Over the next few weeks will be hearing testimonies from folks in the congregation. Mandy and I will model the practice using a specific formula:
It will include a personal story about the church.
It will include how one feels about the story.
It will include God or the sacred and holy in the story.
It will also include a unique quality of BFCC that is worth celebrating with the worshipping community
Finally, there will be an invitation to join the Christian movement and give generously to this place.
If you have an interest in this practice, please see me or Mandy following worship, to learn more!
35 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, 36 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.’ 37 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?
We draw on the book The Soul of Money by Lynne Twist
The book will a companion throughout the Season of Stewardship
The church is a one of a kind institution. A breeding ground for creativity that I have not found in many other places. Though, I do know it exists.
I love the church, the idea and theory behind church, what it stands for and how it seems to be the fabric of community and humanity. We can’t be fully human without each other and this is an each-other- place.
Most of you know that my parents divorced when I was five years old. It was at that age that I embodied the understanding of human brokenness. And perhaps why I have such a dark theology- meaning that I appreciate acknowledging those things that are broken because it is in those things that I find God. I know that all of us can name broken stories and experiences too. As a child, the church was a place that I could go and recognize the brokenness of others and then be broken together. A one of kind institution, for sure.
When I first came to church here, a year and a half ago, with my whole family, we brought our brokenness with us. We brought personal brokenness, but we had also just broke from a church that we knew well. A church where my children spent most of their childhood. The churches they had experienced had large programs that we could capitalize on. Also, programs that I had very thoughtfully crafted because it was my job.
I will tell this story in many different ways in the coming years because it is a good story. For now, it will go like this--- even though they had experienced the best Sunday school and youth programs could offer, it was this place that felt safe and good and loving and all that church is supposed to be.
They did not need oriental trading foam crafts or persuaded Sunday school teachers to know God. All they needed was wide open arms, warm smiles, acceptance and a knowing that they belonged in this space- exactly the way they are. The message they needed was; you matter and you are loved and we are glad you are here. This is how they would know God, if not now, eventually.
There were many mornings that my teenagers would roll out of bed and sometimes, not just roll, but be dragged. No shower, no combed hair, sweatpants and t-shirts and a little smelly. They would walk through those front doors and someone, like Mona or Leslie, even Steve would not just welcome them, but send the message that they too belonged.
I feel passionate that this place exists on the corner of Shoup and Black Forest in Northern El Paso County, home to America’s mega churches places where my children could not walk in with my family’s brokenness and be okay. Black Forest Community Church is unique. It is a niche in Northern El Paso County. Perhaps, a place that will attract only a specialized section of the population. But, that is okay, because those people will not go to the Baptist church or the Lutheran church or the Catholic church. They will want some place like this.
Children and youth don’t need to be saved by believing in Jesus, but rather saved by Jesus’ love- and love a loan.
This place, is important for many reason- but here are a few; El Paso County’s, suicide rate among youths is at an all time high- especially northern parts of the county. According to the American and Adolescent Psychiatry, suicide is the second leading cause of death of children, adolescents and young adults ages 15-24. The public school systems are competitive and cut throat and at times dangerous. I don’t have to tell you about gun violence and substance abuse in the school and the fact that our country's issues with race and poverty are showing up as symptoms in our public school systems. Our kids cannot even go into the bathrooms to be safe. Social media never gives them a break. Our youth are exhausted.
I hear the stories and learn these facts and I pray that teenagers are held in God’s Promise and that these young people have a safe place to go and be. That they might break a piece of bread and pour salt over it and feel healing. What we are doing is not enough. It is not enough in this town and it is not enough in our country.
The story I tell about our brokenness this past year and a half will change in the coming years, but for now, please know that this church
small and mighty,
opening and affirming
and deeply faithful...this church
settled on this corner in the 1930’s because it needed a community’s congregation and so did my family this year.
On world communion Sunday we are reminded of brokenness. Broken bread, and a cup poured, broken body, spilled blood, of Jesus. We remember and recognize Christians around the globe breaking their bread as a ritual of Jesus’ broken-life and in turn a reminder of their brokenness. We can’t be fully human without each other and this is an each-other-movement.
In the book The Soul of Money- section I, the author Twist spends time exploring communities that do not use money. They are an each-other-community. One of the communities is deep in the Amazon. She says: While for us, money is a significant influencer, for them, it is the forces of nature and their relationship with one another and the forest- but they had no relationship with money. Reciprocity was the social currency. It was understood that everyone shared with everyone else and everyone took care of everyone else.
When I went to church as a child, it was a place that took care of me. It was the broken bread that reminded me that it was okay to be broken. It was the relationships that taught me about God and all God’s promises. It was the church that kept me thriving and encouraged me to be generous with my time and resources. It was the spirit of reciprocity that built community in that place. It was the church that showed me how important community is. We have work to do- even for the specialized section of the population or perhaps for the whole community. God is calling us on earth as it is in heaven.
“Reciprocity was the social currency. It was understood that everyone shared with everyone else and everyone took care of everyone else.”
I have collected a lot of stuff in my almost 15 years of ministry.
Musical instruments, knick knacks, books, so many books. Lots of stuff.
wasn’t sure what I was going to do with all of it, and then Marta said, “we’ve
got a place for you.” So during a church clean-up day, this community
gathered to clean up and reorganize some space in the Old Log Church.
You found a desk, 3 bookshelves, and Cindy even Facetimed with me to
make sure you put things where I wanted them to be. I started moving in
and unpacking that next week. As I reminisced about the ministry I had
already done, and the ministry that was still to come here at BFCC, I
realized that it was true, you do have a place for me here. A place where
reciprocity is the social currency. When someone at Black Forest
Community Church needs something, this congregation takes care of each
other. This is place to see and be seen.
In our scripture text today, Jesus talks about this idea of reciprocity. “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.’” Jesus defines what it means to see and be seen. In order to meet a person’s need, you have to be able to see that they are hungry, or thirsty, naked, sick. This community saw my need for a place, and you met my need.
After unpacking over twenty boxes of stuff, I realized that I didn’t have a
scotch tape dispenser. This is a very important tool for my ministry. I hate
turning pages when I’m playing piano, so I tape my music together so that I
can see it all at once. I’m sure I couldn’t have been a successful musician
or minister without a tape dispenser. I mentioned casually that I needed to
find a tape dispenser, hiding my panic, of course. Then, the next time I
walked into my new office, there were TWO tape dispensers sitting on my
Here, it is understood that everyone shares with everyone else, and
everyone takes care of everyone else here at BFCC.
You wouldn’t think something as simple as office supplies would mean so
much. But when I look at those two tape dispensers sitting on my desk, and
I see the Kingdom of God. In the Kingdom of God, when someone needs
something, someone else who has that thing gives it to the person in need.
In the Kingdom of God, reciprocity is the social currency. In the Kingdom of
God, there is a place for everyone. A place to see and be
seen. In the Kingdom of God, there is no lack, no fear of scarcity. In fact,
it’s not just “ask and you shall receive,” instead, in the Kingdom of God, it’s
“ask and we’ll give you even more than you need.”
Here at Black Forest Community Church, I know that the gifts I have to give
Are received with gratitude and joy. Likewise, I receive immeasurable gifts
from this community. You gave me a soft place to land after a challenging
transition. A sweet little place that somehow, surprisingly has even more
than I need. I think that might be the Kingdom of God, on earth as it is in
So now is the time when we ask you to consider joining the movement at BFCC, so that we can continue to share the Kingdom of God with each other, both here in this sweet little place, and beyond our doors, out in the Black Forest and beyond. Not everyone out there needs a tape dispenser. But everyone needs something. And here, where reciprocity is the social currency, we have so much to give. It is in giving of our time, our talent, and our treasure that we begin to build God’s kingdom, on earth as it is in heaven. Let us offer all we have and are - all ages, all voices, all stories, all hearts - to God this morning.