Posted by: skokiecentralchurch | November 6, 2011

2011.11.06 The Fourth Practice of Fruitful Living: Risk-Taking Mission and Service

Central United Methodist Church
The Fourth Practice of Fruitful Living:
Risk-Taking Mission and Service
Pastor David L. Haley
All Saints’ Sunday
November 6th, 2011

“Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.” (Matthew 25:40)

[Note: As stated, this five sermon series is based upon Bishop Robert Schnase’s books, Five Practices of Fruitful Congregations (2007), and Five Practices of Fruitful Living (2010). This is therefore my summation of Bishop Schnase’s Five Practices, a combination of Bishop Schnase’s material and my own. For a more full version, see Bishop Schase’s books. You can also learn more at Bishop’s Schnase’s Five Practices site, or at the Cokesbury site – Pastor Haley]

In January 1995, following the Rwandan holocaust, I served as a Volunteer-in-Mission with the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries, to the refugee camps across the border from Rwanda, in the Congo, at that time, Zaire.

We’d flown for 20 hours, spent the night in Nairobi, Kenya, and then took a small plane over Sylvia Kyobe’s home country of Uganda, to Bukavu, Zaire. A bit later, packed in the back of a Land Rover, I remember the anxiety I felt as we entered the refugee camp for the first time. Out the window, as far as you could see, were the blue canvas tents provided by the United Nations. In this camp, I knew, there were not only innocent victims who fled for their lives, but there were undoubtedly also murderers, people who had hacked members of the opposing tribe to death with machetes. Though some spoke English, many spoke only French or Swahili. What was I doing here?

If you’ve ever found yourself asking that question, it may be because at some time or another you have experienced in your life what we are talking about today, The Fifth Practice of Fruitful Living, Risk-taking Mission and Service. It’s not ordinary mission and service, an occasional episodic giving of ourselves in some way; it’s risk-taking mission and service, meaning not so much that you risk your life (although sometimes that might be the case), but that it takes us out of our comfort zone, stretching us and stretching our faith beyond where it has ever gone before.

It may have been on a short-term mission trip such as the one I was on, a trip to build houses in Appalachia, a cleanup following a disaster, work in a homeless shelter or soup kitchen, or even a trip to a local nursing home. It may have involved working with people different than yourself; people who speak a different language, people who might be poor. Perhaps it was with people whose bodies were distorted or diseased, people with AIDS, or homeless people whose hygiene isn’t the greatest. It may have involved cleaning or bathing the body of someone in a hospice or an institution. If you’ve done any of these things, it’s almost certain that at some point you thought: “What am I doing here?” But by such risk-taking mission and service, others were helped, and we ourselves were changed; never quite the same as we were before.

Risk-taking mission and service is the fourth practice of both fruitful congregations and fruitful living, along with the three we have discussed thus far: Radical Hospitality, Passionate Worship, and Intentional Faith Development.

Today, because he does this one especially well, I’d like you to meet – on video – United Methodist Bishop Robert Schnase, one of a new generation of bishops who are changing our church for the better. Hear Bishop Schnase as he talks about the importance of Risk-taking mission and service both for fruitful congregations and fruitful lives.

[Bishop Schnase on Risk-taking Mission and Service: To online readers: I’m sorry, this was a DVD presentation of Bishop Robert Schnase speaking about Risk-Taking Mission and Service, which is not available online]

When I began this series, I had no idea how emotionally charged I would find each practice, each week, to be. Partially, it is because of how vitally important each of these practices is, not only for our congregation, but for our lives as Christians. They are literally the core practices of our faith.

But another reason I have found them to be emotionally charged is that each practice has reminded me of people I have known and loved, in the congregations I have served, who have exemplified these practices. Many of them are gone, and are now among those we refer to today as our “saints.”

Although there are several in our own congregation I could mention (Alan Wadleigh, Anna Carroll, Rita Stegich) there is one I want to especially highlight today, who died in the last year, Irv Tiahnybik.

Most of us knew Irv as a quiet but accomplished gentleman, who sat right over there, beside Harriet. Irv would probably be the first to laugh to be referred to as a saint. But to many, he was. Because what many of us didn’t know until after Irv died, was that one of Irv’s proudest accomplishments was how he had helped others.
After Irv discovered the difficulties his hearing impaired son, Lex, was having with his hearing teammates, Irv and Chicago Blackhawk Stan Mikita founded what is now one of the leading sports organizations in the United States serving deaf and hard of hearing athletes: the American Hearing Impaired Hockey Association. Since 1973, over 2,000 hearing impaired youngsters have participated in AHIHA-sponsored programs and clinics, and through them, have obtained hearing aids and speech, auditory and language therapy.
Perhaps most significantly, thanks to Irv and Stan, these young athletes went from the stigma of being “deaf-and-dumb” to “hearing impaired.” In this way Irv reached out beyond himself and his family to serve others, and of this Irv was most proud.
So it is with the fourth fruitful practice, Risk-taking mission and service, whether practiced by congregations, people like Irv, or us. Not only are others helped, but in the process of serving others, we too are changed, made better people, more like Christ. What’s the next project we’re going to undertake?


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