October 5, 2023 / By Pastor Daniel Bradley, Faith Journey UMC
"If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, 'you shall love your neighbor as yourself,' you are doing well. But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors. For whoever keeps the whole law but fails at one point has become guilty of all of it. For he who said, 'Do not commit adultery,' also said, 'Do not murder.' If you do not commit adultery but murder, you have become a transgressor of the law. So speak and so act as those who are to be judged under the law of liberty. For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment. What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, 'Go in peace, be warmed and filled,' without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead." James 2:8-17
If ever there was a piece of scripture that convicts me of my sin, this is it. It reminds me daily to minister to my brothers and sisters in Christ before myself. Taking this into account daily is of the utmost importance. It’s not enough to give “lip” service to my faith. My faith must be combined with actions.
Actions speak louder than words. When we put our faith into action, it reminds us that God works through our more than-capable words to meet the needs of those who need it the most. The most important work done through Faith Journey United Methodist Church is not done on Sunday mornings but throughout the week through the mission arm of our Cradle and Beyond Ministry. Lives are being changed by the generous faith, giving, and prayer support of this mission arm of the Church. It’s not about us or the merchandise we sell, but it is all about the people who come in and are greeted in grace by the volunteers at the store.
One of my favorite stories of faith to tell is of a couple that came in to donate their daughter's clothing and other items. Their daughter had died unexpectedly, and they were cleaning out her house. The couple, visibly shaken, was crying as they brought in their daughter's belongings. The volunteers in the store stopped what they were doing, spent time in prayer, and offered hugs to this couple. It was a testament to the power of God at that moment. There are times when God stops us dead in our tracks and allows us to open up to others through prayer and hugs; that makes all the difference. Cradle and Beyond is more than clothes and goods. It’s about putting faith into action.
Not only does Cradle and Beyond meet the needs of those in need, but it also provides a small food pantry and partners with thirty-two other Syracuse missions. This year, through our backpack mission, we could give away 105 backpacks filled with school supplies. The children who came through the store were blessed and beyond ecstatic to receive these gifts. In addition to expanding the use of the building, we have also opened up our ‘clubhouse space’ for an organization called “Circle of Friends,” which ministers to individuals with special needs. This October, there will be a Bible study group using the ‘clubhouse’ space on Sunday afternoons, as it is being used for our book study on Wednesday afternoons.
The church of Jesus Christ was never meant to be just about Sunday worship. It was meant to be missional in purpose, multifaceted, and ever-changing. What we do on Sunday mornings should transfer to what we do throughout the week. I urge you to consider your week spent in mission and ministry.
If the mission of the Church is all about what happens in your church building on Sunday mornings, then you have missed the point. The mission of The United Methodist Church is to “Make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.”
Many people thought spending as much as Faith Journey did on rehabbing this old veterinary clinic into a thrifty boutique was a mistake. I was one of those people. I am thankful to God that I was wrong. The work done through this campus is so much more than clothing and goods. It is life-giving and sustaining and is reaching the people of North Syracuse, NY, in a powerful, positive, and uplifting way. The mission statement of Faith Journey United Methodist Church is to, “Seek, Serve, & Share God with others.” That is what Cradle and Beyond is doing, and I can’t thank the volunteers who staff the store enough for their commitment to God and Jesus Christ.
It is good to remember where we have been as a church on the move, but more importantly, to consistently focus on where we are going. The next steps for Cradle and Beyond have yet to be written, but I believe James says it best when he reminds us, “What good is it, my brothers if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, be warmed and filled,’ without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also, faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.”
As Christians, we have a choice to make, “we can get busy living or get busy dying.” It’s up to us to chart our future or pick our headstone. This is what is before us today. The choice is yours.
Cradle and Beyond is a “thrifty boutique” located at 7778 Brewerton Rd. Cicero, NY across from Dunkin Donuts.