Report to the 75th Assembly of the
Upstate New York District Church of the Nazarene
Rev. Bill Carr, District Superintendent
The date was July 1, 1937. The Church of the Nazarene in New York was assembled in its 30th session as the New York District Church of the Nazarene. The location was the Beacon Camp Ground in Beacon, New York. Dr. J. G. Morrison was the presiding General Superintendent over the Assembly. It was during the Friday afternoon session that the topic of dividing the New York District into two distinct districts was given lengthy discussion. The vote of the assembly was called for and the results were 68 yes for dividing, and 54 no. The issue of division was then referred to the Board of General Superintendents.
The date was September 24, 1937. The northern church pastors and lay representatives from the northern churches of the New York District met with Dr. J. G. Morrison at Lake Placid, New York. The purpose of the meeting was the establishment of a new district, a second district for the Church of the Nazarene in New York. The vote was taken and the Albany District of the Church of the Nazarene was birthed and would be effective October 1, 1937. The Rev. A.M. Babcock was elected as the District Superintendent.
Tonight, we gather to celebrate the 75th District Assembly, the 75th Anniversary of the new Upstate New York District of the Church of the Nazarene. Our celebration theme is “Shaping Tomorrow’s Destiny from our History.” George Bernard Shaw, a 19th century Irish playwright and co-founder of the London School of Economics, stated: “We celebrate the past to awaken the future.” It is my prayer that in these following hours of worship; in our sharing the Word of God; in the sharing of our stories of God at work in us and among us; and in our reflective remembrances and celebration of where we started from, where our journey has taken us, and where we are today, that the Holy Spirit will awaken us to where God is now calling and desiring to lead us in Shaping Tomorrow’s Church of the Nazarene on the Upstate New York District.
It was with the desire to awaken the church at Ephesus to its potential future that the Apostle Paul wrote his prison letter to them. It is a letter of encouragement as he reminds them of where they were prior to Jesus and what God in Christ has now provided for them. It is a letter to remind them how they were to live in the reality of their current world, directing them to do so in their new relationship with God through Jesus. It is a letter of challenge: a challenge to awaken them to the purpose and possibilities of the gift God had bestowed upon them through the Holy Spirit. They were to be partners with Christ in His mission of restoring and recreating this “Fallen World” to a “New World” that would fully reflect God’s glory.
I would like to focus on Ephesians 2:1-10.
“Once you were dead because of your disobedience and your many sins. You used to live in sin, just like the rest of the world, obeying the devil- the commander of the powers in the unseen world. He is the spirit at work in the hearts of those who refuse to obey God. All of us used to live that way, following the passionate desires and inclinations of our sinful nature. By our very nature we were subject to God’s anger, just like everyone else. But God is so rich in mercy, and he loved us so much, that even though we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead. (It is only by God’s grace that you have been saved!) For he raised us from the dead along with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ Jesus. So God can point to us in all future ages as examples of the incredible wealth of his grace and kindness toward us, as shown in all he has done for us who are united with Christ Jesus.
God saved you by his grace when you believed. You can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.”
This short section is a cliff’s notes version of the entire letter of Ephesians. I want to:
Encourage you, by reminding us, of where we were and the legacy that has been given to us through the faithfulness and sacrificial service of many on behalf of Christ and the Upstate New York District and its communities.
Remind us of how we are to live and minister in light of the legacy we’ve received through Christ.
Challenge us to awaken to the immediate responsibility of Shaping Tomorrow’s Destiny.
I. To Encourage
There is no greater source of encouragement available to us than to be reminded of the following:
- Where we are in terms of our sin, in light of our failures, in recognition of our fears, in the reality of our disappointments, in our sense of guilt and shame, and in life’s wounds along with the stuff that leaves us crippled, discouraged, defeated, and holds us captive. This is not where we have to remain.
- There is “Grace, Grace, God’s Grace, Grace that is Greater than all our sin” available in contrast to life’s circumstances. The incredible gift of God’s grace is Jesus. He delivers from sin’s grip and guilt; He is the restorer of the broken relationship with God; He is the healer of wounded lives; He is the recreator of life through the infilling presence of His Holy Spirit; He is the source of help, healing and hope, and He is for us, He will be in us, and He will go with us in life’s journey. Wherever you have been, wherever you are now, God’s grace through Jesus is for you.
II. To Remind Us
This marvelous grace that is ours through Jesus is to enable us to live new lives. We are called to follow Jesus. We are gifted by the Spirit to live His life. Jesus addresses how we are to live as His followers in numerous places, but none more direct than these:
John 15:9-10, 12
“As the Father has loved Me, so have I loved you. Now abide/remain in my love. If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in His love. My command is this: Love one another as I have loved you.”
“You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men. You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on a stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.”
“Anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.”
“You are to love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.”
“Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.”
These passages basically remind us that we are to be the theo to koi, God bearers to the world; or as expressed in Exodus, we are to be God’s Kingdom people. We are to be His bridge builders, His priests, the ones who intervene between God and a broken world in order to bring reconciliation and healing to the relationship between God and His creation.
I have asked Rev. Jim Cedar, our pastor at New Life Community to share his story.
For the past 3 years I’ve been the bi-vocational pastor of New Life Community in Wolcott. Unfortunately, my secular job was not a 9 to 5, punch a clock and go home type of job. I was the sales manager for the North East’s largest distributor of municipal fire equipment and fire trucks. I had 16 outside salesmen, 170 product lines, and millions of dollars in revenue that I was responsible for. The owner of the company is not a Christian and as a manager within a non-Christian business I was sometimes asked to complete tasks that didn’t always sit well with my values and beliefs. This constant pull between these two worlds was intense for many years.
This last February while I was on my way home from working several days in Albany, I was listening to a preacher on the radio who was talking about the need for us, as Christians, to be honoring to God in all that we do. Now, I thought I was honoring God through my secular job. However, what God put on my heart that day was that I was allowing my fear of losing my job to be greater than my desire to honor God. And by allowing the owner of my company to push me into completing tasks that were not God honoring, I was not choosing to follow Jesus in those instances. I found myself asking the question: “Why am I compromising my beliefs for this company?”
My wife and I spent a lot of time in the Word and in prayer over that question, and talking about what would happen the next time one of those situations arose. And wouldn’t you know; one arose: A year ago we hired a salesman in the Albany area that owned a small company. In February of this year the owner of my company wanted me to approach this man and give him an ultimatum – you close your company or I have to fire you. This was a problem for me as that was not the agreement we had made with him. I knew that God was testing my faith and whether or not I would be obedient.
I had the long overdue conversation with the owner of my company, a conversation about how this was wrong and that I was not going to take part in it. His response was: either you have this conversation with the salesman in Albany, or you will not long be employed here.
Colleen and I spent a couple days praying about the situation and both felt very strongly that I was going to honor God in this and resigned my job. As soon as I resigned God opened the door for me to start my own part-time business, allowing me to focus on the ministry of New Life while working about 20 hours a week for myself.
God has blessed this endeavor immensely!
We will be judged more by how we live in our day-to-day relationships with God, others, and the world than by what we proclaim or sing in our Sunday services. A Holy God demands, expects, and makes provision for us to live holy lives. The critical question we must ask is this: does my walk match my talk? Do I really believe that He is Who He says He is? That He is truly our Savior, our Hope, our Power, our Rock? To what extent do our lives, goals, purpose and actions reflect His heart in the midst of a lost and dying world?
The heritage of our foundation, our history, is that whenever, wherever and however we allow Jesus to be lifted up and exalted in our lives through loving acts of service and sacrifice, by ministries of caring and compassion, and by sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ, people will respond and be drawn by the Holy Spirit to discover and experience new life in Christ. Therefore, the second critical question we must ask is: do I lift up Jesus? Or do I focus on myself? Whenever Jesus is lifted up, He will bring a harvest of new Christ followers.
III. The Challenge
George Bernard Shaw wrote another quote that has become one of my favorites: “Some men see things as they are and ask why. Others dream things that never were and ask why not?”
As a boy, I would often work with my grandfather in his flower garden. It was a showcase that would draw many who would come just to walk through it and take pictures of his many varieties of flowers. When we would plant, Granddaddy never said, “Son, we’re putting this brown, dingy ball in the ground.” He would say, “Son, we’re planting beautiful tulips!” and he would name the color. The same was true in his vegetable garden. He was teaching me to see beyond the immediate of what was, in order to see what was to be or what would emerge.
Our challenge as pastors, lay leaders, and Christ followers committed to Jesus’ mission of making disciples and restoring and recreating a new world is to see what Jesus sees. This must be our vision, inspiration, and motivation that guides us as we work together to Shape Tomorrow’s Destiny of the Upstate New York District of churches and communities.
Therefore, pastor, when you are at work in your study or home preparing for Sunday, you must see you are not just preparing a sermon. You are preparing to share the life-giving, life-transforming, and life-illuminating living Word. You must dare to speak as Jesus’ voice: inviting the hurting, the hopeless, those struggling in sin’s grip of guilt and shame, those discouraged and defeated, or those who are just plain tired from life circumstances, to discover His love, forgiveness, and enablement to live, not as victims, but as victors in Him.
Pastor, your assignment is not just to preach a sermon, conduct board meetings, oversee the budget and church buildings and give reports to District Superintendents and District Assemblies. You are to live and serve in both the communities of the world and in the family of God as Jesus would live and serve. Thus, you are to be Jesus among them.
Obviously this isn’t a task we can do in or of ourselves, regardless of our strengths. However, note the following promises of God’s Word:
“I will give you the keys of the Kingdom of heaven: whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”
“Everything is possible for him who believes.”
“But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”
Lay Leaders, you do not just teach a Sunday School lesson, or serve on committees or teams. The teacher, much like the pastor, is bringing the living Word of life to those in your class. You are enabling them to both learn about and see the love of Christ, and experience His love in their lives through applying what He says. Your service as lay leaders is that of serving Christ through whatever responsibility and task you engage in for the community of faith and in your residential communities.
What we dare to envision through the illuminating direction of the Holy Spirit can become reality. We must, all of us, dare to see ourselves as Christ sees us - - - we in Christ and He in us, working to bring about the Kingdom rule of God’s reign and glory on earth as it is in heaven. We must see ourselves as going forth daily as Christ’s ambassadors. We are to represent Jesus in all places by our words, actions, attitudes and motives. We must also realize that we cannot afford to celebrate our existence if, in our existence, we ourselves remain spiritually impoverished and unfruitful in our mission. Revival, renewal, and restoration only come when people get dissatisfied with what is, and yearn deeply for what could be. May we as a community of believers be willing to pray for the revival we so desperately need so that our hearts will beat with the heart of God and His light will shine into the lives of those around us.
In closing, the great and good news is this truth: Jesus stands in the midst of history and eternity calling to everyone/to us. Tssuva – “Return to Me, to God the Father. Return to the love, life, and power of the Father who created you. Live life as God intended. Come follow Me as together we Shape Tomorrow’s Destiny from the History of My life and mission. Follow Me! I have made the way possible for you. Remember whatever I ask you to do! I have made available the power and resource for you to do it.”
Let us be faithful in carrying on the dreams and expectations of our forefathers who, 75 years ago, formed the Upstate District of the Church of the Nazarene for the purpose of proclaiming to a dark and broken world the healing, the hope, the joy, the power in living out the love of Christ. He is risen! He is risen indeed! Let us not just mouth those familiar words. Let us live for Him and in Him in such a way that the seeds we plant today will bring forth the harvest He so deeply desires, through the power of His Holy Spirit, to His glory and praise.
Committed to Shaping Tomorrow’s Destiny with Christ,