First Congregational Church
(United Church of Christ)
Greg Briggs,
Interim Pastor

101 State Street
Charlevoix, MI 49720

Sermon & Weekly Bulletin~ August 4, 2019

08-04-2019 Bulletin Pdf

  1. Prayer and Introduction
    1. “May the words of my mouth, and the meditations of our hearts, be acceptable in your sight, our rock and redeemer. Amen”
    2. Fitting It All in
  2. Money and the church and the new life in Christ
    1. Take off the old human nature with its practices 10 and put on the new nature, which is renewed in knowledge by conforming to the image of the one who created it.
    2. Without renewal, the church slips back into the normal, worldly ways. We believers lose sight of the radical transformative nature of the Christian faith
    3. A faith of forgiveness, of redemption, a faith that celebrates that the lowliest can become the most exalted, where our God calls us to widen our welcome, to care for the outcast, and see how they are part of God’s blessing.
    4. When we lose sight of this, we get resentful when our faith pushes against everyday, earthly, common sense ideas. Like, how we deal with our money
  3. A taboo topic – money and the church
    1. None of the church’s business or it’s stewardship time
    2. The tension of Two Masters Luke 16
    3. “A seasoned pastor once said, “I have heard many different regrets expressed by people nearing the end of life, but there is one regret I have never heard expressed. I have never heard anyone say, ‘I wish I hadn’t given so much away. I wish I had kept more for myself.’” Death has a way of clarifying what really matters.”
    4. Former CEO of a major corporation – met as at a homeless day shelter – lost his wife fell into depression
    5. Functional Atheism – we say we believe in God, but live as if we secretly don’t
  4. Fitting it all in -the set up
    1. Glass bowl represents our life, what it holds are our resources and our concerns
      1. Size indicates importance
        1. Tennis balls – members of your family – career – weekly event you never miss (uke band, gardening club, etc.)
        2. Jingle bells – not as important, but often urgent or attracting attention – next week’s vacation
        3. Beads – like the pebbles in your shoe – many, small, daily – hard to hold all together – laundry, chores, needs of children
      2. Earthly order – beads, bells, tennis balls
        1. Start with Everyday concerns
        2. Work our way up to bigger things
        3. Not enough room, never seems to be enough room for the big stuff
          1. Some big stuff left out
        4. (orange tennis ball) What do you mean, fit one more thing in here?
        5. That’s where the parable from Jesus fits in. If only we had a bigger barn or bowl to fit everything. Then I could take care of everything
          1. So the energy is in building the bigger barn
        6. Faith\Values Centered approach
          1. Start with the most important things put them in first (tennis balls)
            1. Identify what those things are for people
          2. Then, work in the less important stuff (jingle bells)
            1. Identify those items
          3. Then third tier (beads)
            1. Everything fits, or what’s left behind are a few of these minor things
          4. This is what Christ is asking of us
            1. Will require
              1. an upheaval in how we’ve been doing things
              2. sorting out what’s truly important
              3. maybe a bit of agitation to fit it all in
              4. but still it’s way less than waiting and trying to build a bigger barn
            2. Pause to let it sink in
          5. Initial upheaval
            1. May require the most energy – requires a lack of satisfaction with the way things are
              1. “put to death all the parts of your life that belong to the earth”
              2. May be first accepting that there are things that don’t fit in to the current, earthly way of doing things
  • Like what?
  1. “I used to think that top environmental problems were biodiversity loss, ecosystem collapse and climate change. I thought that thirty years of good science could address these problems. I was wrong. The top environmental problems are selfishness, greed and apathy, and to deal with these we need a cultural and spiritual transformation. And we scientists don’t know how to do that.” Gus Speth
    1. Opposite of selfishness – generosity, loving thy neighbor as yourself
    2. Opposite of greed – temperance, knowing when you have enough
  • Opposite of apathy – passion, feeling the spirit
  1. These are uniquely spiritual problems and until we name and start to work on them, nothing else can change
  2. Was going to talk about the climate crisis, but in light of two mass shootings in the last 24 hours, I’m going to talk about that instead.
  1. Moving beyond functional atheism
    1. Starting with addressing our “thoughts and prayers”
      1. “There is something deeply hypocritical about praying for a problem you are unwilling to resolve” Christian theologian Miroslav Volf
    2. Our ongoing epidemics of violence are uniquely American problems.
      1. 250 mass shootings so far in 2019
    3. Checking our own desire to withdraw within, to not talk about it.
      1. Selfishness, greed, apathy
    4. Do you believe in a faith that can transform the world, as it has done before?
  2. Money as tangible expression of beliefs
    1. Money where your mouth is
    2. People give only as much as they trust, and only as much as they can imagine
    3. Start by naming it
      1. What do you want to see in 10 years?
      2. Where is the role of the church in this?
        1. Where should the church partner, and where should it lead?
  • What is in the way?
    1. Fear in even talking about it or naming it
      1. The inability to even face the root causes in our American obsession with violence
      2. These aren’t isolated incidents, or just mentally ill people
      3. The rise in right wing, white supremacist violence is appalling. The shooter in El Paso drove 9 hours to shoot immigrants at the border.  His own admission.
      4. How do we know? Easy test, replace the young, right wing, white men with any other category of person Muslims, immigrants, and we’d say we are under attack from terrorists. And we are. But they are from within, not without
    2. Inability to admit that we, as a country, have been working in the earthly way of doing things, and we have left out somethings that are important, like compassion, empathy, and valuing lives over a 2nd amendment, or valuing
  • Faithful reorientation
    1. Start with the values based approach –
      1. include your Christian commitments and principals
      2. take out selfishness and replace it with generosity
  • take out greed and replace it with temperance
  1. take out apathy and find your passion again.
  1. Church of grandparents
    1. Think more about what you are leaving behind for your children and grandchildren. Not just the inheritance passed down in your wills, but the nation and the world around them.
    2. Though it may look like it’s impossible, we can reverse these threats of violence and ecological devastation.
  • We’ve done it before, like Americans in WWII, like healing the ozone layer, like Christian hospitals essentially creating modern healthcare
  1. Luke 12:1b Watch out for the yeast of the Pharisees—I mean, the mismatch between their hearts and lives.”



This Sunday, we are reversing the order we usually hear scripture.  We will start with the Gospel reading so that we can begin with Jesus’ teaching.  Then we will hear from the letter to the Colossians, which expands on Jesus’ teaching.

Our Gospel reading is from Luke 12:13-21 found on page _____. It is a jump forward of about a chapter from the previous week’s reading. It takes place as Jesus is out teaching and healing.

13 Someone from the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.”

14 Jesus said to him, “Man, who appointed me as judge or referee between you and your brother?”

15 Then Jesus said to them, “Watch out! Guard yourself against all kinds of greed. After all, one’s life isn’t determined by one’s possessions, even when someone is very wealthy.” 16 Then he told them a parable: “A certain rich man’s land produced a bountiful crop. 17 He said to himself, What will I do? I have no place to store my harvest! 18 Then he thought, Here’s what I’ll do. I’ll tear down my barns and build bigger ones. That’s where I’ll store all my grain and goods. 19 I’ll say to myself, You have stored up plenty of goods, enough for several years. Take it easy! Eat, drink, and enjoy yourself. 20 But God said to him, ‘Fool, tonight you will die. Now who will get the things you have prepared for yourself?’ 21 This is the way it will be for those who hoard things for themselves and aren’t rich toward God.”


This is an excerpt of a letter to the believers in the city of Colossae. Though it has mostly been thought to be written by Paul, there is some disagreement due to some different theological points of view. Regardless of the actual authorship of this letter, it has been listed among Christian teachings as early at 150 A.D. You can follow along on page _____ or just listen.

Colossians 3:1-11

3 Therefore, if you were raised with Christ, look for the things that are above where Christ is sitting at God’s right side. Think about the things above and not things on earth. You died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with him in glory.

So put to death the parts of your life that belong to the earth, such as sexual immorality, moral corruption, lust, evil desire, and greed (which is idolatry). The wrath of God is coming upon disobedient people because of these things. You used to live this way, when you were alive to these things. But now set aside these things, such as anger, rage, malice, slander, and obscene language. Don’t lie to each other. Take off the old human nature with its practices 10 and put on the new nature, which is renewed in knowledge by conforming to the image of the one who created it. 11 In this image there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcised nor uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave nor free, but Christ is all things and in all people.

The word of God

For the people of God.

Thanks be to God.