Sunday, August 09, 2015

sermon, "Community", by Raymond A. Foss, Patten Pioneer Days, Worship in the Park, Stetson Memorial United Methodist Church, August 9, 2015

August 9, 2015
Worship in the Park
Patten Pioneer Days
by Ray Foss
Stetson Memorial United Methodist Church


Let us be in the spirit of prayer. Almighty God, living Savior, Holy Spirit, fall down upon us now here, in worship, in prayer, in holy communion one with each other as part of this circle, as part of this family, as part of this community we call home. May this moment, this hour, be a time of renewal, of coming together as one body of believers. May this time together be holy in your sight, acknowledging our differences, the hurt we may feel, but embracing the hope we have in this community and in You, Lord.


Good Morning; I pray you have all been having a good week with all the Patten Pioneer Days activities. We’ve been awful busy. But it is a good busy, spending time with family, with our churches, and within community. We feel the greatest connection one to another at times like these.

As Pastor Ruth said at the worship service two years ago when we gathered in this space, this ultimate tabernacle, under the dome God created, “we find peace and hope in community”, no matter our circumstances.  

I know I was feeling the Holy Spirit moving on Thursday night at the “Lift My Voice Like a Trumpet” Concert and when we joined together in prayer for the addicted, for our community, and for the world.  Some of the Methocostal congregation, some of us that others call the “frozen chosen” held up their glow sticks and danced in the aisles! I pray that the Holy Spirit would be moving in a mighty way this morning as well within this time of worship.     

I would like to start out with a few questions.
-         How many here love this small town?
-         How many here are related to someone in the assembled congregation, other than immediate family who came with you?
-         How many can claim being from here, this place, not “from away”?
-         Here’s a harder one (and no, you don’t have to raise your hand), how many here have been hurt by someone here now, by our churches, by fellow Christians? How many of you haven’t forgiven them for that hurt, whether or not they asked for forgiveness or apologized? How many may have found out you hurt someone without even knowing it until later?

(Love, forgiveness, grace), (faith, hope, love), (hope, honor, community), these are all words of connection, of family, of communion, within God’s Word, in the commands of Christ, in the example He gave us, and in the words of the Good News.

            In one of the most beloved of scriptures, 1 Corinthians 13, we are told about love within community, words which teach us still how to love and what love is. We share these words of love in many weddings. How many here had these words as part of their wedding? You too?

            Well, this is a good thing, but the origin of these words is not in familial love, the love of a husband and wife as we know it. The original Greek words refer to Divine Love, to Agape Love, to the same abundant love, charity and mercy that sent Christ to the cross. The KJV translation, interestingly, is not love but charity that is the “greatest of these”. 

            When Christ tells us we are to love as He loved us in John 13:34-35, He is talking about loving sacrificially, as He loved us going to the cross for us. We must love everyone as He loved, all of our neighbors, our brothers and sisters, all of our family, our community.

            And we abide in the vine, within the family tree, as Christ describes in John 15:1-17, only so long as we follow Him and produce fruit for the kingdom, not fruit of this world. Gossip and talking behind our neighbors’ back are words of death, not words of life.

How many have ever said, “It’s a small world?” Well, it is a small world, because God made it that way.

Just a couple of Sundays ago I had a good friend from college, Diane Rush, in worship with us. She was here for the Rush Family Reunion. Someone I have known for 35 years comes from a family line from Benedicta and Patten.

And I found out not that long ago that our good friend Ann McCarthy remembers fund raisers 22 years ago for my nephew Luke Scaringi in Millinocket when he was battling brain cancer and they had to travel to Bangor for treatments.

As I thought about sharing a message on community today, I thought about the sermons of Pastor Ruth and Pastor Rodney Lord and the Jeremiah’s Corner presentations at our church.

We have to find our hope, together. We have to trust in God. We have to pull together in prayer and on purpose as one people of faith, as one community together.

No matter if you are more liberal than Bernie Sanders or more conservative than Lindsay Graham, whether  you can’t stand the word “catholic” in the  Apostle’s Creed, if speaking in tongues or being slain by the Spirit scares you, we are all part of one community, warts and all.

We need each other. We need to lean on each other in times of trial and we need to rejoice when our neighbor has good fortune. We need to pray for one another in good times and bad.

We cannot be envious; we cannot hold onto old hurts. This is a small town for better and for worse; but look around. These are the people, our sisters and brothers, who we share this walk, this moment of worship, this opportunity to praise God at the end of the Patten Pioneer Days.

Family, community, can be our strongest cord, our tightest bond, and it can be our weakest link. It can be the glue that holds us together and it can be our Achilles’ heel.

            In Patten, I think the words family and community are interchangeably, as most people are related by blood, by marriage, by work, or by friendship and we are related by our communities of faith and our belief in Jesus Christ.

            One other short story - I once knew a lady who was hurt by something her brother said in 1946. Even though they lived in the same community they never spoke again. He never apologized and she never forgave him. She lost a brother and she lost her best friend because she was his wife.

            They rekindled their friendship starting at his funeral, in 1986. That was forty years after that hurt, that schism, that open wound that never became scar tissue until that moment.

            I know some of that same kind of hurt, often unintentional, often unknown to the person who supposedly did it, exists here in Patten within and between families and within and between communities of believers. That is part of the human condition and part of why churches are called hospitals for sinners and not hotels for saints.

            And this struggle is not new. Peter even asked Christ how many times he had to forgive a brother in the faith and he was told he had to forgive seventy times seven, an infinite number of times. Like Peter, we have to forgive for ourselves and for our neighbors, even to those who seek to do us harm.

We must remember that the Lord’s Prayer asks God to “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us”. Christ meant it when he taught us that prayer.  We must forgive and we must love.

            Pastor Ruth two years ago reminded us that “we find peace and hope in community”.  Pastor Ruth also said, at the beginning of her message, that a week like this is, “a time when community comes together to celebrate a time in its history… a time when community sets aside it’s differences… it’s pain… it’s sorrow… and finds one common bond to celebrate. There is truly strength in community.” Amen.

Pastor Rodney challenged us last year when he said that, “we are to be a people of honor who find and elevate honor in others.” He went further and said, “Honor will break through our natural tendency to criticize and isolate… honor will lead us down the path of forgiveness, honor will look for a way to elevate another’s status.” Those are important words too, because he too is from this place. He knows us.

            To truly be a community, to find peace in the storms that will come, to have hope no matter what, to really be a family, to be able to combat the forces of the world, and to bring honor, we need to forgive those here and around town. We need to apologize and ask for forgiveness. We need to focus on that which unites us now and break down what divides us.  We must unite together, love as Christ did and shine our lives into the darkness.

Now is the time, now more than ever, we must work together to invite others into the circle, to find those who once were active with us and bring them back, to shine the love of Christ truly to the least, the last, the lost, so that this small town can grow and thrive in hope, in honor, in praise of our God.

            The world wants to pull us away from each other and away from God. We must cleave to God and to each other. Together this community, this family, can withstand these storms and can bear witness to Christ’s power and saving grace here and to the ends of the earth.


August 9, 2015
Worship in the Park
1 Corinthians 13:1-3
John 13:34-35
John 15:1-17
Lord’s Prayer
message: “Community”

by Raymond A. Foss
praise music led by
Stetson Memorial United Methodist Church Praise Team
Director, Chuck Loucka
opening prayer, prayer over offering, benediction
by Pastor Ruth Foss
sermon blog
meditation blog
“God’s Whisper” blog
Stetson Memorial United Methodist Church
Prayers of the People and Pastoral Prayer
and songs of praise over the offering
by Pastor Franklin Randall, Jr.
Patten Pentecostal Church
Pastor Rodney Lord’s sermon, 2014
Worship in the Park
Psalm 133
Psalm 84:5
Revelations 4:11
Revelations 5
Deuteronomy 5:16
Leviticus 19
John 4
1 Peter 3:15
Jeremiah 29:11
Romans 15:13
message by Pastor Rodney Lord
August 10, 2014
Patten Academy Park
Patten, ME
Pastor Ruth Foss’ sermon, 2013
“There is Hope in Community”
August 11, 2013
Worship in the Park
Patten Pioneer Days
Habakkuk 3:17-19 NIV

All of my poems are copyrighted by Raymond A. Foss, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015. All rights reserved. Contact me at Ray Foss for usage. See all 39,150+ of my poems at Poetry Where You Live.

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