Updated: Jul 14
"And he went from there to teach and proclaim his message in their cities."
Last week, our scripture readings took us to the end of Matthew chapter 10 where Jesus finished up instructing the disciples on their task, their mission at hand after all he has shown them….and then I was stopped by the first verse in the next chapter 11 and it simply reads:
“Now when Jesus had finished instructing his twelve disciples, he went on from there to teach and proclaim his message in their cities.”
I shared last week both my absolute joy for being here in Canton, Ohio; I also shared my moments of despair….the scope of the many issues facing our community often seem overwhelming to say the least.
And this one verse just burst off the page to me because Jesus went to the cities! And this shouldn’t be a surprise. Cities are where you find the very convergence of cultures, peoples, and life itself. Cities are where we find the intersections of and clear signs of power and powerlessness, where seats of governments are located and where the homeless seek refuge. I always liked what one of our members told me about our church name Crossroads, he said to see it as a church on the corner of Tusc. and Cleveland is too superficial and means nothing about who we are---we are a church at the crossroads of the rich and poor, the black and white, the gay and straight, the powerful and the powerless, the crossroads of life itself. And I just love being here because what better place to be to share the fact that God’s dream includes all of them, does not favor, or lift one over the other, what better place to raise your kids, what better place to be a witness of the gospel of Jesus Christ, what better place to be the church of Jesus Christ I can think of no other – because the Gospel of Jesus Christ, while it applies to you and me doesn’t just belong to you and me – it’s not the me and Jesus two step here, while God MADE us for a relationship with him and a “personal” relationship with Jesus Christ is vitally important it is not the end of faith itself, God also made us for one another to live in community with one another and love of God cannot be separated from love of one’s neighbor (and not just the ones we choose to love) – the gospel of Jesus Christ is all encompassing, it’s all inclusive, it’s both a personal and social gospel. As Georgia Harkness writes, “there can be no legitimate cleavage between the individual and social gospel. There is one gospel, applicable to the whole life, and to truncate it at any point is to make it into something that is less than the good news of salvation that awaits the world.”
That is why I am excited to open the “Canton Free Store and Fresh Market” this fall.
That is why I am excited that here at Crossroads and with our partners from Feed My Sheep at Jackson Friends Church, we are going to build showers on our first level. (did you know you could not get a shower in Canton Ohio?).
Friends, this is just the beginning. But we do need your help in making a bold witness for Jesus Christ in the city of Canton. To help with these efforts and more, we’re setting an additional fundraising goal of $250,000 over the course of the next three years on top of our budget to support the work of the Canton Free Store, installing showers at Crossroads UMC, maintaining a drop in Center for RAHAB in Canton who helps women and girls get out of lives of prostitution, and help us ensure that the Church that stands at the Crossroads of life is one that will continue to draw people in to the city and encounter the gospel at work for generations to come.
And with us not being a large church I know that this can seem bold, and maybe even unrealistic to some leaving some of us to say as I did that dark night “how will I do this? How can I do this?” But I found myself encouraged and reminded this week by the words of Dr. William Harvey – a long time pastor of this church who recently passed just this year. I was reading a sermon he gave at this church 30 years ago in which he was lamenting the fact despite a rather large membership role, our church’s worship attendance remained shockingly low. “Have they lost sight of the dream which is the Church?” he went on “God has his problems with his people today, just as he had with his people as there being led by Moses. But that should give us hope! It is not our dream we are trying to realize. It is God’s dream. We have to remember that the Church is not our dream. It’s God’s dream! So, the correct question he writes, is “God, how do you want to accomplish this through us?”
Have you lost sight of the dream friends? Because unlike other dreams God’s dream is not aspirational, its attainable. And as America celebrates its independence may we as Christians celebrate each day our “dependence” on the one who took the initiative with us, forming us, shaping us, holding us, dying for us, that his dream may be made real today.
May we all find the strength and courage, to teach and proclaim "his message in our city.” Amen.