Sunday, June 9, 2013: Pastor Steve Mechem
In the 146th Psalm, the writer pens a beautiful declaration of faith, trust and commitment. The Psalmist defines a relationship with God based upon his (or her) understanding of God.
The Psalmist praises God for being above and beyond us. Unlike earthly rulers and heroes, God does not fail, God is not frail, God is never vanquished, God does not die and disappear.
And the Psalmist praises God for being in the midst of life - as Creator and as sustainer of life. And as such, the Psalmist describes some of God's active work-
God brings justice to the oppressed;
God feeds the hungry.
God sets the prisoners free;
God opens the eyes of the blind.
God lifts up the downcast;
God watches over the strangers;
God upholds the orphan and the widow.
An interesting list of the things God does. It reminds me of Jesus' words as he declares the scope of his ministry in Luke 4. He is actually quoting from Isaiah but the words closely align with the words of the Psalmist.
From Luke 4:
When (Jesus) came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, he went to the synagogue on the sabbath day, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written:
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to let the oppressed go free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
Jesus understood his mission as fulfilling the activity of God on earth. All these activities that are in the heart of God become the mandates of Jesus' ministry. As so, rather then introducing a religion or a philosophy, Jesus set about to do the will of God - to define justice and proclaim freedom and give sight and set the oppressed free and introduce grace as a way of life.
If one simply reads the gospels, not with our church worn eyes, but like we have never read them before, one will be overcome by the compassion and mercy of Jesus. I remember, even though it is 39 years ago, the first time I read through the gospels as a follower of Jesus. I was simply overwhelmed, time and time again, at Jesus' words and actions. Unfortunately, as we become students of the Scripture, we sometimes lose the awe that comes with discovery.
As Jesus shared the mission of God's heart with the world, it was not his intention that he be the only one to do the things of God. In fact, he tells an amazing parable to remind us that as his followers we are called to do the things he did as he did the work of God.
From Matthew 25:
“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left.
Then the king will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’ And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me. ’
Wow, the implication is that the self same values of God described in Psalm 146 are to be the values of his people as thy live out their faith- feeding the poor, caring for the hurting, providing physical, spiritual and emotional support for the broken and left behind. So important is this to Jesus that he tells us when we do these things for others, we are actually doing them to Jesus himself.
Maybe this is what Jesus means when in the prayer he taught us, he says, “Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” The Kingdom comes, not as nations fall, or victories are won, but as the people who claim to be followers of Jesus live their lives in such a way that the values of Jesus which are the values of the God of Psalm 146 become a practical way of living.
“Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done…”
Imagine a continuum. On the right hand side is the word “selfishness” and this extreme edge represents a narcissistic orientation wherein a person thinks only of himself or herself and never considers the needs or feelings of others.
On the other end of the continuum, the left hand side, is the word “selflessness” and this extreme represents a life given completely to others. There is no motive for personal gain or accolade, every action and every thought is based on making a positive difference in the lives of others.
Most of us find ourselves somewhere along the continuum. None of us finds ourselves on the extreme edges, but somewhere along the path. If some of us are honest, we have to admit that we are closer to the right edge than we want to be and most of us have to confess that we are not nearly as far to the left edge as we our spirit desires.
But here is what I think defines our faithfulness. As we continue to grow in faith and knowledge of Jesus' grace and love, we move along the continuum, becoming more thoughtful and more focused on others. Obviously, it is a process. We don't naturally have the values of Jesus who mirrored the values of the God of Psalm 146. We grow in those values as we continue to follow him.
We should be able to look at ourselves and see some growth. We should be different people than we once were because we continue to grow in thoughtfulness and in the values of Jesus. I should be able to say that I am more loving now than I was10 years ago, that I am more caring now than I was 5 years ago, that I am more gracious now than I once was. Becoming a genuine person who values the values of Jesus and puts those values into practice is a process - a lifelong process.
I am convinced, that as we move, as individuals, as a community of faith, as the church universal, down the continuum toward selflessness, the Kingdom of God will become more visible because God's will is being done on earth. As men and women, boys and girls, who strive to touch others with the touch of God - in big profound ways like speaking truth to power and working for systemic change, and in small but significant ways like…
…being kind to a stranger
…helping the poor and under resourced
…giving to helping efforts like the one great hour of sharing
…caring for your neighbor
…embracing an immigrant
…giving a hand up to someone who falls down
…treating everyone with respect
…refusing to gossip, or to judge
…making room for others
…sharing of your abundance
…standing up for the bullied,
when we do things, God's will is done, on earth as it is in heaven.
Sunday, July 8, 2012 Pastor Steve Mechem
We are spending our first weeks together talking about church etiquette -proper Church behavior. We are not talking about dress, or form, or tradition. We are talking about spirit, attitude, commitment to a life of love and grace. We are using the entire chapter of the 12th chapter of Romans as our etiquette guide.
Click Here to Learn About Our New Pastor
On July 1, 2012, Rev. Stephen Mechem became the new pastor of Second Baptist Church. Steve has been an ordained American Baptist minister for 26 years, serving churches in Madison, Indiana; Rapid City, South Dakota; and Decatur, Illinois.
Steve is an innovator. Projects he initiated include establishing a sister church relationship with a church in El Salvador, developing a small group ministry, establishing a relationship between his church and a local school, and leading his church in developing a vision plan. Members of his former churches credit him with helping them to become better Christians and to experience God's grace more fully.
In his description of his ministry, Steve says, in part: “I have a passion for the Kingdom of God. As I read the Gospels, I am led to believe that Jesus initiated a Kingdom to be made up of those who choose to take Him at His word and follow His command to practice radical, unconditional love. His Kingdom grows with every kind act, every merciful moment, every decision that brings light into darkness, each and every word of encouragement; it is my deepest desire to participate in that Kingdom.”
Contact Steve at: firstname.lastname@example.org
The history of Second Baptist Church is a microcosm of the history of our nation. It has experienced the same vicissitudes. From the pioneer days of its founding in a “rough, untamed frontier town”, it has served the community through financial panics, through periods of affluence and a depression. It has adhered to the principle of individual freedom in matters of faith on which the Baptist church was founded and has long welcomed all believers in Christ to its membership and communion. Religious backgrounds vary greatly including Methodist, Presbyterian, Disciples, Lutheran, Southern Baptist, Catholic, Orthodox and Jewish backgrounds.
Learning about and reflecting on our faith are important values at Second Baptist. We bring a diversity of viewpoints to our discussions, and we welcome the opportunity to expand our thinking by listening to how others see things.
Click on the Adult Learning Opportunities link or Ministry with Children and Youth link to see more about what learning opportunities are available.
Sunday, June 2, 2013: Pastor Steve Mechem
For well over a century, Second Baptist Church has practiced “open membership”, which means that we accept your baptism from other Christian traditions.
We welcome and do not require or expect re-baptism. For those making first-time decisions of faith, we baptize by immersion. If you are interested in becoming a member of Second Baptist Church, or finding out more information about our church, please speak with the pastor or moderator after the service. You can also e-mail our pastor, Steve Mechem, at email@example.com.
8:45 -9:15 a.m. Choir practice
9:15 a.m. Children's and Adult Sunday School Classes
10:30 a.m. Worship in the Sanctuary
11:30 a.m. Coffee Fellowship
Saturday, May 18: Game Night and Silent Auction, 5:30 PM, Fellowship Hall
$12 per person; Max $25 per family to benefit Youth June Mission Trip and Green Lake Conference
Sunday, May 26, 2013: Pastor Steve Mechem
Romans 5: 1-5
Life is a process. It is a journey, a continuum, a climb that moves from plateau to plateau. One is not born with all the wisdom, discernment, skill, mental and emotional abilities needed to survive, let alone thrive in life. The necessary tools of life are developed as the journey continues.
Faith is a process. My understanding of God, God's world, God's plan, and my role in all of that is very different today after being a follower of Jesus for 39 years than it was on the day of my baptism way back in 1974, or than it was when I received my degree from Southern Seminary in 1986 or when I visited the Holy Land in 1997. While my confidence in Jesus Christ as the way, truth, and life has never faltered, many other convictions of faith have been tweaked, adjusted, dismissed or transformed. I will be honest with you and tell you I am always a little leery of people who claim that their understanding of the bible, of God, or of the life of faith never changes. It seems to me that our life, our experience, our study, our contemplation all cause adjustments to be made in our faith understanding.
According to the Apostle Paul, Hope is a process. As we heard earlier this morning, Paul writes, “we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.”
I have to admit, Paul sounds a bit touched as he writes “we boast in our suffering.” James follows the same logic as he admonishes his readers to “consider it joy when you experience trials of many kinds.” I don't know about you but I do not boast in my suffering, I do not rejoice when things go wrong, I do not shout “praise God” when I hit my thumb with a hammer. I want life to be easy, uncomplicated and pain free- and I know it does not work that way.
I also know that in the throes of struggle, when life stinks, that lessons are learned, and maturity is gained, and spiritual anchors are strengthened, and hope is discovered.
Fredrick Buechner suggests, “We are never more in touch with life than when life is painful, never more in touch with hope than we are then.”
It is in the soil of struggle that the seeds of hope are planted.
I was in San Salvador, El Salvador in August of 2001, eight months after two devastating earthquakes had decimated the central part of the country. We were walking through a huge pile of dirt and rock that used to be the Las Colinas neighborhood in the capital city. The middle class neighborhood was surrounded by tall hills until the earthquake caused the hillside to slide through the housing addition burying homes and buildings up to the second floor. 100s of homes were destroyed and almost 500 people died. By August, much of the ruble had been cleared, what was left was dirt and rock and rebar and pieces of houses sticking up through the dirt. As we were wandering around the area, a young girl who was with us, Fabiolo, about 5 years old at the time, motioned me over to where she was. She pointed to the ground, and there, in the midst of the barrenness in the epicenter of struggle and pain, a single yellow flower had emerged from the dirt. It shone in the El Salvador sun and appeared to be a reminder, that in the stark reality of struggle and pain, hope peeks through.
Hope in the rubble of a life shattered by life.
The reason that struggle is the beginning of hope is that struggle creates in us “endurance.” The Message Bible translates the word endurance as “Passionate Patience.” The idea is that we learn, in the midst of struggle, to hold on, to survive with a eye toward thriving.
My favorite football player of all time is Walter Payton. Payton, known as Sweetness, played for the Chicago Bears for thirteen seasons as a running back. During his amazing career, Sweetness rushed for 16,726 yards. Incredible. That means, during his career, Payton ran for 9 1/2 miles. That is astonishing. Even more astonishing is the fact that he was knocked down every 4.4 yards along the way. Every 12 feet, the length of the communion table, bam! down he went, only to stand back up, ready to carry the ball again. Endurance, passionate patience.
When, in the midst of struggle, as we learn to be passionately patient, we discover a new way of approaching life and its hardness- we learn to be confident, not in ourselves, and not in our circumstances, but in the reality that God is at work even in the hardest stuff. While we may not be able to say with Paul, “All things work together for good,” we can at least say, “God is at work, even in this.”
This confidence created in us by exercising passionate patience leads to an approach to life that defines our character. We trust God. We learn to trust each other. We work at doing the best we can. We respect each other. We give each other a break. We reach out to others in their struggles even as we continue to live in our own struggles. We come to expect that something good is just around the corner.
Christopher Robin, Winnie the Pooh, and Piglet are walking together one morning. Christopher Robin asks the question, “What is the first thing you think about in the morning?”
Pooh responds immediately in his pooh voice, “What's for breakfast?”
Piglet ponders, then says, “What exciting things are going to happen today.”
This confidence, which comes through passionate patience as we relate to our struggles, leads to hope. Anne Lamott says it so well, “Hope begins in the dark, the stubborn hope that if you just show up and try to do the right thing, the dawn will come. You wait and watch and work: you don't give up.”
Hope - believing that it will be all right, because God is with you. Jesus makes the promise of all promises, “I will be with you always, even to the end of the earth.”
Hope - believing that it will be all right because our present troubles are light and momentary in relation to the promises of God's presence and mercy.
Hope - believing that it will be all right because history belongs to God. I have never felt comfortable with the dreadful eschatology espoused by many Christians. I firmly believe that God is in the process of moving history to a positive result. The day will come when the Kingdoms of this world will become the Kingdoms of our God and grace and love and mercy will reign forever - in this I am hopeful.
And, as Paul tells us, “hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.”