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Isaiah 58:2b-9; Psalm 112:1-10; 1 Corinthians 2:6-12; Matthew 5:13-20
Bigfork Community United Methodist Church
February 9, 2019 -- The Fifth Sunday After Epiphany
We celebrate a new beginning today with the founding of Scouts BSA Troop 1916. It is a new opportunity for ministry and it brings with it new minds, new hearts and a whole new direction we can hope and strive.
So it is with a new vision and new understanding that we bring into worship. We have opened our doors to the community and those who have walked through those doors have opened new avenues of service and pathways to ministry.
But this is a new day, too, in another way. Five years ago today was a Monday, and it was just about this time of day that I was sitting in my office at City Hall in Billings when Kama Hamilton Morton, our District Superintendent at the time called me.
I was about to retire from law practice. The Conference had asked me a number of times if I was ready to embark upon a more full time ministry and I kept asking them how close to Glacier Park they were talking about.
Kama asked me if I could be in Bigfork the next day to talk about the possibility of an appointment to this church. I told her yes and then went in and asked the City Attorney if I could have Tuesday and part of Wednesday off.
If you had handed me a map of the Yellowstone Conference at that time and told me I could be appointed to any church in Montana, I would have drawn a circle around Bigfork.
It went well, and I drove home the next morning, early enough to follow a school bus out its their route with all kinds of new hope in my heart and new possibilities in my head because of the new doors that had opened so suddenly.
New beginnings bring a lot of energy with them. But then, as you settle in, it becomes easy to begin to think it could be better. That is what is happening to the people of Isaiah’s day in our Hebrew Bible Reading today.
God’s chosen people are beginning to feel a bit of the blues. “Why have we fasted,” they lament, “and you have not seen it? Why have we humbled ourselves, and you have not noticed?”
They think they done so very much for their God, and their God has done so little to show any appreciation for their heroic efforts. We deserve more reward. That is their complaint.
We can talk ourselves into thinking that all the good that happens to us is the result of our admirable qualities and heroic efforts, while all the bad that befalls us is someone else’s fault. If only there were some justice in the world.
But God sees us more clearly than we see ourselves. “Your fasting ends in quarreling and strife, and in striking each other with wicked fists. You cannot fast as you do today and expect your voice to be heard on high.”
The nice thing about the work that God…or the Good…calls us to do refreshes us the way our rivers refresh Flathead Lake. A good deed is its own reward.
So we are blessed to see young people in our midst who understand that and are building on that knowledge. I also think a village is lucky to have places like churches that understand the lasting values are to be cherished, encouraged and passed on.
But you can’t pass on what you don’t have so churches, like scout troops…remain vigilant for more good things to do…for ministries they can plant and nurture…for, perhaps, a scout troop they can make a home for.
We read the scriptures for their timeless cautions and encouragements and then we try to live them out in our lives between Sundays…and on Sundays, too.
You learn the scout law and then you go out into the world and try… every minute of every day…to be trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean and reverent.
I will always remember the Scout Law because I was in a Catholic Scout Troop. When we were ready to move up my friends and I became a Protestant patrol, the Pronghorn Patrol, in a Catholic Troop.
This was in the days before Vatican II and these guys were memorizing the Baltimore Catechism by the page. They knew how to memorize things, big time.
After we had been there for a few months, our Catholic friends got kind of sad when they saw us, so we asked them what the deal was.
“We really like you guys,” they told us. “We just feel so bad that you are all going to hell.” That was then. This is now.
We are in the same line of work, Community United Methodist Church and Scout Troop 1916. And now we are in business together.
This new calling refreshes our spirits as much as I was refreshed in my soul as I drove back down the Seeley-Swan Highway and the sun rose just as I got to Salmon Lake.
The only way I could think to express my gratitude at that moment was to stop and take a picture of it.
One day, maybe even many years from now, you will look back at the pictures you have shared with us this morning. I hope you will remember how much fun these times are.
I also hope you will see how lucky you were to begin to learn good things while you are young. I suspect you feel that now a little bit. It won’t go away. It will go deeper and become the heart of who you are…and it is something that will grow as you find friends to share it with…friends like us, for sure…but friends like you, too.
It is such a wonderful thing you have to share it. That’s how we feel about being United Methodists in such a beautiful and remarkable place at such an amazing time.
I went to Boys State in 1966 and Tim Babcock was the Governor of Montana back then. He came to talk to us and I can still remember…all these years later, that he told us that when it came to the hard work of public service we couldn’t let George do it. We were there because our hometowns thought that we could do it and that was what we were learning that week.
He was right, and I think I’m right when I tell you that that is why you are here this morning, too. You aren’t going to let George…or Georgia…do it.
You are learning to be community builders, whether that community is as small as the ones your parents are building with love…a community called a family, or whether you build a community as big as the one Christina Koch help build this week by spending 328 days in space… longer than any woman before… but not as long as another woman will one day.
This is a mystery like the one Paul writes to us about this morning… one that no eye has seen…one that is even to big for our minds to understand…one that only the heart can know.
As you grow in scouting, in school, and in good works, you will not lose your savor, as Jesus puts it this morning. You become…and remain… and are…the salt of the earth.
So here’s the deal of the day: You ‘Do a good deed daily’ and we will “Love our neighbors as ourselves.” We will do it together. This isn’t something we can do alone…we can only do it as part of a community.
We help each other, we grieve with each other, we celebrate with each other and we teach each other. We have differences…sometimes even misunderstandings. But we are focused on the good works of Jesus Christ and we learn anew from him every day.
So we join with you this morning in work we have in common. Like you we promise, on our honor to do our best to do our duty to God and our country, to obey that scout law that we talked about just a few minutes ago, to help other people at all times, and to keep ourselves physically fit, mentally awake, and morally straight.
Welcome home to a church that loves you.
O Lord, what is it that you want to do in the world through us… through me…this day? Amen.