May 9, 2021   Grace. Period: The Spirit Is The Truth, by Pastor David

Grace. period: The Spirit is the Truth

My mother had a spatula, and she was not afraid to use it. This is not how the spatula looked, but this is how my mom looked at time when I was growing up. The look was scarier than the spatula really. With four boys a parent has to have that look, I think. Moms - and sometimes Dads - learn to keep things under control. Sometimes my mother tried that line, “You just wait til your father gets home” and that was sometimes scary, but the truth is that the look was enough in the late 1950’s. 

I tell you this today out of deep love and appreciation for my late mother, who had high expectations of her boys, and extraordinary grace and love. On Mothers’ Day, we celebrate all those who have mothered us, not as perfect people - but as the people they are and were - the people who raised us and dealt with us when they walked into the kitchen and found flour and pans over every inch of the kitchen floor. She took a picture of that one, so I could never deny it. 

Here she is with the four of us, me holding onto her, and her holding onto my youngest brother Richard. She really did have her hands full back then, and not a whole lot of help. 

For those of you here in the sanctuary, I have to point out the quilt that I have hanging on the pulpit. There’s another picture of her with one of her beautiful quilts on the screen. Radnor friends are here with us in the sanctuary today, so you can see this quilt. It’s called a cathedral window quilt. My mother gave it to me on the day I was ordained. She said she made it for me for when I got married, but at that point she wasn’t sure that was ever going to happen. I keep the quilt close to me as a symbol of her love and her continued presence in my life. 

It’s wonderful to have a few new mothers in our sanctuary/congregation this year. Today we give a special welcome to new members of St. Luke after the vote 2 weeks ago to merge Radnor and St. Luke Church. It’s a pleasure to have you here and I hope that you find this new spiritual home a place of real nurture for your souls. (this picture on your screens is a picture of the beautiful Radnor Church.)

We look forward to getting to know you and connect you with the ministries of our church. We thank you for your faithfulness to the church for many, many years. We know that it hasn’t always been easy, particularly in the past few years, to keep the church and congregation going. We want to hear about the strawberry socials and the ways in which Radnor church was a hub for that community. We want to hear about the history of your ministry and as we think about that ministry, we especially thank you for being our mother church. 

Your church was already over 100 years old when this church was born on this corner in Bryn Mawr. That was 144 years ago. Our churches have quite a legacy in this neighborhood and now we join forces to make our ministry stronger. We are small, but that doesn’t make our ministry any less important. 

There’s one thing I want to emphasize this morning about our ministry here at St. Luke. It has to do with the reading from I John this morning. “By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey God’s commandments. 3 For the love of God is this, that we obey God’s commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome, 4 for whatever is born of God conquers the world.”

John insists that the love of God is shown in loving each other, but in this passage John also says that we respond to God’s grace by obeying God’s commandments - which are to love God with all our heart, soul and mind, and our neighbor as ourself. 

That made me think about something else though that I want you to know about our church. We take our faith seriously. We try to hold it a little lightly, but we take it seriously. We commit ourselves to loving and welcoming everybody who comes through our door or who joins us on the screens. We are not real big on holding a spatula and giving dirty looks, but we take the vows of ministry seriously.

Right now, I’m leading a confirmation class with two young people in it - Marley and Vance Daggett. They will be joining the church in June. It’s not easy to run a confirmation class during the pandemic, but they will be here in person one of these weeks, helping to lead in worship, so you will get to see them again. 
What I really want to say today though is that everybody in this church has studied what Marley and Vance are studying now. We take the vows of membership seriously. Every single member of this church has seriously considered what it means to take the promises of membership in the United Methodist Church: Do you renounce the spiritual forces of wickedness, reject the evil powers of this world, and repent of your sin? I do.

Do you accept the freedom and power God gives you to resist evil, injustice, and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves?  I do.

Do you confess Jesus Christ as your Savior, put your whole trust in his grace, and promise to serve him as Lord, 46. in union with the church which Christ has opened to people of all ages, nations, and races? I do.
We study those vows, every one of us and figure out what they mean in our lives today. Each one of us puts these vows into our own words, to think about what it means today for us to be a minister of the gospel. So when John says, this is how to love God, we go back to these vows that our mothers and fathers took for us at our baptism, and that we took for ourselves at our baptism and/or when we joined the church for ourselves. 

People may hear and emphasize for themselves different parts of these vows. They are powerful historical promises in our faith. One of the words that particularly emphasize in this church is the word “grace.” The promise is to put our whole trust in the grace of the Living God in Christ - our whole trust in the grace at the beginning of our lives, our whole trust in the grace when we need forgiveness and renewal, our whole trust in God’s grace as we strive to be who God means us to be, even though we are constantly falling short. 
We welcome you to this journey with us. We thank you for your ministry in Spirit and truth. We trust in God’s grace to live and move in our partnership and on this path. This is God’s good news for us today - that we all receive and can trust in that grace. 

And one last thing I want to say to the Radnor members about our ministry here. We have kind of our own style of music here. We range a little more broadly than some churches from classic Christian hymns, to spirituals, to contemporary songs. We work hard to make the music and the message speak together to your souls so that we might say, “over my head, I hear music in the air, there must be a God somewhere.” And that’s what we’re singing for our responsive hymn today. Our soloists will sing it for us here in the sanctuary. Those of you at home, please sing along. For those of us gathered together, the music will be over our head, but not out of our mouths. As we hum along. 

Responsive hymn. 2148 Over My Head