Thrive: Inclusion

Sunday’s Scripture: Ezekiel 47:21-23

The Tuskawilla UMCommunity celebrates and concludes our 2015 Thrive Stewardship Series this Sunday. Everyone is invited to bring their completed Commitment Card with them to worship this week. Following the sermon the congregation will have the opportunity to offer our commitment cards before the altar and then share in a time of prayer. You are in my prayers as you complete your commitment card. I look forward to offering mine in partnership with yours to the glory of God on Sunday.

(And if you need a commitment card, there will be extra in the Fellowship Area on Sunday morning. Ask an usher.)

Believe it or not, my Tuskawilla family, you are not the first congregation upon which I have inflicted my crazy hymn selections. With my first congregation – Inman UMC in Fayetteville, GA – I was such a ministry “greenhorn” that every time I preached I shuffled the same three or four hymns repeatedly. I do not think they minded…they loved to sing Blessed Assurance! It was with my second congregation – New Horizon Church in Haines City-Davenport – that I really grew in my knowledge of the hymnal and what I wanted to sing with the congregation.

My senior pastor, Pam, thought I was nuts.

She was right. She is right.

I recall one day Pam and I were planning worship in her office. We were brainstorming hymns to sing and I suggested Take My Life, and Let It Be as I thought it would really compliment her sermon. Very quickly Pam objected, “No; I do not sing that hymn.” Now, I had grown somewhat accustomed to rebuttal to my hymn suggestions, because sometimes they are, well, nuts. But this one? Really? We are not going to sing Take My Life?

Pam, sensing my bewilderment continued, “I do not sing that hymn because I do not want to sing those words and not mean them. Our hymns are our theology; we sing our theology. We sing our faith. And I do not want to sing a song that says take my life, moments, days, hands, feet, voice, lips, silver and gold, intellect, will, heart, love, myself and not really mean it. If I say to God, take these things, I want God to have all of them. I want to withhold nothing. And until I can apply myself consistently to that sort of offering, I do not want to make a pledge I cannot keep.”

Pam had and has a desire to give herself to God inclusively. Pam had and has an awareness that our intentions in giving do not always compute with how we actually give to God. And she wanted to make a pledge that she could keep, that she could incarnate, that she could witness. Aware of her (this) growing edge did not keep Pam from giving herself to God because she knew she would, she could, and she should work up to giving inclusively. It is a process. It is her personal investment. It was and is an act of worship and praise.

I appreciate the inclusivity our Thrive commitment cards. They provide an opportunity to explore and commit to how we will offer our prayers, presence, gifts, service, and witness to God through the ministries at Tuskawilla. Making our commitment in this way through this many facets gives us the opportunity to grow in giving inclusively – in giving our whole selves to the Lord in partnership with our church family.

With boldness I sing Take My Life, and Let It Be. I look forward to singing boldly with you on Sunday as we celebrate our commitments to God for our next ministry year together.

Prayer: “Take my will, and make it thine; it shall be no longer mine. Take my heart, it is thine own; it shall be thy royal throne. Take my love, my Lord, I pour at thy feet its treasure store. Take myself, and I will be, ever, only, all for thee.”* Amen.

*”Take My life, and Let It Be,” The United Methodist Hymnal 399.

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