As we have been blessed, so we are called to be blessings – living and sharing the good news of Jesus Christ through our witness, our words and our works. Giving of our financial resources is an important step in the life of faith. There is no underestimating the impact individuals and communities can make when moving toward a common goal.
Harvard Avenue Christian Church is a church constantly in formation, both in lives changed and spirits nurtured, and in building transformed and ministries fulfilled. In the midst of it all, our commitment to building relationships with God, one another, and the community we serve will continue to grow. As part of life at Harvard Avenue, consider how you will respond to the love of God in your life and in the world, and how you will commit to this spiritual life and ministry we share.
“All Y’all” is a phrase you may have missed outside of Oklahoma. When ‘y’all’ isn’t enough to describe a desire for everyone to be included, you have to step it up by saying “All Y’all!” We might resist it, but it does have a certain charm. When it comes to saints, we don’t tend to think about all y’all. But in Paul’s epistle to the church at Rome, he says it is the good and God-image already inside of us that makes all y’all saint material. The question that remains: What will we – as everyday saints – do now for all the saints to come?
In 1988, I got a call at home one evening from James McFarland. He asked how we were doing, engaged in some pleasant conversation, and then asked if I would be willing to serve on the Outreach Committee, which he led. He told me that they met on a monthly basis at the church. I told him that due to my visual impairment, I could not drive. Without hesitation, he said “Well, I can just pick you up on the way.” I found out later that it was out of the way, but I did not learn that from him. He continued to be my transportation to and from Outreach meetings and events for years.
The next year he asked if I would be willing to help promote the blood drives that the church sponsored. He said that because I worked in healthcare, it might bring a good perspective to the effort. I agreed to help out. I still do.
I spent the first 10 years of my life in Bartlesville and had known this man as ‘Mr. McFarland’. He was Mark’s father. He was a friend of my parents. Years later, I got to know him as James. He had a quiet passion for helping others.
In the book of James it reads, “What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works?” (James 2:14a) Whenever I hear this scripture, I think of James McFarland. He was a tireless organizer and laborer with Habitat for Humanity. He donated blood as long as he was medically able to. He fed the homeless. He served in multiple capacities at Grimes Elementary. He worked to maintain and upgrade Camp Christian. He continued to do this while his health became more fragile, while he was the primary caregiver for his wife, Mary, and when she could no longer be cared for at home, he shared meals with her almost every day at the nursing home.
James was my mentor as I learned what it means to be the hands and feet of Christ in the world. He led by example. I really want to grow up to be like him.
When I think of those at Harvard Avenue who have impacted my life, I think of the ‘choir of grandparents,’ as my mom used to call them, that taught me what it looks like to be part of this community. Every time I walked in the door there was a hug or encouragement from someone who cared that I was there, cared what was happening in my life, and cared about my spiritual growth. These vicarious grandparents pulled you in and held you so tight there was no denying you were theirs and they were yours.
During the first few months of my first semester of law school I was overwhelmed, homesick and exhausted from studying and decided to recharge by ducking into the local Disciples church. When I visited for the second time the greeter shook my hand, and I introduced myself, and he said “HUCKABEE! . . . so and so from Harvard Avenue said you were visiting and to keep my eye out for you!” Did HACC have spies that they had sent out to monitor my every move? How did they know? They weren’t spies– they were the sweet choir of grandparents that always found a way to reach out and pull you in even from miles away (with a little tip off from Mom, I’m sure).
As I’ve moved into adulthood at Harvard Avenue I have found new meaning in that community. People like Courtney Richards have showed me that not only are we a church community but we are part of an even larger community. As our church has thrown open its arms and claimed all those that walked through its doors I’ve seen how it heals people to find a home here. We’ve extended that community even farther than our own doors.
A few months ago I stood with at least a hundred Tulsans and a half dozen other Harvard Avenuers lining the hall leading into a banquet room as Muslim members of our community streamed in for a dinner. There had been threats of hateful protests. As guests arrived for dinner, many stopped with tears in their eyes to hug those lining the hallways. We embraced them with the same tight grip of the choir of grandparents and felt the power that creating and reinforcing community has on each of us.
Whether it is trips to Nicaragua, dinners on the back porch with new church friends and old, an interfaith service for Pride, personnel committee meetings, passing communion trays, or just quick hugs in the parking lot, Harvard Avenuers have taught me and continue to reinforce that we are powerful when we love one another, and the more we expand that embrace of community, the more powerful it gets.
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on true prosperity – Bill Queen, member since 2015
I have always struggled with a concept known as the ‘prosperity gospel’. To oversimplify, it suggests one’s material wealth will increase when one makes increased donations to the church. This is difficult for me to affirm. On the other hand, there does seem to be some sort of spiritual truth to “Those who are generous are blessed.” (Proverbs 22:9) And I do believe in the practice of a tithe, which we all can practice. (But that is another topic!) So how do I put those together?
Not that long ago I was discussing some of these ideas with my daughter. She remarked on how it seemed like the more her family gave the more they seemed to have. My response was that it seems to work that way, but I don’t believe in the prosperity gospel. She said, “Why not.” My simple response was “Because I don’t think God is a bank.”
In all reality, God doesn’t need our money. But we read in 2 Corinthians “Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously.” (2 Cor 6:7) I will testify that in my life, the more we have given, the more we have received. But as we all know, those blessings we receive are not necessarily in the form of money.
While I may not debunk (or defend) the prosperity gospel, my testimony is that somehow when we give generously, we also reap generously.
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on being ‘set apart’ – Andrea Gross, new member this year
The Greek word for saint, hagios, is translated to mean ‘most holy thing’. Further, hagios can be translated as ‘set apart for or by God’ and ‘different from the world’. I know at least three.
First, my mom Susan. She has given so much of herself to help grow my two sisters and me into the young women we are. She continues to devote her love, time, wisdom, and energy into putting the three of us – as well as many others in her life – first. She exemplifies devoted servitude through studying scripture and spending thoughtful time in prayer. She continues to be someone who inspires me, and she is a model for the type of woman I would like to be. Strong. Fearless. Set apart.
My second saint is my mom’s sister Cathie, who passed away earlier this year. She too willingly followed God’s call to serve those around her. Apart from being a mother of two boys, one of whom has autism and requires full time supervision, she also cared for my grandparents, allowing them to live independently for as long as possible. She always made time for morning coffee with them, and ensured they had dinner prepared every single night. She was wonderfully artistic, and she shared her love of creativity and art through floral arrangements for weddings. She loved spreading joy to those around her, whether through the most thoughtful gifts or the laughs everyone shared in her presence. She used the gifts and talents given to her and carried out God’s purpose for her by spreading light and love to everyone she touched. She truly was a soul different from the world.
Third is my sister, Diana. She truly embodies what it means to be a vessel of God’s love. She is a loving wife, mother, daughter, sister, and friend. She works to deepen the faith of those around her, through her active ministry and simply through her personal testimony. She illustrates how to live a Godly life for her two beautiful children, encouraging them in their faith walk at a young age. She has been influential in guiding my faith journey, and she challenges me to walk closer with God.
She led a virtual bible study with a group of our friends, and one common theme was people of peace. In reflecting on Mike Breen’s Building A Discipling Culture, we discovered that a ‘person of peace’ is someone God has prepared to come into our lives to hear his message during a specific time – a person set apart for or by God for a specific purpose. In this sense, saints and people of peace seem to be one and the same: different from the world, whose lives intersect with ours, inspiring us to discover God’s plan and grow in our journey with Him.
After taking a “Spiritual Gifts” assessment, my husband, Don, and I discovered we have the same top two spiritual gifts – faith and giving. This made it so much easier for us to choose our lifestyle together. It has been a lifestyle of accountability and responsibility before God. Through our faith we were shown that stewardship is what we do because every aspect of our life comes from Him as a gift. Without a doubt, the most influential saint in the lives of both Don and me was Rev. Robert Peake, founding pastor of Harvard Avenue Christian Church. To know both him and his wife, Harriet, was to learn more about outreach every year of their ministry. As a young couple during the beginning of their ministry, their model influenced our decisions as we grew both in our faith and in our giving. They taught us that so many times we want to compartmentalize faith; but, it really is a vital link to our giving.
There have been several times in my life and Don’s that our faith has grown because of experiences and opportunities we have taken. Each of us studied for 7 years in Bible Study Fellowship (BSF) which opened our eyes to the scriptures in a deeper and more meaningful way. Our mission trips to New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina to help rebuild; to NYC with our youth to serve in all the suburbs; to Honduras to serve among people of real poverty helping to build a pastor’s home – all helped us to see the need for compassion in our world and that we must serve and share from our hearts and our pockets. The Walk to Emmaus (a 72-hour spiritual weekend retreat) was probably the single most important event that has inspired our faith to grow to a deeper level. We will be forever grateful to the Emmaus community for the opportunity to serve inside the weekend conference room and to sponsor other people to attend the Walks. For the first time, we will be hosting a set of Men’s and Women’s Walks at Harvard Avenue this fall, and we look forward to another opportunity to serve. Finally, as many of you know, our faith was tested but deepened through the tragedy of losing our grandson in a car accident. It is from that tragedy that we now live with even greater faith and hope. If we were to leave a word for the young saints it would be this: The Life you Live is the Lesson you Teach.
on preserving and equipping – Ryan Buchan, member since 2012
Not growing up in a church, I stuck to the saints I knew best. There were the easy ones, like St Patrick and St Valentine. I will always remember St Francis, as my life started at the ‘pink hospital on the hill’.
Growing up in Tulsa, I probably drove by Harvard Avenue Christian Church a thousand times, but never fully realized how many saints were inside. I credit my wife Megan and her family for introducing me to the congregation of Harvard Avenue and starting my Christian faith. I credit my pastors, my B3 group (B4 but who’s counting!), and my Sunday school class for introducing me to Jesus Christ. I credit the members of our church for creating a community of love, gratitude and stewardship. These are the saints that have impacted my life the most.
I am grateful for the foundation that has been created by multiple generations in our church. Their spiritual gifts have preserved and equipped my family and future generations to continue our ministry and the work of God. As we move forward as a church, I welcome the opportunity to do my part and teach my children about All The Saints that have come before them. For their gifts, my family thanks you!
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