Being of Service, Ecumenically

A Year of Being Kind blog – Wednesday, November 26, 2014

autumn road with leaves

Being of Service, Ecumenically

I am pleased to say that I was of service today. In a big way. In an ecumenical way.

Let me go back to the beginning. A little recap. Remember back a few weeks, when I met with Father Dennis and with several other religious leaders from the different houses of worship in Morton Grove. Father Dennis asked me whether I’d preach a sermon for this Interfaith, Ecumenical Thanksgiving Eve service. Of course, I said!

I love to preach! Absolutely love it. And with such a great text to preach from? Psalm 100 is an absolutely marvelous resource. You had better believe that I took advantage of the sermon helps and commentaries I had at my disposal.

Originally, when I first started blocking out my sermon about a week and a half ago, I had intended to preach on Psalm 100:5, “For the Lord is good and His love endures forever; His faithfulness continues through all generations.” I truly wanted to come up with a good sermon on that verse. But—as I prayed and did more and more research on this verse, I had some kind of problem. Grrr. I got nothing.

Maddening! Oooo! Here I was, on Monday morning, and I just could not write this sermon for Wednesday evening. Using Psalm 100, verse 5, that is.

On Monday morning, I finally started considering whether I might be coming at the sermon the wrong way. I read the Scripture text over again, with an open, receptive mind. And Psalm 100, verse 3, jumped out at me. “It is He who made us, and we are His; we are God’s people, and the sheep of His pasture.” Wow!! Bam!!

And the sermon almost wrote itself. Seriously. We are “All Sheep of God’s Pasture.”

I very much enjoyed preaching it, too. I hope and I pray that I was able to take the Word of God and transform it into a message that would reach hearts, trigger thoughts, and give glory to God.

God, thanks for giving me ears to hear Your voice, and a heart to continue following after You. Thanks for allowing me to serve you on the 50th anniversary of the Interfaith Ecumenical Thanksgiving Eve service here in Morton Grove.

Thanks be to God for God’s marvelous gifts to each of us, every day. Let us make each day a Thanksgiving day, and each meal a time to give thanks to God, the Shepherd of us all.


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Being of Service? In the Town Where I Work!

A Year of Being Kind blog – Tuesday, September 23, 2014

SERVE because Christ served

Being of Service? In the Town Where I Work!

The town where my church is located is Morton Grove. Great town! And, multi-cultural town, too. People of many different cultures, different languages, and different religions all living together.

I attended a planning meeting for the Interfaith Ecumenical Thanksgiving Eve Service this afternoon. Excellent introduction to a number of other ministers and religious leaders from the community. I so much appreciated it. And—this was a wonderful way of serving.

I especially was grateful that this ecumenical service is so well laid out. Since this year is the fiftieth anniversary of the Thanksgiving Eve service in Morton Grove, this celebration will be particularly poignant. Much support from the local congregations, too!

One of the people at that meeting was a representative from the Muslim Community Center, Dilnaz. She was eager to enter into the planning process. She also had a number of great ideas. We incorporated one—in particular—into the later part of the service. It involves children and youth, and will be a welcome addition to the multi-generational aspect of the service.

At the end of the meeting, friendly Dilnaz and I asked each other several questions. She is involved with a number of interfaith dialogues and outreaches in the neighboring suburbs. It turns out we both know a Presbyterian minister who also is instrumental in interfaith outreach in this area. (Yes, Dan, I’m talking about you!) I am pleased and amazed when that happens . . . when I find out that someone I’ve just met knows someone else I know.

This Muslim/Christian interfaith dialogue has been going on for some time, although a number of people are (knowingly or inadvertently) putting on the brakes. Because of the new, hardline Islamic State (IS or ISIS), I have noticed Muslim people here in the area being extra cautious in their interactions in public. I am glad that people like Dilnaz, our Muslim friend at the planning meeting, was so genuine and outgoing. Believe me when I say that I have seen reports of some hesitancy, even some downright animosity toward Muslims, in the greater Chicago metro area.

I am even more happy to see reports of some push-back. Some backlash against the hardliners in IS or ISIL. A group of British Muslim young people came up with an excellent video, and use of a hashtag: #notinmyname. This shows people throughout the world that the extremists are just that—a small, even tiny percentage of the whole of the Muslim world. You go, young people! God be with you. God be with me, too. God be with all of us!


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How to Show Love? At a Food Pantry (Feature Friday!)

A Year of Being Kind blog – Friday, February 21, 2014

feeding the community

How to Show Love? At a Food Pantry  (Feature Friday!)

Unemployment. Food stamps cut. Lack of jobs. (Sounds more and more like the daily newspaper or news website, doesn’t it?) Some people in some places already do something about it—like at the Soddy-Daisy Food Bank. The Food Bank has its beginnings in 1989. A group of people from Daisy United Methodist Church and Soddy United Methodist Church (from Soddy-Daisy, a small town about a dozen miles from Chattanooga, Tennessee) joined together. They started the Food Bank to feed about a dozen families.

From these humble beginnings, the Food Bank’s outreach and ministry to hungry families and individuals has grown; during 2013, 370 families per month received food. Six churches are now involved—including United Methodist, Baptist, Episcopal and Catholic churches. The Soddy-Daisy Food Bank is now an ecumenical ministry for the larger community. Open twice a week on Monday afternoons and Thursday mornings, the Food Bank offers foods from the major food groups (including produce!) and on Mondays the regular services of a certified nutritionist associated with the University of Tennessee.

This feature wants to focus specifically on Daisy United Methodist Church and its pastor, C. Don Jones. He considers getting involved with the local community around his church to be an important part of his larger ministry. He leads by example and encourages his church members and friends to get involved, as well. Pastor Don has had a strong commitment to the Food Bank for years, working there on a regular basis. He’s one of eighty volunteers who serve 70% of the people in northern Hamilton County, Tennessee that the USDA describes as “Food Insecure.” Every distribution day begins with prayer for the clients and the workers. About 400 orders go out each month with an estimated 1600 people being fed.

But let Pastor Don speak for himself:

September 26, 2013: “Today at the food bank we served 37 families and jump started two vehicles. One family asked me (I was wearing my Daisy UMC “ask me” shirt) if we could help with their electric bill. I told her we could. Someone told the family, ‘we say bad things about him, but he’s a pretty decent guy.’” [about which Pastor Don received additional humorous ribbing on his Facebook page.]

October 31, 2013: “Today I am thankful for the ability to help at the Food Bank and to not need its services.”

November 7, 2013: “November 1st. Food Stamps are cut to pay for bailouts of financial sector, unnecessary wars, and new subsidies to the insurance industry. This week Soddy Daisy Food Bank serves 131 families. Eight were turned away today for lack of food. Hopefully they will have something Monday. Folks, this is wrong!”

February 6, 2014: “Food Bank day. I recall the words of Dom Helder Caldera. ‘When I give food to the poor I am called a saint. When I ask why the poor have no food I am called a communist.’ His point was simple. No one wants to think about the issue.”

Few people want to think about the Food Bank (indeed, any food pantry!) until they need its services. Perhaps that’s a prudent reason to consider giving to a food pantry or related ministry near you? Give because we can. Give because people have needs. And most important, give because giving from a sincere and loving heart can be giving to the glory of God.