Dear Partners in Ministry,
♦ A PURPLE TOILET was within everyone's view, including mine, as I preached three Sundays ago. I had been invited by a long time friend to preach at Asbury UMC in Delaware, Ohio, on the Sunday that the UMC Council of Bishops week-long meeting was opening in Columbus, Ohio. Asbury Church is home to many of the faculty, including my retired friend, of the Methodist Theological School of Ohio, and the President and staff from Ohio Wesleyan University located in Delaware. The sanctuary is a well-kept Victorian gem with beautiful, expansive stained glass windows. A new million-dollar organ had recently been installed and the large and superb choir sang a wonderful anthem based on Robert Browning's "God Thou Art Love." The church was full.
It was a very commodious environment....but there in plain (very "plain") view, open for business, was this purple commode......with white polka dots painted on it.
And what was the "business?"........MISSIONS.
You see, the Youth Group of the church is going on a mission trip. They need to buy materials for building and working with kids. They aren't "flush" with cash. So, they thought up the "Purple Potty Project". It's one thing to have it sitting in church (can you imagine the conversation in the Church Council when the idea bubbled up) but, even more, can you imagine the "purple potty" sitting on your front lawn....for all your neighbors to see. The "purple potty" is moveable...no plumbing needed, just a sense of humor....and mission. In order to save yourself the embarrassment of an out-house, without the house, in front of your house, the youth group would sell you an insurance policy, for a mere $15, to insure that the traveling toilet would not land on your lawn. All the proceeds are going to missions. But if you haven't gotten your insurance policy.....well....."when you least expect it....."
That Sunday my sermon title, taken straight from the lectionary reading of John 13:31-35, was "By This Everyone Will Know." Little did I know that a prime example would be sitting right there for everyone to see....."By This (purple potty) Everyone (in your town) Will Know" that you aren't supporting the youth's mission project!
Or, if you look at it the other way, what is the "by this" that our neighbors do know that we are about God's mission...in our area...and around the world? Being engaged in mission takes creativity (like those youth showed in raising mission funds) and courage (like that congregation showed in allowing that toilet to sit there) and some smiles and joy that God will give in abundance as we engage in God's mission.
LEAP INTO MISSION...during this Mission Leap Year in our Conference. See how other churches are doing it by checking out our website, www.neumc.org.
♦ 100% OF MISSION SHARES for 2010 had already been contributed by a dozen of our churches by the end of March! How is your congregation doing?
♦ ONE OF CREATION'S GREATEST SEASONS in New England is fall. It would also be a great time to plan to have small groups or Sunday School classes study "God's Renewed Creation" prepared by the Council of Bishops to help us reflect on what we are doing to God's creation and how we can be a part of it's renewal through faithful, God-centered living. Check out the excellent resources and "social networking" available at the website, www.hopeandaction.org. Invite people in your community to join you in study and action this fall.
♦ MOSQUITOES AND SERMONS In reading some of the history of the Sagamore Beach UMC in preparation for the 100th anniversary of their building, I came across this statement from a parishioner in the 1800's: "We never slept during the sermon, for, if the preacher couldn't keep us awake, the mosquitoes could and did. They fitted through the open windows along with the fragrance of purple lilacs."
Hopefully, these days, our screens and preaching are better....and the lilacs still fragrant. Stay awake to all that God is doing around us and through us as we partner in God's amazing ministry.
Grace and Peace,