Thursday, September 24, 2020

Welcomed as God's Children-- sermon from 9-13-20

Here is the sermon from 9-13-20: "Welcomed as God's Children".  

For the first time due to our travel arrangements, I recorded two sermons in one week.  That was a challenge.

Preaching is life-giving to me, though preaching in pandemic, in an empty sanctuary is a bit different.  The Holy Spirit continues to show up, though, so that is what keeps me going.


Rev. Deb


“Welcomed As God’s Children” 

Romans 14:1-12 (NRSV)

September 13, 2020 (15th Sunday after Pentecost)

St. Elmo UMC (FB Live)


Romans 14:1-12 (NRSV-New Revised Standard Version)


Welcome those who are weak in faith, but not for the purpose of quarreling over opinions. Some believe in eating anything, while the weak eat only vegetables. Those who eat must not despise those who abstain, and those who abstain must not pass judgment on those who eat; for God has welcomed them. Who are you to pass judgment on servants of another? It is before their own lord that they stand or fall. And they will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make them stand.

Some judge one day to be better than another, while others judge all days to be alike. Let all be fully convinced in their own minds. Those who observe the day, observe it in honor of the Lord. Also those who eat, eat in honor of the Lord, since they give thanks to God; while those who abstain, abstain in honor of the Lord and give thanks to God.

We do not live to ourselves, and we do not die to ourselves. If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord; so then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s. For to this end Christ died and lived again, so that he might be Lord of both the dead and the living.

10 Why do you pass judgment on your brother or sister? Or you, why do you despise your brother or sister? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God. 11 For it is written,

“As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me,
    and every tongue shall give praise to God.”

12 So then, each of us will be accountable to God.





For the past several weeks the focus on the messages have been “Unity”, “Life Instructions” (based on love), “Live Love”.  Prior to that, messages of “No Condemnation”….

When you look back, do you get the feeling that God has been trying to get a point across?

Maybe it just seems like a random pattern of dots to you.  Sometimes it does to me too.

However, I’m seeing a pattern and at the core of it is God’s love for you, for me.

Today’s title comes from verse 3 primarily where it says that God has welcomed them.  God has welcomed whom?  God has welcomed those who eat and those who abstain from eating.  For all are God’s children. 

The first word in today’s passage is “welcome”.  We are to welcome others.  We are not to judge others by what they do or don’t do.  We all recognize that this is easier said than done, especially when we are in a family unit or a faith community.  Sometimes the closer we become, the more difficult it becomes to judge less.  Our welcome mats get worn out and we become more fussy or picky.

Maybe, just maybe it would be good for us to stockpile some welcome mats so that when ours becomes slightly torn or tattered, we can replace it immediately with a fresh one.  It’s a thought.  It’s also an analogy.

What today’s passage allows us to think about is that we have differences.  We have differences of opinions, different ways of doing things, different backgrounds, different upbringings, etc.

When we come together with all these differences, with all this diversity, might there at times be some conflict?  Definitely.  Now, I’m not saying there is currently any conflict.  Heck, we’re not even meeting in person. 

I did, however, say last year, day 1 in the pulpit, that I knew I wasn’t perfect, that I was going to make mistakes, and that this is an ongoing learning adventure.  I know truthfully, that as a leader, I am darned if I do and darned if I don’t.  Therefore, my goal and my heart is to do whatever I do for an audience of One.  Colossians 3:17 (NIV)—“And whatever you do, whether in word or in deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”

Even so, there will be disagreement at times.  With me. With each other.  With folks in community.  With politics.  With family members.  Etc.

When those times of conflict arise, how do we respond?  How do we deal with folks?

That’s what we can take away from this passage today.

One thing to know is that responding with a calm non-anxious presence is key. 

That’s not from the passage, but it is something applicable.

Welcoming others as God’s children stems from love.  It happens because we love our neighbor.

We are to see others as God’s child, as God’s beloved child.  From my reading this past week, a quote from William Greenway, a professor at a Seminary in Texas: “Once we stop seeing another person as a child of God and view him or her instead as the personification of a sin, it becomes easy to enjoy the energy of disdain and self-righteous opposition.” (Feasting on the Word, 64)

Listen again…. With some edits.. ‘once we stop seeing another person as a child of God and view him or her instead AS ANYTHING OTHER THAN THE CHILD OF GOD THAT HE OR SHE IS, it becomes easy to enjoy the energy of disdain and self-righteous opposition.’

That’s either an OUCH or an AMEN.  Which is it for you today?!?!

In order to welcome others as God’s children, we must truly see them as God’s children.  We must love them.  We must look at ourselves and ask ourselves if there is any disdain or self-righteousness between us.  If there is, we have work to do.  Are we willing to do the work to become more like Christ?  To become transformed into living, loving, and leading like Christ?

God welcomes ALL.

Here at St. Elmo United Methodist Church, we know that.  “Y’all means all”, right?!?!  It’s not just a t-shirt slogan.  It’s not simply because we are a Reconciling Ministry Network congregation in which we truly include ALL, NO EXCEPTIONS. 

We live it.  We do. 

And we can all find ways to live it better.  There are onion layers to peel off.  Maybe not in your life you say.  Fair enough.  In my life, I can do a better job of welcoming all as God’s children.  I can continue to learn how to handle and resolve conflict.  I can allow God to heal and transform me so that I love myself so that I can love God and my neighbor. 

You may have it all figured out.  I know that for me, to live, love, and lead like Jesus is an ongoing journey.

To welcome all as God’s children IS my heart’s desire. 

I AM growing.

I HAVE learned.

When you realize that how God created someone is NOT a sin, that’s a huge learning and turning point.  When you begin to treat God’s creations as valid and worthy lives, regardless, that is huge. 

I’m still getting there.  I’m still growing.  I still make mistakes.  I still fall and fail.  As I continue to say, that’s where grace comes in.

Last week I shared the 30 days of anti-racism challenge by the General Commission on Religion and Race.  If you decided to embark on that journey, how is it going?  What has been most challenging for you as you are growing and learning?  Today’s challenge on the calendar is this: listen to a preacher from a different cultural background than your own.  With so many services on line, you can easily find that.  If you need assistance, let me know.  We have culturally diverse preachers right here in our community.  There are other Reconciling Ministry Network churches with preachers from differing cultural backgrounds. With the pandemic, I know some folks are watching more services than they have in the past, so this challenge is a fun one.

Some of you know by now, but others may not yet know that God has used some very personal things in my life to teach me how beloved and welcomed children of God are.  Even something as simple as a name became a lesson for me in welcoming a child of God, being welcomed as a child of God, and receiving grace.

When I think of being welcomed as a child of God, I think of a story very personal to me. Because the entire story isn’t mine to share, I will just say this: I am forever grateful that God, who IS love, continues to teach me about love.  God IS patient, kind, compassionate.  God, who created each of us uniquely, loves us and welcomes us.

I will also say this to you as a faith community: Thank you!  As a parent and as your pastor, thank you.  From the moment we came here, you welcomed me and my family as God’s children.  That meant much to me. From the first Sunday when Keith told me that he and the congregation had my back, I felt welcomed. More than me being welcomed, the love and acceptance offered to my son was tremendous.  He helped out at VBS last year.  He came to Christmas Eve service.  Some of you have gotten to know him through other gatherings.  The fact that you have embraced him and welcomed him has made this mom able to breathe again. 

This is what “welcomed as God’s children” is all about, isn’t it?!

We are to offer others a place, a space, for all to breathe.  A place, a space of grace, for rest, for healing, for love, of acceptance.

I have a sign in my yard, next to my St. Elmo sign that reminds me I am loved, that says “love and acceptance practiced here”.  I saw the sign in Greensboro, NC and knocked on the door of the home and inquired about it.  The homeowner treated me as a welcomed child of God and showed me love and acceptance by giving me her sign.  I got home and ordered quite a few.  I sold some at Wild Goose last year.  The sign is a way for me to show my neighbors that I welcome them.

God desires that we find a way to welcome one another, to love one another, to share spaces of grace with one another.

If you are looking for a space to get to know some folks better and to grow, on Sunday mornings there is a Zoom Sunday School class at 10 am.  If you haven’t heard about it until now, no worries.  There are 10 weeks left.  You can still join in.  The series is “Knowing Better”.  There is an event on the FB page with the zoom link. 

We grow as we study and share conversations together.

We grow as we welcome all God’s children, recognizing that “God is God of all people, even those we struggle to accept.” (Jeannette A. Good, Feasting on the Word, Year A, 67)



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