This week at John McMillan Presbyterian Church: Family trees and DNA on All Saints’ Sunday (November 3, 2019)

A lot of people are interested in their family tree these days. People research their genealogies to see who their ancestors were and where they came from. Then there are those who want to get a DNA test to see what part of the world they came from. There is a big difference between these two inquiries. Genealogy helps you identify individuals in your family tree. This guy married that gal and had these kids, one of whom was my great grandfather. While interesting, we rarely get much information about who these people and what their lives were like. That great-great-great Uncle Sheamus came from Scotland does not make us special or unique. DNA testing is an entirely different thing. It identifies no ancestor in particular, unless that relative has also had a DNA test that is on record. But if we think that our DNA results make us special and different, we need to know that the “most recent common ancestor” of all human beings, the one person we are all related to, might have lived as recently as 300 BC. The “earliest common ancestor”, the first human,  likely lived only 120,000 years ago.  So, from a DNA standpoint, we are all related, not that distantly, and so our DNA does not make us all that special or unique. What does? It’s the stories of our ancestors. The stories we remember and honor by repeating them and learning from them and maybe even being inspired by them. Maybe inspired enough to pass them along to the next generation.

This Sunday is All Saints’ Sunday. We at John McMillan Presbyterian Church will celebrate that Great Cloud of Witnesses whose stories and faith have been handed down to us as our heritage. These are the people who have lived faithful lives and inspired us to do the same. Want to hear more? Come and hear Pastor Jeff preach “Cloud of Witnesses” based on Hebrews 11 and 12 at 8:30 and 11. Bring a candle to light in honor of your faith ancestors.

God does not want your money, but God does want you to be a church! Thoughts on the church as community in a world often without one.

God does not want your money, but God does want you to be a church!

During this year’s stewardship campaign, we have emphasized that God does not want our money.

God has no need of it.

What God does want is us.

God wants us to worship.

God wants us to go out in mission.

God wants us to do ministry.

But God wants us to do something else.

God wants us to be a community.

A community that supports and nurtures and cares for each other, in good time and bad.

Where do we see that kind of thing in scripture?

In the Acts of the Apostles where Luke describes the first church.

Lots of people were showing up.


Once there, what did they do?

Luke describes it.

Acts 2: 42-47

42They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.

43 Awe came upon everyone, because many wonders and signs were being done by the apostles. 44All who believed were together and had all things in common; 45they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need. 46Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, 47praising God and having the goodwill of all the people. And day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.

From 1982 to 1993 one of the highest rated TV shows was “Cheers”.

It was a show about a group of people who met every day after work in a bar.

The concept of the show was highlighted in its theme song:

Making your way in the world today
Takes everything you got
Taking a break from all your worries
It sure would help a lot
Wouldn’t you like to get away?

Sometimes you want to go
Where everybody knows your name
And they’re always glad you came
You want to be where you can see
The troubles are all the same
You want to be where everybody knows your name

You want to go where people know
The people are all the same
You want to go where everybody knows your name

That was not a new concept, was it?

And its still true, isn’t it?

Don’t we all want to have a place like that to go to?

Where is your place?

Cheers was followed by another show with a similar concept.


From 1994 to 2004, Friends was one of the highest rated TV shows.

It was about a community of six markedly different people living as a small community of friends in Manhattan.

Its theme song also highlighted that show’s concept.

I’ll be there for you
(When the rain starts to pour)
I’ll be there for you
(Like I’ve been there before)
I’ll be there for you
(‘Cause you’re there for me too)

That was not a new concept, either, was it?

And it’s still true, isn’t it?

Don’t we all want to have people like that in our lives?

Who are your people?

This week I listened to an episode of the podcast, “Hidden Brain”, a podcast that discusses patterns of human behavior.

The episode was about the difficulty men have with loneliness, but I think it has a much broader application that just men.

The people on the podcast talked about a legendary Harvard University study that followed 268 students from the mid 1940’s throughout their lives to analyze what made some successful and some not successful.

The study is still going on.

The current director of the study is Robert Waldinger.

He said that from the beginning, the study paid attention, in part, to the subjects’ social and emotional health.

He said that one of the questions that the subjects answered over the years was this:

Who would you call in the middle of the night if you were sick or afraid?

Think about that one for a second!

It had to be someone other than their spouse or family member – in other words some kind of close friendship or social network.

Partly from the answers given to this question, the study found that men who had someone like that to turn to were happier with their lives and their marriages.

Waldinger also said there was a correlation between the men’s answers to that question and their physical health.

That was one of the surprising things that began to emerge in our data in the ’80s, [Waldinger said]. We found that people who had warmer, closer connections lived longer, developed the diseases of middle age [later in life] and had better health longer on average than people who didn’t have warm, close relationships.

I think this part of the study’s results tells us why shows like Cheers and Friends are so popular.

The depict a life we want to be a part of.

The relationships we want to have.

Closer, warmer connections to other people.

A place:

Where everybody knows your name
And they’re always glad you came

With people:

[Who’ll] be there for you.

Someone you can call in the middle of the night when you are sick or afraid.

Such a place and such relationships can make us happier and healthier!

So …

Where is our “Cheers”?

Who are our “Friends”?

Who do we call in the middle of the night when we are sick or afraid?

A neighbor?

A co-worker?

One of the parents on your kid’s soccer team?

Who is on your speed dial?

A common answer nowadays is – no one.

We have a hard time identifying such places and such folks these days.

Maybe the church could be such a place.

It should be, right?

Luke seems to think so.

Luke describes a church as a place where everyone knows each other, shares with each other, hangs out with each other, eats with each other, and worships with each other.

The church is Cheers full of Friends!

And more and more people keep showing up to be a part of it.

But in Luke’s church, people were not gathering.

They were interacting.

Nick Epley, behavioral science professor at the University of Chicago, describes an observation he made while using the Chicago metro system.

We happen to be one of the most social species on the planet who seem to get a lot of happiness and satisfaction from our connections with others. And, yet, every morning on the train, and over and over again in public spaces where I’d be out and about, I would see people standing cheek-to-jowl next to each other or sitting cheek-to-jowl next to each other and ignoring each other.

Epley decided to study what would happen if he sent people onto Chicago trains with the assignment that they were to talk to people sitting next to them.

He says this:

… People reported being happier, less sad and having a more pleasant commute when they connected with the person sitting next to them than when we randomly assigned them to a condition where they were asked to sit in solitude.

And then there was this:

As far as we can tell

[from a study]

, the actual percentage of people who would be willing to talk to you is much closer to 100%.

Just gathering does not make people a community.

We need to interact.

And when we do, we are happier and healthier.

As I was thinking about this all week, I started to wonder if that is what it might be like in some churches.

I was talking a while back with a guy who distinguished between being welcomed in a church and being included.

He told me that almost all churches believe themselves to be “welcoming”.

You show up for a worship service and you get a lot of people coming up to you and saying hello and welcome.

But then we become like the Chicago train passengers, he said.

We sort of distance ourselves from people we don’t know.


We have trouble starting the conversation.

We don’t know the best way to get to know each other.

We are uncomfortable doing that sort of thing.

I’m willing to bet that it was no different in the church Luke describes.

When someone new showed up, I suspect there was a period of time that went by before that person felt at home and included.

It was not something that happened in a moment.

It took time and energy and a bit of insight.

It’s no different today.

I mean we are all different in our personalities and social needs.

Here is what I mean.

At some point in time in about every organization I have ever belonged I have gone through the Myers Briggs Personality Inventory.

16 different personality types!

Do you know yours?

Here are just a couple parts.

Are you an extrovert?

If so, this is you, according to Prevention magazine.

Common extrovert traits

  • Have large social networks
  • Enjoy being the center of attention
  • Tend to think out loud
  • Make quick decisions
  • Gain energy from being around other people
  • Outgoing, enthusiastic, and positive
  • Thrive in team-oriented and open work settings


I think that’s you.

If that is you, we need you hear.

Are you an introvert?

If so, this is you, according to Prevention magazine.

Common introvert traits

  • Enjoy spending time in solitude
  • Don’t prefer to be the center of attention
  • Value close one-on-one relationships
  • Think before they speak/not as talkative
  • Need time alone to recharge and reflect
  • Prefer working in quiet, independent environments
  • Deeply focus and think about specific interests
  • Can be seen as reserved

According to the MBPI, I am 75% introvert.

If that’s you, we need you here.

We as a community need to honor who we all are to include everyone in this big community we call JMPC.

Just because we come to church does not mean we are all the same.

Roy M. Oswald and Otto Kroeger wrote an article, “The Case for Becoming a Type Watcher” that said this:

To presume that [people coming to your church] have the same spiritual/ psychological needs that you have is to make a basic error. We make the same mistake parents often make. We try to change our “children” into our type. [People coming to your church] don’t want us to change them into who we are. They need [us to understand and appreciate] them for who they are.     

I think it would be really cool to have every member of the congregation to take the MBPI, learn how each of the 16 personality types works and then, along with our names, have our MBPI identity as well.

“I am an introvert.”

“I will act like one.”

Today we have received three new members.

Since 2015 we have received 56 adult new members and 21 confirmands.

We did not make any of them take the MBPI.

So, maybe a conversation starter might be about their personality type?

OK, if that is not something you want to do, take the time to walk up to someone you do not know (they might be members) and say to them, “I’m glad you’re here!”

And, “I hope to see you again soon.”

And, if they are new, “Would you like to sit with me?”

And, “Can I show you around?”

You know, start a conversation?

Nearly 100% of folks will be happy you did.

You will be happy you did.

When we make JMPC a place where friends meet, we become a community.

A church.

Christine Pohl says this in her book, “Living into Community”.

When folks enjoy being together, share celebrations, and walk through hard times with grace and love, the beauty of their shared life is deeply compelling. Human beings were made for living in community, and it is in community that we flourish and become most fully human.

When we do these things, our shared lives will be deeply compelling, and it is then that we flourish and become most fully Christian.

When we understand each other better we might become a place full of friends with different personalities who we can rely on in the middle of the night when we are sick or afraid.

This (past) week at John McMillan Presbyterian Church (October 27 (Yeah … yesterday): God want’s us to be a church!

This, according to a May 3, 2019 article in Forbes Magazine by Neil Howe.

Want to talk, but have no one to call? You’re not alone. According a 2018 survey from The Economist and the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF), more than two in ten adults in the United States (22%) and the United Kingdom (23%) say they always or often feel lonely, lack companionship, or feel left out or isolated. Figures like these have been ubiquitous in the press lately, with alarming statistics about loneliness now accompanied by equally alarming warnings that it’s stunting our lives and outright killing us. The scourge of loneliness is an issue that we’re going to hear ever-more about in the years to come….

Loneliness is still something that greatly troubles Millennials: According to the 2016 VICELAND UK Census, loneliness is the number one fear of young people today—ranking ahead of losing a home or a job. Fully 42% of Millennial women are more afraid of loneliness than a cancer diagnosis ….

Good Lord! Is there some place we can go to make sure we are not alone? Maybe church? Come and hear about it this Sunday when Pastor Jeff preaches, “God does not want your money, but God does want you to be a church!” based on Acts 2: 42-47. See you Sunday at 8:30 or 11 at John McMillan Presbyterian Church. Don’t stay home alone!!

God doesn’t want your money, but God does want you in ministry: Thoughts on working for the common good in the church.

God Doesn’t Want Your Money, But God Does Want You in Ministry

In the last two weeks, Matt and I have explored the question of what God wants from us.

God does not want our money but there are a few things God does want.

Two weeks ago, I talked about how God wants us to worship.

God wants us to come together and care for our relationship with God.

Last week, Matt talked about how God wants us to do mission.

God calls us to care for the world around us.

Together those messages teach us that God calls us to look upward and look outward.

But God also wants us to look inward.

We are called to care about our community of faith.

Where do I get that?

Paul talks about it in today’s text.

1 Corinthians 12: 12-31

12 For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. 13For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.

14 Indeed, the body does not consist of one member but of many. 15If the foot were to say, ‘Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body’, that would not make it any less a part of the body. 16And if the ear were to say, ‘Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body’, that would not make it any less a part of the body. 17If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole body were hearing, where would the sense of smell be? 18But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. 19If all were a single member, where would the body be? 20As it is, there are many members, yet one body. 21The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you’, nor again the head to the feet, ‘I have no need of you.’ 22On the contrary, the members of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23and those members of the body that we think less honorable we clothe with greater honor, and our less respectable members are treated with greater respect; 24whereas our more respectable members do not need this. But God has so arranged the body, giving the greater honor to the inferior member, 25that there may be no dissension within the body, but the members may have the same care for one another. 26If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it.

27 Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. 28And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers; then deeds of power, then gifts of healing, forms of assistance, forms of leadership, various kinds of tongues. 29Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? 30Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret? 31But strive for the greater gifts. And I will show you a still more excellent way.

I am old enough to remember the Steelers of the 70s.

Here are some names.

Chuck Noll, Terry Bradshaw, Franco Harris, Rocky Blier, Lynn Swan, John Stallworth, Joe Green, L.C. Greenwood, Dwight White, Jack Ham, Jack Lambert.

The defense was called the “Steel Curtin”.

Heady days.

Four of the next Super Bowls were theirs.

But while we can fondly recall all those big names who were always on camera during the game, what about all those other guys on the team?

Special teams.

The guys whose job it was to play the role of the other team in practice.

And what about the five interior linemen who opened holes for Harris and Blier and kept Bradshaw on his feet?

And then there are those guys who came in when one of the “stars” went down?

Who remembers their names?

Who was the rookie quarterback in 1976 who stepped in for an injured Bradshaw and set an NFL record for winning his first 6 games started?

Yeah, that was Mike Kruczek.

But in the end, they all got rings.


Because they, too, were critical to the success of the team.

Everyone was needed.

No one was expendable.

A job for everyone and everyone had a job.

When everyone does their job – well – four Super Bowls.

That is what Paul is talking about in our text today.

He is promoting that kind of attitude in the church in Corinth.

Here is some background.

Paul is writing to the Corinthian church.

It is a church Paul planted some years before and with which he remains in contact.

Paul has received several reports that there is trouble in the Corinth faith community.

One of the reports is that some members of the church believe themselves to be more important than others because they have been given the spiritual gift of the ability to speak in tongues.

They look at themselves as superior.

Superior to those who can’t speak in tongues.

What this means to Paul is that the Corinthian church is divided with internal squabbles about hierarchy.

Who is essential?

Who is insignificant?

Who is vital?

Who is expendable?

Kind of like last year when a couple of Steelers decided they were more important than the mission of the team.

To Paul, this is what is happening in Corinth.

I like the way Cynthia Jarvis puts it:

Clearly there are those in the [Corinthian]community who have been made to feel as though they do not belong; there are others who think they alone embody Christian existence; and there are a few who out-and-out say to the most vulnerable, “I have no need of you.”

Paul’s response?

Each member of the community of faith in Corinth, the body of Christ, has a gift, a job, a role.

All are unique.

All are necessary.

None are expendable.

And no one has all of them.

When one role, job or gift is missing, the community suffers.

But the community then steps in and fill the gap, like Kruczek did.

No one can do it all, and so all have to work together for the common good.

Which means that if we are be effective and a body, we must look not only upward and outward, but inward.

We must look inward to identify all the gifts of the community.

To identify our own gifts.

To fill all the jobs and roles necessary for the community to survive and thrive.

Only when we do, we able to do what Paul calls us to do.

Live and work for the common good.

So, we need to take care of our “body”.

We need to care for each other.

This is how ministry is done.

And God calls us to do it.

As I was writing this, I was reminded of our work in Chiapas this past summer.

We joined that church community for a week.

The task for the community that week was to construct a five room building for classrooms and an office.

Every day over 100 members of that church showed up to work.

There was a job for everyone, young and old, men and women, big and small, skilled and unskilled.

Some were masons, some were carpenters, most were laborers.

The laborers mixed cement and hauled it to the masons.

Others sorted out lumber form a discard pile to give to the carpenters to construct the frames.

Others carried rocks and blocks and construction materials up the hillside to the work site.

Others sorted the stones and stacked the blocks.

Still others got the water from the cistern to make the cement.

Still others cooked food for the workers.

On Wednesday of that week, I was approached by Randy Duvall, our liaison with the Chiapas community.

He told me that they were out of blocks.

No one thought we would get as far as we did.

If we wanted to finish the job, we needed money to buy more blocks.

Randy asked if JMPC could help.

Happily, we were able to fund the purchase of enough to finish the work.

Every single person can now look at the finished building and say this:

“In 50 years, I might be dead, but this building will still be a place where God is worshiped, and a community of faith survives and thrives.”

That is the kind of thing Paul is talking about.

A job for everyone and everyone with a job.

So, what’s your job here at JMPC?

What is your role?

What is your gift?

What are you doing for the common good?

Are you leading?

Are you working?

Are you envisioning?

Are you financing?

Most of you do.

And I thank you.

But we need to get more folks involved.

We need to give everyone the opportunity to contribute something.

Can we, together, fund a $418,000 budget?

This week you will receive a letter with financial information and an Estimate of Giving card.

Please pray and decide what you can do to help us financially in our ministries.

Bring the card next week when we will consecrate our gifts and celebrate with a hot dog and chili luncheon.

But we also need physical, intellectual and spiritual help.

Can we encourage everyone to participate in our administration?

Can we get folks to help with the buildings and grounds?

Can we find the people we need to carry our many opportunities for ministry in our congregation?

Even if it’s just to encourage and support.

Just showing up helps.

What can each of us contribute?

Remember, if there is something going on here at JMPC, someone made it happen.

Every member of JMPC is essential.

No one is expendable.

Come and be a part of it.

It’s our ministry.

And God calls us to it.

This Week at John McMillan Presbyterian Church (October 20, 2019, yeah that’s today, sorry, but here is the preview that did not get posted)

One of Paul’s recurring metaphors in his letters is the that the community of Jesus’ disciples are like a human body. That is why we are called the “body of Christ”. We are hands and feet and noses and eyes and even toes. The best illustration I have ever heard preached was provided by Bishop Joseph Garlington of Covenant Church of Pittsburgh. He was preaching on one of Paul’s texts about the parts of the body and described a night when he got out of bed to use the bathroom and caught his little toe on bedframe. He said that he understood exactly what Paul meant when he said that the pain suffered by one part of the body affects the entire body. You bet! I have done that same thing. It takes your breath away. It causes you to bend over in pain or hop around or scream of fall to the floor and pound your fist. That is how important the little toe is. It takes control of the body when in pain. But there is more to the toe than that. When I was in college, I met a former section champion wrestler who would come to all our matches. I asked him why he did not wrestle for the team. He told me he had a lawn mower accident and lost one of his toes. As a result, he could not push off on his foot and had significantly reduced balance. That little toe had a purpose and without it, he could not compete. Which leads me to my final story, though it might be only a legend. It is said that in 1962, after President Kennedy declared that the US would go to the moon within a decade, he visited NASA, where he was to give a speech. While on a tour of the facility, JFK encountered a man with a broom. The President walked over to the man and said, “Hi, I’m Jack Kennedy. What do you do here?” “Well, Mr. President,” the man is said to have responded, “I’m helping put a man on the moon.” True or not, I love that story. No task is successful without all the many jobs getting done, even what appear to be the menial ones. Which means that someone has to do each   one of them. Perhaps just as importantly, no one is to do all of them. No one can.

As a church, what is our task that requires all parts of the body? There are several but one of them is our ministry to each other. How do we function as our own community of faith? How do we care for each other? We need everyone to offer their gifts and talents to the task. Come and hear about it when Pastor Jeff Preaches: God Does Not Want Your Money, But God Does Want Your Ministry based on 1 Corinthians 12: 12-31. Come and hear about it Sunday at 8:30 and 11 at John McMillan Presbyterian Church. We look forward to seeing you.

God Doesn’t Want Your Money, God Wants Your Worship! Thoughts on why the church asks for it anyway.

God Doesn’t Want Your Money but God Does Want Your Worship

I hope you noticed in the bulletin and Interface that our October sermon series is called “God doesn’t want your money, but we are asking for it anyway”.

We had thought to name it just “God Doesn’t Want Your Money”, but then thought better of it.

Because while God does not need your money, JMPC does.

And this is the time or year where we ask for it.

Why do we need your money?

Because ther are financial costs to do what we do.

What do we do?

We – as in everyone here along with everyone who financially supports JMPC – use that money to change lives for the better.

And as I have said in prior years, we are allowed to ask, “Are we doing that?”

Here is my answer.

If changing lives is what we at JMPC want, if people see that we are successful, they are likely to give us more money so that we can change more lives.

And that is what is happening here.

Folks must be seeing changed lives because financial support for JMPC has been going up over the last few years.

In fact, this year, JMPC has been able to take the money given to us to expand the funding for our missions and ministries to the highest levels since I have been your pastor.

I think that is awesome!

Now the bylaws of JMPC don’t permit me to know who gives what to the church, so I can’t write each of you a thank you note, though I would like to.

So instead, I want to take the time to offer you my personal thanks for giving JMPC the ability to be salt and light in a world that is often tasteless and dark.

But there are other people I need to thank who are known to me, and everyone else at JMPC.

The people who show up and give their time and talents.

A couple years ago I went on and on about “doing just one thing” here at JMPC, and telling you that doing one thing might change the world, or at least a little part of it.

Those “one things” have included everything from stuffing envelopes to staying overnight at Family Promise, to cooking a meal for Duquesne Kids Club, to teaching Children’s church, to leading Bible study, to setting up and tearing down the Christmas affair, to gardening, tree planting, to singing in the choir, to just showing up for worship.

You get the picture.

All of us are doing our part to make people’s lives better.

And maybe changing the world, just a little bit at a time.

All this giving is sometimes hard.

Sometimes it even feels sacrificial.

So why do we do it?

What makes us want to change lives?

Because God did it for us.

And we do give of our money, time and abilities as a response to what God has done for us.

And we do as much as we can because God has been generous and we want to be as generous as we can, too.

This is the Jesus way.

The word that summarizes our response to God is “gratitude”.

I am grateful to God.

I am grateful to you.

Thank you!

And maybe we should thank each other by giving ourselves a hand for all this generous gratitude.

Recently, I read Diana Butler Bass’ book “Grateful: The Transformative Power of Giving Thanks.

It turns out that we actually need to learn how to express our gratitude.

She tells the story about how she hated writing thank you notes when she was a little girl.

Her mom made her, but she did not like it.

Yet she knew it was the right thing to do.

So she tried to teach her own daughter to write thank you notes.

Her daughter did not like it either.

Surveys show that not many people do.

But we need to, right?

We need to express our gratitude, right?

But sometimes we just don’t know how.

It has always been this way.

The Roman Christians in Paul’s day had a bit of trouble with this gratitude thing.

Sure, they were grateful that Jesus had died for them and that they were promised entry into the Kingdom of God, but they really didn’t know how to express it.

So, Paul tells them how.

Paul says that we demonstrate our gratitude through worship.

Here is what Paul tells the Roman Christians.

Roman 12: 1-8

12I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. 2Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect.

3 For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of yourself more highly than you ought to think, but to think with sober judgement, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. 4For as in one body we have many members, and not all the members have the same function, 5so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are members one of another. 6We have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us: prophecy, in proportion to faith; 7ministry, in ministering; the teacher, in teaching; 8the exhorter, in exhortation; the giver, in generosity; the leader, in diligence; the compassionate, in cheerfulness.

But Jeff, you say, that doesn’t sound much like worship.

But what Paul is saying is that worship is more than showing up to church on Sunday, though that is part of it.

Worship is so much more.

Paul is describing worship to the Roman Christian community.

What should worship be like?

It should be done in community.

The “followers of the Way” were to gather in someone’s home, take part in a communal meal much like the last supper, sing psalms, hear a “prophetic message”, and share what they have with those who were in need.

That is what Paul is describing in our text.

In response to all God has done, the people were to worship.

They were to be grateful.

They were to present their bodies as living sacrifices.

They were to come not to die for God, though many would, but to live for God.

And to live for God meant that they were to reject the philosophy of the world that ignored God.

Their minds would then be renewed.

They would be transformed!

Set apart.


That is how they were to respond to God’s great mercies.

But there is something else.

Paul tells the Romans that they should not think too much of themselves as individuals.

They should not think that worship is something they can do alone adequately.

Each of us must recognize our limitations.

No individual can do all that worship requires alone.

But as a community, there are fewer limitations.

Paul teaches that when each member of the congregation offers their individual gift to the worship experience, worship is the full expression of gratitude.

So, worship is a community event.

Sure, we can glorify God individually.

We can meditate on God and scripture all by ourselves and feel connected to God.

Personal devotions are good.

But worship requires community.

Here is what I mean:

Craig Dykstra and Dorothy Bass wrote an article for the book “Practicing our Faith”.

In that article they tell a story about a man who attended the funeral of his father who was a Methodist minister.

The man was distraught in grief and could not bring himself to sing the hymns offered at the service to accompany his father into the presence of God.

Later, the man realized that the congregation sang those hymns not only for themselves in their grief, but for him who could not.

The worshiping community filled the gap of his inability to fully participate caused by his grief.

Which is why I love this story Lutheran Pastor Nadia Boltz Weber tells.

A woman came to her and said she could not recite the Apostle’s Creed.

The woman said:

… I don’t know if I believe this. … I can’t say the Creed because I don’t know if I believe every line in the Creed.

Boltz Weber responded:

…  oh, my God. Nobody believes every line of the Creed. But in a room of people, for each line of the Creed, somebody believes it. So, we’re covered, right?

Some might find that heretical, but I find it comforting.

Robert Emmons, in his book “Thanks! How the New Science of Gratitude Can Make You Happier”, says this:

Gratitude takes us outside ourselves where we see ourselves part of a larger, intricate network of sustaining relationships, relationships that are mutually reciprocal.

Paul calls all of this communal worship.

It is our grateful response to God as best we can offer it.

That’s what it’s like here at JMPC.

None of us can do everything, but in a congregation of people, for each part of worship, somebody steps up to fill all the gaps.

That is what Paul is talking about.

We have preachers.

This year we have had Matt, me, John Welsh, Debbie Evanovich, Jenn Frayer, Leann Fuller and Silas Ncozana.

We have all kinds of ministry, from gardening, to flood relief, to birthing babies, to supporting mothers in rehab, to comforting the bereaved, to praying our joys and concerns … you get the picture.

We have teachers in Children’s church, Bible study and youth groups.

We have enthusiastic leaders on our Session, Deacons and various ministry teams.

And, as I said at the outset, we have generous financial supporters.

All this, Paul says, is how we respond to God with gratitude for all God has done for us.

We are a grateful community.

We are transformed.

We are renewed.

So, what does all this have to do with financial support?

None of this happens without it.

Just like the Roman Christians, Paul tells us we have to share what we have so that the community we call JMPC can do what it is called to do.

Some give a lot.

Some not so much.

But we all need to give something.

Our goal this year is that everyone give some financial support.

If you have not given in the past, give something this year.

If you have given in the past, we are asking that we increase our gifts by 3%.

So, think about that as we come to this table.

This is the table that symbolizes the great gift we received from God through his son.

The gift for which we need to say, “thank you”.

If we do that, we can respond even more emphatically to God’s great gift in 2020.

It is an act of worship to the living and giving God.

This Week at John McMillan Presbyterian Church (October 6, 2019, belated) God Doesn’t Want Your Money, God Wants Your Worship.

Last Thanksgiving, my nephew introduced me to YouTube dog and cat videos. My two favorites were “The Sad Dog Diaries” and “The Sad Cat Diaries”. In each, the dog ‘s or cat’s thoughts are narrated by a sad sounding but eloquent man. These are pretty funny. But what made me laugh most was how the dog and cat described their owner. For the dog it was “my dearest human”. For the cat it was “the authorities”. It reminded me of an old joke.

A dog looks at its owner and thinks:

You feed me. You shelter me. You love me. You must be God.

The cat, on the other hand, looks at its owner and thinks:

You feed me. You shelter me. You love me. I must be God.

What is not in the “diaries”, or in the joke, is the owner’s point of view. What does the owner want from Fido or Tabby? Love. Loyalty. A bit of obedience. Gratitude. The problem with dogs and cats is that both need to be taught how to act appropriately in response to the owner’s feeding, sheltering and loving. People are no different. and might be worse. We have to be taught how to express gratitude. How do we express gratitude to God who feeds us, shelters us and loves us? That was something Paul had to teach the Roman Christians. He did it in his Letter to the Romans. The lesson is for us, too. Come hear about it Sunday, October 6 at 8:30 and 11 when Pastor Jeff preaches, “God Does Not Want Your Money, God Want’s Your Worship”. We look forward to seeing you.