Greetings! This is Gary Sager writing you this month. My “official” title is Ambassador of Care, but I usually don’t introduce myself that way because…well let’s just say that an image like this…
…pops into my ADHD brain.
So I am, sitting here at the keyboard, on the day that this article is due, not really knowing what to say. I have only been on staff for five or six months, in the middle of a pandemic, derecho, and much social unrest. People are in need of care. Thank God for His love and care.
If you have been around Cedar Hills for a while, you will see the words:
Love, Belong, and Serve.
These words are our Church’s mission or vision. The other day, Pastor Kent and I were discussing what mission or vision actually means on a day to day, feet on the ground level. Kent really helped me gain clarity by explaining that our mission/vision is really just asking ourselves, “What do we want to do or be?” Kent stated “We all want to love and be loved.” He then asked me, “Doesn’t everyone want to have a sense of belonging?” Pastor Kent concluded by pointing out that, “People also want to have a sense that they are contributing to or serving a greater cause.” We want to be a Church that Loves, and make others feel loved. We want you to feel like you Belong here, because you are family. We want to minister to you through acts of Service, and we want to help you find a place to contribute.
There is a second part to helping us carry out the “what we want to do or be” cause. This “How” is accomplished through our “Values.” If you were would peer into the classrooms and offices in the building, you would see other words that accompany Love, Belong, and Serve. We have come with four or five “Core Values” or means that enable us to work through or carry out “How” to Love, Belong, and Serve. Pastor Alan taught me that our “Values.” Form the acronym GRAHF, (think Graft for the purposes of this article. Graph works as well), the words are as follow: Gratitude, Restoration, Authenticity, Hospitality, and Forgiveness.
But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, although a wild olive shoot, were grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing rootof the olive tree. ~Romans 11:17
I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. ~John 15:5
Jesus has grafted us onto Himself (the Vine), and if we abide (remain, rely) on Him, and Him alone, we will see the “Fruit” of Love, Belong, and Serve come about. Applying the Core Values of GRAHF can help us with “How” to stay grafted to our source (Jesus), or they can guide us in “How” to plot out or graph our journey toward Loving, Belonging, and Service.
Let’s move through a brief example:
I am personally Grateful for the Pastors, Elders, Staff, Consistory, and General Community at Cedar Hills Church. Thanking God for His love and kindness has opened my heart to all sorts of new opportunities.
This Church Community has been a place for personal Restoration for me. I have also seen others being restored though the ministry and care of this Community. The Church has been a place for healing and renewal. This has created a deeper connection with Jesus (the Vine), and it has created connection/relationships with others.
I have been part of and witnessed many open, honest and Authentic conversations and relationships in this Community. This Authenticity has facilitated genuine relational interactions.
This Community has exhibited Hospitality through its ministry and small groups and by individuals either opening their homes or giving their time and attention. It was the Hospitality of a small group of people that motivated my wife and I to get more involved in the Church.
I have both observed and experienced the freeing power of Forgiveness. This happened in Community, by prayer, listening, and the presence of others through the entire process.
“So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” ~John 8:36
These “Values” often build on one another. Through the act of Forgiveness, Restoration occurs. Commitment to Hospitality has often led to Authentic relationships.
I pray that you and I, through Jesus’ (the Vine) power continue to exercise and implement our Values of Gratitude, Restoration, Authenticity, Hospitality, and Forgiveness (GRAHF) in all of our interactions. I also pray that, through this process, we would grow into a body that both acts and feels deeper Love, foster and experience a true sense of Belonging, and discovers and develops a passionate and effective ministry of Service.