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THE HISTORIC COMMUNITY CONGREGATIONAL CHURCH
OF MANITOU SPRINGS, COLORADO

A United Church of Christ

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WITH SINGLE MIND
Seventh Sunday of Epiphany
First of Three Capital Campaign Sermons

The Rev. David L. Hunting – preaching
Community Congregational Church of Manitou Springs, Colorado
http://manitouucc.tripod.com
February 20, 2000 

Scripture Reading: 1 Chronicles 29:1-6

King David said to the whole assembly, “My son Solomon, whom alone God has chosen, is young and inexperienced, and the work is great; for the temple will not be for mortals but for the Lord God. So I have provided for the house of my God, so far as I was able, the gold for the things of gold, the silver for the things of silver, and the bronze for the things of bronze, the iron for the things of iron, and wood for the things of wood, besides great quantities of onyx and stones for setting, antimony, colored stones, all sorts of precious stones, and marble in abundance.  Moreover, in addition to all that I have provided for the holy house, I have a treasure of my own of gold and silver, and because of my devotion to the house of my God I give it to the house of my God: three thousand talents of gold, of the gold of Ophir, and seven thousand talents of refined silver, for overlaying the walls of the house, and for all the work to be done by artisans, gold for the things of gold and silver for the things of silver. Who then will offer willingly, consecrating themselves today to the Lord?”  Then the leaders of ancestral houses made their freewill offerings, as did also the leaders of the tribes, the commanders of the thousands and of the hundreds, and the officers over the king’s work. They gave for the service of the house of God five thousand talents and ten thousand darics of gold, ten thousand talents of silver, eighteen thousand talents of bronze, and one hundred thousand talents of iron. Whoever had precious stones gave them to the treasury of the house of the Lord, into the care of Jehiel the Gershonite. Then the people rejoiced because these had given willingly, for with single mind they had offered freely to the Lord; King David also rejoiced greatly.

 

May this word be blest to our use

on this morning we share together in worship.

 

This morning’s sermon is the first of three that I have been asked to preach on the subject of stewardship and commitment. As all of you should know by now, our church is well into it’s Capital Development Campaign that will raise in part the needed cash, capital and currency; the resources and funds; investments and assets; the combined wealth and wherewithal that will be needed to rebuild and restore this Historic Church in the summer months soon to come.

Now in just the last 30 seconds, I’ve used just about every word that there is, short of the real matter at hand, which of course is money!  So I hope your comfort level after listening to all these terms for money is at least in part somewhat relaxed and refreshed.  You should know by now where this sermon is headed.  It is of money, capital, funds, expenses, cash, investments and assets that we will be talking about, over the next few months as we move toward raising the resources that are needed to restore and rebuild this church that we love so much.

All of us have seen the need to do this.  I’ve heard of no one who has said this is something we should not be doing.  To the contrary there has been and continues to be, a real sense that this is an exciting and worthwhile project for all to be involved in. and involved is the operative word here!

It means to be drawn into; to participate and share in; the joy of faithfully giving to what is probably one of the most meaningful things that we can do with our lives.   For most of us, short of raising a family and giving unselfishly to our children’s health and wholeness…for most of us, maintaining a comfortable life for ourselves and those significant others who walk through this world with us… for most of us, other than these basic and fundamental parts of life…there is little else that might be more meaningful now, than the privilege of contributing to God’s wider world some of our resources and money that will help insure this little church which we cherish, continuing to stand on the corner of Pawnee and High Street…here in Manitou Springs, Colorado.

What we will do over the next few months by way of our faithfulness will have a large impact on people who sit in these pews long after we are gone.  What we do by way of our commitment to raise the money needed for this important project will shape the souls and spirits of Christian folks and families for another one hundred and twenty years to come.  What we do by way of sharing our faithful belief that this is now a good and right thing to be involved in, will speak volumes to God about who we really are, and what we believe is important in our life!

I don’t know about you, but I certainly want to be a part of this process!  Other that raising my two girls, who are now almost all grown up and ready to go out into the world; and from twenty some years now of working in the professional circles of the church’s ministry; there is nothing -nothing more important or meaningful that I can think of which will have as lasting an impact upon God’s greater glory than the giving of our resources, investments, cash, capital and money to the rebuilding and restoration for this little church that sits at the base of a large mountain!

Over the years like all of you, I’ve given to my money to various charities and causes.  I’ve done so, because it’s always the right thing to do.  I’ve done so because I’ve firmly believed that I have a part to play in making this world a little bit better place.  I’ve done so because I’ve needed the tax deduction!  I’ve done so because when a cute little girl scout asks me to by some cookies, I can’t say no!

This project is obviously way beyond purchasing a box of thin mints!  This project is committed to coming up with 1.3 million dollars to rebuild a failing fellowship hall upstairs so that it might continue to be a place that is accessible to all in both our church and community.  This project is committed to coming up with 1.3 million dollars to restore this historic church; the oldest one of it’s kind in the state of Colorado and in my humble opinion certainly one of the most beautiful and quaint houses of worship I’ve ever seen.

So given that great challenge, I want to be a part of that process.  I want to make a difference.  I want to give of my money and resources, my cash and commitment, so that I might participate in a significant and faithful way in our Capital Development Campaign being staged right now in the life my church.  I want in!  I want to do my part!  I want to make a difference.  I’m willing to make some sacrifices to see this happen!  But how… how can I really make a significant difference toward giving the monies needed in rebuilding and restoring this old church?  I mean 1.3 million dollars – that’s a lot of change!  I don’t think I have that much money right now!  My wife keeps on reminding me that we don’t have that kind of money!  So what can I do?  How can I make a difference and contribute in a meaningful way?

The answer of course is that I can only do this, with all of you!  This is something that one person cannot do alone; unless they happen to win the Lottery, which of course is highly doubtful and perhaps more importantly – not the kind of misplaced spirit that one should be bring to a project like this.  This is something that I believe God – is asking – all of us to do together.  This project has more the quality of being a family affair, a faithful family of which you and I are a part.

We are going to be able to do big things, not by ourselves, but with one another… together as a faithful people, whom God has called, here in this time and place, to make a difference for God!  That’s exactly what happened now 120 years ago in the life of our community.  People back then, like you and me, were called together to establish a caring Christian community of faith on this ground and within these walls.  This church was built more than a century ago for around $10,000!  The task must have seemed as daunting back then, as does $1.3 million for us today.

Individually, the men and women who sat in these pews - actually they were chain backed chairs along with a few of the pews that still sit in the north balcony today- knew that individually they couldn’t possibly begin to build the church we now enjoy today.  But together – together after pooling their resources -- taking out a loan from the Congregational Church denominational office, and committing their faith to a process; they did do something that we are still enjoying today!

It is a privilege it is to follow in their footsteps!  As they had an ample share of courage and conviction, now more than four generations later we too are preparing to continue their mission for this church, and for the generations yet to come; that others might feel and know of Christ’s love here in this special place.  So, the answer to how we are going to accomplish this great thing is fairly straightforward and simple.  Like those who built this church so long ago we too are going to combine our assets and our resources.  We are going to share some of our investments, be they business or property, stocks or bonds, real estate or that jar we’ve almost forgotten was buried in the backyard.  Together we are going to do something that we might never have thought possible.  You and I are going to feel good about the need to participate faithfully in the re-building and preservation of God’s good house of prayer, here in Manitou Springs, Colorado!

Now all this brings us back to a central concern that I know is upon each and every one of our minds and hearts today!  All of us share a certain degree of anxiety and trepidation that sooner or later someone in this church, is going to come and ask for money!  You and I know that’s coming!  No matter how you try to soften the approach or shade the message, you just know that soon someone is going to come and say to us, “How much…how much are you going to pledge over the next three years…to the preservation and rebuilding of this church!

Now if there where blood pressure sensors in the pews you are seated in this morning, I am sure that a few would be pushing the limit!  Still you know we need not feel this way at all.  This is something that is different than anything else we have ever been asked to participate in; because how we respond will be in direct proportion to how blessed we have been in life!

Who among us has not been blest?  Last week we talked about the blessing found in the Beatitudes, and came to see by way of these famous words of Jesus, that all of us are just that – blest by God!  There’s no getting around it…you are blest!  Blest so much that sometimes it’s easy to take them for granted.  We loose sight of our blessings, because we become too focused on things that don’t really matter in the larger scheme! 

Soon you and I are going to be asked, “How blest are we?”  How much do we value this good life and a great and generous God who leads us through it?  How much?  How blest are we?  You and I are going to be challenged to participate in this project that celebrates our blessings! That participation will be in a place that each and every one of us can relate to – our pockets!

Already I have heard some people say: “Oh here it comes - I don’t like this. Restoring and rebuilding this church is a great idea and the plans and blueprints looks great but not I.  Don’t ask me!  I can’t do it!  Not now!  Some are going to say, “I have bills to pay… I have kids to put through college…my resources are limited… I love my church…but – I don’t have the cash!”  Anybody here been having those kinds of thoughts?  Be honest now…I’ve had those thought!  I know what you’re thinking, because I’m in that place too!

You see this is something that all of us share in common.  There is a great deal of accord and agreement among us.  All of us can relate and share a similar story!  For example - how many people here have a pile of these stacked somewhere at home?  I brought these with me to church today, and if any of you would like to have one…please see me after worship.  Here’s my utility bill… my gasoline bill… my VISA bill… my cable TV bill.  Anybody else have these kinds of things lying around the house?

I thought so!  So let’s see what else we might have in common.  How many people here have children, or grandchildren, that they are raising and caring for?  How many people this morning are getting ready to or recently have put, some of those children through college?  How many people here in church, are living in retirement years, and don’t have that regular paycheck coming in week to week? 

Now let me ask you this… how many people here have always found a way to make ends meet?  How many people have had to occasionally sacrifice something to arrive at a desired goal?  How many people have learned the lesson that some of the best things in life take a little blood, sweat and tears…and yet the rewards of such sacrifices are always ten fold the effort put in?  How many people have been able to look back at those things you have invested time and talent in…be it your children, your business, your pleasures or your passions; and then said with conviction and confidence, “that was worth every penny that I put into it!”

If we need another example of what this all means, to be of common purpose in something far greater than ourselves, we need look no further than our scripture for today.  Let me bring back to your attention these holy words that are set before us.  Remember what the story was all about.  Here in an early record of the ancient Hebrew chronicler is an account of people long ago who were being asked to give of their talents and treasures.  King David has brought God’s people to a time and place in their history when he says to them…”the work is great; for the temple will not be for mortals but for the Lord God.”

Now think about it for just a moment more.  Here was a group of people, followers of the Lord, who had already been through a lot in their lives.  They had wandered about for years in the wilderness, looking for safety and security in life!  They had put up with more than a few hardships and heartaches in their quest to be a faithful people.  The Hebrews were now ready to just take life easy for a while and settle in to some predictable routine and practice.

But now, just as all that seemed possible, their King stands before them and says… ‘Before you get too comfortable and complacent… remember who it is…that has been at the center of your life all along.  Remember that it was the Lord your God, who brought you to this place.  The Lord blest you with good life!’

The first thing that we should be about…says King David, is to build a temple unto God, as a sacred symbol of our faithfulness to Him, and our commitment to be His people.  Here in the 29th Chapter of First Chronicles, we read this story about the people of God, being asked to give, and to do so not out of need or of charity, nor required contributions…this need comes out of faithfulness!  It is a feeling of great joy for all the many blessings that God has bestowed upon them!

So from the largest of gifts to smallest…God’s people offered their resources…they shared investments…committed their assets and money, for the building of the Temple in Jerusalem.  This was the last speech David gave to the people of God before he died.  Look at how they responded… do you remember…what they said?  Did they say… “Oh no… there he goes again asking for money!”  Did they wince and look away thinking…not me…ask someone else?   Did they leave the responsibility up to another who might have had more money, resources and means? 

No… they all responded positively to this appeal.  The Bible puts it this way:  “The leaders of ancestral houses made their freewill offerings, as did also the leaders of the tribes, the commanders of the thousands and of the hundreds, and the officers over the king’s work.  They gave for the service of the house of God…whoever had precious stones gave them to the treasury of the house of the Lord…then the people rejoiced because these had given willingly, for with single mind… they had offered freely to the Lord!

Did you really let the last part of that passage sink in to your soul this morning?  “With single mind… they offered freely to the Lord!”  That my friends – is exactly how we are going to restore and rebuild this church!  We are going to be of single mind!  We are going to have a common purpose!  We are going to be as our denominational name implies: A United Church of Christ!  That’s how we are going to do this good and great thing for the greater glory of God.  If we were of single mind, then wonderful things will happen as God’s amazing grace presents itself!

So the question comes home to us today, as we bring this first Stewardship Sermon to a close: Are we ready?  Are we ready to do this?  For more than a year now there has been some careful planning and preparation to bring our little church to this point.  You’ve heard from many people already about why this is an important project to be committed to.  Last week, you heard the Jane Hart and Tony DeLollis, our two co-chairs for the Capital Campaign Project; speak eloquently about how they were feeling a renewed excitement and commitment from long time members and brand new families in making this Capital Campaign successful.  So too shall we follow along, and like those who listened to King David so long ago, we shall offer our resources… our investments…our assets and money, and dedicate them as a loving sacrifice that will be well worth every effort and expenditure we make.  We shall accomplish this large task even though we might be small in size or resources, because we too – like our faithful ancestors shall be of single mind to see the Temple built!

Let me finish all this by sharing with you a very personal word. My family and I discussed this to some length yesterday morning…and so they have let me also speak now for them as well.  Simply put: this is the time for me to put my money… where my mouth has been.  And so I do this in the shadow of what David did so long long ago in scripture.  You may also recall our scripture this morning suggested…that before one person in the assembly gave any thought to how much they were going to give to the Temple… King David shared with them, how much he was willing to commit. 

And so my family has set the goal of giving over the next three years… $15,000 to the Historic Restoration and Rebuilding of this church that we love so much.  I share this with you because I want you to know how important this church is to my family.  No doubt, it will be a stretch the Hunting Household to do this.  We have two girls to put through college, one starting next year and another two years after.  Like I’ve already demonstrated this morning, we too have our share of bills and other obligations to fulfill.  But we believe in God…and are of single mind that along with you, our brothers and sisters, who faithfully follow along with Christ… together we can do this!  God is calling us to do no less.  Some here today will be able to pledge more than we have.  Others maybe less… yet not in spirit.

Come the first Sunday of May, you and I will be invited to pledge as much as we can…of our assets…our investments…our treasures and money, over a three years period of time.  It’s a decision you should start thinking about now.  It’s one that you need to talk about with your family… your neighbors and friends, who are committed to this community of faith.  And so when all is said and done…we shall be like those who are chronicled in our Bible this morning…  “Then the people rejoiced because these had given willingly, for with single mind they had offered freely to the Lord; King David also rejoiced greatly. A people who rejoiced because of all that God had given them, who with single mind and much more in common offered freely to the Lord!  And so they did… and so shall we… so shall we!

Let us pray



GREAT OPPORTUNITIES
Transfiguration Sunday

Second of Three Capital Campaign Sermons

The Rev. David L. Hunting – preaching
Community Congregational Church of Manitou Springs, Colorado
http://manitouucc.tripod.com
March 5, 2000

Scripture Reading: Mark 9:1-10

Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain apart, by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his clothes became dazzling white, such as no one on earth could bleach them. And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses, who were talking with Jesus. Then Peter said to Jesus, "Rabbi, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah." He did not know what to say, for they were terrified. Then a cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud there came a voice, "This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!" Suddenly when they looked around, they saw no one with them any ore, but only Jesus. As they were coming down the mountain, he ordered them to tell no one about what they had seen, until after the Son of Man had risen from the dead. So they kept the matter to themselves, questioning what this rising from the dead could mean.

May this word be blest to our use
on this morning that we share together
in worship.

This is the second in a series of three stewardship sermons that I’ve been asked to give in support of our Capital Development Campaign which as most of you know is the instrument – by which we are raising the needed funds for the restoration of this old historic church and the rebuilding of our failing Fellowship Hall. Two weeks ago marked my first attempt to preach on this subject. The bible verse I chose for that day, was taken from King David’s classic appeal to the Hebrews for being of "single mind" when it came to their support for the building of the temple in Jerusalem.

Against that biblical backdrop we saw how the really big challenges and changes that are placed before God’s people are always be accomplished when resources get rolled up together, assets are assimilated and possessions become repositioned to do great things for God!

That’s what the Hebrews did so long ago…in Jerusalem. It has been a model for successful Capital Campaigns ever since! It will be no less different for our good efforts to protect and preserve this little church that is so precious in sacred space and Christian spirit!

Now I was happy after the first Capital Campaign sermon two weeks ago, to receive some good words of support and encouragement. Indeed shortly after church that morning one person made the comment…"Boy Dave… you are really serious about this aren’t you… I guess I’d better start getting serious too!" Indeed… now is the time!

The Rev. Andy White, who is our consultant from the United Church of Christ Capital Development Services… even went so far as to pass out a copies of that sermon I preached to fellow colleagues back at the denominational office in Cleveland, Ohio. Yesterday I received an email from one of them who asked if he could use my words to help with other Capital Campaigns. I just knew I should have copyrighted that sermon and used the royalties to help raise us some more money this project!

Still I need to share with you today that this second Capital Campaign sermon is no less easy for me to preach than the first. To be forthright, I fret about some person in the pew today saying, "O there goes the minister again talking about matters of money…" And yet to be honest…

Our church will not accomplish this important task…unless we are candid about doing so! I’ve worried as well, about any visitor to the church this morning thinking…"Geez… these folks are in the middle of major building project… I didn’t come here to listen to that!" But then again…that’s exactly why we are speaking of such matters now… so that this church will always be here for people to attend and enjoy!

Between now and the first Sunday of May…you and I will be talking a lot about what is a major challenge and course for this church to follow. Between now and the first Sunday of May… every member and friend of this congregation will be having a fellow member and friend from this church, pay a personal call to your home or a place of mutual comfort and agreement. On that Sunday you will be invited to respond with what your level of participation will be toward protecting and preserving this important piece of property in our community, and this sacred space that we worship in today. Between now and the first Sunday of May, I can assure you… that God will be getting under our skin…the Good Lord is going to ask some questions of us that that pretty basic and fundamental… and the Holy Spirit is going to move us all to new levels of Christian faith and commitment! Between now and the first Sunday of May… only days after Easter this year, you and I are going to be transformed, changed… and look at our lives – differently!

That’s exactly what this Capital Campaign process seeks to do! This is a transforming process that we are now half way into! It also parallels coincidentally in a significant way, what is at the heart of today’s scripture lesson!

Here in the Gospel of Mark we find a sacred story that is also recounted in the narratives of Matthew and Luke. It points to the center of the old Hebrew prophecy that one day a Messiah… the Son of God… would be in the midst of the world as a living presence of God’s love among us. Let me recap briefly what these sacred strands of scripture suggest:

Here in the Gospel of Mark we find Jesus one day… asking a few of his newly gathered disciples to go on a little walk with him. As it turns out it is a long walk up to the top of a mountain! Up until this little hike had been taken, these disciples that Jesus had chosen to tag along – Peter, James and John…really didn’t have a clear understand as to who or what Jesus was! Perhaps they had been thinking of him more along the lines of being another great prophet or wise sage… as so many wandering people they had met along the shores of the Sea of Galilee, claimed to be.

But now, that they were all up there at the top of this mountain, something remarkable happens! This is how the picture is painted in these passages from the Gospel of Mark:

Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high Mountain… and he was transfigured before them… his clothes became dazzling white, such as no one on earth could bleach them. And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses, who were talking with Jesus. Then a cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud there came a voice, "This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!

Peter, James and John suddenly had their eyes opened up there on the summit. Never again would look at Jesus the same way…nor their own lives for that matter! Not only had Jesus been "transfigured" before them… which classically suggests to take on the characteristics or appearance of God… but these disciples were as well – transformed!

They would never be the same again! They where changed in the presence of Christ that day! That event is what we remember in the life of the wider Christian church today. The message behind that moment is still relevant and significant, and this is it…you can’t help but be transformed when Christ is in your life!

You can’t help but be transformed - when Christ is in your life!

You can’t help but see things differently, when you’ve stood in Christ’s light! You can’t help but look at the world with wider eyes, when you’ve been to a mountaintop! You can’t help feel different, when you’ve been changed and challenged by God!

And so its here…precisely here… that there is a bit more for us to consider today. Think again about what happened after that sacred moment on the summit. How did those disciples feel? What was going through their minds and souls?

At first it would appear as though they didn’t want to do anything else… but stay up there on the mountain with Jesus! I mean…this was about as good as it got… for a faithful Hebrew person! To be standing in the presence of Elijah, Moses… and then to hear these words spoken to Jesus by God, "This is my son… the Beloved…Listen to Him!"

Peter, James and John…were so overwhelmed and overjoyed that they didn’t want to come back down off the mountain. They want to stay up there on the top. Why go back down? It doesn’t get any better than this!

The gospel writers however, wisely take this story in a different direction. Now they have Jesus telling his faithful friends, to go back down the mountain and be amongst the people of God once again. They are not permitted to stay the same. They are to return to take up their ministry of spreading this Good News for the entire world to hear! Staying on the summit was not an option…they had work to do!

Here is a thought I’d ask you to consider on this Sunday. Are we not being asked to do the same when it comes to the challenges of this church that are before us? Are we not being asked grab a hold of an opportunity and not miss it? Are we not being invited to leave our places of comfort and security, to stretch and walk toward this new ground God has set before us?

Maybe the larger lesson to learn might be found here. Whenever we are in the presence of Jesus Christ…we are changed as well as challenged! Whenever we sense that something larger than ourselves is directing us, we find new opportunities coming our way! Whenever we are transformed by God in an unexpected moment, we are surprised by what great things we are called to do!

That’s what the disciples so long ago were empowered to do after they had witnessed the Transfiguration of Christ before their very eyes. They were changed! They were empowered! They were challenged to do great things for God! And so now are we …so are we.

As we move to the First Sunday of May when we will make our commitment to preserve and protect this church which is so important to our lives and the community of which we are a part, we will need some help or guidance along our way in making that decision. We couldn’t be passing through a better time of year to discover this. Over the next 40 plus days our Christian path will lead us to the hope and promise of the living Christ come Easter. Our journey will be grounded in remembering the struggles and stresses…the doubts and despair that are a part of our journey through Lent. But as we all know… at the end of that long road…there is hope…there is promise and opportunity… there is light shining out of an empty tomb…which points to promises fulfilled in a living and loving Christ!

So we will be persistent and faithful as we move toward that Easter morning. Our goal of restoring and renewing this good little church will follow shortly thereafter…when by our resolve, determination and faith full hearts we will not miss this opportunity to do something great for God!

On of the most prolific writers of the early Christian faith, who lived centuries ago, had a way of writing simple words that continue to speak to generations still. Our choir this morning sang some lyrics his wrote long ago. Let me leave you with another single thought of his, and pray that you might be transformed by it in this Lenten season we now prepare to walk through together.

Wrote St. Francis of Assisi, while thinking about great things he could do for God:

Start by doing what’s necessary; then do what’s possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible.

That’s been a creed and standard for the Christian faith to stand upon since that first mountain transformation took place so long ago. "Start by doing what’s necessary; then do what’s possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible."  We are going to need sustenance for this journey we share together. The way will be long and climb hard. We are blest to begin this walk today by sharing first with one another; these are sacred symbols set before us.

These simple elements remind us that when a common loaf of bread and simple cup is passed among us…we are changed and empowered to do great things! God is calling us to do no less. Christ is pointing the way through this sacred season… and so we share this simple meal together and remember that the task ahead of us is never greater than the power behind us!

The task ahead of us… is never greater… than the power behind us!

So here we go into the season of Lent, with the sure and certain hope of great opportunities in life awaiting us on the other side of Easter!