Part 4: A Terrific Investment
Acts 2:1-11; 42-47
Rev. Morris Brown
I recently ran across a financial planning website that listed some “Signs You May Be Receiving Bad Investment Advice.” The website said, “You may be receiving bad investment advice if your financial planner calls and says, ‘I have some bad news, and some worse news!’ When you ask him what the bad news is, he says, ‘All your money will be gone in 24 hours.’ When you ask him what the worse news is, he says, ‘I was supposed to call you yesterday!’”
The website said, “You may be receiving bad investment advice if your financial planner calls and says, “The stock market dropped 25 percent yesterday, but I slept like a baby last night’ When you ask him what he means by that, he says, ‘I woke up every hour and cried!’”
Finally, the website said, “You may be receiving bad investment advice if you go into your financial planner’s office one day and ask him to check your balance. And he responds by trying to push you over!”
Now, I’m not a financial planner! And I would never give you bad advice. But, this morning I do want to talk with you about an investment. I want to talk with you about why making a financial investment in Christ Church through our Boundless initiative is a terrific investment for you to make. Based on this morning’s scripture let me give you five reasons.
First, an investment in Christ Church is a terrific investment because we’re a community of faith that seeks to INSPIRE people. This morning’s scripture begins with followers of Jesus who have huddled together in a room. Although they’ve encountered the risen Christ, he’s ascended into heaven. As a result, they are filled with all kinds of feelings: fear, guilt, anxiety about the future, concern about how they will face the challenges of life. And that’s when it happens. The Spirit descends on them and fills them with the energy, power and courage they need to face whatever comes their way!
Well, at Christ Church we strive to help the same thing happen for people week after week. As we gather here for worship we know they come filled with fear about situations they are facing in their lives, guilt over things that have happened, anxiety about how they will face the challenges in their lives. And so, as we worship together, as we sing songs of faith, as we offer prayers to the God who loves us, and as we read and reflect on the ancient wisdom of scripture we invite the presence and the power of the Holy Spirit to descend on them. So that when they leave this place they will feel inspired and Spirit-filled. They feel encouraged, forgiven, empowered and ready to face whatever challenges life has or will throw their way!
I recently had a conversation that reminded me of this. I was talking with a woman in our congregation who, for a variety of good reasons, hadn’t been able to be in worship for several weeks. When I told her I’d missed seeing her, she said, “Not as much as I’ve missed being there!”
I said, “What do you mean?”
“Well,” she said, “I don’t know about you, but sometimes I have a really lousy week when everything just goes wrong. I get down, frustrated and overwhelmed by the challenges I face in my life. But, then I come to worship here at Christ Church. And when I do something always seems to happen – as people greet me, as I sing and hear beautiful music, as we offer prayers, read scripture and hear the sermon, the Spirit touches me. God gives me energy, a new perspective, and hope. And so, by the time I leave I feel ready to face anything! Christ Church,” she said, “inspires me!”
That woman experiences what the followers of Jesus experienced! Christ Church is a terrific investment because we’re a church that inspire people!
Second, Christ Church is a terrific investment because we’re a community of faith that INSTRUCTS people. In other words, we’re a church that’s devoted to teaching people the ancient wisdom of our faith and the way of Jesus – who, I believe, came to show us a way to live our lives that’s healthy and whole.
Several years ago, author Anne Lamont wrote an essay entitled, “Why I Make Sam Go to Church.” In the essay, she gave several reasons why she made her son, Sam, go to church. She said, “I make Sam go to church because I want him to find what I found there - a path to walk by, and a light that can help him see.”
“A path to walk by, a light to help us see.” That’s what all of us need, isn’t it? Well, through Sunday school classes and small group opportunities that’s what Christ Church tries to give folks. We teach the wisdom of ancient scripture and help people learn spiritual practices that will enable them to live life well.
Like the early Christians who gathered to be shaped and molded by the apostle’s teaching. Christ Church is a community of faith where folks are being shaped and molded to live the kinds of lives God created us to live. Christ Church is a terrific investment because it’s a place where people find instruction!
Third, Christ Church is a terrific investment because we’re a community of faith that helps people feel less ISOLATED. The early Christians may have felt a lot of things: scared, anxious, uncertain about the future. But, there is one thing they didn’t feel. They didn’t feel isolated! They didn’t feel alone! Why? They were together!
As this morning’s scripture says the early Christians gathered together on a regular basis for worship, for learning and for support. “They had close fellowship,” the scripture says, “especially when they experienced difficult things in life that made them feel isolated and alone.”
Many of you know Patrick and Sam Harlow. A few years ago, they went through a very difficult time. A time that might have made them feel isolated and alone. But, they didn’t. Why? Take a look. (Play video). Like Patrick and Sam, like the early Christians, we all experience many kinds of ups and downs in life! And when that happens Christ Church gathers around us and says, “You are not isolated! You are not alone! We are with you! We will support you! And if we have to, we’ll carry you through this uncertain time of your life.” Christ Church is a terrific investment because we help people feel less isolated!
Fourth, Christ Church is a terrific investment because we are a community of faith that is striving to be INCLUSIVE. As we discovered again, through the tragic events that took place in New York and Colorado last week, we live in a world where people are constantly building walls of separation. A world where people have animosity for others because of their race, religion, socio-economic status or sexual orientation.
A world that reminds me of the experience two nuns had at a baseball game. During the game, there were some men sitting behind them who didn’t like Catholics and started talking down about them. In a loud voice, the first guy said, “I think we should all go to Arkansas ‘cause there aren’t many Catholics there.”
The second guy said, “I think we should all go to Oklahoma ‘cause there are even fewer Catholics there.”
The third guy said, “I think we should all go to Alaska, ‘cause there’s only a couple of Catholics there!”
Finally, one nun had had enough. She turned around, glared at the men and said, “I think you should all go to hell cause there aren’t ANY Catholics there!”
Seriously, we live in a world that’s constantly focusing on what separates us from one another. A world that focuses on what makes people different rather than the same. But, at Christ Church we’re striving to build bridges that connect people together. We’re striving to be like the early church who, as our scripture reminded us, reached out in love to all kinds of people - Parthians, Medes, Elamites, residents of Mesopotamia, Judean, Cappadocian, Asians, Egyptians, Libyans, Roman, Cretans and Arabs! We’re striving to be like the early church who in the midst of a divided world said, “There is neither Jew nor Gentile! Neither slave nor free, neither male nor female, for we are all one in Christ Jesus!” Christ Church is a terrific investment because we’re striving to be inclusive.
Finally, Christ Church is a terrific investment because we are community of faith that encourages people use their lives to make a positive IMPACT in the world. Near the end of our scripture reading we are told that the followers of Jesus shared their lives and what they had with anyone who had a need. And because they did they had a positive impact, made a difference in the lives of everyone they encountered. As a result, the Lord added to their numbers day by day. Well, Christ Church does the same thing. We encourage people to use their time, talents and lives to make a positive impact on others.
There are many ways Christ Church helps people do this – through Helping Hands for Hunger we packed 50,000 meals for hungry people a couple of weeks ago. Through our local, national and international mission teams that help suffering people put their lives back together when disaster strikes. Through our prayer shawl and Stephens Ministries that walk with folks through challenging times.
Earlier this week, however, Carolyn McKinney, our UMW president shared a letter with me that highlighted another way. It was from Dr. LaToy Kennedy, the principal of Hampton Elementary School in Greensboro. Dr. Kennedy was writing to thank the people in Christ Church who made an investment in the lives of the children of Hampton Elementary through the three-week literacy camp we ran last summer. She was also writing to tell us what a positive impact it had on the lives of the children. Here’s what she said,
“During a normal summer our students would have experienced a significant decline in their reading skills. But this summer was different. Of the 36 Hampton Elementary School students who participated in the “Summer Enrichment Program” sponsored by Christ Church, 5 showed significant growth in reading.
28 students stayed the same - meaning there was no summer slide. And of the 3 students who declined, only one showed a significant decline. As a result of your program 92% of our students did not suffer a summer slide. You had a significant impact on the students at our school. Thank you for all you do!”
Christ Church, like the early church, encourages people discover the unique gifts God has given them and then use those to have a positive difference on the lives of others. Why is Christ Church a terrific investment? We’re a church that reminds people their lives can have a positive impact on a broken world.
Earlier this week 71 families in our church gathered together to make an early investment in Christ Church through our Boundless initiative. Those families, who only represent 12% of the total families in our congregation, have already committed to invest $1.6 million in Christ Church over the next two years. They’ve gotten us 25% of the way to our goal. And that’s exciting!
What is more exciting, is that on this All Saints Sunday when we remember those who generously invested their lives in Christ Church, all of us have the opportunity to consider what generous investment God may be calling us to make in Christ Church next Sunday! To help us do that we’ve received a “generosity toolbox” in the mail. It’s filled with all kinds of tools that can help us live and give generously. One is a “gift profile guide.” I’d encourage you to take a look at it this week. I’d encourage you to find your current giving level on it, and prayerfully consider taking just one step up. Why? Your investment Christ Church is a terrific investment that will help us to take the next step in being a church that inspires people who are facing life’s challenges, instructs people instructs in way of Jesus, helps people feel less isolated, build bridges that include everyone, and move people to make a positive impact in the world!