May 25, 2018

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Find out about the United Church of Christ and the history of this wonderful organization on our What is UCC page.

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This months Website is 

sponsored by

Gregg & Deb Griewski

 

If you would like to sponsor a month

contact the office.

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Members Login



Loaded Baked Potato Dinner Fund Raiser

Please join us for an evening of Food, Fellowship and Entertainment by PB & J, starting at 5:30. Free will donation and raffles to be drawn that evening. *Proceeds go to helping the office remodel project.

Last week's Sermon

May 20, 2018

 

Romans 8:22-27, Acts 2:1-21, & John 15:26-27, 16:4b-15

“Be cause”

I am going to date myself a little here.  How many of you remember the organization W. C. T. U.?  How many of you know what W. C. T. U. stands for?  W. C. T. U. stands for Women’s Christian Temperance Union.  It is an organization of women that was started back in 1874 devoted to social reform.  It peaked in membership in the ‘60s’ and ‘70s’ with around 250,000 members.  There was a little elderly lady who used to make the rounds to all of the country schools in the Wessington Springs area as part of the W.C.T. U.  Her task was to talk to the grade school students about the evils and the destructions of drinking and smoking. 


I have to admit that as grade school and high school students, we were not very nice to her.  Oh sure, we would sit patiently and listen to her presentation as we were taught to do.  But behind her back, she was the little old lady with a cause.  Her cause was to save us young people from the evils of drinking and smoking.  The truth is that we did not even know her story.  We just knew her cause. 


Many causes that people pick up are born out of personal tragedy.  They have been touched in some way by a tragedy and they want to work so that others do not have to go through what they are going through.  The trouble with having a cause or some issue that you are passionate about is that it seems like eventually people quit listening.  People quit taking you seriously.  You become “that person with that pet project.”


But here it is Pentecost Sunday and it falls on Mental Health Sunday.  It has been determined that in a given year, one in every four people (26.2%, according to the National Institute on Mental Health) will be affected by substance abuse or a mental illness that is severe, moderate, or mild.  Many who are affected by mental illness and their families are afraid of the stigma that comes with mental illness and suicide.  Many are afraid of being labeled as crazy or as weak minded.  After all, just think your way out of your mental illness thoughts.  As a result, many with mental illness suffer in silence and alone.  With the statistics given, there is a chance that one in four people that walk through our doors has been or is affected by a mental illness, whether as an individual or a family member of an individual dealing with a mental illness.  What do we, as a church, have to offer them?   What do we, as a church have to offer individuals and families who are dealing with the realities of mental illness and its consequences? 


One of the things that the church has to offer is hope.  For a person suffering in hopelessness, hope sounds like a pretty good thing.  Apostle Paul, in his first letter to the Corinthians states that “faith, hope, and love abide.”  Faith, hope, and love are the three pillars of our faith.  We talk a lot about and hear many sermons on faith and love, but we do not talk much about hope.  Hope is kind of like the forgotten middle child …and understandably so.  Hope is elusive.  Hope is not concrete.  It is out there …somewhere.  It is not something we can grab a hold of or see.  It is a future thing.  It may or may not come to pass.  If I am going to give something to someone, especially someone who is already dealing with a mental illness and an overwhelming sense of hopelessness already, I would like to give them something tangible …something they can hold on to, to get them through what they are currently going through. 


So, we don’t talk about hope much in the church or in the Christian faith.  When we do talk about hope in the church or relate it to our Christian faith it is usually in the context of eschatological or soteriological understandings.  Eschatological is just a big word that means talking about end time when Jesus returns to earth and God brings everything into completion …a new heaven and a new earth.  Soteriological is just another big word that means talking about salvation.


Now don’t get me wrong here.  Salvation hope and end times hope are great things.  We all hope that this life is not as good as it gets.  Here in the church and in our Christian faith, we hope for salvation and an eternity with God in all its glory whatever that might be like.  But for a parent who has lost a child to suicide brought on by a mental illness, if the only hope we have to offer is salvation and end times hope, it gives me grave concern.  As one pastor on the reservation stated, “We, in the church need to offer more hope than just a salvation hope or we are going to keep losing our young people.”  In other words, we need to offer a hope for this life, not just the next. 


In Apostle Paul’s letter to the Roman church he states, “In hope we are saved.”  Notice that he doesn’t say that salvation is our hope.  Apostle Paul says that in hope we are saved.  Hope is our salvation.  The hope that we have right here …right now is what saves us.  It is not, “in hope we will be saved.”  It is “in hope we are saved” …present tense, not future tense.  Today we experience God’s saving acts. 


Apostle Paul also recognizes that our hope is futuristic and intangible as well.  “Hope that is seen is not hope.  For who hopes for what is seen.  But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.”  Most of us can wait, but many of us have a difficult time waiting patiently.  It is a human weakness …especially in today’s age of microwaves, instant messaging and movies on demand.  Waiting patiently is not a virtue many of us have.  Apostle Paul understands that as well and reminds us that we have a helper in our weaker moments.  That helper is the presence of the very Spirit of God, strengthening us in our weakness and praying for our needs when we are at a loss for words. 


Our primary hope then remains in the presence of God, not only in the future, but in the Spirit in the here and now, knowing our struggles, strengthening us in our weaknesses, and praying for our needs.  Jesus, in the Gospel of John expands on the Spirits activities to include advocating for our needs, guiding us in truth and righteousness, comforting us in our time of sorrow, and reassuring us in our times of struggles. 


So, it appears that what we have to offer as a church and as Christians remains, if not futuristic, at least intangible.  God’s Spirit is just not one of those things we can hold in our hand and give to another person.  God’s Spirit does not come in pill form where we can say to someone, “Here, take this.  Now you have God’s Spirit in you and everything will be all better now.” 


But we do have something tangible to offer to others.  We have our presence empowered by God’s Spirit.  The story of the first Pentecost experience is a reminder to us that through the baptism of the Holy Spirit we have been empowered to be the presence of God with God’s Spirit working through us.  Not only have we been empowered by the Holy Spirit, but we have been empowered for a reason.  We have been empowered by the Holy Spirit for a cause.  Our cause is to share the love of God as exemplified in Jesus Christ to the world …to everyone. 


Baptized into the body of Christ, empowered by the Holy Spirit makes mental illness our cause …not exclusively, but rather inclusively.  Meaning, mental illness is not our exclusive cause, but rather inclusive with all the rest of the issues that put people on the margins of society or are in special need of experiencing God’s love and compassion.  The Church is the body of Christ.  We are to be the body of Christ present in the world today.  We are to live and act as Jesus Christ lived and acted; reaching out to those on the margins, offering healing to the sick, showing compassion to the hurting, lifting up the downtrodden …in short welcoming and living God’s love and compassion to all, but especially the forgotten and those on the fringes. 


How might we specifically live that out as a church?  I’m glad you asked because I knew that that was what you were thinking.  Within the United Church of Christ denomination, we might consider becoming designated as a W.I.S.E church.  A WISE church is one that is Welcoming – Inclusive – Supportive – Engaged of all persons, specifically around issues of mental illness.  It is something for us to consider as a church. 


As individuals, we can remember that God calls us to be loving and welcoming of all people.  We can be supportive and nonjudgmental of individuals and families who are dealing with issues of mental illness.  We can encourage those with mental illness to seek help and support them in their journeys.  We can be engaged in issues around mental illness by helping to break the stigma that comes with mental illness and debunking the myths around mental illness and suicide.  There is much that we can do around issues of mental illness.  It begins with awareness and education around the issue. 


Because of our baptism into the body of Christ, we have been given a cause.  Our cause is to show and live the welcome, love, and compassion to all people.  Through our baptism of the Holy Spirit we have been empowered to live out that cause.  On this Mental Health Sunday may we especially remember that individuals and family member affected by mental illness are a part of that cause.  Amen.