perform the funeral rituals that needed to be done to a dead body. They went to give a last bit of comfort to a fallen friend and teacher. But rather than a body, they got a tomb, where the stone that served as the door, had been rolled away, and was empty.
I’m not sure how that stone moved away. While getting ready for worship on Sunday I found a ridiculous picture that makes it look like Jesus used high explosives to get out of the tomb. What I can tell you is that hope appeared to die for us on Friday. But that’s not true. Hope didn’t really die that day. I’ m not really sure what process rolled that stone away. I can tell you though that hope didn’t die on the cross. I can’t say how Jesus rose, there was no video tape, no scientific testing, no Myth Busters special. But hope is alive.
That Sunday morning, about two thousand years ago, Mary was looking for hope. Something got her out of bed, after a horrid weekend, and got her to that tomb to care for her dead friend and beloved teacher. What she found was initially what she thought was a grave that had been robbed or defiled. The stone had been rolled away. She finds what she thinks is the Gardener. She’s too in shock or whatever to recognize the person standing before her. That is until he gently says her name “Mary”, and she realizes her “dead” teacher is there before her. Hope rolled away that stone.
Through Jesus, God defeated death. We say we’re an Easter people. That means we are a people of hope. We are a people who believe that hope can roll away that stone back then and our stones today as well. God’s love, our hope, gives us love, acceptance, calm, healing whatever we need to escape our times of darkness, when we’re in our own “tombs” (anger, addiction, fear, suffering, etc). It may be a big shove of the stone or a series of tiny nudges and pushes that gets the stone out of the way. Regardless, that stone will be moved away if we let it.
We are hope for another as well. We’ve seen that in our little, fledgling faith community. Just this last week, a group of teenagers came to Toledo with our web designer Jenny, who is a seminary student and youth minister. These teenagers came from Jenny’s church in Dayton, to spend their spring break, working to change the world, starting with Toledo, Ohio. They did work at the Village that we needed done, including spreading some flyers in our neighborhood to spread the news about our church. They also did work at Monroe Street UMC and Nu Vizion UCC, our sister churches.
While they were at the Village, they got to hear our stories. Robin told her story, the story of being an Iraqi War veteran with PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder for those who are not in the psychological know). How she felt God had abandoned her in Iraq, that is until she found the Village. They also heard from Vanetta, who found her way to us via one of our outreach events, our first open house. She was lost, she had lost her first child, due to her mental illness, and how she needed someone to walk with her down the path. She was pregnant with her second child and she needed a church family. The kids got to hear how these two followers of Jesus, found each other through the Village, and how these sisters in Jesus became a part of the others families.
These teenagers got to see a glimpse of how we’re trying to create a next generation church. Hearing these stories, there was an “ah ha” moment. They got it. They saw how the Village, and Nu Vizion, and Monroe Street are all serving their community. How existing communities like Monroe Street are feeding those who are fed by traditional faith communities, while doing innovative things outside of Sunday morning. They also found out how new churches, like our sister Nu Vizion and the Village are feeding those who aren’t fed by others.
From their hope and efforts, we got to see some hope ourselves. First, their effort spreading flyers, brought us visitors. But more importantly we saw they got a future we are preparing for. How new churches like ours can reach folks with hope. A hope that would never exist without two denominations taking a bold step of funding our little faith experiment.
The power of God is alive in this church. Cheri has been a minister for twenty years, but she feels that she is just now really getting started in ministry during the last year. Incredible things are coming alive here. This week, Cheri went to visit a homeless couple who found the Village. They are staying with Interfaith Hospitality/Family Promise while they work their way to having a place to live. They found the Village because despite only worshiping for five months, we are not a church to stay in our building. Instead, we reach out to those in need any way we can.
Cheri was at the IHN Day Center, providing pastoral care, when one of them began to have a seizure. She has neurological issues and has these during times of pressure. Can you imagine a homeless family having pressures? Thanks to our faith community, Cheri felt something other than a urge to dial 9-1-1. She bent over and began praying for our friend. She prayed for her, told her that God was with her, and assured her that she would get through that. Now, Cheri doesn’t claim to have cured her, but the seizure stopped, right there and then. Now, our friend is still going to a neurologist for treatment, but that seizure stopped. Thanks to the power of the risen Christ, this faith community and Cheri, that small miracle happened.
The power of the Village Church to help people find a home and healing and experience the risen Christ, is creating some wondrous things. Jesus is alive. Hope didn’t die on a cross. It’s alive. Hope gets people through the nights. It gets people through the days that follow as well.
Today we celebrate the power of God, the return of Jesus, and being that hope for one another. Hope rolled away the stone. If you don’t have that hope yet, we, the followers of Jesus, will help you find it. If you don’t find us, we’ll keep trying to find you, but there are few of us, many of you, and we need a refill every now and again today. If you’re not in Toledo, there are other places like us, all over the country, but if you’re in Toledo, without hope, you’re welcome here. Wherever you are on life’s journey. And if you want to be a part of creating that kind of hope for others, and already have it yourself, you’re welcome here too.