21st Sunday after Pentecost --  Pledge Sunday

1st Thessalonians 2:1-8

You know, brothers and sisters, that our visit to you was not without results. We had previously suffered and been treated outrageously in Philippi, as you know, but with the help of our God we dared to tell you his gospel in the face of strong opposition. For the appeal we make does not spring from error or impure motives, nor are we trying to trick you. On the contrary, we speak as those approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel. We are not trying to please people but God, who tests our hearts. You know we never used flattery, nor did we put on a mask to cover up greed—God is our witness. We were not looking for praise from people, not from you or anyone else, even though as apostles of Christ we could have asserted our authority. Instead, we were like young children[a] among you.

Just as a nursing mother cares for her children, so we cared for you. Because we loved you so much, we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well.


 Matthew 22:34-46

The Greatest Commandment

34 Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. 35 One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: 36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” 37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’[a] 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[b] 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” 41 While the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them, 42 “What do you think about the Messiah? Whose son is he?” “The son of David,” they replied. 43 He said to them, “How is it then that David, speaking by the Spirit, calls him ‘Lord’? For he says, 44 “‘The Lord said to my Lord:
“Sit at my right hand until I put your enemies     under your feet.”’[c]45 If then David calls him ‘Lord,’ how can he be his son?” 46 No one could say a word in reply, and from that day on no one dared to ask him any more questions. The word  of God..

Merciful God, it isn’t easy for us to follow the commandments of loving. Jesus said the greatest commandment is to love God and to love our neighbors. But we have allowed misunderstanding, fear, hatred, and prejudice to cloud our spirits, turning them away from those who need our love. Sometimes, we place a test before you, asking that you prove your love to us, or we threaten not to believe in you. Please forgive us for this foolishness and stubbornness. Give us the courage to be people who will care for others. In the midst of frightening times when words of war soar to the heavens and anger seems to be the way to treat others Let us dedicate our lives in your service, always aware of your awesome love for us as we acknowledge that we have d been showered with God’s gracious love.

How do you spell Love

An expert in the Old Testament law, who probably had his own carefully constructed thesis, challenged Jesus to state "the greatest commandment." Jesus provides the bottom line of our spiritual life: "Love the Lord your God ... love your neighbor." This is the marrow of authentic Christian living. Life for now and all eternity hangs on loving God and neighbor. How do you spell love? We really spell it as we live it and express love in relationships. In that way, love may be the most misspelled word in the vocabulary of our lives. Jesus spelled love with unreserved commitment: "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind" Sometimes we put God off with installment payments and only give him piece by piece a bit of something from us, but never ourselves." Real love trusts the whole person to God, surrenders the will to God's way, and allows the mind to be guided by the mind of Christ.

Jesus rejected popular usages of love  and focused on agape to describe an authentic relationship with God and others. Agape love sacrifices self for the best interest of others. Agape love deliberately chooses the highest good. Even if you say love,

How Do You Practice Love?

Agape love acts. Jesus placed the second commandment on par with the first: "Love your neighbor as yourself." "Whoever says, 'I am in the light,' while hating a brother or sister, is still in the darkness. Jesus' response silenced the Pharisees. They found it easier to talk about love than to practice it. While they regrouped for a rebuttal, Jesus threw them a question: "What do you think of the Christ?" The possibility of agape love hangs on Jesus: "We love because he first loved us". As Son of David, he understands our difficulty with love. As Lord, he sacrificed himself to free us from sin and provide the power to love. All of life hangs on love because Love hung on the cross. What do you think about Jesus and Love. How do you spell it.  What did this all have to do with miracles.. How do you fund a miracle.. Well today is pledge Sunday.. and in my opinion, this church is a miracle in progress..

That’s where we start this week, that foundational statement of who we are and how we’re supposed to be living. The loving God part of the equation is expressed in our worship. Sing songs of praise, of the attributes of God; sing about the presence and power of the God we worship. Show images of beauty that draw our hearts toward the creator; create artwork that echoes that same beauty. Fill the space  with signs of God at work around you. Something as simple as a sunset, a flower in the midst of concrete, can be a witness to the God we love with our whole being. Don’t neglect the second part, however. When Jesus says, “a second is like it,” he meant is essential to it, is a part of it. We cannot love God fully without loving neighbors. The two are inseparable in the end. So, how do we depict loving our neighbor? Let us look at the images of mission work within the congregation.  We tend to emphasis the Food and the Free lunch programs.. Those are community based and highly visible. The food pantry feeds over 150 people per month and the free lunch provides food weekly to between 20-50 people.  But do you know the other things that we do at this church? We have a very active Mission Team. We provide puzzle books to nursing homes twice a year. .We recently purchased $390.00 worth of animals to go to Heifer International.  690 Million people suffer from hunger.. Now with Covid 132 Million more are at risk.. Heifer International works in 21 countries around the world alongside local farmers and business owners to provide food and education.  A flock of chickens gives eggs, a goat gives milk to drink and make cheeses. The gift of an alpaca means a child will finally get a chance at an education, thanks to the money earned from selling the wool. Farmers that keep bees are able to harvest honey.  We have an active Pastoral Care Team.. We visit hospitals and nursing homes and provide a monthly worship service. We make phone calls daily to members and shut ins and send birthday cards and just notes asking how they are doing. We have a prayer chain that makes calls to many others when someone is in need of prayer. We have given out almost 40 prayer shawls this year.  We recently reached over 36 members with congregational calls to them. We have the Women in Christian service who support the Animal shelters in our area, the Domestic violence program, the Haven of Hope Farm, the fuel fund at our church. We support the Lay Ministry program through our Albany District which has resulted in 5 members of this church being Certified. We do a Daily Devotional sent to almost 300 people daily. We are now engaged in the Council of Churches, The Glove City Coalition and now the Neighborhood Engagement unit. We are a church full of miracles and we are a miracle..Congratulate each other and build each other up.

Today is reformation Sunday also.. Maybe it is time for our congregation to realize and claim the fact that we are a reformation. We have been able to set aside the things that get in the way of being the church as Jesus describes it, and have become the community that loves God and loves neighbors with commitment and passion. This is the way that we, as disciples and as a congregation, will press on and continue to be a church funded by people who care and support it..In Jesus name may it continue to grow and prosper.