Sunday, June 23, 2013

Clothed with Christ -- A Sermon for Pentecost 5C

Galatians 3:23-29

“Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society.”  Thus, saith Mark Twain (or at least the online quote pages say so).   What we wear does say something about us.  If you wear a suit and tie to work that suggests one thing, while overalls something else.  Shorts and a T-shirt are  something else still.  Some members of the clergy wear a collar, which suggests that they are working for God.  Some of us go incognito and don’t wear anything special. As women have entered the workforce and political life, they have wrestled with what to wear.  Remember how Hillary Clinton’s pant suites became the talk of the country during the 2008 primary season.  I think she called herself “Have Pant-Suit will travel.”  Wearing a dress might suggest that she was running for First Lady rather than President, so she chose the Pant-Suit.  Yes, clothes can speak volumes about who we are, where we come from, our economic status, and what we do with our lives.  

Growing up I came to know something of the difference that clothing can make.  I was reminded of this reality listening to a recent sermon by Alex McCauslin.  Alex was sharing a story about wearing Sears clothes while her friends wore more upscale clothing.  I’m not sure if J. C. Penney is the equivalent of Sears, or a step below, but when my friends were wearing Levis and Converse All Stars, I was wearing J. C. Penney from head to toe. 

But Paul tells us not to worry about whether we’re wearing Saks 5th Avenue or Sears.  Instead of worrying about clothing labels, he tells us to clothe ourselves with Christ.   That is, when we are baptized we take on a new identity – that of Christ who lives in us and through us by the Spirit.  Not only that, but when we put on this new uniform, everything that separates us from one another disappears.

When we exchange our old clothing for Christ, there is no longer Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female.  Instead, we’re all one in Christ.  Of course, Paul is thinking in eschatological terms.  He’s thinking about the coming reign of God, which means that those distinctions still exist in our society.  The question is – how do these distinctions reflect Christ’s presence in our lives?  If we’re one in Christ and the distinctions we create in society no longer reign, then how do we live now, before the reign of God comes in its fulness?  

In reflecting on this passage of Scripture I thought about all of the walls and barriers that exist in our world.  This past week President Obama visited the site of the Berlin Wall, which fell nearly a quarter of a century ago.  This week the Senate worked on an immigration bill that could legalize millions of people living in the country without proper documents, but at the same time building a bigger wall between our country and Mexico.  And next week, the Supreme Court will decide a number of important cases, including one that deals directly with gay marriage.  There are walls that separate us from one another, but what does being in Christ have to do with them?

This past week I’ve had the opportunity to think about walls that divide – some physical, some legal, and some traditional.  Over the past week I’ve taken several trips across Eight Mile Road.  Everyone in this area probably knows what that means.  Crossing the border from the suburbs into Detroit, or from Detroit into the Suburbs has long had a certain meaning.  North of that road line lies affluence, and below it lies crime and poverty.  One side of the line is predominantly white and below it is predominantly African American.  Yesterday there was a march down Woodward Avenue to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of Martin Luther King’s Detroit march and speech, in which he previewed his famed “I Have a Dream” speech.  Back then Detroit had around 1.6 million people, 29% of whom were African American.  Today, with the population down to 700,000, the percentage stands at 84%, the largest by far of any major U.S. city.  As we know, a significant portion of that population loss in Detroit moved north across Eight Mile into the suburbs.

Fifty years after that speech heralding a new day for Detroit and America, there is still much suspicion of the other on both sides of the line.  So, how do we build bridges?  

  Motown Mission and Gospel in Action Detroit, in partnership with Rippling Hope Ministries, are important efforts that seek to tear down walls and build bridges between communities.  Most of the volunteers for these mission efforts are white, and most of the people they serve will be black.  The question is – in the course of the week, will we come to see each other as equals or does one group go into the city with paternalistic understandings.  Do we go as partners or as “saviors?”  

As we put on Christ, we are called to reflect God’s love for the world and God’s passion for justice.  Where injustice is found, we hear the call to join with God in ending that injustice.  Where walls exist, we hear the call to tear them down.  And where there are divides -- we are called to build bridges.

On Wednesday Padma Kuppa and I led a conversation about building interfaith bridges.  I shared a word from 2 Corinthians 5 about being ministers of reconciliation.  That is our calling, according to Paul.  In Christ we are ambassadors of reconciliation, bringing the message that in Christ those old divisions no longer exist.  

In Galatians 3 Paul lays out three three pairs of relationships in which inequality and division exist.  In our day these three pairs don’t sound all that radical, but in his day, when people lived an incredibly stratified society, these were revolutionary words.   In that time and place women had no rights.  In many ways they were the property of their fathers or their husbands.  Of course, even Paul doesn’t seem to know exactly what to make of all this, because he tells the women in Corinth to keep quiet until they get home and ask their husbands to explain the message of the day.  I don’t think that piece of advice would go over very well here, though there are still churches that teach women to submit to their fathers and their husbands.  In fact, one famous TV evangelist just told his audience that husbands have permission from God to spank disobedient wives.

Then there’s the matter of slavery, which should need no explanation, though slavery really hasn’t disappeared as of yet.

And as far as the difference between Jew and Greek, we still struggle with ethnic identity.  Both Jew and Greek looked at the other with disdain.  To the Greeks, Jews were Barbarians, and to the Jews, Greeks were infidels.  But according to Paul none of this matters in Christ.  These ethnic distinctions no longer determine one’s value.  As that old children’s song puts it:

Jesus loves the little children
All the children of the world;
Red & yellow, black, brown & white,
They are precious in His sight;
Jesus loves the little children of the world.

I’ve gained a deeper insight to what all this means since getting involved with Motown Mission and Gospel in Action Detroit.  Each year as this effort unfolds, I’m challenged to join in building relationships with people so that we can overcome stereotypes and suspicions.  I appreciate the great lengths that Carl Zerwick goes to in making sure that the work crews don’t treat the people of the neighborhood in a paternalistic way. I’ve been amazed to see how this work is transforming lives.  I’m grateful to this congregation for supporting this growing ministry that builds a bridge between the city we once inhabited and the suburbs where this congregation currently resides.

As we put on Christ, and begin to work in partnership with God in serving one another, we claim our inheritance as descendants of  Abraham and Sarah.  Yes, in Christ, we become joint heirs with Abraham’s children, in the covenant promise, which states that through the children of Abraham and Sarah, the nations, the peoples, of the world, will be blessed (Genesis 12).  May this blessing be upon us all!  Amen

 Preached by:
Dr. Robert D. Cornwall, Pastor
Central Woodward Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
Troy, Michigan
June 23, 2013
5th Sunday after Pentecost

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Living Faithfully -- A Sermon for Pentecost 4C

Galatians 2:11-21

What does it mean to be a Christian?

Is it about going to church?  Behaving properly? Believing the right things?  Is it like being a member of a service club such as Kiwanis?  Or, is it a social club like a bridge group?

Trying to answer that question is becoming increasingly difficult.  It’s easier to say what it’s not than say what it is.  But whatever being a Christian means, the way we answer the question is changing.

For instance – there was a time in America when it was the respectable thing to belong to a church.  If you wanted to get promoted at work or run for office, you had to be a member of a church, and being the member of the right church was even better.  It was better to be an Episcopalian or Presbyterian than a Pentecostal – though it was better to be a Pentecostal than nothing at all.   

Back then, all you had to do to grow a church was open the door.  But that day has long passed.  Today, as Diana Butler Bass demonstrates, we’re asking what Christianity after Religion will look like.

In asking that question, I often turn to one of my theological heroes – Dietrich Bonhoeffer -- who called on the church to embrace the idea of discipleship.  Of course, many Christians turn to him.  In fact, it seems as if everyone whether liberal or conservative wants to claim Bonhoeffer as their own patron saint.

Why is this?  Well, his story is quite compelling.  Many consider him to be a modern martyr, because he was willing to give up his life to oppose the evil that was Hitler’s regime.  His willingness to stand up to evil, gives depth to Bonhoeffer’s understanding of Christian discipleship.

One of his most beloved books is his Discipleship.   In that book he tries to counter what he considered cheap grace.  Being a follower of Jesus has to be more than simply being a good obedient citizen of the German state -- or in our case, good American citizens.   He strongly believed that if you were a Christian that fact should change your life.

There is a sentence in his book Discipleship that I’ve quoted on many occasions.  In speaking of what it means to follow Jesus, he wrote:  “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.” These words have stood out, because Bonhoeffer lived them out.  In following Christ, he lost his life.  And yet, he also knew that in losing your life, you also gained new life.  

In Galatians 2 Paul faces the question of what it means to be righteous.  What does it mean to be a follower of Jesus?

Our reading for today begins with a story.  Paul tells us that on one occasion, when both of them were in Antioch, Paul had to oppose Peter because of his hypocrisy.  At a time when the church was trying to figure out how both Jew and Gentile could be part of the same church, eating habits became an issue.  After all, Gentiles ate certain things that Jews didn’t.  Now, Peter seems to have adopted certain Gentile eating habits, at least until some Jewish Christians came from Jerusalem.  Then Peter pulled back.  Now, Paul didn’t really care what Peter ate.  The reason he spoke out against his fellow Apostle was that Peter was sending mixed signals to the church.  The disciples in Antioch began to ask – so what should we eat?

As you can see, conflict isn’t a new thing facing the church.  Whenever we go through change, conflict seems to arise.  Of course, the church at large is facing a lot of change right now, and so there’s a good deal of conflict.

Now, our issue isn’t the kind of food we can eat.  So what word does Paul have for us today?

Reading through Galatians 2 this past week, my focus went to verse 20: “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me” (CEB).   What does it mean to be crucified with Christ? What does it mean for Christ to live in us?

You can find one clue by reading on into Galatians 3, where Paul writes that “as many of you who have been baptized have put on Christ.”  By being baptized we begin to participate in the life of Jesus, and as Romans 6 reminds us – that includes his death.   That is, “we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:4 NRSV).

In that passage from Romans, Paul gives us a beautiful picture of what happens in baptism.  As we’re buried in the waters of baptism, we die to the old self.  And as we emerge from the water, we join Jesus in his resurrection, becoming in that time and place a new creation.  From that moment on Jesus lives within us by the Spirit, and we live in Christ.   Being a Christian isn’t like joining a political party or a club.  It’s about being in relationship with Christ.  Because the church is the body of Christ, we can encounter Jesus in and through the church.  But, it’s good to remember that God is bigger than the church!    

In asking what Christianity will look like after religion, Diana Butler Bass isn’t asking a new question.  Theologians Karl Barth and Paul Tillich also asked the question.  Barth wrote that religion was grasping after God.  Religion was and is about controlling God.  During his imprisonment, Bonhoeffer also began to envision a “religionless” Christianity. He looked forward to the day when the Christian faith was no longer held captive by culture, so that Christianity could re-embrace Jesus.

If religion is about control, then faith involves trust.  Faith involves giving up that need to control God with our rules and regulations and even our doctrines.  Religion can be solid and immovable, like Luther’s Mighty Fortress.   But faith is different, because it recognizes its incompleteness and insufficiency.  As Douglas John Hall puts it: 
By definition, faith is a deficiency, a lack, a not seeing (1 Corinthians 13:12), a longing that is made even more poignant by the fact that it is – tentatively, expectantly  – in touch with the Ultimate.   (What Christianity Is Not: An Exercise in Negative Theologypg. 26).  
In other words, faith is a journey that’s not completely mapped out!

Remember how Abraham left the security of his homeland and took up the life of a nomad.  Staying home in Haran was the safe thing to do, but he put his trust in God and let God lead him to a new land.
As we allow ourselves to be crucified with Christ, we die to our need to control our destinies.  As we let Christ live in us and through us, he enables us to go out on a journey of discovery so that we can find signs of God’s presence in unexpected places.

And as we take up our ministries in the world, including our work for social justice, Christ touches the world through us.  When we advocate for regional transit, medicaid expansion, an end to gun violence, help for those facing foreclosure, or an end of human trafficking, we do so knowing that Christ lives in us and walks with us in this effort.  Or, as we go into Detroit this week to serve with Motown Mission or Gospel in Action Detroit, we do so with Christ reaching out through us.  When we serve each other in this congregation, especially when we welcome the stranger, we do so in Christ.  And when our Elders and officers take up their duties, they do so with Christ living in them and through them.

Oh, and this fall, when I’m on Sabbatical, we get to take a journey in faith together with Christ.  We may be doing different things, but we take this journey together with Christ living within us.

What does it mean to be a Christian?  Does it mean living our lives in Christ, with baptism as the seal of that promise?  And, are you ready to set out on a journey into the future with Christ, not knowing where the journey will lead?  The good news is that we’ve been made right with God, we’ve been reconciled with God, through the faithfulness of Jesus and not our ability to obey the rules and regulations.

Preached by:  
Dr. Robert D. Cornwall, Pastor
Central Woodward Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
Troy, MI 4th Sunday after Pentecost
June 16, 2013

Sunday, June 09, 2013

Receiving the Call -- A Sermon for Pentecost 3C

Galatians 1:11-24
Then the Word of the Lord came to him, saying, “Go now to Zarephath, which belongs to Sidon, and live there; for I have commanded a widow there to feed you.”  (1 Kings 17:8 NRSV).
Wouldn’t it be nice if God spoke to you, like God apparently spoke to Elijah?  As a preacher, it would be nice to stand before you each Sunday and say: “I have a direct Word from the Lord?”  Or, as Elders or Trustees or the Council, we could turn to God and say – what do you want us to do?  And then, God would send us a message from heaven, either in an audible voice or maybe as a Tweet, telling us where to go and what to do.

When it comes to a call to ministry, how do you know God is really calling you?

Twenty-eight years ago – today – I was ordained to the Christian ministry at Temple City Christian Church.  It was the culmination of a rather busy weekend that included walking across the stage and receiving my M.Div. Degree the day before.  So, here I was -- I had a degree from Fuller Theological Seminary and an ordination certificate issued by the Pacific Southwest Region of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).  I had the proper credentials, but what was next?  

Just a few weeks after I received my “ministry credentials,” Cheryl and I packed up and moved north to Eugene.  My plan was to pursue a degree in history from the University of Oregon, and then armed with my eventual Ph.D. I would settle in across the street at my alma mater – Northwest Christian College – serving the church as a professor.  Things didn’t work out quite the way I thought they would, and so a year later we moved back to Southern California.  I still had that dream of teaching and so I went back to Fuller and earned that Ph.D.   As far as I was concerned – teaching was my calling.  But, perhaps God had different ideas for my life, because that door never seemed to open up as wide as I’d hoped.  Then again, I never heard that direct Word from the Lord, like Elijah did.
I don’t think that I heard God wrong or that pursuing that Ph.D. was the wrong thing to do.  It’s just that it took awhile to discern where the focal point of my own ministry would take place.  Although I’ve enjoyed my opportunities to teach in colleges and seminary, I have also found a calling to serve God through the local church.  Although I couldn’t foresee back then that twenty-eight years later I’d end up here in Michigan, I believe this is where God has called me to serve.

We often talk about a ministerial calling, by which we usually mean a call to vocational ministry.  But, what about the majority of God’s people who don’t receive such a call – to what is God calling you?  How do you discern where God is leading you?  

This morning we were going to honor our graduates, but as it turns out they’re very busy and none of them could be present today.  So we’re postponing our celebration of their achievements for another day.  But, while they’ve each worked hard to achieve their goals and have a bright future ahead of them, they too must discern where God is leading them in life.  

Whether we’re called to vocational ministry in and through the church or out in the broader world, each of us has received a divine calling to represent Jesus Christ before the world.

The reading from Paul’s letter to the Galatians invites us to consider our own sense of calling or vocation.  Paul is writing this letter to defend his own calling to apostolic ministry.  Apparently there are some folks who are questioning his credentials.  They’re claiming that he didn’t go through proper channels, and so his ministry and authority in the church were somewhat suspect.

As you read through Galatians you might catch a hint of frustration and maybe even anger in his response.  His detractors claim that his ministry doesn’t have the proper authorization from the home office, which for us would be either Lansing or Indianapolis.

Paul doesn’t disagree with this assessment.  He just makes it clear that his was a divine calling not a human one.  While he doesn’t mention the Damascus Road here, he does claim that he received his calling directly from Jesus.  If they needed evidence of this calling, all they had to do was check out the change in his life.  He went from being the chief persecutor of the church to an apostle to the Gentiles.  In fact, like Jeremiah, God had prepared him for this calling in the womb.  It took a while for Paul to hear the call, but here he was, preaching the Gospel of Jesus.  He didn’t need a piece of paper from the home office to know that this was his calling.  In fact, instead of going to Jerusalem to get his call confirmed, he went out into the deserts of Arabia for a couple of years.  When he finally went to Jerusalem three years later, the only people he saw were Cephas (Peter) and James.

Unlike Paul, God didn’t knock me off a horse.  So how did I know?  How did Rick know?  How did Eugene James know?  Ask Eugene about his calling.  He’ll tell you he ran away from it for a lot of years!

When it comes to a call, does God call people to ministry – whether vocational or not – because of their great holiness?  Is it necessarily a person’s  ability?  Is it due to choosing the right schools to attend?

Now, I have nothing against holiness, ability, or a good education, but is that the basis upon which God chooses to use you or me in the ministry of the church?  Yes, gifts are important, but gifts are the means to the end, not the end.

I know a little bit about how this works.  You see, I didn’t go to a Disciples of Christ seminary, which made me suspect in the eyes of some Disciples.  Had I applied for the Edgar DeWitt Jones scholarship back in 1984, I doubt I would have gotten any consideration.  Now, there’s nothing wrong with a Disciples seminary, but is that the only way to go?  Did Paul need to go to seminary in Jerusalem for his ministry in Galatia to count?

Martin Luther had an answer for all of these questions.  Picking up on verse 15, he wrote of Paul’s sense of calling:
Did God call me on account of my holy life?  Or on account of my pharisaical religion?  Or on account of my prayers, fasting, and works?  Never.  Well then, it is certain that God didn’t call me on account of my blasphemies, persecutions, and oppressions.  What prompted him to call me?  His grace alone. 
Such is the case for all of us who have been called to the ordained ministry.  It is grace alone that sustains us.  But It’s not just true for those of us in this particular calling.  It’s true as well of those who are called to be Elders and leaders of this congregation.  God has chosen to use us, whatever our gifts or our backgrounds, to bring good news to the world.

According to Paul, it’s God who chooses.  We have to receive the call, and having the received the call, we must show due diligence in preparing for service in the kingdom of God.  We need to test that calling.  But it’s grace that allows us to take the step of faith.  If we believe that our ability to serve depends on our own holiness and preparation and not on the grace of God, we’ll never take that step of faith.  I believe that God has called me here to this community to serve as an ambassador of reconciliation.  I’ve taken up this call in the full knowledge that I live in grace.

So, knowing that we live and work within God’s grace, where is God leading you?

Preached by:
Dr. Robert D. Cornwall, Pastor
Central Woodward Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
Troy, Michigan
3rd Sunday after Pentecost
June 9, 2013

Sunday, June 02, 2013

Abundant Faith -- A Sermon for Pentecost 2C

Luke 7:1-10

Several weeks ago Pope Francis stirred up some more controversy.  As you may have noticed, he seems to be very good at doing this.  What caught people by surprise this time was who he included among the redeemed in Jesus.  He didn’t just include good Catholics or Christians in general.  He didn’t even stop with people who participate in the world’s great religions.  No, he didn’t stop until he included even the atheist who does good.

"The Lord created us in His image and likeness, and we are the image of the Lord, and He does good and all of us have this commandment at heart: do good and do not do evil. All of us. ‘But, Father, this is not Catholic! He cannot do good.’ Yes, he can  . . .  "The Lord has redeemed all of us, all of us, with the Blood of Christ: all of us, not just Catholics. Everyone! ‘Father, the atheists?’ Even the atheists. Everyone!" ... We must meet one another doing good. ‘But I don’t believe, Father, I am an atheist!’ But do good: we will meet one another there.”
Of course not everyone agrees with the Pope.  Surely only those who agree with us belong in the kingdom of God. If you let in atheists, then where do you draw the line?  And, when we gather at the table, shouldn’t we have a test to see who is worthy to partake?   After all, didn’t Paul condemn those who take bread and cup unworthily?  

Now Pope Francis isn’t the only religious leader to court controversy.  Jesus also was known for stirring things up.  He even found faith in unexpected places.

In fact, on several occasions Jesus was surprised by the faith shown in God by people who lived outside the boundaries of the Jewish people – his people.

Remember the Syro-Phoenician woman who taught Jesus that even though she was an outsider she could be a recipient of divine grace? (Mark 7:24-30).  

Then there’s this story of the Centurion and his servant.   He may be a worshiper of Israel’s God, but he’s also an officer in an occupying army.  That makes him an enemy of the Jewish people.

Unlike the Syro-Phoenician woman, this Centurion comes with high recommendations from the religious leaders of Capernaum.  They’re the ones who ask Jesus to heal the Centurion’s servant.  He might be part of this occupying force, but he’d paid for the building of their synagogue.

It’s quite possible that Jesus had misgivings about going to the Centurion’s home, but he heads off anyway.  As he nears the house, the Centurion sends word that since he’s unworthy of such a visit, Jesus needn’t trouble himself further. But, because he understands the principle of chain of command, all Jesus needs to do is say the word and his servant will be healed.  

When he hears the Centurion’s message, Jesus turns to the crowd and tells them that he hadn’t seen such faith even among his own people, the people of Israel.  In other words, once again someone from the outside had revealed the nature of true faith.

We may miss the importance of Jesus’ response, because we have a tendency, as Christians, to think that we have a corner on the truth.  Maybe you don’t think this way, but it’s an easy trap to fall into.  In our eagerness to defend our faith we can close our ears to voices from outside the community, and in doing this
we may miss the point that for God “truth” is love.

Theologian Douglas John Hall points out that we can’t “possess truth” or own it but we can be oriented toward it when “our fallen creaturely orientation is righted and we are, in some measure, turned by the divine Spirit towards God and therefore, when we in some measure, mirror God, we are turned also and simultaneously towards Truth, for God’s word is Truth. (What Christianity Is Not: An Exercise in 'Negative' Theologypp. 143-144).

At one time in my life when I thought I possessed the Truth.  Yes, I was rather narrow-minded during my late teens!  There’s no way I could have envisioned that some day I would get so deeply involved in interfaith work.  There were walls of Truth that needed to be defended at all costs, and there was nothing of value to be learned from those who stood outside these walls.  

Over time my “exclusiveness” has given way to a new sense of  “inclusiveness.”  I didn’t give up my faith in Jesus.  Jesus still defines my faith in God.  I didn’t even decide that Christianity is just one way among others, so that it didn’t really matter what you believed – as long as you were sincere.  What changed was my ability to see the presence of God in places I never thought possible.  As I developed a larger pool of  relationships, my theology has become less abstract and more relational.

When I went to Santa Barbara, fresh off being a theology professor, I got involved in an interfaith clergy association.  As I built relationships with other faith leaders outside the “fold,” I learned something Jesus already knew – faith can be found in rather unexpected places.  

One of these friendships was with a Rabbi.  Now, a rabbi isn’t an enemy soldier like the Centurion, but our friendship taught me important things about the presence of God.  Over the years, as Arthur and I wrote articles and worked together on numerous projects, I learned a lot about myself, my faith, and about those whose traditions are different from my own.

On one occasion I spoke to his confirmation class about how Christians understand Jews.  He asked me to speak on this subject because well-meaning Christian youth were approaching their Jewish friends hoping to convert them.  Arthur hoped I could help them understand their friends’ motivation.  On that occasion I took Brett with me.  He was probably fourteen at the time.  Arthur turned to him and asked: “do you think we Jews are going to hell because we don’t believe in Jesus?    Brett answered – “No, I don’t believe that.”  I was glad that Brett learned this lesson a lot earlier than I had!

And since I’ve moved to Troy my horizons have continued to broaden.  My friendships with Padma and Saeed, and many others, have helped me think more deeply about this question of religious truth.  What I’ve discovered is that there are many people of good faith, whose lives exhibit more fully the love and grace of Jesus,  than is true of many who call themselves Christians.  So, where does this put them in relationship to the God we worship?  

When the Pope spoke about the redeemed in Christ, he didn’t mean to say that what we believe and who believe in doesn’t matter.  I don’t think he’s even a universalist.  But he does seem to recognize the presence of Jesus in places we often discount.

A man asks Jesus:  Who is my neighbor?  And Jesus answers with the story of the Good Samaritan, which tells about how an outsider lived the faith.  On another occasion Jesus’ disciples complain that outsiders are doing work in his name and need to be silenced.  But, Jesus says – if they’re not against us, they’re for us.  (Mark 9:38-41).

When Jesus received the Centurion’s response, he recognized in it an abundance of faith.  He was even surprised by its powerful nature.

So today, as we go out into the world, where will we find unexpected expressions of faith?  How will these discoveries transform the way we envision our place in God’s mission?  How will it inform the ministries of those we will call to serve as leaders  at our Congregational Meeting later this morning?  Yes, where will Jesus find true faith?  

Preached by:
Dr. Robert D. Cornwall, Pastor
Central Woodward Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
Troy, Michigan
2nd Sunday after Pentecost
June 2, 2013