To Glorify God: Thoughts on loving God and loving neighbor.

To Glorify God

One of my favorite movies, and one which I can watch over and over again, is “The Princess Bride”.

This wonderful movie has a great line that frequently comes to mind when talking to folks about church stuff.

The evil villain Vizzini continuously refers to everything that surprises him as “inconceivable!”

Finally, Inigo Montoya, one of the movie’s heroes, comments to Vizzini, “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”

Why is that such a great line?

Because we all do what Vizzini does from time to time.

We use words that don’t mean what we think they mean.

Particularly in church.

There are two such churchy words we will explore this week.

One is love.

The other is glorify.

What do these words have in common?

They. Believe it or not, are words of purpose.

We are to love God.

We are to love neighbor.

But that might not mean what we think it means.

Let’s hear about it.

Matthew 28: 16-20

16 Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. 17When they saw him, they worshipped him; but some doubted. 18And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.’

Matthew 22: 34-40

34 When the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together, 35and one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. 36‘Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?’ 37He said to him, ‘ “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.” 38This is the greatest and first commandment. 39And a second is like it: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 40On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.’

We are continuing our discussion of what it means to be a “Church on Purpose” this week.

Without purpose, we, both individual people and organizations, have no real direction and wonder if what we do has any meaning.

We need a principle to guide us.

Thankfully, we in the church have such a purpose.

Jesus tells us what that purpose is in his Great Commission.

[M]ake disciples of all nations … and [teach] them to obey everything that I have commanded you.

That is the purpose of our church and the purpose of the “CHURCH”.

It is why we are here.

It gives us direction.

It gives what we do meaning.

At JMPC, we describe that purpose in our mission statement.

We are here to provide a way for this community and the communities surrounding us to know, glorify and serve God.

Last week we talked about teaching people of all ages how to know God.

Sacraments as illustrations.

The Bible as the Word.

This week we need to talk about how we glorify God.

First, we need to understand what that word – glorify – means.

This is a description I came across this week.

If you “like” someone, you might compliment or praise them.

But “glorifying” goes well beyond that.

When someone is glorified, that person is praised to the highest degree possible.

Worship.

So how do we glorify – worship – God?

Jesus tells us in our second text.

Two ways.

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.” 

And:

“You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 

But let’s talk about that word “love”.

It comes from the Greek word agapeo which has nothing to do with emotions.

Agapeo is a verb.

Agape is about what we do.

Loving God and neighbor are actions, not feelings.

Jesus says these things in answer to a question from a Pharisaic lawyer.

“Hey. Jesus! What is the greatest commandment?”

The lawyer was not talking about which of the Ten Commandments is the greatest.

He was asking about which of the 613 laws that had been derived from those original ten by the Jewish religious leaders was the greatest.

Following these laws was how Israel was to “love” God.

Israel was to put God above all else.

Praised to the highest degree possible.

Worshipped.

Glorified!

That is what Jesus is talking about when he says the first and greatest commandment is:

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.” 

Where does that come from?

It comes from the Shema.

The Shema is a prayer offered by Jews twice daily, morning and evening.

Hear O Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is One.

Blessed is His name, whose glorious kingdom is forever and ever.

Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and all your soul, and all your might. These words that I command you today shall be upon your heart. Repeat them to your children, and talk about them when you sit in your home, and when you walk in the street; when you lie down, and when you rise up. Hold fast to them as a sign upon your hand, and let them be as reminders before your eyes. Write them on the doorposts of your home and at your gates.

That is how Israel loved God and how we are to love God.

Rabbi Hayim Halevy Donin in his book To Be A Jew says this:

…[T]he Shema is not, technically speaking, a prayer. It is a declaration of faith. It is an affirmation of the unity of God that reminds us of our obligations to Him …

This is the Christian view as well.

According to the Donald Hagner’s World Biblical Commentary on Matthew:

Love of God … is to be understood as a matter of reverence, commitment, and obedience. It is at once an acknowledgment of [God’s] identity as Creator and Redeemer and a reflection of that reality in the ordering of our lives.

We revere God in worship.

We commit to God with our dedication.

We obey God by living the Jesus way.

We revere, commit and obey God with all our heart, soul and mind and in any other way we might imagine.

With everything we got, so to speak.

Our relationship to God must be the highest form of devotion we can conceive.

Worship.

That is how to Glorify God.

But Jesus goes a step further.

There is another commandment that is “like” the first.

“You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 

What does it mean that these two are “like” each other?

It’s not that they are the same.

It is that they are equal.

What does it mean to love our neighbor as yourself?

First, we need to note that the word agape is used again.

So again, we are not talking about good feelings.

We are talking about good treatment.

How are we to treat our neighbor?

To answer that question, we need to look at where that phrase comes from.

The dreaded Leviticus.

Specifically, Leviticus 19: 18 which says: you shall love your neighbor as yourself.

This little phrase, something that has been coined “The Golden Rule”, is a summary of what the author of Leviticus says God requires of us if we are to be “holy”.

Committed to God over all else.

Basically, to be holy, we must be neighborly.

Neighborly, but in a very specific way.

We are to act toward our neighbors the way God acts toward us.

Acting toward them with only their good and wellbeing in mind.

Unmotivated, unmanipulated, unconditional and unlimited.

Here is what the lawyer, and Jesus, would have specifically had in mind:

Leviticus 19: 9-18

When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap to the very edges of your field, or gather the gleanings of your harvest. You shall not strip your vineyard bare, or gather the fallen grapes of your vineyard; you shall leave them for the poor and the alien: I am the Lord your God.

You shall not steal; you shall not deal falsely; and you shall not lie to one another. And you shall not swear falsely by my name, profaning the name of your God: I am the Lord.

You shall not defraud your neighbor; you shall not steal; and you shall not keep for yourself the wages of a laborer until morning. You shall not revile the deaf or put a stumbling-block before the blind; you shall fear your God: I am the Lord.

You shall not render an unjust judgement; you shall not be partial to the poor or defer to the great: with justice you shall judge your neighbor. You shall not go around as a slanderer among your people, and you shall not profit by the blood of your neighbor: I am the Lord.

You shall not hate in your heart anyone of your kin; you shall reprove your neighbor, or you will incur guilt yourself. You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against any of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord.

So, what does that look like to Jesus?

The same as it looked to Rabbi Hillel, Jewish sage who led the Israelite religious community from 70BC to 10CE.

Jesus would likely have known of Hillel.

Hillel was partly responsible for those 613 commandments found in Torah.

Yet, when Hillel was asked by a man if he could teach him the entire Torah while standing on one foot, Hillel responded:

That which is despicable to you, do not do to your fellow, this is the whole Torah. The rest is just commentary.

The Golden Rule.

Seems simple.

But it’s not.

It’s not simple because the term “neighbor” does not just include family, those you like and agree with, or even folks from the same tribe.

We see that in Leviticus as well.

While Leviticus does reference to the ways we are to treat “kin”, it also says this later in the passage:

33 When an alien resides with you in your land, you shall not oppress the alien. 34The alien who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the alien as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.

We are to love the stranger, too.

Neighbor includes … well … everyone God created.

Even the one’s we don’t like.

That is why Jesus tells us to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us.

God sends rain to them, too.

We are called to do the same.

This is what Jesus is talking about when he says we are to love our neighbor.

When we love our neighbor, we are loving what God created and those who bear God’s image.

It is a way we glorify God.

Jesus ends this brief conversation with a comment that must not be overlooked.

On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.

This is a powerful phrase.

Jesus says loving God and loving neighbor are so intertwined that you can’t have one without the other.

Some describe the relationship between these two commandments this way

Loving God is the vertical component of one’s faith.

Loving neighbor is the horizontal component.

As the New Interpreter’s Bible Commentary puts it:

The great command to love God has as its inseparable counterpart the command to love neighbor. One cannot first love God and then, as a second task, love one’s neighbor. To love God is to love one’s neighbor and vice versa … .

Jesus is saying obeying these two commands are the foundation for living the way God wants us to live.

When we do these things.

When we act these ways.

We revere, commit to, and obey God above all else.

That is worship.

That is how we glorify God.

To Know God: Thoughts on the purpose of the “CHURCH” and our church.

To Know God

Last week was kick-off Sunday.

The Sunday when we start our new program year.

We had a picnic on the day before, a new sermon series, Children’s Church, communion and coffee hour after.

It was a very good day.

But it was also the weekend where we commemorated the 20th anniversary of the September 11th attack.

I have vivid memories of that terrible day.

One of the things I found interesting was that there was a good bit of remembrance type TV and radio programing on what 9/11 was about and how horrible it was.

What concerned me most was the realization that so many people either remembered very little – or nothing at all – of 9/11.

My son was 15.

He knew it was horrible but had a limited understanding of the attack happened that day and few of the details.

My daughter was 9 years old when the attack took place.

She remembers almost nothing about it.

What she knows, she learned in history class and maybe a college course she took on terrorism.

Kids born only a few years after my daughter have no memory of it whatsoever.

They only know what we teach them.

9/11 was a terrible day in American and world history.

It’s something we need to remember.

And more importantly, something we need to teach our kids about.

That’s one reason why there are memorials built.

There is one near us.

The Flight 93 Memorial in Shanksville, PA.

There we honor the 43 passengers who sacrificed their lives to prevent a group of terrorists from crashing the plane into … well … they did not know what the plane was going to be crashed into.

It was likely the US Capital.

The purpose of that memorial is to remind us of that day and specifically what those people did.

But it is also a place where we can take our children.

They might ask, “What is this all about? What happened to these people?”

And then we can tell them the story.

So that they can do the same for their own kids.

Who can then do the same for their own kids …

And so, the story will never be forgotten.

And so, they might have the courage to do the same, if such a thing happens again.

That’s what our scripture readings are about today.

Matthew 28: 16-20

16 Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. 17When they saw him, they worshipped him; but some doubted. 18And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.’

Joshua 4: 1-8

4When the entire nation had finished crossing over the Jordan, the Lord said to Joshua: 2‘Select twelve men from the people, one from each tribe, 3and command them, “Take twelve stones from here out of the middle of the Jordan, from the place where the priests’ feet stood, carry them over with you, and lay them down in the place where you camp tonight.” ’ 4Then Joshua summoned the twelve men from the Israelites, whom he had appointed, one from each tribe. 5Joshua said to them, ‘Pass on before the ark of the Lord your God into the middle of the Jordan, and each of you take up a stone on his shoulder, one for each of the tribes of the Israelites, 6so that this may be a sign among you. When your children ask in time to come, “What do those stones mean to you?”7then you shall tell them that the waters of the Jordan were cut off in front of the ark of the covenant of the Lord. When it crossed over the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. So these stones shall be to the Israelites a memorial for ever.’

8 The Israelites did as Joshua commanded. They took up twelve stones out of the middle of the Jordan, according to the number of the tribes of the Israelites, as the Lord told Joshua, carried them over with them to the place where they camped, and laid them down there.

Last week we started our series about the Church on Purpose.

We talked about why we – JMPC and the church generally – are here.

What is our purpose here at JMPC?

What is the purpose of the “CHURCH” generally?

We learned that the purpose of both is to make disciples.

Integral to that purpose is to teach these disciples about Jesus and to obey everything Jesus commanded.

To do that we need to introduce folks to Jesus.

Then, when they ask, “What’s this Jesus all about?”, we can tell them the story.

Teach them about his way of life and the requirements for discipleship.

Then they get to know Jesus and so get to know God.

It’s part of our vision statement here at JMPC.

We provide a way for us, and the community surrounding us, to know God.

So that is one of the reasons why we are here.

It’s our purpose.

To teach about God.

So folks can know God.

This has been the purpose of the church since Pentecost.

It has been our purpose since 1965.

And there has been what we call a great cloud of witnesses over the centuries since Pentecost who have passed this knowledge from generation to generation all the way down to us.

And a smaller but no less great cloud of witnesses here at JMPC who have passed this knowledge from generation to generation all the way down to us.

Generation after generation has passed the baton of discipleship and teaching.

So far, the baton has not been dropped.

But the handoff has always faced challenges.

And just like we would not like to answer questions about Flight 93 with, “Well, we don’t know!”, we don’t what to answer questions about Jesus with, “ We, we don’t know!”

Like the baton in the race, we are always one fumble away from the end of the race.

I think each generation has faced challenges similar to those we face in 2021.

How do we pass the baton?

How do we fulfill our part of the continuing purpose?

How do we make disciples and teach them about Jesus?

How this handoff has been done has changed over time.

But it has always kind of looked like our scripture reading from Joshua.

It’s kind of an object lesson.

Here is a bit of context.

Moses has died after leading the Israelites out of Egypt, through the Red Sea, and then for 80 years in the wilderness on the way to the promised land.

Joshua now leads the Israelites as they approach that promised place.

To get in, Israel has to cross over the Jordan River.

This is a very big deal.

It was the end of a long and difficult journey.

It was the achievement of God’s purpose for God’s chosen people.

Joshua is told by God to select a person from each of the twelve tribes to get a stone from the middle of the Jordan and pile them up on the other side where the people can see them.

Why does God want this pile of stones?

It’s a memorial.

Like the memorial for Flight 93, the stones are meant to be a teaching opportunity for those who see them.

These stones are an invitation for anyone seeing them to ask, “What do these stones mean?”

Then they can be told the story.

The Exodus, the wilderness, arrival.

And most importantly, that God chose them and was with them the entire way.

So, God tells Joshua to pile up some stones.

“Whenever you look at the stones, you will remember.”

“Your kids will look at the stones and do what kids do.”

“They will see those stones and ask why they are there.”

“You will tell them the story.”

That is how the community memory will get passed down.

That is the purpose of the stones.

That is how the purpose is achieved.

This was nothing new.

The people of Israel have many such things that remind them of what God has done for them and that God is with them.

The Hebrew Scriptures are full of them.

Everything from altars to phylacteries, to prayer shawl tassels, to religious festivals and even the sacrificial system.

They give names to things and places that describe an event they want to remember.

And their kids ask about it.

They tell the stories to the kids, and each other.

In this way, the communal memory of the covenant between God and his people is passed on and not forgotten.

As disciples of Jesus, we also have memorials that remind us of important stories.

Our most important are the sacraments.

Like today’s baptism.

What are the words of institution of this sacrament?

In baptism God claims us, and seals us to show that we belong to God. God frees us from sin and death, uniting us with Jesus Christ in his death and resurrection.

By water and the Holy Spirit, we are made members of the church, the body of Christ, and joined to Christ’s ministry of love, peace, and justice.

Baptism is a visual image, a sign, that God marks us as his own.

That God loves us.

That God loves us even though we don’t know it.

It’s something we know about God.

It’s why we come to this room.

And we do this in public so folks, like the children who come in to watch, can ask, “What does that mean?”

And so, we can tell them.

What we are here to do.

To teach.

An object lesson.

To pass the baton.

Our purpose.

Then there is Communion.

What are the words of institution for the Lord’s Supper?

The Lord Jesus, on the night of his arrest, took bread, and after giving thanks to God, he broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying: Take, eat. This is my body, given for you. Do this in remembrance of me. In the same way he took the cup, saying: This cup is the new covenant sealed in my blood, shed for you for the forgiveness of sins. Whenever you drink it, do this in remembrance of me. Every time you eat this bread and drink this cup you proclaim the saving death of the risen Lord, until he comes.

The Lord’s Supper is a visual image, a sign, that Jesus died for the forgiveness of our inability to live the way God wants us to live.

It gives each of us reminder of our reconciliation with God.

That God forgives us.

That God forgives us even though we don’t know it.

It’s something we know about God.

It’s why we come to this room.

And we do this in public so folks, like the children who come in to watch, can ask, “What does that mean?”

And so, we can tell them.

That’s what we are here to do.

To teach.

An object lesson.

To pass the baton.

Our purpose.

These are stories and histories with meaning that are worth remembering and passing along.

There are other object lessons many of us can point to here at JMPC and in the “CHURCH” generally.

The principle one is the Bible.

We show people the Bible and hope they ask, “What do these words mean?”

And on this first day of the new program year, we start to teach, again, what these stories are and pass them on to the next generation.

We have Children’s Church.

We have Confirmation Class.

We have VBS.

We have Kids Club.

We have Youth Group.

For adults, who also need some education as well, we have ABC’s of the Bible.

We have the John Covenant Group.

We have book reviews.

We have Bible studies.

And we are prepared to do whatever anyone needs to learn the stories and be prepared to pass them along.

Why are we here?

What did we come here to do?

That.

If we don’t do it, who will?

When our kids ask why they should go to church, or watch it online, what will we tell them?

That we don’t know?

We need to know the reason.

Our kids are really asking:

“What do these things mean?”

Our answer needs to be:

“Glad you asked.”

To teach us how to know God.

It’s why we come here.

It’s what we came here to do.

It’s the Church on Purpose.

Why are we here? Thoughts on the purpose of the “CHURCH” and our church.

Why Are We Here?

Over the next few weeks, we are going to talk about what it looks like to be a “Church on Purpose”.

We will have 4 themes.

How do we purposely know God?

How do we purposely glorify God?

How do we purposely serve God?

How do we purposely change lives?

How did this series sprout?

A few weeks ago, I had coffee with a long-time member of JMPC.

We talked about many things.

As we talked there was one thing that this member was very concerned about.

“Jeff, what do you think about the future of the church?”

I asked for clarification.

Our church?

Or the “CHURCH”?

The answer was the “CHURCH”!

What is the future of the “CHURCH”?

I offered some ideas about that, and will investigate it further when we read “Christianity After Religion” for our October book review.

But I have had the time to ponder the question a bit more.

One thing I came to realize is that the future of JMPC and the “CHURCH” depend on how we answer one question..

“Why are we here?”

Another way to ask this question is this:

What is our purpose?

What is the purpose of JMPC?

What is the purpose of the “CHURCH”?

Once we understand our purpose, we need to ask the next question.

How do we achieve that purpose?

And finally, what will the church look like as we do that?

To answer these questions, we need to look to scripture.

Matthew 28: 16-20

16 Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. 17When they saw him, they worshipped him; but some doubted. 18And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.’

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.

What was the purpose of the church?

19Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you.

How did the early church carry out its purpose?

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

What did that church look like?

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.

Do you see the distinctions here?

There is a difference between the why, the how and the what.

The why?

Make disciples.

Change lives and so change the world.

The how?

Gathering in community to learn, have fellowship, eat, and pray.

The what?

A community where people love God and each other.

Over time, the how and the what change.

But the why never does.

And that is critical.

If you have read the book, “Start with Why”, by Simon Sinek, you might see that the “why” question is foundational to the success of a task.

If you have not read it, you can watch his TED Talk where he explains this idea.

He says this:

People like Martin Luther King Jr., Steve Jobs, and the Wright Brothers had little in common, but they all started with WHY. They realized that people won’t truly buy into a product, service, movement, or idea until they understand the WHY behind it.

He goes on.

And by “why” I don’t mean “to make a profit.” That’s a result. It’s always a result. By “why,” I mean: What’s your purpose? What’s your cause? What’s your belief? Why does your organization exist?

Sinek uses Apple as an example.

Apple does not simply say it makes good computers.

Here’s how Apple actually communicates. “Everything we do, we believe in challenging the status quo. We believe in thinking differently. The way we challenge the status quo is by making our products beautifully designed, simple to use and user friendly. We just happen to make great computers. Want to buy one?”

And Apple changed the world.

What about the wright brothers?

Sinek says this:

Orville and Wilbur were driven by a cause, by a purpose, by a belief. They believed that if they could figure out this flying machine, it’ll change the course of the world.

And they did change the world.

When Sinek talks about Martin Luther King, Jr., he asks why so many folks followed him into the streets and almost certain arrest, injury and death.

King told them his purpose:

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

That was the why.

What they were going to do was going to change the world.

And while many think that the world has not changed enough, there is little doubt that the world has changed.

That was also true of the early church.

Their purpose was to make disciples.

To change lives and change the world.

How they did it was to gather, worship, learn and share.

The early church seems to have been a kind of commune.

That seemed to work well as they gathered more and more disciples every day.

And while these early Christians had a rough time of it for a few centuries, they did what they could to change the world.

And they did.

If we apply that to JMPC we see all three.

Our purpose is to further a movement we call the Great Commission.

Make disciples and teach them about Jesus.

How have we done that?

Let’s look at some history.

John McMillan Presbyterian Church was founded in 1966.

It was planted with the combined efforts of Westminster Presbyterian Church and Bethel Presbyterian Church.

It is a little over a mile from Westminster and Bethel Pres.

Why was there a need for another Presbyterian Church so close to those others?

As realtors like to say – location, location, location.

Bethel Park was growing.

People were moving to the suburbs.

Its population was increasing fast.

Housing developments were springing up everywhere.

A lot of people new to the area looking for churches.

In the 60’s folks wanted their church to be pretty close to where they lived.

So, what better way to offer a faith community to new residents around Clifton Road than to plant a church in their midst.

How we let people know about it was by knocking on doors of those folks in the neighborhood.

That’s why we are here geographically.

But the big “why” was to make disciples in Bethel Park, baptizing them and teaching them about Jesus.

Our purpose was to be a faith community for new residents of Bethel Park.

We were to change lives and change the world, at least around Clifton Road.

And I think we have.

I know that some might look around and say, “Well, it does not necessarily look like it in 2021.”

Attendance seems to be down.

Offerings seem to be down.

But we need to be careful not to define accomplishment of our purpose with “noses and nickels”.

Our purpose remains to make disciples in Bethel Park, baptizing them and teaching them about Jesus.

Changing lives and changing the world, right here.

How we do it and what it looks like in the end is what has changed.

And we need to adapt.

It was that way in the early church.

While their purpose did not change, how they furthered the purpose did.

The communal living changed into a community that shared out of its abundance.

Collections were taken to meet the needs of others.

This was necessary because the church was becoming a multi-location entity.

Each location cared for the people in its location and then shared with other less wealthy communities.

That’s how they shared.

And in doing that, disciples were made in far off places.

Disciples the local communities of faith never even knew about.

It’s the same with us.

Just because folks don’t show up here on Sundays does not mean their lives and the world aren’t changed by our activities here.

I can confidently say that they are.

It just looks different.

But the underlying purpose remains.

Go … and make disciples …, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teach them to obey everything that I have commanded you.

That is the “why” we are here.

Our Session is doing something interesting reading.

We are reading an article about JMPC written in Presbyterian News in 1989.

We are also reading the JMPC 2013 Annual Report.

We are also reading the 2013 JMPC Mission Statement that described JMPC to potential pastors looking to become the senior pastor.

That’s the one that attracted my application.

If you want to read them, let me know and I can email them to you.

In our first discussion, some of the longer-term members talked about their fond memories of 1989.

The church was a big part of the young families’ lives.

Central, in fact.

We talked about the underlying reason folks showed up here.

While we didn’t share all things in common, we did have fellowship, worship and most importantly, we cared about and for each other.

And together, we learned to know, glorify and serve God.

In other words, we love God and love each other.

That we can still pursue in 2021.

It just won’t look like 1989.

To do that we need to be a church on purpose.

And when we do that, we will change the world.