Sermon: “The Risk of Holy Ground”

223rd Annual Conference of the Church of the Brethren

San Diego, California — June 27, 2009

Text: Ephesians 1:11-22


Richard F. Shreckhise

Send me! What if the Church of the Brethren en mass rose up and shouted, “Send me!”

Send me to serve the hungry, homeless and poor! Send me on disaster relief projects! Send me to be a help to the handicapped! Send me to work for peace in the world! Send me to those suffering from AIDS! Send me – send me!

The risk of holy ground is that God will give you holy work to do! The risk of holy ground is that everything will change. The old settled way will give way to the new thing God is doing!

Holy ground is:

–A hospital delivery room, when a nurse places a brand new human being into our waiting arms…. You are on holy ground…and you are given holy work to do.

–When eight brothers and sisters found themselves in the Eder River 301 years ago…. They came up out of the water with holy work to do!

–Watching the LA riots on TV, Erin Gruwell saw the looting, the beating of Rodney King. She sensed a call to go there and teach. She went, and made an amazing difference in the lives of her students. (Read the book or see the movie Freedom Writers.)

God is a missional, sending God who sent Jesus, who sends us. “As the father has sent me, so I am sending you” (John 20:21).

Holy ground takes us out of our comfort zone…. In BVS, 1966, Intermountain Indian School in Utah…. Eldon Coffman, on a Sunday morning asked me “What are you doing two weeks from today?” Thinking he was inviting me to his house for dinner, I said, “Nothing.”

“Good”, he said, “You will be preaching!” Gulp Holy Ground! I resisted, he resisted my resistance!

By that Saturday night I was sick – Eldon called it nervousness…. I had nothing written, nothing to say…. Eldon’s advice: “Do you love Jesus? These kids need to know that. Did Jesus ever do or say anything you like? Read it, tell them why you like it, then tell them again that you love Jesus, and sit down.”

I did it. I have no clue what I said. I was, however absolutely sure that I would never do anything like that again as long as I lived.

Holy ground never leaves us unchanged!

In Ephesians 2:19 a radical thing happens. Where there was division, now people are joined in God. No longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens and “members of God’s household….” A new kind of community is being built out of roughnecks, immigrants, people of many different backgrounds…who were divided, hostile, and separated by walls. The wall came tumbling down and Jesus was the cornerstone, the center, and his mission created community!

It was in their DNA, they were homing in on a new creation. God was dwelling among them by his Spirit, they recognized the way. When Christ is our holy ground, everything changes!

Sometimes it is our church that needs changing. And we need to “Re-Jesus.” As Michael Frost and Alan Hirsch put it in their book by that title, Re-Jesus, Frost and Hirsch encourage us to put our Christology first–re-connection with Jesus is our first order of business.

Brethren love Jesus. We really do, but can we pull down the structures that limit us or keep us too busy to re-Jesus? Then ask, “What is the mission of Jesus? What is he calling us to do?” If it is not church, but missional work that transforms life…then maybe people will sign up saying, “Send me.”

Christology  impacts/informs our Missiology…. Next question: “What would the church look like if it were to live out our understanding of Jesus and his mission?” We  would re-structure the church to serve Jesus and his mission. Our authenticity would dramatically rise!

Don’t let the structure fossilize – keep returning to Jesus…. Sometimes my computer just freezes up, and the only thing that makes it work again is to shut it down and reboot it. Sometimes the church gets stuck in patterns that cause us to crash, and the only thing that brings us back to life is to re-Jesus!

I believe God has holy work for the Church of the Brethren…. The world needs us to emerge into the future with a message of hope and actions of mission in making peace, doing justice, loving mercy, and walking humbly with our God.

We are not called to the political right or the political left, we are called to the holy ground of Christ-centeredness that challenges the world to a new way of living!

Like Simple Living, a value that is desperately needed in our economically burned-out over consuming culture. This economic crisis in our world today may be an open door for us to teach and live a simple way of serving, saving  and spending.

The work of spiritual formation that cultivates the fruit of the Spirit (Alexander Mack seal)–love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control–in a world that has too long reaped the fruit of hatred, fear, violence, greed, consumerism, neglect of the environment, competition for power, racism, and lack of self-control.

The holy work of sending and serving. When every local church says, “send me,” then the church does not simply have a mission, the church is the mission. God is sending us to do the holy work of reconciliation, simple living, spiritual formation, service–it is all in our Brethren DNA….

Like pumping a swing, you have to go back to gain velocity to be propelled forward. Reach back into the 301 years of the Brethren story and gather momentum for the new thing God will do with us in this post-modern digital world.

Our youth are standing on Holy Ground! Our call is to send them into the holy work of peacemaking and service, love and reconciliation. We adults need to model a real connection with Jesus, serious and joyful commitment to missional living, and authentic church…. Then our children, junior high kids, high school youth, and college students will have the opportunity to experience Christ and his mission in such a compelling way that they will find their holy ground and respond–“Send me! Send me!”

The risk of holy ground is that God will give us holy work to do. The risk of holy ground is that God will take us out of our comfort zones. The risk of holy ground is that the new has come.

–Richard F. Schreckhise is on the pastoral team at Lancaster (Pa.) Church of the Brethren.

The News Team for the 2009 Annual Conference includes writers Karen Garrett, Frank Ramirez, Frances Townsend, Melissa Troyer, Rich Troyer; photographers Kay Guyer, Justin Hollenberg, Keith Hollenberg, Glenn Riegel, Ken Wenger; staff Becky Ullom and Amy Heckert. Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford, editor. Contact

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