CHANCE ENCOUNTERS #5
As you can see, this is a different sort of service. Today I want us to Be the Church. Today I want our worship to have hands and feet as well as our voices and minds. In a few minutes we’re going to get the opportunity to put our faith into very physical action action.
One first things I want to do is bring everyone up to date on Wings of the morning. Gaston received the new plane. Gaston is back safe and sound. WATCH.
One of the best memories I have is of a time when our church was part of a District Mission Saturation Event. We had missionaries and speakers from all over the world in every church in our District. We hosted a family from Zimbabwe. It was the husband, wife and their 6 or 7 year old son. He shared a bedroom with our youngest son, Josh who was the same age. Neither one of them knew the other’s language but they laughed and giggled and had such a good time together that first night that little boy’s dad and I each got up at least twice to tell them to quiet down and go to sleep. It made us laugh, and broke down all the cultural barriers there might have been.
Those boys were the best ambassadors of their countries that I have ever seen. Their innocent laughter and joy bridged the gap. I don’t think there is enough laughter or joy in the world today. And there’s certainly not enough innocence. Jesus said we were to have the faith like a child. Which I take to mean that our lives are supposed to be simple and filled with laughter and joy.
I believe one of the reasons there isn’t enough laughter and joy in the world today is because so many people are worried about whether they will even get a next meal for themselves or for their children. According to statistics, the world’s poor spend at least half their income on food. Over 800 million people go to bed hungry every night. That’s 12.5% or 1/8th of the world’s population.
One sixth of the world’s population lives on less than $1 a day. About Forty percent of the world’s population lives on less than $2 a day and economists are speculating that number will increase sharply, possibly by as many as 100 million. Which means those who have nothing will shortly have less than nothing. There is something drastically wrong with that picture. And the Bible is clear what our response should be. In Matthew 25 Jesus clearly tells us what to do.
Matthew 25:31-40 (NRSV)
 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory.
 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats,
 and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left.
 Then the king will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world;
 for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me,
 I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’
 Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink?
 And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing?
 And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’
 And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’
Today is about providing for some of the least of these, especially caring for them in times of great crisis. I’m proud to say that I think God is pleased with how you helped Wings of the Morning get their new plane. Even though ours was just a small part in the overall cost, like the Widow’s mite, every little bit helps. But that’s not all God’s pleased about.
Do you remember the Well Project in Yaukani Village in Nigeria?
We partnered with a young startup church in this project. Unfortunately, that startup church didn’t make it but with our help they left a legacy in a small village on the other side of the world. We left a well which continues to provide water for living so the Living Water which is Jesus, can continue to spread throughout that rural part of Nigeria.
But that’s not all. Because of the faithfulness of this congregation and all we do in Missions we know that: At least one child went to bed last night with a full stomach.
Last night at least one mother enjoyed a bath with soap and clean clothes for tomorrow.
A family which lost everything in one of the tornados is being cared for in a shelter using one of the health kits or sawing kits or school kits or bedding kits supplied by UMCOR.
Because we support our Missional Giving which we call Apportionments: this past week a father found the right clothes, the right information and the right encouragement to find a job to support his family.
A senior citizen didn’t have to choose between food, medicine or the electric bill.
A young teen stayed in school and found self-confidence by helping adults learn computer skills.
Our little bit helped Marvin and Kerry and their 2 month old baby get back on their feet after Marvin lost his job and they couldn’t afford rent anymore. One of the many Life Shelters we support helped both Marvin and Kerry and dozens of families like them find jobs. They’ve been able to open a savings account. And the computer skills Marvin has learned has spurred a desire to go back to school to learn even more so he can upgrade his earning potential.
It’s little things like the canned goods, food and other supplies we provide through the Food Bank. They helped 400 plus families with groceries last year.
Our Missions giving has helped launch more than 600 churches in the US. More than half are racial/ethnic congregations meeting in borrowed spaces, homes and schools.
One of those is the Urban village Church in Chicago, which is people-focused before being property-focused. The go where people gather to share the gospel. The church meets in 3 places and plans to add seven more in the coming years.
Then there’s Denver’s AfterHours Church – Meets Monday nights in pubs around town where members experience mission by making peanut butter sandwiches to distribute to homeless people.
There are all sorts of out of the box kind of churches and faith communities that are being allowed to be born through our generous Missions Giving.
Through our support the UMC continues to add new faith communities in Central Asia, the Philippines, Africa and the Nordic Countries at the rate of about 12 a month.
UMCOR continues to provide services for over 10,000 poor in Haiti as it recovers from the 2010 earthquake.
We continue to distribute bed nets. Ngoy Kabulo, 52, of the Democratic Republic of the Congo said, “Malaria made me and my family poor. Every day, we would wake up with swollen bodies from mosquito bites. Our small children had anemia every month, and we were always spending money on the hospital.”
Like many of his neighbors, Kabulo and his family were vulnerable and poor to begin with, but malaria compounded their struggles on a regular basis. Kabulo barely ekes out a living farming in the sandy soil around his mud-brick hut in the rural Kamina Township. He is one of the statistics we talked about earlier. He feeds his family of 12 on barely $1 a day.
Whenever a family member was rushed to the hospital because of malaria – which happened at least once a month – their precarious budget evaporated. Kabulo spent as much as 1/3 of his monthly income on a single visit. ($10 – that’s less than my copay but as much as I might spend on a drive through meal at Long John Silver’s)
But a simple item which everyone of us can afford has helped put a stop to that cycle and given Kabulo and his family a bit more stability in the midst of their poverty. The item was a Long-lasting, insecticide-treated bed net. Along with the malaria awareness education, vaccinations and vitamins, Malaria is becoming a very preventable disease rather than the indiscriminate killer it has been for the last few centuries.
Kabulo said “My family is healthy and we are saving money to meet other family needs.” The program “saved our lives.”
Flood buckets. Mosquito Nets. Random Acts of Thanksgiving, Random Acts of Compassion Everyday. All of these are little things allow us to be the hands and feet of Christ in the world today. Today they are acts of worship as well as acts of kindness. Instead of lifting our hands in praise, we will lift our hands in service and praise to God through Random Acts of Thanksgiving, Random Acts of Compassion Every day.
The thing is, every day of the week and every moment of the day can be an act of worship. It might only be a little thing like a cup of water, a meal or clean clothes. But it makes a difference. And through those little things God can make great things happen, even when we’re reluctant.
Today, you get to BE the Church in action. As an act of Mission and an act of Worship we’ll now BE the Church in Mission. Every letter we write, every Health Kit and Sewing Kit we put together is an act of worship. Though we may not know the recipient, God does. And our action glorify God.
Instructions: The let’s pray.
This is the Word of the Lord for this day.