You will hear six different ‘expressions’ throughout the service. Here are two available transcipts:
Alicia Muro, expressing faith through welcome:
Good morning, my name is Alicia Muro and I wanted to offer you all a little different perspective on faith this morning. I know a lot of you probably don’t know me and a few of you are probably picking up from my accent that I am actually not from here, I know, hard to believe, right?
My home is Pamplona Spain, the church I grew up in is La Parraquia de La Paz Catholic Church, sadly we can’t condense that down to something manageable like you all can here at HACC. But I am now in the last month of my 2nd exchange program here in America.
I came to America for the first time in August 2014 to study at Riverfield, because my English wasn’t really good and I knew how important it is to talk this language. First I decided to go one week to England, thinking that would learn a lot, then I decided okay maybe one month, but I realized that it wasn’t worth it. When I decide to tell my parents that I wanted to study one semester, we contacted a sports agent, so I could learn English and keep playing sports, and they told us that it will be perfect that I could go to America but for one year instead of one semester. It was a huge decision to make. A whole year far away from my family and friends. But during those day until I had to make my decision I just bought about everything that I would miss if I decided not to go and experience the “American life”. It was a tough decision and I was scared of the unknown, but I eventually decided to go. One of the saddest days of my life was august 15th 2015 when at the airport I had to say bye to my parents with tons of tears on my eyes. But I was brave enough to not look back at them and get into that plane.
It was a big step for me and a lot of changes in a very short period of time. I got off the plane and started my new life as an American teenager. Months went by and I realized how gentle people were at school, I made friends and connected with people but at times I still felt very much like a stranger. One of the best friends I made was Kate and when she found out I didn’t have any plans for spring break she invited me to come with her and her youth group on their mission trip to Peppers Ranch. I honestly didn’t know what to expect, I knew that American churches we very different than the churches I grew up with in Spain, but I agreed to go with her. So when the day came by, I arrived to the church as a completely stranger and I saw Colt for the first time, such crazy hair, as well as the rest of the youth for the first time, it was a bit overwhelming and this youth guy really seemed to be struggling to pronounce my name.
But everyone was so kind and I instantly felt welcomed, everybody introduced themselves, and it was just so easy and comfortable to be around them, by the time we made the drive to Guthrie I felt like I was a part of the group and just another one of the youth. The trip was incredible; we spent 3 days playing with kids and being ridiculous. We had worship and some free time in OKC, but after the trip was over I knew I was a part of something. I started coming with Kate on Wednesdays and was sad to say goodbye to my youth group whenever I left to go back to Spain.
I spent my Junior year there and then the opportunity arose for me to come back to America for my Senior year. You would think “oh what a hard decision to make, leave Spain again…” but honestly it was one of the easiest decision that I have ever made in my short life. I knew I would be able to stay with the Rhynes, one of the kindest families I have ever known and I also knew what I would be coming back too. This time America didn’t seem like a far away scary place, it was a kind and welcoming people who did everything they could to help me feel at home. I knew the Rhynes and the home I would be going too, I knew Riverfield and the friends I had missed in my year away and I knew that I had a church family that would welcome me back and a youth group where I felt like I belonged.
I returned last August and made this place my home for my senior year. It was so good to get to see Riverfield and so many of my Tulsa friends that made my decision to come back an easy one, but there was more to it than just that. I got to live with my best friend and her incredible family, but I also got to return to my church. I remember coming with Kate that first Wednesday and everyone was so happy to see me again. They welcomed me back in like I had never left. I was also back in time to go on the Senior Leadership Retreat last fall. I got to go off with the rest of the seniors and plan what youth would look like for the next year. Not only had they welcomed me into their group but they let me take a role in leading that group.
This year my place in the youth group has shifted a little bit. I’ve been here for a while now and I am no longer the new kid. Now I get to be the one welcoming the new people. I’m the one who is a part of this and get to invite others to be a part of it too. I get to try and make them feel like they made me feel, to feel like a part of the group and know that they have a place where they belong. The people in this community, this church, this youth group, my youth group have made me know that I am one of them, regardless of where I have come from, this is my home. And that is how I express my faith, through inviting people into this too I show my faith by welcoming others.
I want them to feel the same way that I did. In Romans chapter 15 Paul tells the church in Rome,
So reach out and welcome one another to God’s glory. Jesus did it; now you do it! (Romans 15:7 (Message))
This is our job as Christians, to reach out and welcome people into God’s glory.
As we talked about my part and what I wanted to say, we realized that it would fit perfectly for our communion time, because it’s the same with communion and this table, we are all welcome here, no matter where we’ve come from, Jesus welcomes us. That’s part of what being one of his followers is about is welcoming others too.
We talk about communion as a time to remember, as you come to the table to remember the night that he was betrayed, as we remember when he took the wine and poured it, and said this wine represents the new covenant of my blood poured out for you, shed for the forgiveness of sin and as we remember how he took the bread and broke it and said this is my body, broken for you, broken for the healing of the world. Remember these things, but I also encourage you to remember to welcome people too. To let all know of the invitation of Jesus to come and follow me. As we eat this bread and share this cup, remember that all are welcome.
Lord, thank you for welcoming us, thank you for inviting us to follow you. We ask that you remind us to extend that invitation to other too. Help us to welcome them, both into our church and our communities, but into your glory too. In your son’s name we pray, amen.
Kate Rhynes, expression faith through service:
My name is Kate Rhynes and to me my faith is best expressed in the way I live my life and how I treat people, in essence I show my faith through serving. As I’ve grown to the wise old age of 17, I’ve begun to focus more on how I view the world around me and treat the people that are a part of that world. This can be known as many things, but the word that I’ve been recently come back too is charity. This year I’ve had the honor to serve on the EIS junior board of directors.
EIS is an incredible organization; they provide families with children 5 and under basic necessities, 4 times per year. These necessities include diapers, food, and formula. Actually, they help over 17,000 children with these essentials. Being on the junior board, we get to raise money to help provide for these families. Ever since I have been on the Board, we have raised over $40,000 each year. We plan an event called Babypalooza that is held on the Guthrie Green with live music and even an art show. All of the work is done by High School students 10th grade and above, but we do have a little help from our advisors. Emergency Infant Services does some amazing things around our community. Even though we have a ton of fun on the junior board, like doing an escape room together, we get to help out this amazing charity.
The definition of charity is the voluntary giving of help to those in need. Being charitable is beneficial on both the giving and receiving ends. The giver gets to feel joy because they helped someone in need, and they learn more about the world and get out of their own social bubble. The recipient obviously gets the help that is desperately needed while getting steps closer to thriving. The whole community benefits when everyone thrives, whether that is making just enough money get by, or having more than enough. Being involved with organizations like this is also important for people because it helps to create more awareness. It show people the sides of their community that they might not know about and promotes them being more aware of their social surroundings and the people within them.
One of the things that has helped shaped my view on this is a project we did in my senior English class. We spent the spring studying the authors and themes of the Victorian era and I focused on the writings of Charles Dickens. On its surface this doesn’t necessarily seem like two themes that would go together, but the deeper I got into the literature the more these two distinct areas of my life collided.
Dickens shows that social conscience was a central theme throughout his writings, he wrote of instances of poverty, poor living conditions, and how the people living this way were viewed. He strived to show the importance of being is being charitable and becoming aware of the realities of life of those less fortunate. This results in everyone having the opportunity to not only survive but also to thrive, some just need help from people who are already successful.
In the Victorian Era, social and living conditions were not great. There were a lot of people who were poor and did not live in well-built, warm homes. Most of the houses were “cold, damp, badly built, draughty slum houses.” Overcrowding was also a huge problem and the working conditions were terrible. This helps show that if care and help are well executed; everyone has the potential for success. Even from the harshest circumstances, good can come from it.
However, when charity is given to make a poverty only slightly better, there is not much of an outcome. It only keeps the high number constant. Dickens believed most people are good at heart, but social impulses could be destroyed by social ills. He also made the public more “aware of the conditions of the poor.” Getting people aware and out of their own social circle is half the battle of helping people. Once people are aware, morals start to flood the mind and help can be given generously to allow others to thrive.
As well as just being charitable, it is important to also form a relationship and to form a passion for charity work.
The importance of being charitable today has parallels to the Victorian era. Like Dickens described, people who live in poverty in modern times are still looked down upon and dehumanized. Most humans see someone begging on the street and immediately lock their doors, not realizing that they are a person too. It is also thought that it is their fault they are poor, just like the wealthy Victorians thought. If someone wants to be aware, they can choose to be and make a difference.
The Poor Law, which reduced the cost of looking after the poor, is still somewhat in effect today too. In the Victorian era, the middle and upper class paid for the workhouses and all of its expenses through taxes. Today, the middle and upper classes are paying for things the survival necessities of the lower class. There is also just as much of a lack of uncertainty. Most people living without much money do not know where their next meal is going to come from or how they will afford the basic necessities of life.
Charles Dickens had strong beliefs that poverty should be seen and known in order to change society. He helped communicate how and what poverty and charity are viewed today. As people read his works, more and more felt morally obligated to help those in need. This started setting up organizations that are still seen across the world. If a single person is helped, that one person can help society thrive into something great. That person can change another person’s life and the chain keeps going. Giving not only helps another, it teaches you to put others before yourself and to not be so self-centered. Everybody contributing and helping others get back on their feet allows for more possibility in the world. Frankly, living in a bubble by yourself of pure bliss is selfish and greedy. Even though times have changed and technology had improved, the same basic problems with poverty have stayed the same, and unless people want everything to not ever change, it is important to be giving and aware of what all aspects of society are like.
This is always something that I have strived to do, while being an active part of our youth group for the past 6 years. I’ve been on more mission trips than I can count on both hands and I have seen so many other conditions of living other than my sheltered, privileged life. Whether that be at the Tulsa Day Center for the Homeless when our youth serve on Tuesdays in the summer;at Peppers Ranch playing games with the kids;in southside Chicago putting on sports camps for kids; in Dallas playing bingo with the senior of Juliette Fowler; in Colorado doing work on a Christian camp;, in St. Louis cleaning up neighborhoods; or last spring break working in food pantries in Kansas City; or maybe it’s just hanging out with my boyfriend in Colorado — sorry that’s not really a part of this, but it’s my senior year and this is about my favorite picture I’ve ever taken.
But in all of this I have come to realize that there is more to this world than my little midtown private school bubble and that people using the silly little white girl slogan “#thestruggleisreal” will never actually have real struggle.
And although all of these trips we great and our youth gave a lot of help to some incredible organizations, this has opened my eyes to the fact that there is more to charity than writing a check or going on a mission trip a couple of times a year. Jesus tells us that as his followers, that’s us, that we will be held accountable for how we treat people. He spells this out in Matthew 25 when says,
34-36 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Enter, you who are blessed by my Father! Take what’s coming to you in this kingdom. It’s been ready for you since the world’s foundation. And here’s why:
I was hungry and you fed me,
I was thirsty and you gave me a drink,
I was homeless and you gave me a room,
I was shivering and you gave me clothes,
I was sick and you stopped to visit,
I was in prison and you came to me.’
37-40 “Then those ‘sheep’ are going to say, ‘Master, what are you talking about? When did we ever see you hungry and feed you, thirsty and give you a drink? And when did we ever see you sick or in prison and come to you?’ Then the King will say, ‘I’m telling the solemn truth: Whenever you did one of these things to someone overlooked or ignored, that was me—you did it to me.’
I have come to realize that serving and charity should be an all the time thing. Every time we help someone else out, we are actually serving God. Jesus tells us that how we treat people matters, especially those that overlooked and ignored by society. When Mother Teresa was ask how she had kept up with giving so much of her time and energy to serve the least of these her response was perfect, she simply said, “I truly believe each one of them is Jesus in disguise.” What a beautiful thought, that person that you see that makes you want to lock your doors is Jesus in disguise, they too are a child of God and how we treat them matters.
As we talked through this morning we realized that this would be perfect for the offering spot, not because we want to guilt you into giving, we’ll do that during the youth mission fundraiser breakfast. But because living generously and being a part of something bigger than yourself is a great first step. I know this can sometimes be an overwhelming concept and often we don’t know where to start or what to do next.
We can’t always take off work and go on all the mission trips, we can’t all write a 6 figure check, but we can all connect and be a part of what God is doing in this world. In a minute these gentlemen are going to pass the plates, we’d love it if you’d give the connections cards from you bulletin, there are lots of things that we are doing here at HACC that we love for you to be a part of and we would also be honored if there are things in your life that we could be in prayer about. If you feel that God is calling you to give then by all means do so and if you’re not able to join us for the youth mission fundraiser breakfast this morning and want to help support our summer mission trips, just make a note of that on your gifts and they’ll make sure it gets to the right place. But please know there’s more to it than just that.
Yes, what we do takes money, our church has bills and needs that we have to meet, it won’t be cheap to get our youth group to Baton Rouge this summer, but charity is about so much more than just money. We can all help, maybe it’s your time or your energy, maybe it’s your money or maybe it’s simply acknowledging someone and letting them know that you see them as a person, that they too are a child of God, we can all serve, we can all make this world a better place.
Will you join me in prayer…
God thank you, thank you for blessing us so much, thank you for giving us the opportunity to pass that blessing on. We ask this morning that you remind us that you care about everyone, open our eyes to those outside of our bubbles, help us to see those that are overlooked and ignored and give us the courage to act. Help us to view them as you in disguise, to see them as your child and treat them thusly. Thank you for the generosity of these people and their willingness to give, bless these gifts and the people who give them, amen.