Sunday, August 28, 2011

MESSAGE – “21st Century Evangelism (aka Faith Sharing)” by Cheri Holdridge (with the usual assist by Kurt Young)

I woke abruptly yesterday morning. Jesus had spoken to me in my sleep. He gave me a message. Rebecca, he wants you to be an evangelist (and actually Rebecca and her friend brought another friend to church today), and you, too Terri, and you, Eddie. Will you do that?

Anyone think they woke up in the wrong church this morning? Anyone think that Pastor Cheri went off the edge? Think you checked out the wrong blog today? Well, you didn’t.

An Evangelist is not a person who scares people, scolds them, an evangelist is someone who shares good news, tells about who God is. Can you do that? Another way to say it: evangelist is someone who points to God in order to give HOPE!

In today’s scripture, (Luke 10: 1-12, 16-21, 23-24 for those playing along at home & on the road) Jesus sent out the disciples to teach and heal and to invite people to give their lives to God’s way, to give them hope.

You walked into the front area of a house, houses back then had a reception area like that and you were invited into the front section (no Holiday Inns or Motel 6’s back then) to be received. This was their method when they got to a town:

  • Present yourself for hospitality
  • Gave the host an opportunity to be a part of Jesus’ work
  • You were not expected to house the enemy, so if not, you were going to be kicked out.
  • The disciples had an easy way to force the question: do you want to be a part of God’s mission on earth?

The disciples were not to take anything with them when they went in and if they were not received, they were not even to take the dirt along with them from that town.

Houses aren’t built that way today. That’s not our custom. And most of us are not called to be full-time traveling evangelists. We are more settled. So sharing the hope of God with people, who are feeling hopeless, is going to look a little different for us.

So how can we do it? How can we share our experience of God, in ways that are authentic for us? Yesterday and last Saturday as well, some of us had a chance to invite some folks to come to The Village.

This week we were at Toledo Pride, inviting folks to come to church. We gave away 300 multi-colored stickers that said “I am loved”. We gave away 300 water bottles with the Village Logo (along with Equality Ohio’s logo). We gave away about 60 gallons of free water. We wore our “No Perfect People Allowed” T-Shirts. We even sold about a dozen of them. So about 500-600 people got the idea that the Village was a place that cared about people. That is one great way to invite folks to connect with God. How many of you came here because someone invited you? By the way, we did the same thing, minus the “I am loved” stickers, but adding face painting at the Maumee Street Fair last weekend.

When you invite people here, what do you say about this community? Do you talk about finding hope here? It takes many invitations to get some folks here. That’s why we just keep gently inviting. We have a variety of events, in addition to Sunday worship every week, to give you lots of opportunities to invite folks. This Friday night we are having a benefit concert for the AIDS Resource center.

But let’s take this a little bit deeper. Inviting folks to come here and experience this community is important. Because once they come here, the Spirit of God will grow in them. They will get hooked on hope, the way we are. But there is another layer in this scripture. Those disciples went out and talked to people about their experience of God’s amazing love. Their lives had been changed by knowing Jesus. We have stories to tell too. And we have opportunities every day, to share those stories with other people. I know it might sound a bit scary, but we can do this, each in our own way.

We can wait for the right time. It will present itself. A friend, a neighbor, a co-worker, will hit the wall, with a crisis, or with just the weight of all the everyday stuff that folks have to deal with. When this happens to me, eventually, I will have a chance to sit down and have a chat. I often do it in a place that is comfortable for me and the other person, over a cup of coffee, at a kitchen table or meeting in a coffee house.

First of all, I try to listen. When a friend is sharing that they don’t know what to do. Life is such a struggle. This is NOT the time to talk about how much MY life is also a struggle. When we think the time is right to invite someone to trust God, then the focus has to be all on the other person and God. It’s not time to dump all our problems back on them. We’ve got to get outside of ourselves. This is really important.

As I am listening I might say a quick prayer in my head, asking God to give me the words, to let met shut up about my problems, and asking God to open this person’s heart to God and let me give them your hope.

Then I wait for what seems like an opportunity to gently invite the person to consider turning to God for help, trusting God. Actually, I love the AA language here, of a higher power. Something seems to melt away, for some people, when I say, “Wow, you are really trying to take on the whole world on your own. Why don’t you let God worry about some of that?”

“TRUST GOD” is the mantra that has sustained me through oh, so many trials and tribulations. If you need a phrase to use when you are beginning to invite people to consider deepening their spiritual life, try that one. It’s a good one: “Trust God.”

Now, you need to be prepared, for a variety of reactions when you bring God into a conversation with someone who is hurting:

  • They might be open to this, curious, thoughtful, you’ve got to be ready for that.
  • They might get very emotional and start crying
  • They might get angry because they have some old hurts around religious folks, I say I don’t like those judgmental, religious people either and neither did Jesus.
  • They might just blow you off

It’s ok. You still said it. And know they know that you love God and you are a “Jesus freak.” From now on, they will be watching you and testing you. They’ll be looking if you are another one of the judgmental, hypocritical Jesus Freaks.

We talked about this last week. Once we identify ourselves as followers of Jesus, then we have a responsibility, and an opportunity, to act with love, compassion and forgiveness toward other people. We won’t be perfect. But when we make mistakes, we need to own up to our mistakes and apologize. That is what will model to the world, the way of Jesus.

It may take a very long time. . . A VERY LONG TIME. . . but we have to trust God. We are evangelists sometimes, simply by the way we live our lives. It works.

Here, today, we had multiple people share the long road that got them through the doors. Stories of lost church relationships were shared. Stories of a lack of acceptance of the brokenness we all have. Stories of destructive behavior that were fostered out there without a place like the Village.

But, what we really were happy to have shared were the stories of acceptance into the light and hope of our community that those same people shared. In the words of one member of our Village family, who admits she was a drug addict before coming, “God shows up at the Village and I show up to see God”.

So, you see, we all really can be evangelists, because we can all share the hope of Jesus with another person. We can share how trusting God makes a difference in our lives. There are people out there who need to hear that message. They are hungering for a place of hope. We were once out there and now we are in here. They are no different from us. They are counting on us, to offer them hope. So, let’s do it.

And if you’re one of those people out there, hungering for a spiritual life, a deeper relationship with God, we’re here, at the corner of Monroe & Central in Toledo each Sunday at 11 AM, and soon in Maumee.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

“LET ‘EM SEE HOW YOU ARE” by Cheri Holdridge (with an assist by Kurt Young)

Last weekend we went to see the first pre-season game at Ford Field in Detroit. The Detroit Lions played my husband Kurt’s (and Rebecca’s) favorite football team, The Cincinnati Bengals (a clash of titans we admit). We drove up to the game with our friends who were here visiting from Philly. The kids, Kurt and I all wore Bengals jerseys. We wanted to identify with OUR team. We were, of course, in the minority, walking the streets of Detroit, and into the Lions stadium.

We got a few shouts from some Lions fans in downtown Detroit as we headed into the game. For awhile we thought we were the only Bengals fans at the game. Eventually we spotted a few other brave Cincinnati fans in the crowd. The Bengals got whooped, 34-3. It was a sad game. We stayed to the end. Though we headed to the car, through the stadium, during the last couple of minutes. Even Kurt could not sit still to the bitter end.

As we headed to our car, which was a bit of a hike, I must confess, I was a little uneasy. It was dark. I’m not so familiar with Detroit. We Bengals fans were waaay outnumbered. And even though our team had lost, some of the Lions fans were still giving us grief on the street. There we were, walking targets, wearing our bright orange and black jerseys. There was no mistaking our loyalties.

I could not help remembering Bryan Stow, the San Francisco Giants Fan. He was also walking out of stadium, a fan of the visiting team, on Opening Day last March 31st, just after the Los Angeles Dodgers had beaten the Giants 2-1.

As Stow and his friends were leaving the stadium, Stow was attacked by two men wearing Dodgers gear. They punched Stow in the back of his head, kicking him even after he fell to the ground, unconscious. Months later he is still trying to recover. All because he was wearing a Giants jersey. He identified himself with a team, and it almost got him killed.

We were wearing Bengals jerseys in Detroit, because we love Kurt’s team. In a way we were taking a bold stand. But I was a little worried, because I know that crazy people do bad things, (even to good people). Of course, we made it home safely, like millions of sports fans every day.

But it made me think. There are so many ways that show our loyalty. And there are consequences to every action. Now, I would like to hope that we could live in a world and country where no one would get beat up for wearing a particular sports jersey. That is just stupid.

The L.A. Dodgers have had to deal with some bad public relations as a result of that beating. Now, of course, no reasonable person blames the team for what some lunatic fans do. But still, the fans, associated with their team, did this horrible thing. So, at some level, at least some of us will make the connection, won’t we? I mean, I was a bit fearful in Detroit last weekend, wondering if some Lions fan might do the same thing. Guilt by association. Sports fans, in general, might get out of hand, and do really stupid and violent acts.

Well, let’s have a look at this concept from in another context. What if we had jersey’s that say: “I’m a Jesus follower.” Can you imagine that? Once we say that we are followers of Jesus – we have a responsibility AND an opportunity – to model Jesus for other people in everything we do.

There’s a saying that goes around, “You may be the only Bible some people read.” That is to say: some people are never going to pick up a Bible and read it – they are only going to learn about God, and Jesus and the ways of love and forgiveness and compassion, by seeing those things in our lives. WOW! That’s a big responsibility, and it’s a great opportunity.

You see, every day, we have a opportunity to show people how much people God loves them – by being wildly extravagant in our love! I don’t mean by being “nice.” Nice is lame. Nice is when your 95 year old great aunt she sends you a birthday card. I mean what Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. called “being an extremist in our love.”

Can you be so extreme in your love, and compassion and forgiveness that it stops folks dead in their tracks? Wouldn’t that be something? And they’d have to say – “Wow – what is going on with you that you are so centered and generous with your love? Are you some sort of Jesus freak or something?” And you can laugh and say, “Yeah, I guess I am.”

I want to tell you a story about what it means when we do that. I knew a woman once at another church. When she was a child, she grew up in a family where there was abuse, physical and emotional. She did not know love. As an adult, she came to the church where I was pastor. She was in a difficult place in her life. She was struggling to understand what it might mean that God, and people, could actually love her.

She would watch how the parents and children in our church would interact. These were normal healthy loving parents and children. The woman told me one day that she was absolutely fascinated to see children that did not shrink away in fear when their parents called their names. She would watch as a mother sat in church and stroked her child’s back or gave her son a hug. She would watch as a child ran up to give a grandparent a hug with arms open wide. The woman had never experienced this sort of adult-child interaction. She was utterly amaze, utterly amazed at seeing love and compassion in a relationship between family. She told me that those families helped her believe in a world where there could be an honest caring and a healthy way to love.

This is what it means to be followers of Jesus who model love, compassion and acceptance. Those parents were being Jesus with their children. And they were helping their children grow up to be Jesus with other people. And they were modeling behavior for the woman who had not grown up in that sort of home. Generation to generation – this is how we do it. But not everyone starts out in an emotionally healthy home, so some of us have to find some healing, and go through some recovery, as adults. But as followers of Jesus we can create a community showing another way.

But here is the thing – wherever we are in the process – God has enough love to go around. Here’s what Jesus was saying to his disciples in this scripture that we read today (John 13:31-35 for those following along at home). He said:

34-35"Let me give you a new command: Love one another. In the same way I loved you, you love one another. This is how everyone will recognize that you are my disciples—when they see the love you have for each other."

People are looking at us. They are watching us to see if we really act the way they expect followers of Jesus to act. Now, we are not perfect. So we will make mistakes. When we do, we need to be able to apologize, make our amends, and do our best to change our behavior. We try to do better.

When people see us making an effort to be loving, compassionate and forgiving, it is compelling. This way of life is refreshing compared to the way many folks out there life. They want to be a part of this.

I talked to quite a few folks at the Maumee Street Fair yesterday. I talked to them about what they are looking for in a church. Folks loved our “No Perfect People Allowed” T Shirts. They kept walking by our booth saying, “That’s my kind of church.” They know they are not perfect. And they are tired of churches where they feel like the folks are trying to act perfect.

But they DO want a church where folks are acting like Jesus. And we need to show ‘em that we can be like Jesus. We can be extreme in our love, our compassion, and our forgiveness. We were giving away large, beautiful reusable water bottles with ice cold water (240 bottles & nearly 60 gallons of water). People were shocked at how generous we were. They couldn’t believe we were giving away something others were selling.

So this week, I want to invite you to “Show ‘em how you are.” Don’t be afraid to BE like Jesus. And when you have a chance – let someone know that you love God.

Let someone know that because you are a follower of Jesus, you choose to be more loving than the average sports fan. Be a good loser, and a good winner. Congratulate the other team, whatever the outcome. It’s just a game, folks!

In worship, we responded by taking a multi-colored string and making a wrist band out of it. We want to ask you to respond to The Message today by taking one of these strings (find one out there if you didn’t get here) and tie it. This is a reminder of: God’s love that is in you. Let someone tie it to your wrist.

Wear it for the rest of the day, and maybe the whole week if you will. Let it be a reminder that you are modeling the extravagant love, compassion and forgiveness of Jesus in all that you do. You get to show God to other people this week, in the ways that you treat other people. This little string is you reminder that you are a reflection of Jesus. “God’s love is in you, so let ‘em see it.”

If you want to be a part of a community of faith like this, we’re not alone. Find one, we are out here. If you’re at the corner of Monroe & Central in Toledo some Sunday at 11 AM(or coming soon in Maumee) come check us out. Let us show us you some extravagant love, compassion and the forgiveness that Jesus taught us.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

"Kindom Looks Like What" by Kurt Young (doing his best to capture Karyn Wiseman)

This week in worship we had our friend Dr. Karyn Wiesman preach. I love Karyn to death. Not only has she been a friend of Cheri’s since they were both in the conference youth group, she’s been a part of the dreamers and prayers that created the Village, she is a great friend and a fantastic story teller. Mind you, that’s her job, she is a professor who teaches other ministers to preach. So, she is a story teller’s coach. In fact, she is Cheri’s coach, so if you love Cheri’s messages, give Karyn a little nod of credit.. She really can tell a fantastic story in a pulpit or over a meal. But the one problem with having Karyn as a guest minister is that she NEVER speaks from a manuscript. She rarely does an outline for anyone else (she did bless me with one so as to make this possible). Don’t get me wrong, she has a very organized, thought out tale to tell. But she really pushes folks like me who have to blog that story properly. Hopefully, this will do it justice. Now, that the lawyer disclaimer is done, let’s get to why you clicked over to read, our message this week.

Jesus in Matthew’s Gospel Chapter 13, tells a series of five parables. Parables are stories in the language of the culture of the time. The purpose of parables is teaching. They are not allegories, they are called Koans. They are aphorisms to tease you out of one way of thinking/believing and into seeing the world or living in the world in a new way. Jesus loved to use these stories. And at the time, they made perfect sense to the culture. For example, you may have heard the one about not putting new wine in old wineskins. If you’re like me, you surely scratched your head and said “WHAT?”. That does not speak to me. What in the world is Jesus talking about? But, imagine instead, Jesus said you can’t put new software in old computers. Now, the idea that sometimes a new way of doing things is exactly what’s needed. That’s a parable for today.

Most people have heard of Jesus’ famous Mustard seed parable. It’s one of these parables. The kingdom of God is like . . . It is part of the series of stories he told to explode the popular view of the kingdom. Jesus was counter cultural. He ate with the wrong people. He hung out with the wrong people. He loved to inflict and irritate the religious right and self righteous of the time. And that’s what Chapter 13 of Matthew was about. Totally exploding the myth of the Messiah and what he was going to be. The Messiah was supposed to be a high and mighty king, a great military leader. He was not supposed to be a nobody from Judea, born in a barn, hanging out on the first night with the smelly, nobody shepherds. Yuck.

The Mustard Seed is the most incredible seed is how the story goes. It goes from being the smallest seed to the mighty tree. Except for one thing, he’s messing with them. The mustard seed is not the smallest seed. The tree is not a beautiful tree that grows up housing birds. This is total BS. Yes, Karyn used that term BS in church. None of the stories made any sense. Jesus was trying to mess with these folks. Change their view. And they knew it.. They were farmers. They knew the truth about mustard seeds & trees.

Ever hear of the Kudzu? It’s also called the “Vine that ate the South”. It’s not native to the South though. In 1876, there was a Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia. Countries brought their wares from around the world. The Japanese brought them to the US, talking about how they used it for ground cover. A group of farmers of goats and sheep thought it was a great idea to bring it down there. The problem is the animals hated it and Kudzu ate the South. They grew everywhere. It literally spread like wildfire around the South and we even have it in our backyard. It is eating the backyard.

Why tell you about Kudzu? Because the Mustard Seed was the Kudzu of Palestine. It’s terrible. You would never in your right mind plant a mustard seed. So, the kingdom of God is going to be like a destructive plant, you can’t get rid of it, and will eat the world if you let it? No, but the people of the time thought it was what was going to happen. We would all be the good people, we would take over the world. Jesus was laughing when he told this. He knew what the kingdom was going to be and it was not going to be a bunch of perfect people, who all believe alike, look alike, worship alike, etc. No, he was showing them the ridiculousness of their belief. But they didn’t get it. Ever been to a church where they gave you a mustard seed? Run if they do.

The Kindom of God, yes, that’s not a typo. We are kin. This is not a hierarchy. We are not all alike. That’s why Karyn fell in love with the vision of the Village. The Village is a family where we don’t all look alike, think alike, work alike, even believe alike. We don’t have to pass a test to be a member of this church family. You see, we don’t get to decide who’s in and who’s out. We are a family of God. God gets to choose. And believe me, God never chose those the world thought God would. When God needed a great savior for the people of God when they were in Egypt, God chose Moses, a stutterer, whose mother had to abandon him as a child. When God chose a mighty king of Israel, God didn’t choose the oldest, strongest, mightiest warrior in the family God was considering. God chose the runt of the litter, a guy by the name of David. It goes on like that over and over again. When Joshua and his army needed an ally, God gave them Rahab, a woman (gasp) and a member of the “oldest profession” (you may gasp again if you want).

When God became part of the human family as Jesus, well, the trend kept going. Look in the Bible at the linage Jesus came from. Yes, David’s in there. But so is Rahab. Yes, Jesus human blood line includes her (faint if you must). And look at who Jesus picked to hang out with. Was it the shinny, happy, white, rich people? If you answer yes, go back and do a little more reading. Yes, Jesus hung out with the chosen people, the Jews, but he also hung with the outsiders. The lowliest of the lowliest of society. That’s who God chose as kin, everyone, even those who society said NO to.

We are all the Kindom of God. Those folks who exclude others, they don’t get it yet. They will. But for now, we’ve found it at the Village. We have a group of folks that reflect what God really is looking for in a family. Don’t get me wrong, we’ve got rich, white, straight, professional men, I’m one of them. But we’ve got rich, black straight professional women. We’ve got people who could not finish high school and folks with several graduate degrees. We’ve got folks who’ve got lots of money, and others who need a few bucks to get through the next day. We’ve got folks who would be welcomed in any church and we’ve got folks who have been literally run out of the church on a rail.

Karyn told us the story of Kudzu Jesus. A couple of years ago, an image of what looked like Jesus appeared on a pole outside a local restaurant in the south. If you stare at it long enough, you see it. It looks like Jesus on the cross. But, Karyn is tickled beyond all measure by the buzz. Folks would come from around the country and shared it on the internet. And anything that brings Jesus to others is great. But, here’s the start of the problem, it’s not even Kudzu. It’s another vine. So Kudzu Jesus isn’t even Kudzu. When she looks for the kindom of God on Earth, she doesn’t go to see Kudzu Jesus. She looks for places like the Village. And she feels so blessed to be a part of helping dream and pray to create our Kindom. And she ended worship today asking if we could do our best to spread the kindom of God like the kudzu we are.

We’re not the only place where this love can be found spreading around the world. But if you’re near the corner of Monroe & Central in Toledo some Sunday, come check us out. Soon, we’ll have spread to Maumee, and then, well, we’re going to keep spreading, there’s no stopping that.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

God's Business: Turning Nobodies Into Somebodies by Cheri Holdridge (with an assist by Kurt Young)

I went to my 30 year high school reunion last weekend in Abilene Texas. You know they say time is the great equalizer. Most of the posturing and cliques from high school were gone. NOT ALL OF THEM, but most.

Of course I saw some friends that I have known since I moved to Abilene when I was in the 5th grade, and others that I added in Jr. High. I think the best story I heard all weekend was told by my good friend Lawrie, from Jr. High.

On Sunday afternoon, I was at a small back-yard party with some of us who were not really the popular kids ever. We were some of the brainy kids, the geeks. We were some of the ones who had our picture on a page in the yearbook for getting awards for being smart. Yes, we were a nerdy bunch. And no, none of us were very popular in high school. I was a band geek.

Anyway, we were sitting around on Sunday afternoon drinking Texas Dr. Pepper and eating Fritos (also a Texas product, Lubbock in fact) and Lawrie and I were recalling eating this nasty snack bar lunch called “frito pie.” (I was not a vegetarian back then.) She said, that at the beginning of Jr. High, every day, she would get one for herself and one for this popular girl from her elementary school. I’ll just call her “The future cheerleader.” Lawrie wanted to be accepted by this girl, and she wanted to have a place to sit in the lunchroom, so in order to be accepted at the “in” table, Lawrie would to buy “the future cheerleader” a frito pie every day.

Well this went on for awhile. Meanwhile, Lawrie was in the regular PE class and hated it. So she switched to tennis. In tennis class, she met Karen. Karen became her best friend, and by the way, was at this same party last weekend. Karen was intelligent. She could actually carry on a conversation about something other than nail polish what she had for lunch. Lawrie liked Karen. So, the next day at lunch, when Lawrie showed up at the future cheerleader’s table she brought Karen with her, and said, “Hey look, I have a new friend, this is Karen.” The future cheerleader, with a flick of her hair, took one look at Karen and said, “Oh, No, SHE cannot sit at this table.”

Lawrie, in that moment was faced with the 7th grade girl’s moral dilemma. Do I choose the “future cheerleader” and the popular girls’ lunch table? Or do I choose the new friend, who I like having intelligent conversations with, who will mark me as a LOSER for the rest of Jr. and Sr. High. Lawrie chose Karen. She marched with Karen to the losers lunch table. (We paused to cheer Lawrie)

But the story does not end there. A few weeks later, was the Student Council election. Lawrie ran for Student Council. You see, she realized that there are more losers at a school than future cheerleaders. And guess what. She got elected! Her platform? Losers Unite! We have a voice! And the rest, as they say, is history. Lawrie, went on to have a happy life through high school with her chosen group of smart, geeky friends. She got elected the runner up for the friendliest girl in high school (we did make fun of her for only being the second friendliest girl, but . . .Now, let me tell you, she was a bit awkward in junior high. Weren’t we all? But she was happy. And she grew up to have a good job, a beautiful family; she is confident, and content. What more can a person ask for?

The turning point came when Lawrie chose, whether or not she would listen to that inner voice and be the “somebody” that God created her to be. You see God is our creator. And God makes each one of us a unique individual. Today’s scripture talks about how God is like a potter, creating with clay. We are the clay. The clay does not get to say back to the sculptor, “why are you making me this way?” We are born this way. We are born with certain gifts, certain predispositions. Now of course, we can develop skills, we can learn things and grow. We can certainly choose to become better people. We have free will. We make decisions in life. But some of us are wired in some ways, and some of us are wired in other ways –that is what makes the world interesting.

I believe what is wonderful about being in community, is that we can help one another be our best selves. What Lawrie and Karen found in a friendship in the 7th grade was that they were both smart, and they had certain values, and they could encourage one another to become their best selves in life. It’s what I see happening around here, and in the best communities. I saw it a few weeks ago when I visited the AA group that meets in our church.

It’s a confidential group, so I can’t share too much. But I listened as some members of the group were discouraged and other members of the group said, “Oh I have seen so much growth in you.”, “Here is what I saw when you first came to this group, and now I see you doing so much better.” And I looked at the face of the person receiving the encouragement and it was so wonderful. This is what a church community is supposed to be.

Well, our scripture for today is from the book of Romans. If you need some encouragement today, go home and read Romans chapters 8 and 9. There is some good stuff there. Paul is encouraging these young Christians. He’s talking about some of his own personal struggles. Paul, who wrote lots of books in the Bible and founded lots of churches had TONS of struggles. And then he uses his pain to point to God’s compassion, and God’s ability to use everyone to achieve God’s purposes in the world. He quotes the prophet Hosea and says:

I'll call nobodies and make them somebodies;

I'll call the unloved and make them beloved.

In the place where they yelled out, "You're nobody!"

they're calling you "God's living children."

This is the heart of God’s message to us here at The Village. It’s what keeps us going week after week. “God takes nobodies and makes us somebodies.” Because here is the thing: EVERYBODY IS SOMEBODY TO GOD. There are no nobodies to God.

Now, sure, the world will tell you, that you are a nobody. But God does not live by the same rules as the world. God is the creator of the world. So, as God’s people, we can choose to live by God’s rules, and not by the world’s rules. We get to choose. To God, every one of us is SOMEBODY.

But here is the thing. Every day, at some point, everyone of us FEELS like a nobody. Am I right? So, here is our job as The Village Community – we need to build one another up. We have to remind each other – You are somebody, because God made you somebody. That’s why we come back here every week.

BUT, we also have to call one another to BE our best selves. AHHH, here’s the hard part – ACCOUNTABILITY. Accountability is also part of the package when we are in community as Jesus’ followers. You see, I am not doing you any good at all, if I see you making the same mistakes over and over again, and I don’t call you on it. That is not serious love. That is lazy love. It is weak love. It is love that says I don’t really care about you, because I’m afraid that you will get mad at me, if I don’t call you to be your best self. You know, Jesus was not afraid of letting people get mad at him. He spoke the truth. He didn’t get scared.

So, for example, some of you need to tell me, Cheri, you need to exercise more. You are not walking 3-4 days a week. You have not been going to yoga class. You know you should. You talk to us about having balance in our lives, but you are not doing it. You want to live longer for your kids, but you are not being a good example for us. That is courageous love. That is serious love.

You see, when you speak like that to me, then I have the right to say some things to you. Like this: you need to quit smoking, because it’s going to kill you. Or you need to watch your language here at church when there are children around. Yes I know we have people here who come from hard living places. And we welcome all people. But we need to be respectful that not everyone here is used to hearing street language all the time. Just because this place looks like a bar, does not mean we need to talk like we are in a bar.

Yes, we want all folks to feel welcome here. But there are some folks who may be a bit put off by some of our rough ways. One way to be welcoming to all people, is to tone it down a bit too. So we may need to remind one another of this now and then. This is part of being in community.

Everyone here is working on something. None of us are perfect. We can all identify some old behaviors we’d like to leave behind. Right? So this is the place we practice living in those new ways. Sure, we are all going to make mistakes. And this is the place where we are forgiving. BUT this is also the place where we hold one another accountable.

So if we see each other doing something, that is not really living in the way that we think Jesus would have us live, how about, we just say something to one another, in the spirit of love? Are you willing to take that risk? Are you willing to be that kind of community here? We don’t have to be hateful or judgmental about it. When we are friends we can take some gentle correcting from one another without getting our feelings hurt. We are all grown-ups here, aren’t we? I know it may be hard, but I think we can do this.

You see, I know we are all people who feel like nobodies. Even I feel like I am a nobody every day. But God makes each of us somebody. We are nobodies who become some-bodies, because God love us. We are all losers, but we are not losers at all, because by God’s grace, we are forgiven and loved, and we are made whole.

Here’s your challenge, right now find someone to share with. You’ve got someone out there in the world with you, and then share with someone your response to this statement: “This is when I feel like a loser. . . “. Then let the other person respond: “You are somebody! God loves you.”. Do the same for them.

If you’re ready to find a church where everyone is someone, we are out here. If you’re at the corner of Monroe & Central, come by the Village some Sunday, we are nobodies who are being told we are somebodies by each other and by God.