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We have a guest preacher, District Superintendent Rev. Barbara Certa-Werner.  Here is her sermon:

One of thing that I enjoy is watching historical dramas, action shows, even comedies.  I am intrigued by how people lived, what they wore, what their homes looked like, and for my husband Joel, what they drove!  So as I was preparing for this celebration, I wondered what was the world like in 1859 and what happened that year?  I did a little research and found some fun facts to share:

  • Top Ten Baby Names: John, William, Charles, James and George, and Mary, Anna, Margaret, Helen and Elizabeth.
  • US Life Expectancy:  38.9 years
  • The music premiere of Brahm’s 1st piano concerto in D was published.
  • A 4th century Holy Bible was discovered – the Celix Sinaiticus
  • A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens is published
  • The first Air mail was delivered by hot air balloon!
  • The 1st Pullman sleeping care was in service
  • Author, Concan Doyle was born. He gave us Sherlock Holmes!
  • Charles Darwin was published, “Origin of the Species”
  • Billy the Kid was born.
  • Ground Breaking for the Suez Canal
  • The Hymn, Savior Like a Shepherd was published
  • Carl Boberg was born who wrote the hymn, “How Great Thou Art”
  • Carrie Chapman Catt, a woman’s right activist was born and she born in Ripon WI
  • Katherine Lee Bates writer of America the Beautiful was born

This glimpse into 1859 really establishes a framework for what the faithful people who established this congregation lived. It was a time that saw much devastation, loss, and death – but also hope.  While this time period posed its own unique obstacles, our time period faces equally difficult ones.  Amen?  The main thing that remains the same for both 1859 and today is that we face a hurting world that needs Jesus as its Redeemer and Savior.

We have an opportunity to really seize this moment of celebration to reflect and remember where we have been as a congregation – to mark the highlights, to honor the saints that have paved the way for us today, and to recognize that we are not done! We have a mission given to us by Jesus, Himself, which is to “make disciples for the (what?) the transformation of the world!”  This is also St. Criox Falls’ mission back in 1859.

I know that the road ahead is uncertain. I realize that our world is more open and accessible. I understand that our culture is overly fast paced.  I completely agree that we have some tough hurdles to jump over to be relevant to those around us.

Here is what I also know:

  • Scripture is timeless and inspired. I have read the same passages at different times in my life and have had a different meaning or an ”aha” moment. God has spoken to me in profound ways when I listen. One of new favorite things to do is use an app, “Pray as You Go.” It seems to be very appropriately named since I am always on the go! It has been extremely valuable to me – as my schedule varies and this app allows me to hear scripture read to me, with devotion – as I drive.  There is even a variety of music that helps me center. This app has helps me hear God’s Word in a new way each day and dive deeper into the text. It is a daily reminder of the power of God’s Word to speak to my heart and mind.
  • The church is a place of love and hope. A place that provides space for relationships to form that is personal and relevant. We spend so much time behind screens that it is a blessing and important that we have spaces for personal connections.
  • The church offers compassion to those that are hurting. In the last As I travel the district I have been “wowed” by the amount of care our churches provide to the community through food pantries, donation drives, monetary donations, volunteerism, space for recovery groups to meet, homeless shelters, and so much more. Our mission is to transform our world, but we are taught by Scripture to do it through mercy. Of course, as you know, this is a passion of mine. I cannot emphasis enough how much people need to know that they are loved, and held lovingly accountable.  I have spent 20 years working on this spiritual practice of mercy without judgement (see James 2). I need to say this, explicitly: the poor, the addicted, the swindler, the mentally ill, the sick, the prisoner, the hungry, the homeless, the hopeless, the criminal – are not our enemies! Jesus calls us to help them and love them, see Matthew 25.  I know that this work is not easy, but I know for many – you are the only visible, tangible example of Christ’s love for them. You are Christ’s example every time you reach out in His name.
  • The church is a place of “Be still and know that I am God.” I don’t know about you but I need a place to stop, be quiet and think. There are not many places left that allow stillness, quietness and invite us into reflection about life, humanity, and God.

What an exciting time to be the Church of Jesus Christ! We have an opportunity to be in this world – providing a pathway to God’s promises in Jesus Christ.  This is a golden opportunity to vision for the future and embrace the mission of Christ, to make disciples for the transformation of the world – for out time, today.

The next steps:

  • John Wesley, the founder of Methodism writes, “And at the same time that we are justified, yes in that very moment, sanctification begins. In that instant we are “born again,” “born from above,” “born of the Spirit.” There is a real, as well as relative change. We are inwardly renewed by the power of God. We feel the “love of God shed abroad in our heart by the Holy Ghost which is given to us,” producing love to all humankind, and more specially to the children of God, expelling the love of the world, the love of pleasure, of ease, of honor, of money; together with pride, anger, self-will and every other evil disposition – in a word, changing the “earthly” mind into the mind which was in Christ.” (The Scripture Way of Salvation). Here it is folks, the “why” of discipleship: we are empowered by God to produce love to all humankind. I encourage you to rediscover your “why.”  As Michael Jr, a comedian said, “When you know your why, your ‘what’ has more impact.”
  • This ‘why’ must carry through to all that you do, personally and as a corporate body as the church. .
  • Then the difficult part for you and for me, the ‘how.’ How do I grow in my faith?; how do I use my gifts?; how can I give?; how may I serve others?; how might I invite a friend on this journey? And just as urgent is our “we”, how do we grow our faith? How do we use our gifts? How do we give? How do we serve others? How might we reach others in the name of Christ?
  • As a congregation, I invite you to join in the opportunities that our connections in the Wisconsin United Methodist Church has to offer to help you discover more of your how’s, the North West District Annual Meeting, Clergy School for Ministry, Stewardship Retreats, and many more.
  • My last next step – is a way of being that is offered to us by the Apostle Paul, in everything give thanks. I give thanks for your faithful witness for 163 years. Christ’s light is shining in the testimony of this building, the saints that have gone before us and in the hearts of each of you. I praise God for you and the God that makes all things possible.