Tuesday, August 11, 2015


Kevin E. Dayhoff

Last night I covered the Westminster mayor and common council meeting for the newspaper: “Broad range of topics discussed at the Westminster mayor and common council meeting Monday night http://kevindayhoffwestgov-net.blogspot.com/2015/08/broad-range-of-topics-discussed-at.html. And I had spent almost all day in church at Grace Lutheran Church in Westminster. 

At the end of the day, as I was writing the article on the council meeting, I could help but to recall one of my all-time favorite sermons about change.

Both Westminster city government and Grace Lutheran Church need to continue to change in order to continue to relevant.

Fortunately, Grace Lutheran, under the leadership of Pastors Martha and Kevin Clementson, and church council – especially Council President Ron Fairchild are continuing in the correct direction of adapting with the times.

Along with my sister-in-law, United Methodist Church Pastor Sarah Babylon Dorrance, this simply must be some of the brightest and best church leadership around.

Same goes with the Westminster city government.

As I sat last night in the Westminster council chambers beside city attorney Elissa Levan, I reflected upon the fact that I have now been going to Westminster City Hall since the late 1950s and have always been impressed with the level of care, diligence and expertise exhibited by our government at work.

But the current administration simply must be one of the best in the state of Maryland – and the current mayor and common council are going some great things. We should all be proud and help in any way we can.

So, anyway, this one of my all-time favorite sermons…. June 14, 2001: "Sharing Faith in a New Century” By Lutheran Bishop H. Gerard Knoche

"Sharing Faith in a New Century”
By Lutheran Bishop H. Gerard Knoche

** Here is the text of the sermon by Lutheran Synod Bishop H. Gerard Knoche at Synod Assembly Opening Worship, June 14, 2001, based on Acts 17:16-34; given at Western Maryland College in Westminster, MD.

Permission is given for congregations to reproduce it for their own use.

This one of my all-time favorite sermons…. June 14, 2001: "Sharing Faith in a New Century” By Lutheran Bishop H. Gerard Knoche http://kevindayhoffwestgov-net.blogspot.com/2001/06/thisone-of-my-all-time-favorite-sermons.html

Labels: #Dayhoff5EasyPieces, Change, History This Day in History 0614, Religion Grace Lutheran Church, Religion Lutheran, Religion Lutheran Bishop H. Gerard Knoche, Religion Shrinking Church - See more at: http://kevindayhoffwestgov-net.blogspot.com/2001/06/thisone-of-my-all-time-favorite-sermons.html#sthash.MTtrx3fN.dpuf
If we do not share faith in the new century many of the congregations in the Delaware-Maryland Synod will die.  I am sorry that my first words as a preacher at Synod Assembly carry bad news.  But in my travels around the synod in these last nine months, I have come across too many congregations where the largest demographic group in the congregation is over 55.  Two urban churches have closed since I took office, both being sold to other denominations that expect to make a go of it.  If they can do it, why can’t we?  It was almost shocking last Sunday to be in a congregation where there were more teenagers worshiping than in any other church I have attended (20 or 25 at least).  “If this church can do it, why can’t others?”  I asked myself.  Churches that will survive, that will grow, are churches that have, as our assembly theme suggests, learned how to share the faith in a new century.

The lesson from Acts tells the story of Paul sharing the faith with a group of people who are new to him.  Paul has been left in Athens and is depressed to see the city is full of idols.  Apparently there were beautiful statues to every imaginable Greek god or goddess throughout the city.  He is waiting for Silas and Timothy and so decides to argue for the faith with the Jews in the synagogue and with the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers.  Like other Athenians, the text says, they “spent their time in nothing but telling or hearing something new.”
This evening I would like to look at Paul’s speech to see what it might tell us about Sharing Faith in a New Century.  First, Paul went out to the Areopagus, the public square where folks gathered to talk.  Unlike times past, we cannot expect folks to come to church looking for us.  Those who do that are largely those who have had some experience with the church in their background.  Increasingly, there are many Americans who have had no contact with Christianity, know nothing about it—and may even feel it is irrelevant or may be hostile to it.  A telling commentary on our culture is the fact that ”spell check” in Windows 95 does not have all the books of the Bible in its list, much less many of the Biblical names.  They are not part of the general basic knowledge base.  In campus ministry it was not unusual to have a student come in timidly saying, “I’m dating a Christian.  I have no idea what that means.  Can you tell me?”  To share faith in the new century we will need to go to the unchurched where they are.

Secondly, Paul knew the world-view of those with whom he wanted to communicate.  He had discovered their altar to an unknown God and he knew that they shared his belief that God had created all things.  He spoke the gospel to them in a form they were most likely to understand and accept.  We need to be more attentive to our audience.  Leonard Sweet is one of the writers who has researched what the postmodern culture is like. I don’t have time to share all the characteristics, but I will say that it is a culture more interested in spiritual experience than spiritual arguments.  They want to feel God more than they want to understand God.  Stories of personal belief are more convincing than explanations of doctrine.
Today’s culture also seems to be able to hold two contradictory notions at the same time.  F. Scott Fitzgerald said that the test of a first-class mind is the ability to be able to hold two opposing ideas in the head at the same time and still be able to function.  Book titles catch the doublespeak with ”Ordinary Miracles” or “Open Secrets” and movies with “True Lies.”  More significantly, it is true that new houses are bigger while families are smaller; more farmers are making big bucks and more farmers are facing financial catastrophe; more people are becoming rich than ever before and more people are becoming poor than ever before.  The postmodern is able to handle paradox, which in other days we have called dialectics.  We need to understand the worldview of the unchurched if we are to share the faith in a new century.

Thirdly, and perhaps most obviously, we need to know the gospel ourselves. 
Paul makes his connection to their thought world and then moves on to talk of
God’s judgment, of their need to repent, and of the resurrection.  It pains me to read that pollsters have determined that four out of ten folks who call themselves Christians are unable to name the four Gospels.  If the way that
Jesus speaks to us and guides us in our life is through the Scriptures, then
if we don’t know the Scriptures we don’t know Jesus very well either.  There
is no question in my mind that the key factor in churches that are reaching
out to share the faith is the rostered and lay leadership.  Folks who know Jesus, know the Bible, and are excited about sharing that relationship with
others do it best.  To share faith in the new century, we need to deepen our
Biblical knowledge and our love of Jesus, so that we will have something
fresh and dynamic to share.

One of the fears about changing the way things have always been with new
music or the use of the Internet or coffee house churches is that what is most precious to us will be lost.  The story is told that in the early days of the Tennessee Valley project, a dilapidated homestead was going to be torn down.  They were damming the river and the valley would be flooded out.  A new split-level ranch house was built for the Appalachian family on a hillside nearby.

The day of the flooding arrived and the bulldozers were there to tear down the old house.  The family refused to move out of the homestead.  Finally, out of desperation, a social worker was called to find out what the problem was.  “We ain’t goin’ anywhere” was the reply.  The social worker pleaded with them to tell her what the problem was and why they would not move into their beautiful new home.

”See that fire over there?” the man asked, pointing to a blazing fire in the
primitive hearth of the log cabin.  “My grandpa built that fire over a hundred years ago,” the man explained.  “He never let it go out, for he had no matches and it was a long way to the neighbors’.  Then my pa tended the fire, and since he died, I tended it. None of us let it die, and I ain’t goin’ to move away and let grandpa’s fire go out.”

The social worker got an idea.  She arranged for a large apple butter kettle
to be delivered to the home.  The hot coals would be scooped up and transported to the new home, kindling would be added, and the grandfather’s
fire would never go out.  The Appalachian family accepted and moved up to the
split-level rancher on the hillside after they knew that they would have the
fire of their ancestors.

As we share faith in the new century, we will keep the fire—of water, of bread and wine, of the book that is a love letter from God, but we will move to new places, where we do things differently, lest the flood of modernity wipe us out.  Paul and Jesus would want it that way.  Then, just like with Paul, some will scoff; others will hear us again; and some will become believers.
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Kevin Dayhoff is an artist - and a columnist for:
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See also - Kevin Earl Dayhoff Art www.kevindayhoff.com: Travel, art, artists, authors, books, newspapers, media, writers and writing, journalists and journalism, reporters and reporting, music, culture, opera... Ad maiorem Dei gloriam inque hominum salutem. “Deadline U.S.A.” 1952. Ed Hutcheson: “That's the press, baby. The press! And there's nothing you can do about it. Nothing!” - See more at: http://kevindayhoffart.blogspot.com/#sthash.4HNLwtfd.dpuf

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