A sermon delivered by Keith Herron, Pastor, Holmeswood Baptist Church, Kansas City, Mo., on September 23, 2010.
The Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost
Today, worship has a particular focus to it. We’re not focused on some obscure ancient text from the Bible or a lesson on Christian dogma. Neither is it a chance to gaze intently at our spiritual navels.
Rather it is decidedly pointed in a particular direction about God’s ever-enlarging work of renewal in the world and how God has graciously included us hoping we might play some small role in God’s grand design. Our worship today begins with exaltation of God and thoughtful listening. But our worship also includes a chance to gratefully give thanks to God for the projects we tackle together and for the partners with whom we share this community.
Worship today is pointed toward just how it is that we make commitments to God that enable to do what we say we believe. Our worship is designed to move us to the brink of ministry and the expectation that God is in our midst pointing us toward a larger life. In short, we’re celebrating God’s mission and linking it concretely to our passion.
One might ask, what do you do with the money we receive from our members? The answer is quite simple: We are an engaged body of followers of Jesus who do an eye-popping number of things around here and around the world:
At HBC, we have great partners and with our gifts, we support the Baptist Center for Ethics, Missouri Baptist Children’s Home, Cooperative Baptist Fellowship National & CBF of Missouri, Indian Fellowship of Missouri, Windermere Conference Center, The Baptist Home, and the state Baptist news journal the Word & Way. We support higher education and particularly the investment in future leadership through Central Baptist Theological Seminary and William Jewell College. We are involved in supporting the Baptist Joint Committee on Public Affairs, Robert Hall and StuMO campus ministries. We partner with Pavel Horev and the International Church that meets here, the Association of Baptist World Evangelism (supporting Steve & Sandy Aholt), and various Youth and Adult Group missions and projects including disaster relief projects. We support the ABP (Associated Baptist Press), BWA (Baptist World Alliance), Forest Avenue Women’s Shelter, and KCRM (Kansas City Rescue Mission).
We also pay our bills from the monies we receive … our heating bills in the winter and our cooling bills in the summer. In the last decade, we’ve redecorated some our oldest spaces renewing them for the next stage of the journey so they might continue to serve our needs in the future.
Recently, we’ve upgraded our various technological systems with an eye on green issues of efficiency and productivity.
We’re doing what everyone else is doing as we’re doing more with less. We’re leaner than we once were in almost every arena (who isn’t?) but we have still kept our services to the church and the community in high gear.
We have a staff that’s talented and respected and who are leaving a big footprint in their ministries here and out in the wider world.
Not only that, but we busy doing a great number of projects at Holmeswood and in our community. When I mention your place of ministry, would you raise your hand for just a moment?
Sew and Sews, Prayers & Squares, Hands on Missions/ Joplin Relief etc… Center Schools Community Partnership, Anchors, Community Chorus, Adopt a Family, Bible Fellowship Events and Projects, Holiday Market, Fall Festival, Vacation Bible School, Financial Peace University, Samaritans Purse, Children’s Missions, the Church Mouse Errand Program, CBF Mission Opportunities, Faith Community Nursing, Food Pantry, Harvesters Back Snack Program, Matthew 25 Project, Mission Waco Poverty Simulation, Pray and Play, School Supply Program, and Clothing Assistance Program
These programs aren’t about money … they’re about the resources that flow out of our identity, who we are and where we want to leave our fingerprints as we serve God and love this community.
Our text in Isaiah is a repeat of an earlier message about old things passing away and the promise that God is always working to make all things new. I love the fact that even in the dark times of gloom and disappointment, God announces, “Behold, I am making all things new.”
God is at work in the world rehabbing the old and putting a new shine on the new. And God calls us to be God’s partners in getting this done. There are lives that need the ministry of God’s people and there are needs that need to be met somehow. Some folks need the reassurance that God cares for them. Some are poor or hungry or elderly and God wants us to live as though they matter. They matter to God and because of God’s great love, they matter to us.
God has placed us in the world as caretakers (stewards) and in that role we are God’s partners in creation. While the creation stories answer the questions “Why?” (Why was the creation made?) and “Who?” (Who designed the creation?), we can only speculate why God designed the world with us as God’s partners.
Today we’re talking about our dreams for this great church. We’re thinking about the work we need to do together and dreaming of how we’re going to go about it. Let’s think about this neighborhood as our “little Eden” that we can consider our turf to tend. Let’s think about this city as our work of stewardship realizing God has placed us here to watch over it all, being the presence of Christ by being Christ’s followers. Let’s think about all the ways God wants us to move forward with ministry and to seek to reach and to touch all we can.
The great naval hero Sir Walter Drake once prayed:
“Disturb us, Lord, when we are too pleased with ourselves
when our dreams have become true because we dreamed too small.
Disturb us, Lord, to dare boldly
to venture on wider seas where storms will show Your mastery, not ours,
where in losing sight of land we shall find the start.”
Jesus told his disciples after a long night of catching nothing, “Put out into the deep.” When he said that to them we were right there in the boat with them. Simon Peter hesitated at first but then consented. And when the fishermen threw out their nets, they were so filled with fish the nets began to break.
In the past few weeks, we’ve been discussing the stories of creation and Rabbi Marc Gellman offers an insight about this kind of partnership in the spirit of Jewish Midrash in this story from his book of stories in his playful book, Does God Have a Big Toe?
Before there was anything, there was just God, a few angels, and a huge swirling glob of rocks and water with no place to go. The angels looked around and asked God, “Why don’t you clean up this mess?”
So God collected rocks from the huge swirling glob and put them together in clumps and said, “Some of these clumps of rocks will be planets and some will be stars, and some of these rocks will be … just rocks.”
Then God collected water from the huge swirling glob and put it together in pools of water and said, “Some of these pools of water will be oceans, and some will become clouds, and some of this water will be … just water.”
The angels looked around and said, “Well, God, It’s neater now, but is it finished?” And God answered, “Nope!”
On some of the rocks God placed growing things, and creeping things, and things that only God knows what they are, and when God had done all this, the angels looked around and asked God, “Is the world finished now?” And God answered, “Nope!”
God made a man and a woman from some of the water and dust and said to them, “You know, I am tired now. Please finish up the world for me … really it’s almost done.” But the man and the woman said, “We can’t finish the world alone! You have the plans and we are too little.”
“You are big enough,” God answered them. “But I agree to this. If you keep trying to finish the world, I will be your partner.”
The man and woman asked, “What’s a partner?” and God answered, “A partner is someone you work with on a big thing that neither of you can do alone. If you have a partner, it means you can never give up, because your partner is depending on you. On the days you think I am not doing enough and on the days I think you are not doing enough, even on those days we are still partners and we must not stop trying to finish the world. That’s the deal.” And they all agreed to that deal.
Then the angels asked God, “Is the world finished yet?” and God answered, “I don’t know. Go ask my partners.”
We always think of the creation story as a very old story when in truth, it’s an ongoing story that continues throughout time.
If we can accept that God is always creating, always renewing, always redecorating the world, can you also accept that God has made room for a vigorous partnership with us in order to do these things? The question is, “Will we be God’s partners?”
 Marc Gellman, Does God Have a Big Toe? Stories About Stories in the Bible, New York: HarperCollins, 1989, 1-3
Intentional interim minister at Countryside Community Church of Omaha, Nebraska, the Christian partner in the Tri-Faith Initiative, a partnership with the American Muslim Institute and Temple Israel. He is author of Living a Narrative Life, Exploring the Power of Stories (Smyth & Helwys, 2019).