I was a guest speaker today (Sunday, 10/26) at my church. Here are the passages read and my mediation.
Leviticus 19: 15-18
19:15 You shall not render an unjust judgment; you shall not be partial to the poor or defer to the great: with justice you shall judge your neighbor.
19:16 You shall not go around as a slanderer among your people, and you shall not profit by the blood of your neighbor: I am the LORD.
19:17 You shall not hate in your heart anyone of your kin; you shall reprove your neighbor, or you will incur guilt yourself.
19:18 You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against any of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD.
22:34 When the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together,
22:35 and one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him.
22:36 "Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?"
22:37 He said to him, "'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.'
22:38 This is the greatest and first commandment.
22:39 And a second is like it: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.'
22:40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets."
Does anyone wonder what those initials stand for? I’m sure many of you have seen the acronym WWJD. Does anyone know what it stands for? (Wait). What Would Jesus Do? Kind of a moral compass for us all when making a decision. But today I have a better acronym: WWJS: Where Would Jesus Shop?
You can see where I am going with this right? Where would Jesus shop? Well, he didn’t have a lot of money, so he’d have to find a reasonably priced place. Nordstrom’s and Neiman Marcus, or their equivalent would be out of the question. So I’d like to think that Jesus would shop at our Thrift Shop. And if it was the last Saturday of the month, he could fill a grocery bag and cloth all the Apostles for just $7. That is, if he knew how to pack a grocery bag just right; and the ladies of the thrift shop would certainly help him to do just that.
But the Thrift Shop is more than just a store like Macys or Kohl’s. Back in the beginning of summer, our guest pastor about clothing ourselves in love and compassion. What better place could one do that than in the thrift shop? Yes, the thrift shop does sell clothes and I’m living proof of that, but it is also a place where everyone is clothed in love. It is where, as today's old and new testament readings tell us, we love our neighbors as ourselves.
I'm sure that many of us may think of the Thrift Shop as a revenue maker for this church. And indeed the funds we have raised over the past two years have helped the church stay afloat. But I would argue that revenue is not its true purpose. The original intention might be for the thrift shop to be a money maker, as was the trash and treasure sale before it, but it has evolved and changed into much more than that. Money is a nice byproduct, but at the core, the Thrift Shop has become so much more than that. The thrift shop is community outreach. It is compassion. It is social. It is an example of Christianity at its core. It is where we cloth the community with compassion and love. It is the place where people of many different backgrounds associate with The FPCV. For them it IS The FPCV. It doesn’t matter that we don’t have a permanent pastor. The faces they see when they come; the face of Andy or Barbara or Donna K, or Pat or Kathy...the list goes on. For them, these ARE the faces of FPCV. They ARE the church.
That's a change from what we might think of as church, but then church IS all about change. Think about all the changes that have occurred here in the past year as we search for a new pastor. How we have tried new things that we would not have considered before because we had to. We are a church that is continually changing.
The thrift shop is a case in point. Things are constantly changing there. You never know what you will find there. Treasures come and go. Every time I go to volunteer there, I know I will find something new. From week to week, things change. Though we have a core set of people who work in the thrift shop, each week is different. Faces that we know and new helpers that we might not.
The same may be said for the people who come to shop. We have our “regulars”, but there are also new faces each week. We welcome the “regulars”, but we also welcome those who have never been there before. We thank them for coming and warmly tell them to come again. These shoppers have become part of our church community. It’s a change from the way we might normally think. But to love our neighbors as ourselves and to cloth them in compassion and love, we often need to change the way we think. To continue to grow and embrace our neighbors we might need to change. And change can be scary.
Think about it for a moment, Jesus certainly brought about change. A change to the way people thought. Change that scared people so much that it lead to his crucifixion. Those who were afraid of him and feared the change that he was bringing about could only call for his death, not realizing that it would only bring about a greater change.
And today is Reformation Sunday. A Sunday where specifically, we remember the change that Martin Luther brought about. Consider this, if it weren't for the change that Martin Luther initiated, we might not be here today.
Like Jesus, Martin Luther called out for change. He pointed out that every Christian has his or her own personal relationship with God, reading the Bible and worshiping in his or her own language, and praying directly to God without any one's going in between. The emphasis is on inclusiveness; not exclusiveness. Although it may not seem like it now, it was a big change in thought! Today we still need to remember that every one's personal relationship with God is different than our own. That every one's vision of being with God may be different than our own and yet is no less valid.
But back to the Thrift shop, the creation of which brought about change in this church. It may sound like I am plugging the Thrift Shop and I suppose I am, but my point is that the Thrift Shop is so much more than just a store. It has changed people's lives. I know it has changed mine. When I was unemployed and feeling useless, it gave me a purpose, as well as an inexpensive wardrobe.
For many in our community it is the first exposure they have to this church. And as I said before, not the church as a building, but as a people. For them, who the people of this church are and what this church believes in is shown in the Thrift Shop. They may never pass through the doors and into this sanctuary. Yet they know this church and its people.
I don't want to give the wrong impression here. Sunday morning worship is important. But it is not the ONLY way to experience this church or to worship. Being here on Sunday is not the only way we love our neighbors. All of this might be a change to the way we think, but as it says in our mission statement, we are a church of caring people. We do not only care only in this sanctuary, but in all walks of daily life. That is our charge; to love our neighbors as ourselves. And to do so, we might have to sometimes change the way we think.
Our neighbors might not look like us. Their definition of family may differ from ours. Their definition of a worship service may differ from ours. But they are our neighbors and we are commanded to love our neighbors as ourselves.
Just because someone does not show up on Sunday mornings does not make them any a less part of this church. While I would love to see every pew filled on a Sunday morning, we don't just have to invite people to church on a Sunday. Why don't we change the way we think about church? Why not invite our neighbors to come shop at the Thrift Shop? Or invite them to the many social events we have? There are many! The children's holiday workshops at , the women's breakfasts which are held the first Saturday of the month at the diner. Maybe one of you out there has another idea of something that this church could do to invite the community in. Don't be afraid to share your idea. Don't be afraid of change; for the church is all about change. There are so many wonderful things we do here that we can share with our neighbors that are not the traditional "churchy" things. But they are important aspects of who we are and what we are: a church of caring people. A church where we love our neighbors as ourselves. A church that is not afraid to change and evolve as the world changes.
One of my favorite Bible verses reminds us that life is a constant change and that there is a time for everything:
For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:
2 a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
3 a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
4 a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
5 a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
6 a time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
7 a time to rend, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
8 a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace.
In the case of the thrift shop, it is always a time when we can literally cloth people in our love. In our own way, be it small or big, we can change people's lives. With outreach programs we can wrap them in compassion. We must continue to show the community that we ARE a church of caring people. We cannot just focus on Sunday services. Let's let our neighbors know that we are MORE than just Sundays. That we are a caring church every day of the week and being a part of this church does not require a body in a pew on every Sunday morning. Let us show with our actions that even as we change and grow as a church we still love our neighbors as ourselves; that we will always cloth the community in love and compassion. Amen.