I would like to ask all of you a question? It might seem like an easy question, but for a moment I want you to think about it? Don’t think of an immediate answer? O.k., here we go, if someone was to ask you what do you think is the primary purpose of our Church? What is the Churches mission statement? What is our churches role in the world? What would you say? How would you answer them? Now some of you might say, well the Church is here for us to pray. Maybe some of you might respond that the Church is here for us to come together and see our family and friends. Some of you might even say that the Church is here so that our children can learn about the faith. Well, in some ways, those answers are all partially correct. But I want you to once again think about what you believe is our Churches mission statement? What is our purpose?
As you think about this, allow me to share with you a story that took place several months ago that might help to answer this question of what is our purpose as a Church. The other day, I got home from the Church a little late and when I got home, Roxanne was baking bread. Roxanne is an excellent cook and I just love eating her fresh baked bread. Well, as she was preparing to bake the bread, I noticed on the counter two key ingredients. There was in one container a container of yeast and then there was a bowl of flour. I was curious as to how she prepares her bread so I asked her to please show me. Well, she picked up the container of yeast and began pouring some water into that container. She told me that by pouring the water into the container of yeast that this was called activating the yeast. Immediately it started to bubble up. Then she took the flour and mixed the activated yeast together. She told me it is crucial that you have to activate the yeast and then mix it at the appropriate time with the flour and once you do that over time that flour will become dough and eventually bread. It was so amazing to watch these two critical ingredients of yeast that was activated and flour working together, because they are totally dependant on the other.
Well, as I was watching Roxanne prepare this bread, I could not help but think how these two key ingredients working together can help us answer the question I asked you earlier, of what is our mission as a parish. Let me explain how. You see, for me we are yeast and the world outside these four walls is the flour. You see, through our coming to Church and participating in the life of the church, we receive the spiritual water we need to activate our yeast. We get activated. And we are called that once we activate that yeast by receiving the spiritual water, we are to go into the flour, we are to go into the world and transform it by witnessing our faith and changing peoples lives. In fact, Christ himself tells us that the mission statement of the Church is to activate the yeast and transforming the flour. He says, we are to Go, (as activated yeast) and make disciples of all nations baptizing them and teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. We are to transform the world. We are to activate the yeast and pour it into the flour.
And in our Church we are trying to do this. We have ministries in place, where we are activating the yeast. We have over 20 programs that aim at activating you. For example, our Bible Studies, Catechism Classes, Youth Progams etc. all with purpose of activating you so that you too can transform the world. We also are attempting to transform the world. For example, we have our Vacation Bible School that is open to the public. We have our St. Nicholas Neighborhood Program which aims at having a presence in our neighborhood…in fact next week we are having our annual clean up of the two miles that our parish has adopted. We have our Philoptochos Ladies Society that is constantly working to help to those in need. And through these efforts, people are coming to our church. They are being transformed. They are seeing what the Orthodox Church has to offer. They are people like Joseph, an African American who was riding his bike past the church saw people walking in our Church and was interested in coming in. He saw activated yeast. Or how about some of you who have brought people to our Church who have never heard of the Orthodox Church and are now interested in becoming a member. Every Sunday we have at least several new families coming to our Church. God is blessing this community because we are following His will, His will of activating the yeast and transforming the flour.
But my friend, we can only fulfill God’s mission for our church to the extent that it is supported by all of us. We can only do this by our physical, spiritual and yes, our financial support. And God understands this. Did you know that there are some 500 references in the Bible about prayer. But there are some 2300 references in the Bible about offering financial assistance to the Church to assist in transforming people. God is asking us to give our 10% so that we can get activated and transform this world. This is the will of God in His Churches. But we are unable to fulfill this will in God by transforming people when we don’t give what we can to the Church. You see, if we are only giving a small percentage of what we earn every year, we are hindering our ability to fulfill God’s mission to us. We are limiting our ability to activate yeast. In other words, if you as a family make combined salary of 50K and you give $500, you are only giving 1% of your salary to the Church. We are only giving 1% towards activating yeast. If you make a combined salary of 100K and you give $1k you are only giving 1% to the Church. We are only giving 1% towards activating yeast. That is basically having us just walk on one leg. Now, don’t get me wrong there is nothing wrong with having money, as long as money does not have you. (Reread) If you are only giving a small percentage of what you could, then you have to ask yourself truthfully, does money have a hold on me. Now, I know that times are difficult, people are worried about their investments, but this is one investment that does not require a bail out. This is one investment that will yield a good return. Investing in our church and becoming a supporting member of our community is fulfilling not my wishes but God’s wishes and commandments in all of us. And when we give, as we read in the Book of Malachi, God says, offer to me and see if I will not open for you the floodgates of heaven and pour blessings until it is overflowing and all nations will call you blessed. (Malachi 3:10) I will transform you so that you can transform others.
My friends, I leave you with a quote from St. John Chrysostom who said, there are two types of Churches. He said there are Churches, whose local church is their universe. Everything centers around their local Church, within their four walls. They have no ministry outside the four walls of the Church. He said, this is a defeated Church. And then there are those Churches in which the universe is their parish. They try to transform every person they come into contact with by witnessing Christ in their words, but more importantly in their actions. He says, this is a disciple of Christ. My friends, we are called to make this universe our parish and we can only do this by providing programs and ministries that transform the world. Help us, support us, in activating the yeast and transforming the flour, transforming the world by offering your physical, spiritual and yes your financial assistance so that together we can transform the world and provide them with bread of life, Jesus Christ. That is the mission statement, that is the purpose of our church, that is why WE GIVE.
In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. One God. Amen.