What Will Make or Break This Church?

-- A Sermon by Jim Shumard stasta@hartcom.net
Rector of Saint Andrew Hartwell GA

If you spend anytime reading either the letters of John or the Gospel of John, "loving one another" seems to come up over and over again. It makes one think that the early Christian communities had to be reminded over and over again, that what Christianity is all about, what Jesus Christ is all about, what Easter is all about is love.

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If you spend any time reading the headlines of today, you might wonder if we present day Christians don't need to hear John's writings even more than the early Christians.

Southern Baptist Convention recommends keeping women in their place. They will not allow any more women to be ordained in their denomination and they are encouraging women to submit to their husbands as some of the scriptures dictate. It is predicted that this will drive many Baptist congregations to withdraw from the Southern Baptist Convention. Indeed some congregations have been already kicked out of the denomination.

But John says in his letter to Southern Baptists:
 

And this is His commandment, that we should believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another.


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I have been told that United Methodists met in Cleveland, Ohio and came out against having homosexuals as full members of the church, much less ordaining or blessing them.

But John says in his letter to United Methodists:
 

And this is His commandment, that we should believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another.


The Lutherans and Episcopalians are thinking of a Concordat which will allow us to in some circumstances exchange ministers. Many Lutherans, Episcopalians and Anglicans are suspicious of this agreement.

Indeed, the Archbishop of Canterbury has come out and said,

"The Episcopal Church should not do its own thing apart from the consensus of the greater Anglican Communion."

But John says in his letter to Episcopalians & Lutherans:

And this is His commandment, that we should believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another.
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The Episcopal Convention is coming up this summer and there is going to be bitter debate over human sexuality. Indeed the gathering of the bishops from all over the world at Lambeth last summer turned into a shout-down match over sexuality.

But John says in his letter to Episcopalians

And this is His commandment, that we should believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another.
Everywhere you read or watch today, you see divisions in Christianity.

What's going on with Christians?

Now I usually preach nurturing sermons designed to empower us to live our day to day faith.. Rarely do I like to Rarely do I preach prophetic sermons.

But today I cannot help it.

I would like to stand up at our General Convention this summer
I would like to stand up in the gathering of the bishops at Lambeth.
I would like to stand up at the Southern Baptist Convention.
I would like to stand up at the United Methodist Convention.

And I would like to say:

Shame Shame Shame

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There is a movie called Princess bride that we watch at our home from time to time.

It's about true love found, lost, and found again. It's about trusting in that true love no matter how things appear.

There is one scene where the princess bride has given up on finding her lost love and as she come out in front of the people to be married to the evil prince an old woman stands up and says:

BOOOOOO! BOOOOOO!
YOU HAD TRUE LOVE IN YOUR HANDS AND YOU LET IT GO!

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That's what I feel about these bitter arguments the churches are having.

We have the most beautiful gift in the world, true love! We are in the middle of a season of celebration of the resurrection of the lord We are in the middle of a season of celebration of our redemption! We are in the middle of the season where we celebrate that we have been forgiven a great debt, too large a debt to repay yet here we are arguing with one another and hating and judging one another.

We are like the steward in the parable of the unforgiving steward who has been forgiven a great debt and now we go to our general conventions and grab people who owe us nothing and shout for them to surrender it to us anyway.

BOOOOO!
BOOOOOOO!

DID JESUS DIE AND RISE AGAIN FOR OUR GOOD BEHAVIOR?
DID JESUS DIE AND RISE AGAIN
SO WE COULD CHOOSE THE BEST PEOPLE TO ORDAIN OR TO BLESS.
DID JESUS DIES AND RISE AGAIN SO WE COULD HAVE THE CORRECT BISHOPS?

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Quite frankly, I cannot say that our choices have been that great so far.

Men have not done that great a job either in running the world or running their marriages!

The church has not always selected the best clergy leaders

The mainline denominations who are all fighting about these issues, are losing members and its not simply because we are the faithful remnant.

We act as if these issues will make or break the church.

I say to you today that who we ordain, though it is quite important, will not make or break this church.

Who we bless or do not bless will not make or break this church.

Who runs the marriages and who teaches our people will not make or break this church.

It is not who we ordain or bless or call leaders that will make or break this church but it is how we love and what we believe about Jesus Christ that will make or break this church.

I will tell you what will make or break this church, local, diocesan and national and international

It will be how we keep Jesus' commandments.

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And this is His commandment, that we should believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another.

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