Scriptures: 2 Corinthians 5:16-20 (NIV) — "The Ministry of Reconciliation" — and Matthew 25:31-36 (NIV) — "The Sheep and the Goats"
THIS IS LAITY SUNDAY!
It is a time when we honor YOU – all the Laity who serve God in this church. Some of you count money or tally the tithes and offerings; some of you create fantastic snacks for fellowship time; some of you sing in the choir; or serve in worship as ushers, acolytes; do sound and visuals, or do decorating for each of the holidays. Some of you donate your money, time or food to help ministries like Second Harvest, Hot Meals Ministry, Learning Center or Agape Café survive. We have workdays, we clean the kitchen, and then we clean the kitchen AGAIN!! Many of you will serve in worship when we call on you to speak, or read or pray; even though you may be scared to death of getting up in front of people. But you do very well.
I praise God for your gifts, your talents and how you use them. Some of you have talents that I see, but you may not even be aware you have them. I am ever so grateful for those who are serving in worship today – some voices you may not have heard before.
Let us pray. Heavenly Father: We praise you for the gifts you give us to use in Your Kingdom. Help us to use them wisely and to your glory. Bless each of us to continue with good health to serve when You call us. Lord thank you for using us to be a blessings to our Brothers and Sisters here in the Sanctuary; here on this campus; here in this community; and anywhere else you call us. In Jesus name we pray.
Would you all consider that the person sitting next to you is your brother or sister? Okay, okay, forget the other relationships involved here, yes, they are your husband or your wife, son, daughter, etc., etc., etc.
But you all know what I'm talking about. The person sitting next to you is your brother or sister in Christ, RIGHT? Can I get an AMEN!!
So you leave here today, and you're standing in the line at the grocery store – is the person in front of you or back of you, your brother or sister? Is the person who cut in front of you, to get to the head of the line, your brother or sister? Is the kid behind you, who keeps kicking you in the leg, your brother or sister? Or how about the guy who cut you off on the freeway?
Do you see where I'm going with this? The further you get from church, do the relationships change as you go out into the world? It's so easy to let that happen and we forget what Jesus calls us to do.
I'm sure that in each of your individual neighborhoods, you volunteer in schools, block parties, PTA, sports events, etc. Do you consider all those you encounter, your brothers and sisters?
We have all kinds of brothers and sisters who Christ calls us to take care of in His name. The brothers and sisters in this congregation. We pray for them in their joys, in their illness, in their grief. We embrace them, but do we embrace our brothers and sisters in the world?
I want to share a little testimony with you: While I was the Church Secretary/Office Manager aka Church Mouse, there used to be a brown and yellow van, with their bikes attached to the back, and they constantly parked in our church parking lot.
I used to get sooooo angry, how dare they park in our church parking lot. Sometimes, they were messy. Well, finally after some months, they were gone.
But, God convicted me of that judgment.
It's called – Agape Café.
Who should be two of the people who came to the first breakfasts we had at the church but these two men in their brown and yellow van. I just did my job and volunteered in the kitchen, etc.
Then we were asked to move the breakfast to the Patio Lounge, I sat with one of the men from the yellow and brown van, named Tom, who does not hear or speak, and another man, named Steven. So Tom, Steven and I sat playing war with the plastic knives, forks, and spoons and we understood each other's actions and we laughed and laughed. I learned that Tom used to be a cartoonist for Hanna Barbera and was now unemployed because of downsizing (step down, down, down). And I learned that Steven got his food from dumpsters early in the morning because stores throw out really good stuff then. I started to understand the plight of our brothers and sisters on the street. And there are so many other stories to listen to.
Some of you may remember, PJ, a pastor who worked for Grace River and who constantly used hand sanitizer. Well PJ was called to volunteer at a Skid Row soup kitchen. He could barely stand it. He could serve the food, but he felt he was not ever going to be able to hug or touch "those people", because there wasn't enough sanitizer bottles around; but he served.
PJ was then called to Skid Row a second time, and I believe God had been working in his heart. He told us that he had finally gotten up enough courage to hug one of the people. He put his brave arms forward and hugged the man. A change came over him that he will never forget, and he proceeded to hug the rest.
That lesson from PJ is the reason that I hug every person that walks through that door every Sunday morning and I call them by name. There is one lady who prefers not to be touched – and I respect that and just say good morning. She only wants one person to serve her – Jennifer. There is a trust there for some reason. One man asked me how can you hug us in our condition? I told him we all need hugs everyday, hugs warm our heart and soul, and make us feel wanted.
I won't deny that I silently pray that God protects my body from any of the diseases that abound on the streets, but I have no qualms about hugging them all.
Now I'm not boasting or bragging about this, but I am sharing how God worked in my life and how He can work in your life if you are open to it. Jesus calls us to love one another and share His promise of life eternal to all we meet. And it is so needed in these situations. I just pray now that I can sit down and have a deeper conversation about my beliefs with them.
Jesus is the Man!!! Who makes all this possible.
We learn many things from our Agape Café guests. We have learned how to help in ways with small needs and pray about the larger projects we can do to help them feel like human beings, if even for a couple of hours. One day recently I spent 4˝ hours between Pastor John translating the situation for me, and helping Lisandro get a large check cashed. But it was quite worth the time. He got his car repaired, he got his court work done and he finally has a valid Drivers License.
These are the things we can help with that can change a person's outlook and self esteem.
Now back a moment to Steven and Tom. In late July, one Sunday morning, Steven was in a great deal of pain. Tom and I took him to emergency. He was admitted but desperately wanted to leave the hospital and his stuffy room. After living on the streets for 12 years, you find it hard to be confined to the indoors.
Steven, a simple man, loves riding his bike up the street with his face to the sun, his stringy black hair flying in the wind.
But Steven was getting very agitated that they would not give him his clothing; so we left. I called the next morning to find out that he was discharged! Well actually no, he just escaped. But by Monday night he was begging to go back.
I learned a few months ago that Tom had taught Steven to draw. On that Sunday of Steven's bladder attack we had given Tom a set of drawing pads and some fine black and also colored pencils, sharpener, chalk. As you can see by the picture, he was very excited and so grateful. [show picture!]
We also told him that we had a pad of paper and pencils for Steven, but he was in no condition to receive it. About a year ago, Steven had drawn a picture with just a #2 pencil and a random piece of paper. He gave it to me. I loved it so much, I went to Michaels and had it framed. It is on the Altar Table.
So fast forward to Monday night, which found Tom and I taking Steven back to Anaheim Regional Hospital. It took much courage for Steven to step foot in that hospital. More than once he would go back outside. So he asked for his new pencils and pad of paper, because he wanted to take them to the hospital with him. Finally we got him into ER, and he was taken back.
After only 20 minutes, he came out fully clothed with prescription in hand. Went to Walgreens, turned in the prescription, with the pharmacist not understanding why this "homeless" man had no phone number, no address, and couldn't pay for the meds.
Knowing we had a special fund called Agape Homeless Project, funded by donations to the two concerts done by Vern Nelson, you made it possible for Steven to get his meds. See, you are helping your brothers and sisters in still another way.
While we were waiting for the prescription, Steven started drawing a picture, and I turned on the small overhead light so he could see. 20 minutes later he handed me this picture. He said, "This is for you, Bob." which calls me because sometimes he can't remember my name. I was honored.
Steven knows his Bible. He is the reason Agape Café has that name. Because of his seeking lists of Biblical words, I spoke one morning on LOVE and the more I studied, the more I understood God's Agape Love; and told the team we have a new name because this is what we are all about – Sharing God's Agape Love.
If I had never been a part of this ministry, I would not fully know what truly gifted men they are. There are other success stories about our Agape brothers and sisters in Christ. Three have found good jobs in the last few months, four others have found homes in which to live; and unfortunately three have died by unfortunate circumstances.
One of our next steps is to form the Laundry/Shower Ministry that you have heard me speak about and to which you have donated. See how indirectly you are helping the homeless. Sometimes I call you "Angels in Disguise". In the near future you might wish to participate in this ministry by serving a light lunch while the guests are taking showers or waiting for their clothes to be washed and dried.
I encourage you to spend some time in Agape Café, perhaps just carrying plates to our guests at their tables, or just sitting talking with them. There are some intelligent people there, there are some creative people there. They are human beings capable of and wanting to receive love, a smile, a handshake, or a hello how are you? General courtesy and acceptance. Something we all desire.
They are just like you and me except they don't have a bed to sleep in or a roof over their heads. Many of them are on the streets because of economics. Some were released from hospitals too soon. Some are not capable of anything else. Many are worth taking a chance on.
You may be transformed in your thinking and caring.
I know that I was.
As you share in any part of our ministries, whether Agape Café, Second Harvest, Hot Meals Ministry, Learning Center, try to look at these people/children as brothers and sisters in Christ because they are. Jesus calls us to care for the least, the lost and the lonely.
I fully believe if we are alive and sitting in these pews each Sunday, God is NOT finished with us yet!! Open your hearts and minds and ask Him what you can do to further His Kingdom.
Are you ready for this thought? If you read the stories about Jesus and his disciples, they WERE homeless also. Jesus knew this life and he understood its implications. Jesus is the man we all need to rely on. He knows our humanness. He gave His life for all of our sins, and I mean ALL of our sins so that we could have everlasting life.
And then what did He ask us to do??
YES, not keep it to ourselves, but to share that promise with others, and He meant EVERYONE, all our brothers and sisters. All those he died for – – – BUT they might never know it if WE don't share that beautiful promise. When has Jesus given you the strength to go on when you thought it was impossible? Fern shares Jesus with everyone she meets. Beth shares Jesus through her beautiful words that are set to music by Vern. Vern shares his beautiful music with Agape Café even if only for 15 minutes some Sundays. They appreciate it so much. Wendy fixes communion for them once a month. Ken shares his love for Jesus by sweeping the sidewalks and picking up trash. Vicki shares her love for Jesus by taking charge of the dispensing of the clothing and toiletries for Agape Café. You all share your love of Jesus in many, many ways. There are others here who share also. But have you shared it in a new way yet?
We work and share food with Hot Meal Ministry, but do we share Jesus with them personally? Do we take the time to sit down and talk with them? Do we smile at or talk with them. At the food distribution do we smile, talk with or share Jesus' Love with them, or are they just another person in line getting free food?
Pastor John has done amazing things in Agape Café. Yes, they ARE another church congregation on our campus. They get prayer before the meal, they receive communion, they hear a message, and one day, there will be those who fully accept Jesus as their Lord and Savior. And we will rejoice!!!!!!
You all have gifts and talents, no matter your age, gender or culture. Dig deep within yourself to find out how to bring that out so that others will be blessed by you through God's Holy Spirit, and trust me, you will be abundantly blessed in return. Look to Jesus example, Jesus is the Man,
Do I hear an AMEN!!!
JESUS IS THE MAN! Jesus is my man, the one I call on in times of need, when I don't understand where I am going; when I need to make a decision that seems to be insurmountable. And I've had a few of them lately.
JESUS IS THE MAN who got me through a divorce and said, it's OK, you didn't need to be there any longer.
JESUS IS THE MAN who bolsters my maternal nurturing even though I'm not sure I'm doing a good job.
JESUS IS THE MAN who gives me the strength and energy to shop for the best food purchases and then get up at 5am every Sunday – come cook and serve at Agape Café and makes my heart full because I experience sharing His love.
JESUS IS THE MAN! The Man who holds me and comforts me when another man has broken my heart and my soul is CRACKED AND UNTRUSTING AGAIN.
JESUS IS THE MAN! He calls me to love others as my brothers and sisters, HIS brothers and sisters, and I try to obey.
He calls US – the Laity of this church – you, me, all of us to take care of the least, the lost and the lonely.
Let them see Jesus in you.
He calls us to go beyond just serving the food and feeding them; He calls us to tell of His great story, His Love and Promise of eternal life.
Let them hear Jesus when you speak.
Can you just imagine the HOPE that you could give someone just by sharing the POWER of that message.
Let them SEEK Jesus in you.
There's a man named Bill waiting outside this church who so wants to be welcomed here into this family. He is not homeless, but no one has offered the words of welcome and grace to him
There is a Patricia waiting on the corner for the next bus because all she does all day long is ride the bus. She is fortunate enough to have a bus pass, but no real place to go. Can we find her a volunteer job at this church? Could we nurture her gifts and talents?
Then there is Stephawn far away from home, going to college. He has found this churchfamily by walking through those doors and is sooo excited that we are such a warm and loving group of people. He needs an extended family here in Fullerton while he is here. Can we take him under our wing?
Let's not keep that love bottled up inside these walls. God does not invite us here to worship him and then go home and not do anything about what we believed, or felt, or received.
Speak it to your neighbors, or your relatives who may not go to church, or someone you encounter who seems drawn and wants to open their heart to you.
Listen and share God's love for them,
reassure them that there is something better than they are experiencing right now and HOW Jesus Loves THEM and what He did for them as an individual.
Let them hear Jesus when you speak.
We could change the world just by sharing Jesus and His message wherever we go. Pastor John is giving us the tools to do that.
GRAB THE BRASS RING NOW AND JUMP ON THE AGAPE LOVE MERRY GO ROUND.
How many lives could be transformed, how many people would have been given a great start to a new faith, and strive for a better life because you shared Jesus and His promise?
THE BEST GIFT YOU CAN GIVE IS YOURSELF!
JESUS IS THE MAN, JESUS IS THE TRUTH, THE WAY AND THE LIGHT. ALL WHO BELIEVE IN HIM SHALL NOT PERISH BUT HAVE ETERNAL LIFE.
WOW!!!! Do I hear an AMEN!!
Let's participate in life – like Jesus is right inside us and beside us all the time because He is, YOU KNOW! LET THEM SEE HIM IN US — AMEN!