Sunday, July 13, 2014

Sunday's Sermon and Evangelism

Episcopalian Evangelism seems like an oxymoron to some folks. (You know what an oxymoron is: a term that is self contradictory, like "square circle" or "gourmet instant coffee"—it cancels itself out.) I think a lot of folks in the Episcopal Church (and in a lot of other churches too) have been injured and/or insulted by the wrong kind of evangelism, the shallow sort of thing that assumes one only has to agree to a few propositions, and then the evangelist can chalk up another "kill."

So we stop doing anything.

Today's Gospel focused on the Parable of the Sower (which should really be called the "Parable of the Soils"). You know the tale: same seed, but different soils, so different results. Then the sermon went into some detail about a staunch atheist whose wife was a victim of terminal cancer and the local church pitched in with meals, child care, and a lot of other help. After her death, the atheist husband eventually came to church to find out about the faith of the people who had helped his family so much.

Most of the sermons I've heard about the "Parable of the Sower" assume that the quality of the soils is unchangeable. The sower throws the seed around, hoping for something good, and some of it sprouts. I've never heard of a successful farmer who works that way. Farming (or gardening) is always a project of soil preparation. You spend your life removing rocks, fighting erosion, breaking up the crust. Seed is valuable and the sower's time is limited, so nobody wants to plant uselessly.

So I got to wondering about the atheist husband. Maybe the right way to think about it is that the good deeds of the church members were all soil preparation, two years of it. And so the man was finally ready to listen after all that time—the clods had been broken up, the rocks removed, and the sower could plant a seed with some confidence that it would sprout.

Youth Group Swimming Again

There was quite a thunderstorm last Wednesday, so we'll try again this Wednesday (July 16) @ 5:30 @ Brookside Pool

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Youth Group Overview

For the summer we're meeting on Wednesday afternoons.

June 25

We began the process of putting the Green Room back together. (That's my name for it, but it's unusually appropriate, considering the color.) There's still some work to be done.

July 2

Get together at 3:15 (our usual time) to fill water bottles for the give-away on the Fourth. St. Matthew's usually opens our parking lot for people who want to watch the fireworks, and while we usually accept donations, the water bottles will be free as long as supplies last. These will be the same bottles we used for GOBA.

July 4

Hand out water bottles in the church parking lot and help David Eisel shepherd the incoming cars. David is recovering from surgery, so we really need to lift most of the work from his shoulders.

July 9

Swimming at Brookside. This time we will meet a little later, at 5:30, and the church will cover part of the admission fee. We'll meet at the entrance to the Brookside pool.

July 23

Movie night at the church with popcorn. Not sure what movie. One suggestion is Juno. Another is a couple of the more recent movies associated with Lord of the Rings (I have a couple that I guarantee you have not seen yet!)

August 6

Biking the B&O trail. We will start at Y-Not Cycles in Lexington (that's on Rt. 42, where the trail crosses under the street) and bike to Bellville (food stop!). That's about five miles, then we return. All tree-shaded! Y-Not rents out bikes if you don't have a good one or if you don't want to transport yours.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Really Green

The youth room has gotten a new paint job and it's REALLY green! Not in the sense of environmentally aware. It's just GREEN!

Surprisingly, only the wall near the window has green paint; the rest is a reflection from that wall.

Thanks to the kids in the group and to Bob Reed, who shepherded the whole operation and taught them how to paint.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

ACCESS Help for Homeless

Craig Hovey is urging us as a church to become a "Helping" church with the ACCESS program for homeless people. This would mean that we would provide a few volunteers a few times a year (I believe he said four) to help with the program at other, larger churches.

This sounds a little scary, so the attached newspaper article should help clarify things. The article is from 2010, and a number of details have changed, but the basic concept remains the same, and the need is simply for people to be on-site through the night or to play games with children, or to take people to work.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Episcopal Outreach

I came to St. Matthew's quite recently from another tradition, and one of the terms that confused me was Outreach. We have received a generous grant from the Diocese that is specifically tagged for outreach, and we are looking for good ways to spend it, so we do need to figure out just what this thing is.

It is no secret that most Episcopal churches struggle with numbers. Our congregations, in most cases, consist of older people and and many parishes are shrinking, not growing. Each year the Diocese loses a few. So when I heard that we got some money to help with "outreach," I instantly thought of "church growth."

On the other hand, when you Google "Episcopal Outreach," you get a very different result. One church in Virginia says it well: "Grace parishioners put their faith into action, assisting the poor, the hungry, the vulnerable, the imprisoned." An example of this sort of outreach might be the food pantry hosted by our sister church in Mansfield. Though a few of the people might begin attending Grace, that's not the point. The point is that the local area is really the parish, whether the people ever show up on a Sunday morning, and the church has a responsibility to help there.

I think we need to do both kinds of outreach. Jesus said, "by their fruits you will know them," and too many churches (at least in the eyes of outsiders) are all about building their own numbers and supporting their own budget. That's one of the beautiful things about simply giving something away free, whether it's GOBA water bottles or a Shrove Tuesday dinner. There's no charge—it's a gift to you with no strings attached. You don't have to listen to a sermon to get the food at the Food Pantry. And if we keep doing this kind of outreach, honestly and joyfully, the word will get out and the community will start thinking of us as the "good guys."

On the other hand, we do need to be overt about who we are and why we're doing all this. (The GOBA bottles did have our website address.) When I was a kid I used to watch The Lone Ranger on TV, and the inevitable question, as he rode into the sunset, was "Who was that masked man?" (Perhaps that's the reason he always remained the LONE Ranger!) We need to clearly invite people to become part of our happy crowd of world-changers.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Water Bottles

Several of us (including most of the youth group) spent a couple of hours Saturday passing out water bottles at GOBA (Great Ohio Bike Adventure), which was starting from the Richland County Fairgrounds this year. The bottles had a fairly simple message: the Episcopal shield, the slogan "Love God. Love your neighbor. Change the world" and names and web addresses of all the churches in our Mission Area Council.

Yikes! I guess that means I must get back in the groove and begin updating the main web page and posting things here again.