Archived Sermons

A Kodak Moment

Posted by chesterlanducc on May 20, 2017 at 10:25 PM

SCRIPTURE: John 21:1-19   After these things Jesus showed himself again to the disciples by the Sea of Tiberias; and he showed himself in this way. Gathered there together were Simon Peter, Thomas called the Twin, Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of his disciples. Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.” They said to him, “We will go with you.” They went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing. Just after daybreak, Jesus stood on the beach; but the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to them, “Children, you have no fish, have you?” They answered him, “No.” He said to them, “Cast the net to the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in because there were so many fish. That disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on some clothes, for he was naked, and jumped into the sea. But the other disciples came in the boat, dragging the net full of fish, for they were not far from the land, only about a hundred yards off. When they had gone ashore, they saw a charcoal fire there, with fish on it, and bread. Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish that you have just caught.” So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish, a hundred fifty-three of them; and though there were so many, the net was not torn. Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” Now none of the disciples dared to ask him, “Who are you?” because they knew it was the Lord. Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish. This was now the third time that Jesus appeared to the disciples after he was raised from the dead.

Does anyone here have a pencil on you? Raise your hands? Now does anyone have a camera on you—on your phone or with you in some way? Please raise your hands? How many pencils? How many phones…

“With the slogan "you press the button, we do the rest," George Eastman put the first simple camera into the hands of every day folk in 1888 and began to realize his mission of, in his words, making photography "as convenient as the pencil."

Twice George Eastman adjusted to changing times and technology, first moving from a profitable Dry Plate business to film and then later investing in color film despite its lower quality.

Incredibly enough, 1979 Kodak invented digital photography which ultimately fulfilled George Eastman’s mission, but the company was resistant to change. Some two years later the company researched the future impact of digital photography and determined that while digital photography had the potential to replace traditional film; Kodak had only roughly ten years to make the transition. Kodak was right, but even though they knew what they had to do, even though digital film was the fulfillment of their mission, they continued to focus on what they had always done. Ultimately they leased and finally sold their digital photography patents and went out of the camera business altogether.

This morning’s scripture is about Jesus entrusting his mission of loving and caring for those on the margins of society in the hands of Peter and the other Disciples, and by extension, in our hands today as Christians. It is a mission that demands our fullest attention and passion and seriousness. Today’s sermon is about living out this mission, today, in this community, and with our Church.

Rev. Piazza who lead our Vitality Labs this past year was called in 1987 as the minister of the Metropolitan Community Church in Dallas Texas which had a membership of approximately 400 people at that time. In 1990 MCC changed their name to the Cathedral of Hope to reflect their mission to reach lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in small towns everywhere with a message of hope, and the congregation grew to about 600 members over the next two years.

At that point they outgrew their church building and they sought to build a new building, but they couldn’t get contractors or banks to help finance or build their building because of who they were. Despite these challenges they stuck to their mission and in 1992 they moved into their new building. Finally, they had a building of their own, a space that was theirs and that they could not be excluded from—a space where no one could tell them they didn’t belong. And what is more, that year CNN agreed to broadcast their Christmas Eve service around the world. Amazing.

But, just before Christmas Eve, Rev. Piazza got a phone call from his wealthiest church member who told him that the Cathedral of Hope couldn’t broadcast their Christmas Eve service on CNN because as a lesbian woman, she wasn’t out yet. She told him that if they broadcast that service she wouldn’t attend the Christmas Eve service, and if she didn’t attend the Christmas Eve service she wouldn’t return, and if she didn’t return, neither would her money.

Rev. Piazza’s in turn responded that she was important to the Church, but it wasn’t his choice to make—he said that the congregation had voted that the mission of the Church was to reach lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people with a message of hope, and broadcasting their Christmas Eve service around the world fulfilled that mission. And he told her, if she wanted to call a congregational meeting and take a vote to change the mission of the Church, she could do that, but this was the mission of their Church—a Cathedral of Hope.

Well, she and her financial support did in fact leave that Church, but the following year three hundred people joined that Church and they grew to a thousand members because they chose to follow their mission despite the costs and difficult decisions involved.

A couple weeks ago I invited those in Church here to write down the core values you find most important in a Church. That following Tuesday I got into the office and I picked up that stack of slips and I started to casually read the first few, and then I read a few more, and one after another, over and over again—I saw statements that had to do with inclusion and openness and loving others and I got teary-eyed because this is what I think the Church at its core is called to be—this is the Church I have been searching for my entire adult life, this is the Church that many, many people, young and old alike are desperately searching for and not finding.

We have a mission at Community Church that we are discovering together. At our core, I believe we have a mission of being a radically welcoming and inclusive community of faith, seeking justice and spiritual growth together.

I want to just share with you the Core Values you shared with me that had to do just with being inclusive … These are some of the core values you expressed for yourselves, and by extension, for this Church.

Open minds; Inclusive; Acceptance of others; Respect for differences great and small; Inclusive to all; Open to all; Coming together as one regardless of who we are, what we have, where we come from, who we love or how we look; Inclusivity; A sense of community—of being a family with one boundless belief in the love and acceptance of all people as children of God; Open arms welcoming all diverse family dynamics; Openness to all; To be opening and welcoming to all; Open mindedness; Teaching kindness towards all; True acceptance of each person as they are; We welcome everyone and help them on their journey of faith; All ages are important; Compassion for everyone; Openness; Welcoming acceptance; Acceptance for everyone; Children; Inclusion; Non-judgmental; Open to everyone; Welcoming to all people; Inclusiveness; Respect for the dignity of every living being; Intergenerational worship; Accepting of Differences; All people are welcome; Inclusion of all people; Global acceptance; Interaction—varied experiences for all ages; Acceptance of all humanity; Everyone is welcome and wanted at Community Church and we seek to live this out each week.

There aren’t many things that I am certain about in life. But I tell you the truth, I am certain beyond a shadow of a doubt, and I am willing to bet my job on the fact that if we as a congregation made the mission of this Church to be that inclusive, welcoming, justice oriented, message of Jesus in the world that we affirmed in our core values a couple weeks back, and if we took this mission and we used it to measure all our decisions as a Church, all our decisions, we would grow both in numbers and in spirituality just as the Cathedral of Hope did when their mission became more than words on a piece of paper—when their mission became making difficult choices together—when their mission became more important than a single member’s preferences or financial contributions.

Rev. Piazza said in his Vitality talks that our core values and mission should be so clear, that most times when questions arise about what we should do as a Church, there should be no question, we should be able to look at our mission and it should be clear—no need for a congregational vote.

For example, last year when the our nation, and especially our LGBT community, experienced the tragedy and horror of the Orlando night club shooting our trustees decided to put up a rainbow flag out front of the Church in solidarity with Orlando and that community and they told us this is what they were going to do. They didn’t have to ask us for permission, because our core values of inclusion and justice and love made that decision easy.

They decided to do it, they told the congregation they were doing it, and Dan just did it and the rest of us, I think, were thankful because that is who we are—it is at the core of our values and mission to include and support everyone—to do as Jesus did—to stand in solidarity with and for those who our society would seek to oppress and dehumanize.

Now this doesn’t mean things don’t get discussed in our Church, but when our mission and core values are crystal clear, it will be clear to us what we should do when questions arise, and more and more of what the Church does will come from our ministry teams. And at times we might have individuals who disagree, like the wealthy member at the Cathedral of Hope who didn’t want CNN to broadcast their Christmas Eve Service, and I think we must have sympathy and understanding for her position, and we must care for her and affirm our love for her and others when we disagree, but we can’t back down on our mission.

We had a great leadership retreat yesterday where we spent a lot of time talking about mission and core values and the work of our ministry teams, and we will be sharing these ideas with all of you and we will have an opportunity to decide together what our mission and core value s are as a Church, and it is my belief that as we clarify and live out our mission, our ministry will thrive. Amen.

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