January 15, 2023 – Second Sunday after the Epiphany-Human Relations Day
How does your generosity work to create “beloved community” and show ALL God’s children that they’re loved?
A Moment for Mission
“In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.”- Matthew 5:16, NRSV
On a warm May evening in 1963, traffic in the Glenville neighborhood of Cleveland, OH came to a standstill around Cory United Methodist Church as the crowd began to overflow out the doors. Inside, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was speaking words of hope, resilience, and perseverance just days after his now-famous march on Selma. Just a year later, Malcom X would deliver his famous “The Ballot or the Bullet” speech at the same lectern.
Cory UMC is one of the oldest African-American churches in Cleveland, and from their beginning, they have been dedicated to building a stronger community. This effort has included hosting historically significant figures calling for societal change, opening their doors as a community recreation center, and hosting after school programming for impoverished children.
That spirit of outreach continues today. Members gather weekly to distribute nonperishable goods and hot meals from Cory’s food pantry to those in need. The church opened its own credit union in 1958 to generate financial opportunities to African American residents and continues that legacy by providing new financial education programs to the community.
The people of Cory UMC embody what it means to be a light shining Jesus’ love into the world. They give willingly of their time, gifts, resources, and finances to transform their community and help more people know that they are wonderfully and fearfully made in the Image of God.
Today is Human Relations Day, and in sharing our mutual gifts, we recognize that we can better bridge the gap between our churches and communities when we do it together. God’s love and grace are available to all and there is always room at the table. Like those at Cory UMC, we’re called to shine into the world, proclaiming that all of God’s children are important and support them with the tools and resources they need to reach their God-given potential. Give today, make a difference today.
Let’s close our eyes and imagine a dark hallway. In front of one bedroom is a crumpled-up rug. Outside of another is a toy car and some Legos. Further down, the family dog Captain is sleeping peacefully. You can open your eyes now. What could happen if you tried to walk down that hallway in the dark? (Let the children answer)
Some scary stuff could happen, right? Someone could easily get hurt. Now, there’s a light switch on the wall right at the beginning of the hallway. If you had to walk down it, what would you do? (Let the children answer; hopefully they would turn on the light)
Great idea! Now what does the light do to help you? Does it yell to look out for the rug or to be careful not to step on Captain’s paws or avoid the toy car? (Allow for answers). You’re right. The light doesn’t speak or shout— it shines! When it does that, we can see that there are things in the way and navigate going forward much easier.
In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus tells us that we are “the light of the world”. We know that God made us in His Image, right? The Gospel of John describes God as a light that shines into the darkness. That means that as reflections of God, we’re reflections of God’s light into the world!
Sometimes people around us are stuck in dark places and they don’t feel safe or loved. The good thing is that we know where the light switch is and we can shine God’s love into their lives and help them find their way.
Children’s Prayer: God, thank you for making us in Your Image and shinning your light through us! Help us to shine for people around us with kindness and love so people can safely find their way to you. Amen!
God of Abundant Grace, we choose to see the good in one another and our community today, just as you have chosen to see the good in us. Long ago, you called us to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. We offer these gifts and offerings to you, O God, that we might shine bright for all to see and invite those around us to your welcoming table of divine love.
From Discipleship Ministries: Good and generous God, we bring our gifts to you this day and pray you might dedicate them to your work. We confess that we have too often missed being the church you wanted and needed, and we have placed the blame on “not having enough” money, members, talent, time, or power. We needed to be reminded by the apostle Paul that we have all that we need, whatever our circumstances. Renew us, loving God, and give us a new day and another chance. In Christ’s holy name, we pray. Amen.
Our calling as the Church is to seek out those in need— wherever they are— and share the love, hope, and promise of Jesus Christ with them. This means moving beyond the four walls of our church to engage our community.
The people of Cory UMC in Cleveland, OH have a long history of outreach and community building. They are a community center, food bank, and credit union all in one, providing physical, spiritual, and financial wellbeing to those around them.
Our ministry might be different, but our goal is the same: to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. This is only possible when we work together to bridge the gap between our churches and communities.
Consider what opportunities might be right in front of us to serve our neighbors. In offering our spiritual, physical, and financial gifts, we will support not only ministry in our own community, but ministry around the world through the global connection of the United Methodist Church.
Your gift today, on Human Relations Day, will cultivate ministries that help people see that they are made in God’s Image and loved beyond measure. You are changing lives. Thank you!