The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in his field. - Matthew 13:31 (NRSV)
"Missions pay." Those two words were written in 1907 by church historian J. C. Clapp about the congregation I now pastor, Corinth Reformed Church (UCC) in Hickory, North Carolina, a congregation that was an investment by others. The church was chartered May 22, 1869 during the early years of post-Civil War recovery. The congregation and community were so impoverished they couldn't afford $500 for their first sanctuary.
The tiny band of believers became a mission project for others who risked an investment in God's mission.
We invest in missions by faith, not knowing what or when or if the investment will pay off. We spread the gospel, feed the poor, advocate for the oppressed, baptize and teach, worship and wait, not because we're guaranteed to know the difference we're making, but in obedience to Christ. Sometimes grace allows us to see for ourselves that "missions pay," but often the results are not known for generations.
Today is the 150th anniversary of Corinth Reformed Church. One hundred fifty years ago, J. C. Clapp only saw the seed of Corinth Reformed Church, a seed that would grow tall and give shade. Music and education would flourish. Lives would be redeemed. The gospel would be preached. The oppressed would find advocates. The church would produce a president of the UCC (Bob Moss). It would send people and resources to China, Nicaragua, Kenya, Moldova, and also down the block and across the county. The church would live to pay it forward.
Lord of the harvest, free us from the need to see results from our efforts to serve and give and love. We pray this in the name of Jesus Christ whose mission to us resulted in rejection and sacrifice before it brought life and hope. Amen.
Bob Thompson is Pastor of Corinth Reformed Church (UCC) in Hickory, North Carolina, and President of Faithful and Welcoming Churches of the UCC. He posts sermons and other reflections on his blog, corinthpastorbob.com.