Sunday, September 22, 2019

Homecoming Worship!

Sermon of Christ Lutheran Church, Staunton VA   
September 22, 2019
Pastor Robert McCarty

The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things. 
Galatians 5: 22-23

My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples. 
John 15: 8

Our Galatians passage sounds like a recipe for a church: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

Recipes are tricky. When Anita asked us to choose dessert recipes from one of the church’s old cook books. I had this recipe from Fredericka, our sister, who died a little over a year ago.

Southern Style Apple Pie: Beat 1 egg. Add 1/2 cup brown sugar, 1/2 cup sugar, 1/2 cup sifted flour. Mix well. Add 1 tsp vanilla, pinch of salt, 1/2 cup pecans, 2 1/2 cup cut apples. Bake 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until golden brown.

I wanted to honor Fredericka with her recipe, so I wanted to make sure I tried the recipe before I brought it here. So I made it Friday night. It was edible.  But this is our Freddy’s recipe.

Sometimes that happens with new recipes. Sometimes that happens with new churches. A Mission Starting pastor comes to a place without a Lutheran Church. Thirty years ago, Florida was a great place to mission start a Lutheran Church. A lot of retirees from Pennsylvania who did the snowbird thing. They live seven or eight months in Pennsylvania and four or five cold months in Florida. Some mission churches worked, some did not. Recipes are tricky.

I tried a piece of my test pie with a generous amount of vanilla ice cream. It felt like something was missing. Have you ever done that? Left an ingredient out of a recipe. My mother made her sugar cookies for years without orange peel. She didn’t have orange peel in her spice rack. The sugar cookies were okay. Then one year before Christmas, she was at the grocery store and decided to buy orange peel. And the cookies were so much better, she never made them without orange peel again.

Sometimes mission churches, being new are missing an ingredient. Some ingredients you will know right away if you forget them. Chocolate chip cookies without chocolate chips, you still have some sort of a cookie. Cake without sugar is something more like bread. A sandwich without bread is something altogether different.

Same is true with churches. You cannot make a church without love, and a church without kindness is something other than church. What about patience though? I can see new churches lacking patience, wanting to get off to a running start. I can see old churches lacking patience as well. You still have what you need for church, but an ingredient is missing and something is off. Like my mother’s sugar cookies without the orange peel. Lacking patience allows eagerness and anxiety to rub off some of the joy and the peace. All these ingredients work together, blend together.

Our church recipe again includes joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, a pinch of self-control and a generous cup of love.

I remember once when my sister made muffins fifteen years ago. Out of college, just moved into her own place, she made muffins from scratch. She followed the recipe. They also did not turn out pretty. Nothing like the picture, nothing like muffins out of a mix. The muffins tasted okay, looked a bit flat. Elizabeth and I took a guess that her baking powder was old. Turns out she moved her baking powder from her college apartment. New baking powder, voila, her muffins rose up, looked like muffins tasted better.

Let’s take generosity for example. Because this congregation has the benefit of the generosity of many of our previous members. D— H— taught J— B— how to tithe. Several members over the years—(list some names)—have left donations to the endowment. For best results you can’t live on old generosity, instead we mix together new and old generosity.

Does anyone here watch Guy’s Grocery Games on the Food Network? This week, Guy had four California Fire Fighters battling it out in the Flavor Town kitchen. He wanted to do a benefit, remembering all those wild fires that plagued California last year. And he knew that firefighters have to prepare food for each other, so his producers found some of the best firehouse chefs in California and let them each play his game for a different charity. Guy Ferrari challenged the chefs to make a family favorite, but each chef chose a mystery can. They took the labels off of five cans and they each had to choose one not knowing what was inside. 

One chef got mushrooms. So when she made Spicy Habanero Burger with Sweet Potato Chips, she picked up some fresh mushrooms from the produce table and mixed them with her canned mushrooms. One of the judges said to her, “that is exactly what I would want someone to do with an ingredient like mushrooms, mix in some fresh ones as well.” (paraphrased)

We in the church do just that, we mix old love with new love, grandparents and grandbabies; old friends and new couples and new friends. We do the same with kindness, like remembering when you hosted and sponsored and immigrant family a dozen years ago and then new kindness that picked up trash along the Middle river last month and helped pack 30,000 meals to go wherever there is need, like the Bahamas, just two weeks ago. Also, as I mentioned previous generosity preserved in an endowment and new generosity received in the offering plate. 

[Hold Up Recipe Card] My ingredients were good. I made two changes. The first attempt, because I made it for my family, I made with Gluten Free flour. Because I made the second pie for you folks, I went back to regular flour and I ran it through a strainer, because I don’t own a sifter. I would guess that helped. But the real game changer was the salt. My first attempt I threw the salt in with the flour and sugars and mixed it in. Because I thought the salt would help things bind together. The second time, I threw the salt on the apples because I knew the salt on the apples would bring out, pull out, the moisture and their juices. And I let the salt sit on the apples five minutes. This time when I stirred it all together, the moisture just totally changed the consistency of the batter and the mix and I knew that this would work.

I thought an ingredient was missing, but everything is right here. We have all the ingredients for our Southern Style Apple Pie on this card. Also, we have all ingredients for a great church: joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, a pinch of self-control and an overflowing cup of love.

By right here, I do not mean just mean right here in this scripture verse. I mean all the ingredients for a great church are in this room today. All the ingredients are here. I am looking at a cupboard full of joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control and love. Christ is like the salt that pulls the moisture of love and joy and kindness and generosity out of your hearth. [Bring out the chalice for Holy Communion] Christ is the ingredient that binds us all together, an overflowing cup of love. 

Just like you overflow with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness,  gentleness, and self-control and love. This cup overflows with God’s love into you.

We have a great recipe, a great church, a great God. 


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