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World Communion Sunday

Preached:  October 6, 2013
Scriptures:  John 15:1-17

Some of you know that before I came here to be your pastor almost 5 years ago, I served Snoqualmie UMC as their pastor for 3 1/2 years.  The great gift of being a pastor for me is that I get to fall in love with the people in my congregations wherever I am appointed.  The hard part about being a pastor is that my heart breaks each time a person dies in a congregation I have served.  So yesterday I was back up in Snoqualmie celebrating the life of Bill Melton, one of the many beloveds in my life.  Bill was from Alabama with a great love for college football, especially Auburn – although I never knew him to miss worship for a game.  Bill was also one of those people who arrived early for everything.  If you weren’t there 15 minutes before an event was to begin, you were already late.  In fact, his  punctuality was so ingrained in his family that his daughter quipped during the memorial service that he even got to heaven early.  And it’s true.  He was 75 years old, would have been 76 this month.  Far too young in our understanding for him to leave this blessed earth.  He had a long battle with cancer.  I remember staying up half the night at the hospital with his wife on multiple occasions.  The irony is that in the midst of a devastating illness, he remained cheerful, gracious, encouraging, and hospitable to everyone around him.  Such a good, kind man! Always wanted to know how YOU were doing and listened to what you had to say.  He also knew that he did not have much time left for this life and started planning his memorial service early.  In fact, I remember conversations with him about this very topic at least 7 years ago.  When he died, his wife found folders labeled “Upon my Death” with explicit instructions for what should happen for his memorial service.  Denise Ritthaler, who has preached here several times – (some of you might remember her story about the chickens), was approached by Bill every time she sang a solo in church.  He would say, “Denise, I want you to sing that ONE at my memorial service.” Denise said over time, there were probably a dozen different solos Bill wanted her to sing.  The one she sang yesterday was the last one Bill had heard her sing earlier this year – “It is Well With My Soul.”

Bill had also chosen a few clergy to be part of his celebration of life.  The one who offered the Prayers of Commendation was the Episcopal Priest down the street in Snoqualmie, Rev. Patty Baker.  A few of you from St. Stephen’s might remember her.  Patty said that one of the things Bill said must be included in the service was a plug for one of the social issues he cared the most about.  Do you know what that was?  Church World Service CROP Hunger Walk.  Bill & his wife Lyn were part of CROPWalk when they attended Bellevue UMC more than 10 years ago, and when they became members at Snoqualmie UMC, they started the CROP Hunger Walk out in the Snoqualmie Valley in 2004.  They have been instrumental in getting more and more churches and walkers involved in the 9 years since then.  Bill wanted to make an impact on people’s hearts beyond his death by instructing Pastor Patty to make a plea on behalf of Church World Service.

I have a question for you – what issue, or is there any issue that you feel strongly enough about, that you would beckon back from the grave to lay that issue on the hearts of others?   Take a moment of silence and write it down.

There are so many things that divide us – politics, theology – but hunger, I believe, is an issue most of us can agree on – that, really, no one should ever go hungry.  So along with Bill Melton on this World Communion Sunday, I want to put in a plug for Church World Service and the CROPWalk that will be happening after our worship service today – where some of us will meet up at Green Lake UMC to walk around Green Lake to raise money and awareness for this hunger walk.

History: In 1946, in the aftermath of World War II, U.S. Christians joined hands and hearts to create Church World Service in response to Jesus’ call to feed the hungry, quench the thirsty, and shelter the homeless children of God – providing sustainable self-help, development, disaster relief, and refugee assistance around the world.

Today, Church World Service is a cooperative ministry of 35 denominations, providing sustainable self-help and development, disaster relief, and refugee assistance in partnership worldwide. The CWS mission is to eradicate hunger and poverty and to promote peace and justice at the national and international level through collaboration with partners abroad and in the US. Church World Service CROP Hunger Walks provide a way for congregations and communities to join together in offering hope and opportunity to some of the one billion neighbors worldwide whose lives are gripped by suffering and poverty.

Christian Rural Overseas Program —-Communities Responding to Overcome Poverty.
We walk because they walk,” is the motto of CROP Hunger Walks.

 CROP Hunger Walks help to provide tools of hope that empower people to meet their own needs. From seeds and tools, to wells and water systems, to technical training and micro-loans, the key is people working together to identify their own development priorities, their strengths and their needs.  CROP Hunger Walks gather communities to help alleviate hunger at home as well, because 25%  of the funds raised by a CROP Walks go to support local efforts in the U.S.

By raising awareness about human rights and peace-building, and the root causes of poverty, CWS brings the voices of the powerless into our conscience.

I don’t know about you, but I get fatigued by all the news in the world – all the violence, the destruction, the poverty, the sheer insanity of it all.  There are times I have to turn off the TV or not read the paper, not because I do not care, but because I am so overwhelmed by the immensity of it all.  And I want to bury my head in the sand.

Starfish Thrower: Once a man was walking along a beach. The sun was shining and it was a beautiful day. Off in the distance he could see a person going back and forth between the surf’s edge and and the beach. Back and forth this person went. As the man approached he could see that there were hundreds of starfish stranded on the sand as the result of the natural action of the tide.
The man was stuck by the the apparent futility of the task. There were far too many starfish. Many of them were sure to perish. As he approached the person continued the task of picking up starfish one by one and throwing them into the surf.
As he came up to the person he said, “You must be crazy. There are thousands of miles of beach covered with starfish. You can’t possibly make a difference.” The person looked at the man. He then stooped down and pick up one more starfish and threw it back into the ocean. He turned back to the man and said, “It sure made a difference to that one!”