February 15, 2015: Do you go to Church or are you the Church?

Posted on : Feb 12th, 2015 | By | Category: This Sunday's Service

Tuesday of this week, a man knocked on the door of an apartment complex in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. The apartment was occupied by three students attending the University of NC at Chapel Hill, two of whom had gotten married just six weeks earlier. As the door was opened a man shot and killed the three students, execution style. Deah Barakat, 23, was a second-year student at the University of North Carolina’s School of Dentistry; his wife, Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha, 21, was set to enroll there in the fall. The third family member was Yusor’s 19-year-old sister, Razan, a student at nearby North Carolina State University in Raleigh.

Without even knowing their names, it was obvious from the women’s head scarves that they were Muslims.

The murder of these young adults was especially painful to me in that just two days earlier in worship we had Narma Ali share with us her story and some of her faith experience as a Muslim woman. I rather guess these three young adults shared the same values as Narma. Deah, along with ten local dentists and faculty from UNC School of Dentistry, were planning on traveling to Turkey this summer to provide free dental care and relief to refugees. Deah created a YouCaring page with the UNC Dental School and the Syrian American Medical Society to help raise funds for the trip.

One of the things this incident sadly confirms for me is that there is still so much work to be done in bringing into being the realm of God “on earth as it is in heaven.” The prophet Hosea tells of a time in history when society had gone “off the rails.” He proclaims to the people of God: “Listen to the words of God…There is no fidelity or kindness, no knowledge of God throughout the land. There is only cursing, lying, murder, and infidelity – these things run rampant throughout the land, and murder follows murder.” Hosea concludes with this message from God: “I desire mercy and kindness, not religious ritual” such as the sacrifice of animals.

In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus picks up on that same theme. He asks a large group of people who came to hear him teach, “Why do you call me ‘Teacher! Teacher!’ (Rabbi, Rabbi) but don’t put into practice what I teach you?”

On this last Sunday in the Season of Epiphany – the time in the life of the church where we look at the ways that God’s love and light is revealed to us in Jesus – we will focus on “Being the Church.” Many of us refer to our participation in the Church as “going” to church. Hosea and Jesus reframe that concept for us and remind us that we are to be the Church.

Our United Church of Christ has just prepared an educational and awareness campaign called “Be The Church.” It’s a great reminder of who we are and what God requires of us.

This Sunday we will focus on how it is that we can better be the Church in the world.




~ This Sunday’s Scripture ~

Hosea 4-6

Hosea reminds the people that God desires steadfast love and faithfulness.

4: 1-3: “Listen to the words of God, Children of Israel! God accuses all you who live in the land:

There is no fidelity or kindness, no knowledge of God throughout the land. There is only cursing, lying, murder, and infidelity – these things run rampant throughout the land, and murder follows murder.

The land is mourning because of this, and all who live in it are languishing, along with the beasts of the field, the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea.”

5: 15-6: 6 God says, “I will return again to my place, until they acknowledge their guilt and seek me. In their suffering they will make haste to see me.”

“Come!” says the Prophet. “Let us return to our God – the One who has torn us apart will heal our wounds. In two days, God will bring us back to life and on the third day God will restore us so we will live in the presence of the most High God. Let us come to know God intimately, and purse that knowledge zealously. And as sure as the sun rises in the morning, God will come, and will return to us like the rains of winter, like the rains of spring that water the earth.

Oh Ephraim and Judah [figurative terms used for the two ancient Kingdoms of Israel] what am I going to do with you?

Your devotion is like the morning fog,

Like the dew of the morning that vanishes!

My judgments flash before you like lightning. For I desire kindness towards others, not sacrifice,

Acknowledgement of God, not burnt offerings.”


Luke 6: 46-49

Jesus teaches that hearers of the word should also be doers of the word.

Why do you call me “Teacher! Teacher!” (Rabbi, Rabbi) but don’t put into practice what I teach you? Those who come to me and hear my words and put them into practice – I’ll show you who they’re like: they are like the person who, in building a house, dug deeply and laid the foundation on a rock. When a flood arose, the torrent rushed against the house, but failed to shake it because of its solid foundation. On the other hand, anyone who has heard my words, but has not put them into practice, is like the person who built a house on sand, without any foundation. When the torrent rushed upon it, the house immediately collapsed and was completely destroyed.


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