11/11/01, Pledge Sunday #1

“United We Stand!”
Philippians 1:27

nity is one of those compelling words that brings positive thoughts to our ears. There is nothing bad conjured up whenever the hear unity's poetic sound. Most of us were born in, and are loyal to, The United States. We are also proud to be members of The United Methodist Church. Although we Americans are diverse in many ways, we are united in our stand against any nation or group that threatens our freedom. In addition to this being Stewardship Sunday we are also observing Veterans Day. Many of you have served our country standing tall in defense of our Liberty and we salute you. During the past two months we have been amazed at how we have stood together unified against the evil that attacked our shores.

United is also a fantastic word to associate with being Methodist Christians. It is an often repeated New Testament theme: "...so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others." (Ro 12:5, NIV). "There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male or female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus." (Gal 3:28). "I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in one mind and thought." (1Cor 1:10). A united stand can be assumed in any Methodist group that so much values cooperation among sisters and brothers in Christ.

The notion of standing united did not originate with the framers of our Founding American documents but from the Scriptures that they held in common. Toward the end of Patrick Henry's life his dear friend, George Washington, persuaded him to become a candidate for representative in the Virginia state legislature. The famous orator made his last speech during that campaign. His point was to deny the right of a state to rule on the constitutionality of a federal law. Henry told the voters: "United we stand, divided we fall. Let us not split into factions that would destroy the union upon which our existence hangs." Patrick Henry won the election, but died before he could take office in 1799.

Either knowingly, or subliminally, Henry was quoting a poem written in 1768 by one of the framers of our Constitution, John Dickinson, entitled "The Liberty Song." Dickinson, called the penman of the Revolution, drew upon the words of Saint Paul's letter to the Philippian Church: "...stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel." (Phil 1:27, KJV) Or, as Eugene Peterson paraphrases this text, "Stand united, singular in vision, contending for people's trust in the Message, the good news, not flinching or dodging in the slightest before the opposition" (1:27, The Message). This principle of standing together, standing side by side, in a united front is true in government, business, education, and in the church. We have all known folks who have wasted valuable time and money fighting against each other instead of focusing their energy positively.

Taking a firm stand is a basic Christian precept: "Stand fast in the Lord." (1Th 3:8). "By faith ye stand." 2Cor 1:24). "Jesus said... every city or household divided against itself will not stand." Mat 12:25). To take a stand requires perseverance and steadfastness. It is putting our foot down and drawing a line that we ourselves will not cross or allow anyone else to.

"United We Stand" has become a national quotation that has helped us express our current spirit of unity in America since the terroristic attacks of September 11th. All of my neighbors are displaying flags. Many have "United We Stand!" banners on cars, tee shirts, jewelry and lapel pins. Many of us have rushed to Post Offices to purchase the new "United We Stand" first class stamps, which were released just this past week. Thursday evening, just a few blocks from our church, President George Bush made a major speech in front of a background repeating the slogan "United We Stand." The rediscovery of this wonderful truism has been one of the good things that has come out of our national tragedy. It has helped inspire our nation to stand together against international terrorism.

Thus, we have selected "United We Stand!" as the theme for our Annual Pledge Campaign. Our process is familiar. We will not engage in arm twisting because we deeply feel that tithing should be a joyful expression of our souls. We encourage you to bring your Pledge Cards to the Altar during the singing of the last hymn this morning. It is always a beautiful pageantry to see God's Stewards prayerfully committing their faith estimates of giving for the next calendar year. We will have a second Sunday to invite absentees to the Altar next Sunday. Some will choose to mail their cards during the next weeks. We always receive some pledges by phone and fax. Last year we received several via e-mail.

Our annual stewardship campaign is perhaps our most expressive and visible pageantry of unity as a local church. In so doing we are expressing a visible recommitment to our membership vows and to loyalty to Christ and His Church. It is a vital and necessary part of our life together. The pre-pledging process allows us to begin the year at a spending level that we know we can maintain throughout 2002. Basic to our Christian tradition is the teaching that we not start something that we do not have a plan for completing. Without our tithes and offerings we would be like a family trying to operate without a paycheck. Our regular giving, as an expression of our love for God in Christ, is our church's vital breath. United we can stand proudly and say that we are continuing a spirit of resurgence in our beloved church.

Our church is worthy of our tithe. Our local church is "the Storehouse" into which we are instructed "to bring our tithe." (Mal 3:10). Other benevolent causes may, or may not, be committed to using your dollars for their intended purpose, but our contributions to our own church are used as spelled out in our budget developed and approved locally. Just as we are good stewards in giving, so our local church is a good steward in spending every precious cent in our united stand for Christ's Kingdom.

Resurgent feelings of a United Stand make it a special joy to recommit to Christ today!

a sermon synopsis by C. Robert Allred, Th.D., Pastor

11/11/01, Pledge Sunday #1