Life on Fire: Sermon at First Unitarian Church, Harrisburg, PA, Nov. 9, 2013, Rev. Ron Robinson
Reading: from Isaiah, chapter 58
This was an important scriptural story to our faith tradition’s founders; it conveys one of the cores of our witness about the Holy: that it is to be found ultimately not in what is dead and gone, as informative and inspirational as that might be, or in the finer points of speculative argumentation and reasoning, nor in the deadness of the status quo and how we have always done things and complacency in the face of injustice; but in the messy fired-up always imperfect lives of struggling people and in the unfolding continuing revealing changing spirit of life itself that keeps manifesting in new ways. To draw near to the Holy we say is to draw near to that experience; as Isaiah prophetically reminds us still, it is in solidarity and familiarity with those without that we truly earn the name of religious community.
In summer 2010 through our nonprofit we bought the block of abandoned homes and trash dump and transformed it into a community garden park and orchard. Then in 2011 the nonprofit bought the largest abandoned building at the time, an old church building, for our community center. We called both the center and the park The Welcome Table. And so our church/missional community that had started as Epiphany Church then became The Living Room Church then Church at A Third Place became The Welcome Table. Four location changes and four name changes in 8 years, not mentioning how we started in living rooms, in a hotel meeting space, in the back room of a Panera Restaurant, and how we still look for ways to worship in the garden or at our service sites or places we partied like a bowling alley. And we may be morphing in a major way again very soon.
Now we have been expanding our food pantry into a free corner store for our area where 55 percent say they are unsure if they will have enough to eat, where 60 percent say they can’t afford healthy food, and we have a community art space, and crafts space, and free clothing and more space; we hold community events and community organizing meetings and put on free holiday parties and throw open the doors to the community, because no one else in our area is; we are now leading the way in getting a new seniors group organized, and we have the lofty dream of trying to put together a coalition to buy and use for the community the recently closed school across from us. Meanwhile the community garden park and orchard is growing and becoming an award-winning site for events itself. And we do all this and the last time we worshipped together this past Sunday we had five people, a good turnout. I never say “just” five people, or two people. We embody a theology of enough. We are a church of enough-ness.