The CHURCH OF ALL PEOPLE … imagine that. Actually, that was God’s intent… that was Jesus’ message … and perhaps that is the greatest failure of the 21st Century church. We really aren’t the church of ALL PEOPLE. I realize that it is easy for most of us to quickly respond … “I am not at fault; that’s not the way I want church to be.” But that is where church is at as the year 2017 quickly closes its last few chapters.
Now, I speak from a position of thankfulness because each of you is well aware that I continue to describe the incredible place named St. Paul’s of West Deptford as one of the most welcoming and loving churches I have ever attended, much less pastored. Even in the midst of determining the directions we need to travel, we can never forget to thank God for God’s gifts to us along the way. Each and every one of us has good reason to be thankful for our church.
I attended an amazing conference in Ohio at a church called the CHURCH OF ALL PEOPLE. They have a free store … where everything is free for whoever wants to shop for a free item. They provide meals to ALL … they have created millions of dollars of housing projects for people who could never afford their own home. People of every color worship here together. The homeless and the rich sit side by side or stand singing praise songs with each other.
My friends, as we enter this season of thankfulness and Advent, I am thankful for the ONE GOD who teaches ONE LOVE for ALL PEOPLE, aren’t you?
And there in Columbus Ohio was this woman from Pemberton, New Jersey. Her name is CarolAnne Capewell and she’s the lay leader of Pemberton United Methodist Church. She attended the conference with her pastor, Reverend William Carter III. Everywhere I looked I could see the two of them smiling. William is a good friend and a young pastor with energy who can really sing. I have never heard him preach but I bet he is good. It was great to see the two of them working together!
After a presentation on Sunday it was our turn to share … a chance to say what had been learned. CarolAnne was one of the first to speak. She trembled and her voice was tear-filled. She put her arm on William’s shoulder as she said, “It wasn’t until this conference that I realized our church has 18 paintings or pictures of a blue-eyed Jesus.” As her grip tightened on her young black pastor’s shoulder this silver-haired white church leader said, “We are going to change things when we get back to New Jersey.”
Yes, we have much to be thankful for … Jesus came for the church of ALL. We are a church that welcomes ALL. How are we going to change things as we move through a season of thanks and Advent to bring the arrival of our Savior’s clear message out to our community with clarity? Be thankful you and I have the gifts to change the world for Jesus Christ.