January 2021 Connection

Enrich All Lives

…To enrich all lives.  This is how Grand Blanc UMC’s mission and vision statement ends.  And, not coincidently, it’s how this series of Connection newsletter articles will conclude before moving on to something new in February.  Over the last four months, I’ve spent time on this page expressing my impressions and thoughts about the mission and vision statement of this church.  I’ve explored the idea of being “friends in Christ,” I dared to utter that word “exercise,” and we talked, of course, about
hope, love, and grace.  But now, the crux of the whole statement: “…to enrich all lives.”

While it may be the greatest cliché, it seems important to say this.  Mariam-Webster Dictionary defines “Enrich” as to make rich or richer especially by the addition or increase of some desirable quality, attribute, or ingredient. 

Why is this definition important?  It’s important – even vital – because these final last words of our statement identify the purpose for which we are bothering to do any of this!  We call ourselves friends is Christ, and live into that identity; we exercise hope, love and grace with one another, and extend it into the world, understanding that God is still working on each of us in a perfect-making sort of way; we do all of this, we extend all of this, we embrace all of this, and we believe all of this all for the purpose of enriching all lives.  All that we do has no other purpose!  The work of the church is not primarily about providing a social network for all of us to enjoy.  It’s not about creating a status that emboldens us in the social and economic community.  It’s not even about fostering a righteousness within us that we can measure ourselves against others with.  It is all about enriching all lives.

To be sure, there is other language that we use in the church to talk about enriching all lives.  One of my favorite is when we talk about “kingdom-making.”  You see, here we’re talking about God’s kingdom (often written “kin-dom” as a way of reminding us that we’re not talking about a monarchy, but something altogether different…the reign of God)!  And God’s kingdom on earth as it is in heaven (sound familiar?) is about ensuring that all lives – all lives – are made richer (no, not money) by the addition and increase of a remarkable quality, attribute and ingredient that we call GRACE! 

And so, we are, by the statement we have adopted as a church, a kingdom-making church!  We are in the business of enriching the lives of all people with the grace, love, hope, peace, promise, and joy of Jesus Christ!  We proclaim that all – everyone – excluding no one – is invited into this amazing and grace-filled covenant with Jesus Christ.  The door is open, the admission is free, the result is freeing!  This is what we are about and nothing more!

My prayer as you come to the end of this article is that you will read our mission statement once more, and read it as a prayer for this church.  Where we are already living into it, let us rejoice!  Where we are not yet living into it – where we’re still holding on to a part of what we want it to be rather than what God wants it to be – let us draw closer to God who, with amazing grace, forgiveness and love, calls us back into even deeper relationship with our Creator!

A few years back, I had a conversation with an upset parishioner of another church who insisted that “everyone needs to stop trying to take over my church” (the great offense was that the food bank volunteers had temporarily placed food donations on a table in the fellowship hall).  I calmly replied, “we need to remember that this church is not ours. We are simply stewards of it. The church does not belong to us. It belongs to God and to the person who has yet to walk through its doors.”
When we say that we’re here to “enrich all lives,” we have to remember that this means we are here with a dedicated purpose to welcome and serve the person who walks through our church doors for the first time. We are here, and function as a church for the child who has been told many things throughout his life, except for that fact that he is lovable and loved. We are here for the woman who stands before a judge and learns that she’ll be incarcerated. We are here for the grieving person, so hurt that they have stopped praying
We are here – the church is here – God is here…to enrich all lives.
Peace, Pastor Brian
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