As they hung up, Tim went to the wastebasket and retrieved the letter. He sat back in his chair. Wow! Inone day, to read that his church had drifted away from the love of God and one another, and to hear thathis church was not exactly the most loving place in town stabbed him right in the heart. Because he knewin his gut it was true. That amidst all the good things about his church they had lost the love that unitesand defines them.That letter could be sent and that phone call could be made to churches all over the world.At the heart of the letter and phone call is the church’s failure to focus on the heart of the matter, whatJesus called the greatest commandment: to love God with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength, and tolove our neighbor as ourselves.As I read that story I wondered how true it is of us. Have we lost our first love? Have we drifted awayfrom the love of God and neighbor as the heart of our life together? Amidst all the changes thiscongregation has endured, what is it that holds us together?I truly cannot think of another congregation that has been faced with the number of changes and thesignificant scope of such changes as has this congregation. It is truly astounding. The whole identity of thechurch rooted in its relationship to the seminary, then watching the seminary change so drastically, andover 40 families with connection to the seminary moving on from this congregation to other places, not tomention the hundreds of students each year who found a church home here. Then a period of significanttransition where we have been seeking to live into a new way of doing ministry. And then in February2007, the gift of over 150 Karen Christians from the other side of the world come and seek to make theirhome with us. All of these things and more, the impact of which is hard to actually put into words - it’senough to spin your head around a few times.And yet, we’re still here. What is it that is holding us together? I’m not sure exactly, but I think there issomething to be learned from that modern parable of the church with which I began. For within thatparable lies the truth about every church including our own. Whether in a time of struggle or greatsuccess, the integrity of a congregation, what holds it together, is compromised if the uniting cord is notwoven together by the love of God and the love of neighbor. The great commandment of Jesus mustalways and forever be the center of our life together.And you know, there’s freedom and joy in that truth. Because it means you don’t have to be the biggestand the best at everything to be a successful congregation. The most important thing is to do everythingpossible to be the most loving place in town.As all baseball fans know, this year brought to a close baseball’s most hallowed sanctuary, YankeeStadium. As a beloved Red Sox fan, I cannot but acknowledge that Yankee Stadium (even more thanFenway Park and Wrigley Field) has been home to more baseball greats than any other place in thehistory of the game: Ty Cobb, Joe DiMaggio, Yogi Berra, Reggie Jackson, and the list could go on. Butone player stands out above them all. Thanks to the unforgivable stupidity of Red Sox ownership in 1918,for $100,000 the Sox traded Babe Ruth to the New York Yankees, and did not win another World Seriesfor 86 years. In those 86 years, the Yankees won 26 World Series, and Yankee Stadium became known as“The House That Ruth Built.”In fact, until Boston won the World Series in 2004, it was believed they lived under “The Curse” forhaving traded the Babe to the Yankees. But “The House That Ruth Built” is closed now, and the Yankeesare moving into the 1.3 billion dollar “House That Steinbrenner (the longtime Yankee owner) Built.”The church is always “The House That Love is Building.” If anybody or anything else tries to build achurch, it will never be what it was meant to be.
Crescent Hill Baptist Churchhttp://www.crescenthillbaptistchurch.org/oldsite/sermon-10-26-08.ht2 of 515/01/2010 15:31