Sunday, November 27, 2011

“Advent: Be Ready!” by Cheri Holdridge (with an assist by Kurt Young)

    My kids think I have eyes in the back of my head. It’s a mom thing, a sixth sense. I just know when they are up to something. When they were really little, they thought they could break a household rule and not get caught. But mom always knows what is going on. Am I right? Was your mom like that? Yesterday, they were decorating a gingerbread house with their Gram. I walked in right after one had taken the frosting and squeezed a big gob of it right into their mouth. They smiled and tried to hide it from me. I knew exactly what they had done. They got that innocent look on their face, and then burst out laughing when I said, “We both know you have a mouth full of frosting, young one.” MAMA SEES EVERYTHING!

    From the time a child is crawling, we must establish this truth, because when they become teen-agers, we want this feeling ingrained in their psyches. We hope and pray it will keep them out of trouble when they are out there in the big bad world, driving, and at parties with other teen-agers being tempted by all sorts of evil things. Am I right? You see your Mama could not protect you from everything out there.  We all make mistakes, can I get an Amen?

    You see, we want our children to learn to make good choices for themselves. We want them to develop their own internal conscience for making good decisions. We help them when they are younger, but eventually they are outside our homes, and outside our influence. They are on their own. And they will have to live with the consequences. And eventually the consequences out there get really big. Am I right?

    Well, today’s scripture is about ultimate choices and ultimate consequences, BIG ONES. Today is the first Sunday in the church calendar, the church year, the first Sunday in Advent. There is a suggested plan of scripture readings for the church year called a lectionary, and every year on the first Sunday of Advent, and every year we get this really scary text, about what it will look like at what we call the “Second Coming” of Jesus.  It’s not my favourite thing to preach on. 
    Now, when Jesus was here the first time, and he talked about his return, and these conversations got recorded in the Bible, the assumption was by some people, that this “second coming” was right around the corner. That was 2000 years ago, so it seems that the folks that were listening to Jesus misheard something. Because he also said that no one will know the time or the place, (which makes all these predictions about the date of the second coming kind of silly, to me, but we won’t go there today).

    This is the gist of what Jesus was saying to his followers: always be ready to come face to face with God. This mysterious Second Coming could be at any time, but we never know when the time for the final judgment of the world will come. You never know when your own time will come. So live as a person ready to die, and face God. I think that’s pretty good advice. Always live ready to face God. (Always live as if your Mama can see what you are doing. As a mother, I like that one.  I think it would keep lots of us out of trouble. Maybe it’s not such good theology – but I think it could make the world a better place, don’t you think.

    Well, we read part of Mark’s gospel, chapter 13 for you today. Listen to some of the part that comes earlier in chapter 13:

 11"When they bring you, betrayed, into court, don't worry about what you'll say. When the time comes, say what's on your heart—the Holy Spirit will make his witness in and through you.
 12-13"It's going to be brother killing brother, father killing child, children killing parents. There's no telling who will hate you because of me.
   "Stay with it—that's what is required. Stay with it to the end. You won't be sorry; you'll be saved.

 14-18"But be ready to run for it when you see the monster of desecration set up where it should never be. You who can read, make sure you understand what I'm talking about. If you're living in Judea at the time, run for the hills; if you're working in the yard, don't go back to the house to get anything; if you're out in the field, don't go back to get your coat. Pregnant and nursing mothers will have it especially hard. Hope and pray this won't happen in the middle of winter.

 19-20"These are going to be hard days—nothing like it from the time God made the world right up to the present. And there'll be nothing like it again. If he let the days of trouble run their course, nobody would make it. But because of God's chosen people, those he personally chose, he has already intervened.

Then we get to the part Kristen read today in our worship celebration:

But the exact day and hour? No one knows that, not even heaven's angels, not even the Son. Only the Father. So keep a sharp lookout, for you don't know the timetable. It's like a man who takes a trip, leaving home and putting his servants in charge, each assigned a task, and commanding the gatekeeper to stand watch. So, stay at your post, watching. You have no idea when the homeowner is returning, whether evening, midnight, cockcrow, or morning. You don't want him showing up unannounced, with you asleep on the job. I say it to you, and I'm saying it to all: Stay at your post. Keep watch."

Those last two words are why these texts are used today, as we begin this season of Advent and prepare our hearts to celebrate Christmas. “Keep watch” for God to give us the gift of Jesus.   Every year we get this amazing gift from God.

    We are in a time of watching and waiting for Jesus. No matter what anyone else tries to tell you, these next 28 days are a season of watching for Jesus. We can decorate our houses, send out cards, buy presents, cook a special meal, but we need to ask ourselves one question. Are we living in such a way, that when Jesus comes, we will bring him joy? Will our lives bring him joy?

    Yes I could put it this way: I could say, Jesus is coming to judge us. I could get all scary like and say, when Jesus comes again – is he going to judge you worthy to live with him in paradise or is he going to condemn you to hell? I could.  But here is the thing. If we have chosen hell, we are already living there. Hell is right here on earth when we choose to live apart from God.   We don’t need Jesus to tell us we’re going to hell, we’ve visited.

    Another way to put it is this: are we living our lives for Jesus now? When he gets here, would he recognize we are living that way?  Are we crafting our lives and forming our lives in a way that would give Jesus joy, with every decision we make? Are we choosing friends that build us up and encourage us to live in the ways of Jesus? Are we making choices about how we use our time and spend our money that help us live out the values of Jesus? Or are we following someone else’s way?   If Jesus were standing beside us every day, would he be filled with joy at the way we treat our neighbors, our friends, our loved ones, the strangers we meet, even our enemies? Because, here is the thing: Jesus is standing beside us every day, because he lives inside those neighbors and strangers and even our enemies.

    In four weeks we will celebrate the birth of Jesus again. In the newspaper, on the TV and on the net, they will soon start a countdown, sadly of shopping days until Christmas.  Now, I’m not totally anti-shopping, but that’s a silly way to countdown to Christmas.  I love Christmas. It is my favorite day of the year. Because we get to remember that God comes to the world just like us, a vulnerable little child, helpless and fragile.   Born of average parents, in a barn, without a home.

    For now, Jesus calls us to watch for him. Jesus calls us to take a look at our own lives and consider this: Will we be ready to have Jesus take a close look at our lives with us? And if not, it’s not too late. We can make some changes today. With God’s help, we can carefully move ourselves back into line, be ready. Will you do it? Will you ask God to show you the changes to you need to make?  And will we make them?  And will you be ready?

    Do you need a place where you can get ready for God’s greatest gift?  A tiny baby who would show us the way.  A “king” born not in a palace, but homeless in a barn, with a feed trough as a crib.  A leader who changed the world, not with military might, but with love.  If not, consider stopping by the corner of Monroe & Central in Toledo, we are here Sundays at 11 AM, and soon at the Maumee Indoor Theater (where the Anthony Wayne Trail and Conant Street).  We are getting ready for Jesus.

Monday, November 21, 2011


    If you’re like me (Kurt) and love God’s wondrous diversity and the variety God has created, this week at the Village was a feast. First, we had a group of students from Toledo Campus Ministry (TCM), from the University of Toledo providing our music, an incredible variety of music from around the globe.

     If you’ve never heard of TCM, it is an incredible, and vital, campus ministry.  Dee Baker, the Campus Minister has been voted the best campus minister in the country, and they got that one right.  Kurt has taken classes out there and enjoyed the incredible gathering of different cultures and viewpoints that make up the tapestry of that program.  Then we had Bryan Simon, a Villager and a seminary graduate waiting for his first call, preach at the Village for the first time.  Bringing yet another voice to our pulpit.  

    Bryan grew up in St. Paul, Minnesota.  When he was growing up, his home church started a Wednesday night meal for their community and beyond.  The idea was to encourage people to participate in various activities at the church and provide some food and community.  They planned for 30-50 people, but they got 90. Of course, the food ran out.  Unlike Jesus, thought,though they were unable to feed the masses with two pans of lasagne and five loves of bread.   But you know what happened?  Something amazing happened. Despite the food running out, there was fellowship and friendship, conversation and community.

    That’s what kind of kind of what what happened in our Bible story from worship today, Matthew 14: 13-21 for those of you following along on the internet.  Jesus and his followers had just learned that John the Baptist, Jesus’ cousin and friend, had just been executed, on a whim.  Jesus was looking to go away and mourn, but so were the masses that followed Jesus and so Jesus did what he always did, he taught. 

    Like the flash mobs of today, people flocked to where Jesus was.  No text messages, no internet, but it happened. Somehow word just got out.  And Jesus did what Jesus always did, he brought comfort and teaching to the masses.

    But, no one had food, no one had supplies, and there was no town right there, no inns. At that point, they’ve got 5,000-10,000 people to feed and no way they can do it.  Sure they were fishermen, but not with enough time to catch enough fish to feed that many.  So, the disciples wanted Jesus to dismiss the crowd.  But someone had planned ahead.  They brought two fish and five loaves of bread.

    Now it’s possible that the(delete) Jesus supernaturally caused the food to multiply.  And that would be incredible in of itself.  But it’s also possible something else happened.  People may have found things to share, things they were holding back, in case.  They may have only taken a very little when the baskets, in which the five loaves and two fish got broken up into, came around , they may have decided to be happy with nothing.  Who knows exactly how that worked, but somehow it worked.

    In their grief at the lost of John, in their fear, but in their fellowship, they got a spirit to share.  And they spread that food, and maybe others, around and took care of each other.  Truly a miracle any way you look at it.

    But we experience it here each week.  Each week we have a multitude of people who share what they have.  Every Sunday here at the Village; our worship is made possible by a cadre of helpers, people who make & run power point presentations, musicians, coffee makers, food preparers, all make our experiences better, more complete.  We jump weekly into this story.

    We pass the spiritual food of learning and feeding our soul, as we pass we nourish each other.  Faith begins the size of a mustard seed, and brothers and sisters, it is bigger now than it was five minutes ago.  That is the Sunday Miracle, that people across the country and around the world, stand up in front of other people and share with them their piece of faith.  No matter what of the above roles, others like Bryan or Cheri sharing their words. Everyone adds their part to the baskets, putting their contributions in, and together, we are feeding each other.  We’re feeding what was planned for as 50 today, but swelled closer to 80.  When we leave here, in half an hour, do we sit on our hands and keep this to ourselves.  Do we? 

    NO!  We take our nourishment and we go out and we nourish our world.  It is how we can begin to understand how 5,000+ could be fed.  We, at the Village are here, as our mission statement says to “follow Jesus and Change the World” and we believe we can.  Some of us will give money to the Village to support (not it's) its ministries, some our time and talents, some our mere presence at events.  But that is how the gifts of 100 or so dedicated followers can feed 5,000 and more.  That is how a little church in Toledo is going to expand beyond and start a service in a few months in Maumee and begin feeding Maumee and Perrysburg and beyond, and isn’t that something.          

    Just like on a Wednesday Night in September in St. Paul, Minnesota, when a church decided it needed to offer a fellowship opportunity and food to encourage (not it's) its members to participate, we have a challenge in front of us now, here at the Village. A challenge to reach out to our communities, and as a regional church we are in many communities, across Toledo, and into Michigan, in Bowling Green and Maumee, Springfield, Perrysburg and Oregon.

    Where can each of us step up.  What fish and bread do we have to offer our brothers and sisters?  If everyone adds a little to the baskets, it won’t take long before we are feeding Toledo, Maumee, Perrysburg, and anywhere else we go.  We are followers of Jesus and we CAN change the world, and that, that is where we can meet the story of the feeding of the 5,000, not necessarily with food that we magically multiply, but with teaching, learning and fellowship.   We too are sitting on the lakeshore, and we here and now, can make miracles happen, because, both today, like yesterday needs miracles and even miracles need a helping hand.   

Sunday, November 13, 2011

THE TRUTH WILL MAKE YOU FREE by Cheri Holdridge (with an assist by Kurt Young)

    Wednesday night, my niece’s husband, Fletcher posted five words on Facebook: “Saddest day of my life.”  I knew exactly what he was talking about because the day before he had posted his reflection on the events that were unfolding at Penn State. I read many accounts of what were going on, but Fletcher’s reflection was one of the most poignant.  He wrote:

As far back as I can remember I have been a Penn State fan like my father. Every year I could hardly wait for fall to watch Joe take a run at the national championship. This team, this coach, and what it stood for was a part of me. Work hard, have respect for yourself and others, show class and pride in what you do and who you are, don't be a show boat, and no member of the team is more important than the other are just few of the things that this team embodied and represented to me. I love football and I love this team. My heart goes out to everyone who suffered from the actions of one selfish and twisted individual. I can't imagine what they are going through and how hard this must be for them. For me....its hollow. Penn State football stood for something. Something in me and all of the PSU nation. Now that's gone and it is heartbreaking. It is just a game and the sun will rise tomorrow, and what is most important is that these boys get their justice. However, as I sit here now my pride is gone. I still love Joe. I wish he had done more, I wish he could do more. I wish this had never happened. I wish my pride was not gone.

    I don’t get all wrapped up in football the way others do.  I had to go to several of you to understand the importance of the Penn State program to football.

    When the beloved coach Joe Paterno got fired the next day, along with the President of the University, for not doing more when they were told that Assistant Coach Jerry Sandusky was allegedly sexually abusing boys while he running a summer sports camp at Penn State, all while he was a coach at Penn State, the students rioted. It was mayhem on Wednesday night.

    People everywhere across the country were talking about it. We all have our opinions. Thankfully, by the next day, the students moved on to a better place and put together a prayer vigil for the victims of the abuse. For all of us, the primary energy needs to go toward prayer and compassion for the victims of the abuse.

    And of course, the children and the families originally affected by the perpetrators of violence are the ones most deeply affected by any kind of abuse. Their lives are forever marked by the experience. Far too many of you know that first hand.

    But here is the thing, when there is a cover up of an incident like this, the circle of victims, grows wider and wider and wider. Those students became a part of the circle of the victims.  The University by not acting quickly and instead acting quietly added to the circle of victims.

    Jesus said to some of his first followers, “If you continue in my word, [or my way], then you are my disciples, and you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.” You see, I believe this means that when we walk in the way of Jesus, then we will see the truth, and we will speak the truth, even when it is inconvenient, and ugly, because the truth sets us free.  The truth sets us free from our sin.

    When Jesus made this statement to his followers, they said, “We have never been slaves. We are descendants of Abraham, we are not slaves.” Jesus said, “Everyone who commits a sin is a slave to that sin. But the Son sets you free from that sin.”

    We are all sinners. Remember I told you last week, that we are all saints, but guess what, we are all sinners too? There it is! We are all slaves to sin. But Jesus sets us free. Jesus’ way is the way of truth. When invite Jesus into our lives, Jesus comes like a big spotlight that shines a light on all our sin. We can’t hide it, it’s always there. But that’s good because it’s no good trying to hide our sin. We know we can’t hide from our sin. It’s always there, eating away at us.

    Well here is the thing. Penn State University, it appears, had a big old sin. Now Jerry Sandusky has not been convicted, so this could be a big mistake. But there are at least 40 charges, so it appears that he has a problem of being a child molester. And the University let him keep on working there. They may have made him move his sports camp off campus, but that is not protecting the child, that is just trying to protect their sports program. That is like moving a pastor who is a child molester from one parish to another. That is just plain wrong. We have learned that that is a big mistake.

    When the University officials failed to call the police and take this seriously, they allowed there to be more child victims, but they also allowed all their students to become victims of this whole cover up. They were trying to protect the reputation of their football program. We get that don’t we?  Institutions don’t like scandals to come out.  Well, that did not work out so well for them, did it?

    Because look at these students now. Coach Joe Paterno was an icon. He was a hero. He probably would have retired this year one of the most beloved men on the planet. He had been nominated for the Presidential Medal of Freedom. And now he has been fired. As best we can tell, he probably did legally what he was supposed to do. He did report to the University. But when they covered it up, he apparently stood by. Because that’s what “good old boys” do in these sorts of systems. It’s been going on for eons. We protect the institution, rather than screaming the truth at the top of our lungs.  Joe Paterno is now a victim as well for not doing that.

    I think those students were rioting on Wednesday night because their hero had fallen. If you can’t trust Joe Paterno to do the right thing then who can you trust? The University could not possible fire him! The world is turning upside down if even Joe is falling from grace.  I imagine Joe is doing some soul searching this week. From what I hear, he’s a really good man. I’m sure he wants to be someone those students can look up to. He wanted to retire with grace. It’s a shame that his career had to end like this. It all happened because of another man’s sin, and an institution’s decision to cover it up and hope it would just go away, rather than face the truth and deal with the consequences.

    Well there is plenty of sin to go around at Penn State this week. However, before we stand here judging them too harshly, let’s confess that we all do it. It’s easy for us to stand here in Toledo, far away from that situation and say, we would have done it differently. It’s pretty easy for us from here.  Jesus says, we are all slaves to sin. We all participate in moral dilemmas every day, and we walk right on by. We probably can’t scold every parent we see hitting a child in the supermarket. We probably can’t challenge every one of our friends who is struggling with health issues and still smoking, or question every friend about whether or not they are practicing safe sex. No one wants to be judged all the time by someone else.   We can’t be the moral police all of the time.

    Perhaps we can start with our own lives. Jesus says that we are all slaves to our own sin. But when we walk in the way of Jesus, he will shine a big light on our lives for ourselves.  Jesus says we need to shine that light on our lives. Because we when we know his truth and that truth will set us free. For just a moment, let’s not focus on the sins of the Jerry Sandusky’s of the world, or the intuitions like Penn State and various churches and denominations. That’s too easy.

    What is the thing in your life that keeps you tied up in knots? That binds you and keeps you from walking in the truth that you belong to Jesus and that God loves you without question? Is it some habit, some negative thought? A Tape that keeps going over and over in your head, holding Something you have done that you need to let go of? Whatever it is I’m going to invite you into this ritual.

    Cross your arms like they are tied together as a slave or a prisoner with heavy rope. Clench your fists. Focus on that sin.  Dwell on it, experience it.  Then say the words of Jesus, “I am free.” And let go and open your hands. Feel the freedom in the truth that you belong to God and you are not a slave to your sin.

    Jesus says when we walk in the way of Jesus, we will be free.  God wants us to be free. Free to live the lives that God wants for us.  A full life of love and pass that love onto others.  Take a minute to really appreciate that you are bound.  But then let God set you free by accepting that truth.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

"Live Simply, Find Joy and Never Quit!" by Cheri Holdridge (with an assist by Kurt Young)

    The Scripture for our worship celebration this week starts “[t]he fundamental fact of existence is that this trust in God, this faith, is the firm foundation under everything that makes life worth living” (Hebrews Chapters 11 & 12 from the Message translation for those following along on the net).  I love that,  “Trust in God” is the foundation that makes life worth living.

    Nov 1 was “All Saints” day: the day we honor saints, living and dead.  We remember the saints that have given us spiritual strength when we don’t have it for ourselves.

    Years ago, when I was a seminary student in Atlanta, my pastor and teacher Claiborne Jones taught me about community: we say the statements of faith for each other. We show up when we feel strong and when we feel weak, and we say that we trust in God. And when I don’t believe it, you say it for me, and when you don’t believe it I say it for you. That’s what it means to be part of the community of saints together. We are strong for each other.  One day we mumble through, without the strength to believe them.  Other days we say them with vigor and provide the energy the person sitting next to us mumbling needs.

    This scripture for today talks about that. When you get home, take out your Bible and Read Hebrews 11 and 12. We did not read all of it, but here’s some of the best of it:

 8-10By an act of faith, Abraham said yes to God's call to travel to an unknown place that would become his home. When he left he had no idea where he was going. By an act of faith he lived in the country promised him, lived as a stranger camping in tents. Isaac and Jacob did the same, living under the same promise. Abraham did it by keeping his eye on an unseen city with real, eternal foundations—the City designed and built by God.
  29By an act of faith, Israel walked through the Red Sea on dry ground. The Egyptians tried it and drowned.
 30By faith, the Israelites marched around the walls of Jericho for seven days, and the walls fell flat.

These were all saints, our ancestors in the faith, the pioneers who blazed the way, the veterans who never quit– who trusted God. Their strength, is our strength. Hebrews Chapter 11 goes on and on with more stories.

There were those who, under torture, refused to give in and go free, preferring something better: resurrection. Others braved abuse and whips, and, yes, chains and dungeons. We have stories of those who were stoned, sawed in two, murdered; stories of vagrants wandering the earth in animal skins, homeless, friendless, powerless—the world didn't deserve them!—making their way as best they could on the cruel edges of the world.

Chapter 12 1-3Do you see what this means—all these pioneers who blazed the way, all these veterans cheering us on? It means we'd better get on with it. Strip down, start running—and never quit!

    On All Saints Day in the church, we remember that “great cloud of witnesses, “all those pioneers who blazed the way.  We give thanks for saints, living and dead who trusted God through the ups and downs of life and never quit. They are the ones who created communities of faith to welcome us. There would be no churches without those saints. We would not have found our way to Jesus without the saints that have gone before us, telling the story and showing the way. Today we give thanks for the saints. Pause for just a minute and picture that great cloud of witnesses in your own life – the people who have touched your life and encouraged you to trust God. By their lives, and their trust in God, they gave you hope that you could trust in God too.

    Two of my saints are up on the screen today: my mom, Betty, and our friend, Rock. I asked their permission to talk about them today. I warned them I was going to call them saints, and of course they both laughed about that. But then they each said: “Well we are all saints.” They have good theology and get it. We’re all sinners too, they get that too, but that’s another sermon for another day.

    Now I don’t think it’s hard for any of you to imagine my mom as a saint. After all she’s become the grandmother of The Village church. She goes on Facebook every day and checks in on folks. It used to be that the older caring women and men of the church would call and check up on folks, but my mom knows how to keep up with the times so she has adapted to social media quite well; remarkably for a woman of 81!  My mom knows how to check up and be the grandmother.  It’s not hard to picture her as a saint of the church.

    But Rock, well, we must admit that when you look at her, according to the standards of most churches, folks would not immediately jump to the word “saint” when describing her. Do saints have that many tattoos? But those of you who are in recovery and know that Rock has 14 years clean, and . . .well, you call her a saint for that alone, don’t you? And she will tell you that it is trust in God that gets her through every single day. All of those programs out there and groups,they work, but they too rely on trust in God.

    I am going to tell you a bit more about my mom and Rock today, because here is the thing. We admire saints because they trust God. They seem to have a deeper faith than we feel like we have. We want what they have. But remember, we are really all saints. All of us in this room, who are trying faithfully to follow Jesus and change the world, we are all called to be saints. If it makes you feel better, you can consider yourself a “Saint-in-Training”. I believe All Saints Day, in addition to being the day we give thanks for the special saints in our own life, is also a day when God calls us to step it up. You see there are other people coming along, who need US to be saints for THEM. That’s how this thing of Christian community works. We can’t just be on the receiving end of the gifts of God; we are called to give as well.  Others have given to us and now God calls us to give to others.

    So, there are many characteristics that might qualify one to be called a saint, but I have chosen 3 to talk briefly about today:

·    1.  Saints are contagious in their care for others. They are not selfish.
·    When Rock came to this church, she had not been in town long and she did not have many friends, she busy chasing two grand kids around. . .

·    My Mom  called her. . .
·    Rock told us that simple phone call meant so much. . .

·    Mom notices when folks are not here, and she sends you notes on FB or gives you a call. Who has gotten one of those notes? She cares and connected Rock to the Village.  

·    Rock really cares about helping people in recovery. Because she has 14 years of sobriety and being clean from drugs, she wants to give encouragement to other addicts and alcoholics who are in recovery. She can do what I can’t do.  She can reach people I can never reach.
Saints are contagious in their care for others. They are not selfish.
·    2.  Saints are hard-working for their church community:
·    In her lifetime, I can’t think of a volunteer job my mom did not hold in the church. You see saints understand that a church needs leaders, and team members. She taught 5th grade Sunday school, she chaired the board, and she even cleaned the church!  She understands a church needs leaders and workers.
·    Rock had only been attending here a few weeks when she asked what she could do to help. She told me she likes to fix things and keep her hands busy.  I said “Thank You Jesus, and I gave her a list, and she did it.   I began telling everyone how blessed we were to have a head of our facilities team.
·    My vision for The Village all along has been that we are a church where everyone has a ministry. A few churches have enough money that they pay staff to do much of the ministry, or at least that’s what the members want them to do. Well, we don’t have that money, and to be honest, even if we did, I don’t want us to be that kind of church. I don’t think that’s what Jesus has in mind. And it’s just no fun when a few people do all the work and the rest just coast. The few get tired, and the rest, well, they don’t really feel part of the community; they feel like spectators.
            Saints are contagious in their care for others.

            Saints are hard-working for their church community.

·    3.  Saints are generous:
·    My mom was one of the first people who started giving money to The Village. In fact, I think she donated the first $100 at a little Christmas Eve service we had 2007 (two years before we opened here!) As soon as we set up on-line giving, my Mom started giving every month and whenever we have a special need she gives to that. She is not a wealthy woman, she lives in Social Security and her pension from being a retired social worker in Texas. But she loves this church. She loves all of you, and most of all she loves God. And so she is generous and faithful in her giving to this church.
·    Rock also gives generously and faithfully to this church. She also set up on line giving to The Village every month. When I asked her why she did it she said, because she was always taught that Christians are supposed to tithe. She also knows that it costs money to run a church. I like Rock. She calls it the way she sees it. It’s not hard to look around and see that this ministry costs money. And so she gives.
·    Together, these two women give at least $200 a month to the Village – EVERY MONTH.  $200 electronically that we can count on, plus whatever extra money they give to special offerings. That’s $2400 a year. And mom is retired, and Rock lives on disability.  That is generous giving.

As the pastor of this church, I am thankful for saints like Rock and Betty, who sacrifice some other pleasures they might enjoy in life, so that The Village is here for the next generation of people who need a church like this.

       Saints are contagious in their care for others.

       Saints are hard-working for their church community.

       Saints are generous.

Finally, saints never quit in any of their faithfulness. That’s what our scripture says for today. They are the ones who hold it together when everyone else falls apart. Because you see, all along, the saints have trusted in God. They have maintained the practices of contagious care, hard-work for the community and generosity. And so when the world throws tragedy to the saint, well, the saint just keeps moving forward, trusting God.
That’s why we need saints. That’s why we admire saints. That’s why we look up to saints. And that’s why some more of us need to be like the people that we call saints. Because the world needs more saints. The world needs people with a deep foundation of trust in God – who will never quit trusting in God.

So, today, let’s give thanks for the saints in your life. And ask God to give you the strength to take YOUR trust in God to be the next level. Someone in your life needs to look to you for help and hope. Someone needs you to be an example. Someone needs you to be the one who never quits. Accept the challenge on this All Saints Day. Be one of the Saints of God. Amen.