Garden Time July 2019

Beloved Church-in-the-Garden Family & Friends,

Do You Care? That is the title of the sermon that I preached this past Sunday. It is taken from the familiar text of Luke 10:29-37, Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan. While many of us have heard this parable before, what I chose to focus on was the larger question that Jesus Christ is asking us: “Do You (We) Care?”

A lawyer, a teacher of the instructions of Moses (Torah is oft-times translated from the Hebrew to the Greek as law. However a fuller translation should be rendered as instruction.) asks a telling question, “Who is my neighbor?” Jesus’ answer, in an incandescently clear allegory, reveals what many of us seem to not concern ourselves with. This parable shows how those of us who should be shining exemplars of how we ought to care for those who are in distress, simply do not care enough. We go to the other side of the road. We witness the distress but do not get involved. However, the Samaritan answers the question of care and concern for a person in need by resolutely affirming through deeds not words! The Samaritan, unlike the priest, unlike the Levite, cared enough not only to stop, but to administer help in the time of trouble and see to the total care of the person.

In this divisive time in our nation and society, the question that keeps speaking to my Spirit is “Do We Care?” Do we care about what is going on at the highest levels of government that affects those at the borders and at the margins of society? Do we care about institutionalized, structural, and individual oppression, racism, bigotry, and supremacy? Do we care about those who are unfairly arrested, harassed, and caged in our nation’s jails and detention centers? Do we care about all humankind regardless of sexual orientation and gender affiliation? Do we care about those who are in need of medical attention and assistance irrespective of their social economic status? Do we care about the least and the left out of society? Do we care when families do not have clean water to drink, or parents do not make a living wage, and women are subjected to pay inequality? Or are we only concerned with ourselves, our own individual circumstances, witnessing a wrong and not bothering to help? Are we the priest or the Levite?

This parable delivers not only a moral lesson. Jesus also admonishes the young teacher of the law (instructions) of Moses not just to internalize the message, but to implement the instruction: “Go and do likewise!” We have a charge from Jesus Christ to help people and especially those who we see in distress. My sermons the past few weeks have been looking at Jesus and his interaction with the Samaritans. The texts have shown us that those of us who proclaim ourselves as “holy” are usually the ones who do not best example the call of Christ to others. Yet, those who are considered “others” (Samaritans) are often those who live out Christ as Christ has called us. What that says to me is that what we call ourselves and claim we are has little to do with how we live out what we believe.

The Church-in-the-Garden seeks out those who want to do the work of love and justice in our communities in the many ways in which we can. We seek out those who want to serve humanity as we recognize the Divine person that is in us all. We specifically believe in God, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit. But if you are struggling with the concept of God, Jesus Christ, or the Holy Spirit, do not worry, we get it. We will not judge. We want to hear your story. We want to meet you where you are. We may have been there ourselves. So, come as you are, skeptic, believer, agnostic, atheist, or however you may see yourself. There is room at the Garden for you. We believe in love. We believe in the Good News of Jesus Christ and that does not preclude anyone from coming to our church and worshipping with us! All are invited!

Speaking of worship, June was an incredible month of praise, prayer, and worship. We celebrated Pentecost. We celebrated our 2019 graduates. We celebrated men, husbands, and fathers. We had a tremendous month and one decided to give their life to Christ. The Church-in-the-Garden Voices of Praise continued to lift the congregation with their powerful and soul-stirring songs. You can find video highlights snippets and full songs on our website in our Look & Listen section. First time guests have been coming and new and old friends are reuniting at the Church-in-the-Garden. Our congregation is on the rise and we are excited to share this experience with you all!

I would be remiss if I did not thank my beloved Church-in-the-Garden congregation for blessing me as your pastor and celebrating my birthday. It was made even more special that my parents, my sisters, my nieces, nephew and my cousin were in service. What a joy fills my soul! So, a million thanks to my church family, my family, and the community of faith that we are building at the Church-in-the-Garden, where Jesus Christ is exalted and the Word of God is explained!

Lastly, in the next few weeks the Church-in-the-Garden will be announcing some major news regarding upcoming events. We think it will be a big deal! Be on the lookout! In the meantime, join us this Sunday and every Sunday at 10am. The Garden is open to YOU!

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Rev. Earl Y. Thorpe Jr.