The New Life in Christ
I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect.
For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of yourself more highly than you ought to think, but to think with sober judgement, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. For as in one body we have many members, and not all the members have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are members one of another. We have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us: prophecy, in proportion to faith; ministry, in ministering; the teacher, in teaching; the exhorter, in exhortation; the giver, in generosity; the leader, in diligence; the compassionate, in cheerfulness.
THE MESSAGE We Need Each Other
Two young brothers, ages 8 and 11, were playing on their boogie boards on Panama City Beach in Florida this summer, were unaware that a dangerous rip tide was about to carry them hundreds of feet from the shore. No life guards were on duty.
Two young women on the beach were the first to respond to their cries for help, followed by their mother, three other relatives and two more strangers - 10 of them swept into the tide - none of them a match for the deceptive currents.
That’s when an amazing thing happened - call it a miracle, or the grace of God. People on the beach, seeing this potential tragedy unfold, started shouting, “Make a human chain!” It began with 5 volunteers, then 15, then dozens, - up to 80 or more - arms clasped together forming a human chain out to those caught in the tide. Starting with the boys, they passed those struggling back along the chain until they reached the shore. Then the volunteers peeled off one at a time.
Nearly an hour after the first screams for help, as the sun was about to set, the entire beach broke into applause as all were safely back to the shore. No one died that day.
Back on solid ground, the mother said, “It was beachgoers and the grace of God’s will. That’s why we’re here today. It actually showed me there are good people in this world.”
One of the rescuers later posted on Facebook, “To see people from different races and genders come into action to help total strangers is absolutely amazing to see!!! People who didn’t even know each other went hand in hand in a line, into the water to try and reach them. Pause and just imagine that.”
We’ve watched story after story of an outpouring of selfless help and generosity in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, and now with Hurricane Irma. It’s what has given many of us hope in these dark times.
In a culture that prides itself on individualism, where self often comes first, it is heartening to see people come together for the common good, reaching out to total strangers, as we witness in these last weeks. There are those circumstances when we can’t do it alone. Even eight adults couldn’t save those boys. It took 80.
Texas and Louisiana and Florida and the Caribbean can’t recover on their own. They will need not only the assistance of the federal government, but the generosity of people across this country and beyond, to donate and offer their time and talents and services as they rebuild their lives.
As our world is faced with disaster after disaster, challenge after challenge, we need each other. We need community, and sometimes it’s a community of total strangers. That’s why I believe we need the church - today more than ever. The world needs the Body of Christ rising up to meet those challenges.
Total strangers walk through these doors, looking for community, not knowing who or what they will find. Most of you were strangers when you first walked through these doors. Remember how that felt? What were you hoping to find here at Eliot?
In Paul’s letter today to the Romans, he talks about a new life in Christ, one that does not necessarily conform to the values of this world. This new life in Christ, the church, is here to transform us, in little and sometimes big ways.
Those 80 people who formed the human chain, and those who were rescued, were transformed that day. They came together using their whole selves in doing God’s will. It’s an experience that changed them, one they will never forget. The same is true of those who helped, and continue to help the victims of Harvey, and now Irma.
We come into the Body of Christ offering our whole selves as we discern God’s will for us. As Paul tells us, “For as in one body we have many members, and not all the members have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are members one of another. We have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us.”
As we begin our program year, it is time to once again discern what God’s will is for us, both individually, and together, as the Eliot Church. What gifts do you have to bring to Eliot? Remember, we are here working together to create the kin-dom Jesus talked about. No one person can do it alone - no two pastors. We are all ministers. We need all of you. What part of the Body of Christ will you become?
Today during our lunch, there will be flyers on the tables talking about the various ministries of the church. Look them over. See what they’re about. Think about where you might be called to serve. There will be a table with sign up sheets. We will continue this after worship for the next couple of weeks. Those already serving on various ministry teams and committees will have name tags and will be here to answer your questions. Search them out.
A year ago, on Regathering Sunday, we launched our 200 Acts of Service, in honor of the 200th anniversary of City Mission. What is God’s will for us this year? How can we, as a church, transform lives, both here at Eliot and beyond these walls? We need to hear from you. What are your passions and concerns, about our community and our world? This would be good table conversation over lunch after “What I did on my summer vacation.”
We can begin with our response to Hurricane Harvey and Irma. I’ve sent out instructions in TWEC and in our bulletin this morning on how to donate online to the UCC disaster relief fund. Any loose offering in the plates this morning will go to that fund, along with anyone who would like to write a check. Make it out to Eliot Church and mark it for hurricane relief in the memo. We will send one check to the UCC where they guarantee that every cent will go to hurricane relief.