Sunday Morning  Blended Worship Service at 9:30am, Education Hour at 11:00

Pastor's Blog

"The Open Circle"

You might have heard how, a few years ago, the State of Colorado commissioned a new logo in an elaborate process involving studies and interviews of people both inside and outside the state, spending many millions of dollars to design a new emblem to represent our state to people locally, nationally and globally. Fans of the Colorado state flag, however, might be surprised that despite seeing the flag image splashed all over hats, t-shirts, bumper sticker and what-have-you here in Colorado, polls showed that outside the state most people didn’t recognize the Colorado flag “C,” often associating it with Chicago or California or Connecticut depending on the part of the country they were in. Consequently, the designers decided to go with a new logo based on the image from the license plate of a green mountain edged in white which they determined was more universally recognizable as Colorado outside of our great state.

Plus the state wanted a logo that was proprietary so they could better control its use while the flag emblem is in the public domain meaning that anyone can make use of it for anything. That’s why we were able to adapt it for our new logo (amen?!), because we wanted something that would catch people’s attention while at the same time communicating specifics about who we are and what we believe to anyone who has eyes to see and the ability to interpret what this new logo tells us about who and what we are.

For while the big red “C” might not say “Colorado” to people in a way the state wants to communicate, here at Central I believe the red Colorado “C” is bold enough to carry the message of Central Christian Church in an eye-catching way that at the same time tells something meaningful about who we are. It’s the first letter in the word “Central,” in the first place, and what’s more we have three “C’s” in our name - Central Christian Church - and thus the one big bold “C” can serve as a reminder of that triple-“C” alliteration.

The bold red color is also the same color red as we have in the Disciples “chalice” emblem that connects us with our sponsor in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), so there’s a connection to our denominational covenant there as well.  Still, the most immediately recognizable aspect of this “C” is the connection to the Colorado state flag, which is something that’s also important to Central because our church was established here way back in 1873 when Colorado was still a territory in the Wild West.

Also, you might remember how, a few years back, I wrote a history for our 140th anniversary celebration, and by my calculation our church remains the 8th oldest church in Colorado, though Margaret Stookesberry and I were talking about this last week and she believes Central is only the 11th oldest Colorado church, so it looks like Margaret and I are going to have to compare notes(!). But in any case, regardless if we are 8th or 11th, Central will always be one of Colorado’s oldest churches and that’s something we can remember when we see in our new logo the strong Colorado “C”.

Because the point is that our new logo will not only tell us something about who we are, it will also equip us to talk about who we are with others in a new way. Somebody asks us about our church, or asks us about why we have a Colorado “C” with a cross in it on our pin or our t-shirt or the magnet on our car and we can say, “Yes, it represents our name, Central Christian Church, and reminds us we’re the 8th (or 11th!) oldest church in Colorado!”

You see how this works? What’s more, there’s another way to look at the image of the “C” which is as a representation of an “open circle,” or a circle that’s open on one side. And in this you might say that we as Christians are given our job description which is to invite people into the circle of our welcome by committing to keeping our circle always open to newcomers.

In fact, you might think of it as if the open circle of the “C” forms an image that looks very much like that of a person holding her arms out in welcome, so the “C” is a reminder that it is our job to hold our arms out open for those who are seeking a relationship with Jesus Christ. (His cross is at the center of the circle to remind us that it is relationship to Christ to which we are welcoming, also that this is where we find the strength to offer ourselves in welcome, but that’s something we can talk more about next week). But the “C” as an open circle is for us a reminder of what we are to do and to be.

I was reminded of this truth the other day when I read an article on church leadership titled, “Why the church doesn’t need any more coffee bars,” written by a young woman who recently lost her husband from cancer. She writes:

“My husband passed away February 14, 2017 after a two year battle with cancer. And recently more and more on my social media feeds I’ve noticed a lot of churches boasting of the cool trendy new initiatives they’ve begun. But [these articles indicate that] when church leaders sit around and discuss how they can reach people, I don't think they have the widow in mind. I don't think they have the cancer patient in mind. I don't think they have the children who are growing up without a parent in mind. Because I am not paying attention to the church décor when I walk through the doors.

“I don't care about coffee or a hip pastor on the platform. For I am hurting in a way that is almost indescribable. My days  are spent working full time. My nights are spent homeschooling and taking care of two young children. I don't have shared duties with a spouse anymore everything is on my plate. And when I go to church I desperately want to hear the Word of God.

“[So] church leaders, remember that you are not just trying to attract the hip and the cool to your church. You are reaching widows. You are reaching children who don't have a parent. You are reaching someone battling with a disease. You are reaching a person going through a divorce. You are reaching a businessman who thinks they have all that they need. You are reaching the hurting. And the only thing they need is Jesus.”

And I’m sharing that article because it reminds me that we have a role and a responsibility and that’s to be the open arms of Jesus Christ, ready and waiting to be there for people like this who are seeking not see fancy experience of a big production but just an encounter with God through Jesus Christ in another person: “God with skin on,” if you will. What’s more, it reminds me of the need to stick to the simple unvarnished gospel; for people out there are hurting, and our job is to offer an encouraging word.  

Friday night I had another affirmation of this truth while I was preparing for my sermon Sunday, because after we got home from Ezekiel’s orchestra concert and put the kids today, Niki and I were relaxing watching tv on the couch and playing with our golden retrievers and I was looking over my notes when I decided to go grab some ice cream. So I ran to Wal-Mart and in the ten minutes I was there I noticed several people who seemed like they were struggling: a single mother with several children shopping at 10 o’clock at night, a woman who was more than 300 pounds, and the cashier who was crippled in his hands, but worked with such a positive attitude.

And when I got back home I couldn’t help but to think that these are the people Jesus calls us to connect with - that the mission field is not necessarily other people with Norman Rockwell lives who pet their golden retrievers by the fireplace but we are called to connect people who look very different than ourselves, people who take us out of our comfort zone and a reminder to me as we’re focusing on doing the work of evangelism

(Remember how Jesus told a parable about a banquet in Matthew 22:1-14?)

For while the open circle is not an image found in scripture, for our lesson today I had us look at Revelation 22 verses 12-13 where Jesus says: “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.”* Because its from here that we get the image of Jesus as being all inclusive, recognizing that in Him we come together with other Christians far and near and that all divisions of race or creed or color or circumstance fall away. For these are human divisions, not of God, and one day all will be revealed.

It’s like the old gospel standard, “Will the Circle Be Unbroken?” that says, “Will the circle be unbroken/ by and by, Lord, by and by/ there’s a better home awaiting/ in the sky Lord, in the sky”. So while its not an image from scripture, exactly, we all know what it means to have an unbroken circle: though the irony is that for the circle to be unbroken it first has to be open.


What’s more, it’s a reminder to us to keep it simple: kind of like how when we heard back from Eden’s kindergarten teacher, Miss Meinecke, last week of how she wanted to compliment her on being a friend to everyone, not just the popular kids. Because this past week there was a little girl, Roxie*, who no-one was including (and from what I hear a lot of the girls exclude this little girl because she is younger than all the rest: there’s a real pecking order amongst kindergarten girls, it seems!) but Miss Meineke wanted to make sure we knew how Eden made an effort to be a friend to little Roxie*.

We asked her why and, in her 5-years-old-going-on-15 exasperated voice, with her hands on her hips she said: “Mom … its because I’m a Christian! And Christians are supposed to be nice to other people like Jesus said to.” And I thought, “Out of the mouths of babes!” Because what my 5-year-old understands that often we adults fail to see is that to be a Christian means that we should reach out to those who are excluded and welcome them in.

For as Christians, as members of Central Christian Church, that’s our job description - no more and no less - to reach out to others in welcome, inviting them into relationship in the spirit of Jesus Christ. This is graphically depicted in our new logo in the “open circle” concept of the Colorado “C”, which we read to represent standing with open arms of welcome.

We have our job description, we have our marching orders, and its to stand like this [stand with arms out making a “C” like you’re going to give a hug]!!!

So now every time we see the Colorado “C” on any flag or t-shirt or bumper sticker out there in the world we know the code! on how to read it to remind our responsibility as Christians, and that is to be an open circle of welcome because that’s what’s most needed in this world today. TBTG. Amen.

*Scripture lesson is from Revelation 22:12-13, where Jesus said: “And behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to give to every one according to his work. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End, the First and the Last.”

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