Many of you know we had the pleasure of having the Rev. Brenna Nickel back with us for Christmas this year. As a child of the this church, it was a treat to have Brenna back here with us and she led us through a meaningful and unique worship service on Christmas Day.
Since most of you were unable to make it, I thought I’d share with you the theme of her sermon, as a wonderful way to kick off the new year. Brenna read John 1 and Matthew 2, as her sermon texts and used the Message version of scripture. John 1:10’s in the Message reads: “The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood.” What an interesting way to state God’s activity!
Brenna, in a very interactive sermon, led us in thinking about our neighborhoods and the kinds of people and buildings in our neighborhoods and the infinite number of opportunities there are to pray for and actively share God’s love in the neighborhood.
We again, had a wonderful and very active year of sharing God’s love in our neighborhood with the regular participation in St John’s luncheons, leading monthly worship at the Fireman’s Home, preparing and serving food at the Dover Soup Kitchen, and the wide participation in the Thanksgiving baskets and Angel Tree drives. The ROCK also went further from our neighborhood participating in the RISE Mission trip in Hornell NY. These are all wonderful and meaningful ministries that you have participated in. Well done, good and faithful servants!
But as your pastor it is my job, along with the leadership of this church, to encourage you to stretch even further. Given the option, most of us are more comfortable either participating in or funding the group mission efforts. The more challenging effort is to help others that we know, beyond the church, to learn about and experience Love (with a capital L).
The old word for this is evangelism and most of us cringe even to hear the word. We immediately picture shouting scripture on a street corner, assertive visits from strangers at our front door or even giving a testimony of a conversion experience. These are foreign and scary for mainline Protestants, especially Presbyterians who can be nicknamed “the frozen chosen”. While I don’t experience you like that, I do know we still have much work to do to meet and greet visitors when they come to our church, introduce ourselves even to our new members and even invite newcomers to events, special services, bible studies and the like.
While some of you do this already, it must not be left up to just a few. When Love moves into the neighborhood, if WE don’t spread this news, who will? I encourage you to make every effort to invite a friend, a neighbor, a coworker (or even your own spouse) to come and try something that we offer that can add meaning to their lives, again or perhaps for the first time.
As we ordain and install our new officers (and most of them are firsttime officers!) as well as add 7(!) to our membership this January, there are many options to deepen relationships, create new mission and ministry opportunities and grow our faith, together.
If our Christmas Dinner is any indication of the joy and fun we can have together… then after you’ve exchanged your last gifts, finished off the last Christmas cookie and had a few long-winter naps — MAKE A LIST. Put on it at least THREE new ways you can share and spread the news of Love coming down and moving into the neighborhood. The reason why you’re here is because likely someone did that for you. Now it’s our turn to do that for someone else who’s waiting to be invited, met or loved and Love, loves us.
Spreading Love in the neighborhood with you,