“We Are the Church” October 20, 2019
“We Are the Church”
2 Timothy 3:14-4:5/ Luke 18:1-8
In the United Methodist Church, we have chosen to celebrate the 3rd Sunday of October as Laity Sunday. It is a “time to recognize the work and the mission of all the laity – not only in the walls of the church, but in everyday lives.” So now, that’s the official explanation: “To recognize the work and the mission of all the laity.” That’s kind of funny when you consider that 90 some odd years ago when a group of Methodist men created “Laymen’s Sunday” the women of our congregations seemed to have been left out. So yes, some things have changed; and for the better I might add. But by and large, this thing we call “church” hasn’t changed structurally since John Wesley first set it up. A group of like minded folks (laity) get together and decide they would like to gather together on a regular basis to fellowship, sing hymns, and worship God. The next thing you know, these same folks, (plus a few more, maybe) are constructing a building of some sort. They’re making a church. Now, keep in mind that all kinds of decisions need to be made in a project of this sort. Everything from the color of the outside to the design of the pews and furniture has to be decided as the people are building the church. Worst of all, these decisions – the decisions for every detail, every major and minor thing – has to be made by a committee, of sorts – the laity, the lay people of the church. But they do it. Sure, there’s some discussions along the way; disagreements here and there. But in the end it is the resources and the time and the energy and the love of God by the people – the laity – that make this wonderful thing happen. Finally, a pastor or minister is brought in to lead in worship, offer the sacraments, and perform the duties asked of them. They may be wonderful or not so much, but either way they will serve the church for a few years and then, inevitably, they will move on. So if you were to ask if it makes any sense to honor a “time to recognize the work and mission of all the laity;” if you were to ask if we even need to bother, I would have to answer, “You bet we do.” You bet, because the laity is the heart of the church; the laity is the soul of the Kingdom of God on this earth.
Laity Sunday – a whole day dedicated to the people of the church. How do you summarize that in 1000 words or less? Well, you just can’t. If we were to take turns sharing stories of those we have known on our journey of faith, we’d be here a month. But I can tell you about Butch & Kathy. Now Butch & Kathy were long term members of their local Methodist church in western MT. They raised their kids in that church and kept going strong long after their kids had grown and moved away. Butch was salt of the earth. He owned a petroleum delivery service for years and finished his career as a mechanic for the county. In all things mechanical, Butch was the real deal. Of course, he was one of those that had a permanent spot on the Trustees. He had an amazing gift for perseverance. If Butch put his mind to doing something, you could bet it would get done. Anyone that will dedicate themselves to growing roses through the bitter winters of Montana knows about perseverance.
Kathy, on the other hand, was the artiste’ of the pair. She taught English, Drama, and Visual arts at the high school and, wouldn’t you know it, was the director of the church choir. Now there has got to be a special place in Heaven for choir directors. Like I said, Kathy was artistic. She was outspoken and passionate about life, but how she was able to keep her cool with the likes of us I will never know. When it was all said and done, though, she formed a choir that we all could be proud of for the glory of God. Perseverance and the belief in the goodness of the church- that’s what kept these two faithful. There were times when a certain pastor rubbed Butch the wrong way; there were plenty of times when Kathy was attacked emotionally, but they remained faithful. This church, this choir, this wonderful thing that they were a part of and had helped to build – they weren’t about to walk away. They didn’t just belong to the church. No, if you were to ask they would tell you, “We are the church!”
So for this and for the thousand other stories just like it, we celebrate the people – the laity – that make the church what it is. I won’t forget a particularly rough time when the church was getting a new pastor. Everyone was wringing their hands and worrying that the new person would destroy the church. Butch looked at me and said simply, “Pastors come and pastors go. We’re here for the long haul.”
So let’s celebrate the laity – the people that are the church. May they forever be the clear example – the shining example – of God’s Spirit that works in the world today. Like I said, we could go on forever swapping stories of folks we have known in this thing we call “The Church.” But instead, I’ll close with another thing that Butch used to say. When asked what he considered the perfect sermon, Butch would never hesitate to tell you. “About six minutes,” he’d say. “Yea, that’s about right – six minutes. No more than that.” We are the church, thanks be to God. And I think I’ve run out of time.
Amen & Shalom