Do You Love Me?

2010 World Conference Closing Sermon, by President David Schaal
Saturday, April 17th 2010

ds1No official transcript of this sermon was ever posted, but there was a video of this sermon uploaded.  I thought it was so good, that I strongly felt that a transcript was warranted, so I made one.  I’m glad I did, as the video is no longer available.  Interesting trivia: Apparently President Schaal had accidentally left his sermon notes at home, so he had to give the talk off the cuff.

The question that Jesus asked Peter was absolutely, breathtakingly brilliant. It was genius; because Peter’s world had just been turned upside down, and in recent days he had experienced probably every intense emotion possible: the agony of betrayal, and knowing he was guilty of it; the absolute horror of seeing his friend killed; the unspeakable joy of the resurrection.

And now, simply not knowing what would be next for him. No lecture was going to set him straight. No sermon was going to help him get his head right. But a single, elegant, poignant question had the capacity to reorient him: “Peter, do you love me?”

There may be no more important question in the life of the church than that question. “Community of Christ, do you love me?” Because how we answer the question has the capacity to reorient us. We know that its true. Think of it. When you fall in love, and find yourself deeply in love with someone, does not it change your very core?

When a new child comes into your life; a niece, grandchild, a son or daughter, does not your world, to some degree reorient around that life, around that love?

“Do you love me?” may be the most important question before the church. Jesus’ response to Peter makes it very clear what behaviour is supposed to look like if in fact we do love him. Which I suppose is the tell-tale sign as to whether or not we actually love him, as opposed to believing in him, or, accepting him. When we love Jesus there is a profound change, a profound impact in our behaviour, because of the implication that if we love Him, we will feed His sheep; and friends, we can talk for a very long time about the multiple ways that we might feed His sheep. But I just want to ask you to give serious attention, if you would please, to doing three things, to feed his sheep.

One: When you go back home, every time, anything, and I do mean anything, is being planned in your congregation, would you please ask the question out loud, “how can this bless our community?”

Everything, when anything in your congregation is being planned or discussed as a possibility, “how might this bless our community”, so that your voice, is one of the voices that helps the gaze of the church, to forever being turning outward, as opposed to the gaze of the church forever be turning inward on ourselves. Its simple, but do it consistently, whenever something is being planned. “How is this going to bless our community?”

Item two: Who do you need to invite to church? I frequently talk about outreach ministry, and invitational ministry when I’m in various congregations and places, and often I will hear people say “Brother Schaal, you know all this talk about invitation, and going and baptizing people – are we just being concerned about numbers?” And finally not long ago, having heard that for about the 100th time, I finally looked at the group, and I said “yes”.

Because every single number represents a boy, or girl or woman or man who needs to be in relationship with Jesus, who needs the supporting, healing ministries of the church. Is it about numbers – is it about numbers? Not if that means just we want to swell the rolls of the church. If we want to make disciples, if we want lives to be healed, if we believe that life is so precious that everyone deserves an opportunity to know Christ and be supported in faith by loving community? Who do you need to invite to church? Who do you need to invite next week?

ds2Number Three: Friends, lets pay our tithing. The reason I say “let’s pay our tithing” is simply this: I am not motivated to pay my tithing simply so that the world church budget can be in some manner healthy on the balance sheet. I am motivated to pay my tithing because right now, missionaries, ministers, who are funded by World Church tithing dollars, in many places in this world, are helping young people learn how to avoid the ravages of the HIV virus, and because of your generosity there are children who are being spared that heartache. Its because not far from where I am standing right now there is a man who said to me not long ago, “I love this church; because of this church I get to be with my family again, because I don’t do cocaine anymore” And he’s not doing cocaine anymore because of ministries that came his way funded by tithing dollars made possible by your generosity.

Friends let me be candid.  There are times in which I hear people say “Well I don’t know if I want to pay tithing to the World Church because I just don’t see my congregation getting that much in return.” Brothers and sisters, its not about me or my congregation! Its about the values I hold dear! And because I do not want those children to get AIDS, because I want other Daddies to be reunited with their children, because I want children all over the world to learn about the enduring principles of Community of Christ, and receive the gospel of Jesus Christ, as interpreted by our unique vision and unique pastoral and prophetic call. That’s why I pay tithing! I don’t care if I get anything in return! I pay because its in alignment with what I care for and what I value.

Plus, its just down right fun, to right that check, and to know, that my doing so is making a difference in my world. It is an intimate act of worship.

So ask the question in your congregation about how its going to bless community. Think about who it is that you can invite to church. And let’s pay our tithing so that wonderful things can continue to roll forward on this planet. So that if Jesus were to say to us “Community of Christ, do you love me?” all he would have to do, is look at our behaviour, to say “ah, the answer is apparently, yes!”

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