The Science Hill Story (Titus 2:11-15)Pastor Jon Truax, November 19, 2017
Part of the Science Hill series, preached at a Sunday Morning service
The Science Hill Story
For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all, training us to renounce impiety and worldly passions, and in the present age to live lives that are self-controlled, upright, and godly, while we wait for the blessed hope and the manifestation of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ. He it is who gave himself for us that he might redeem us from all iniquity and purify for himself a people of his own who are zealous for good deeds. Declare these things; exhort and reprove with all authority. Let no one look down on you.
Science Hill Community Church will be 185 years old next year. Our bicentennial is just 15 years away! Founded in 1833, our church is older than Glamorgan Castle. Older than the city of Alliance. Older than the University of Mount Union. Older than Ray Boyce. I think.
In honor of Confirmation today, the message is, “The Science Hill Story.” We’re going to look at what makes Science Hill Science Hill, what’s been important to our church over the years, how we live out our biblical mandate to be Christians, and what is in our “organizational DNA”, which is a kind of buzzword these days among those who study congregations. Our DNA means our mission and values that are at the core of who we are and gets passed down from generation to generation.
I cannot take credit for the message title, as I borrowed it from this booklet. This little booklet is now 50 years old, written by Reverend Herbert Meckstroth. Reverend Meckstroth pastored Science Hill Church from 1954 to 1969, and thought enough of this church to write a book about it! How many of you remember Reverend Meckstroth? (How would you describe him?) Let’s consider what is the same and different about Science Hill in the fifty years since this book was written.
Debbie and I have been enjoying the television show, “This Is Us.” (Anyone else watch that show?) It’s unique in that the show follows one family, but flips back and forth through various time frames. It takes place now, as well as in the 70s, 80s, and 90s. What you discover is that certain themes carry on through the generations, that seeds are planted one year that come to fruition in another, and that the present is deeply interwoven with the past and the future.
I think that is true of a congregation like Science Hill, too. There are a lot of memories in this sanctuary. This part of the sanctuary goes back to 1900. How many baptisms have been held here? (How many of you were baptized here?) How many Confirmations? (How many of you were confirmed here?) How many Weddings? (How many of you were married here?) How many Funerals? (How many of you had your funeral here?) How about through the generations, baptisms, etc.? If you figure there have been about 52 worship services a year in this room since 1900, which is a low estimate considering Christmas Eve, Easter sunrise, and the years when two services were held each Sunday, there have been over 6000 services held in here. It is sacred space.
There is a lot of history here. The church has been through building projects and demolition projects. The church has grown and declined, and grown again and declined again. The church has been full of children and nearly empty of children. The church had hitching posts before it had a parking lot. The church grounds have hosted a cemetery as well as a school.
The church has had beloved pastors. The church has had difficult pastors. (The jury is still out on the current one!) The church has had German-speaking pastors, the church has had a blind pastor, the church has had an associate pastor. The church has had some rough years, the church has had some blessed years.
Just as our present is a product of the past, we know that our present is also connected with the future, the next generation. We often talk about the Lord returning soon, and that may very well happen, especially with the way that the world is going. But it is just as possible that He may wait for some years to come. We shouldn’t only look back; we must look forward, too. Who will be the members of tomorrow, the leaders of tomorrow?
What are the themes, the strings, the ties that bind that connect our church today with the church of yesteryear and the church of tomorrow? What does it mean to be Science Hill Community Church? What is our identity, our mission, our values? What has always been true of Science Hill, and God willing, will always be true of Science Hill?
We’re going to look at Paul’s instructions to Titus as a frame for what it means to be a church, and what it means to be our church.
“For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all, training us to renounce impiety and worldly passions, and in the present age to live lives that are self-controlled, upright, and godly, while we wait for the blessed hope and the manifestation of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ.”
Paul says that we have been given a task for the present age. We can’t control the past or the future, but we have been given this moment to decide what to do. And our calling is the same as it has been since the first century: To live lives that are self-controlled, upright, and godly. To renounce the sins of unfaithfulness and worldliness. To wait for the second coming of Jesus.
A modern paraphrase of these verses describes our calling this way: God’s readiness to give and forgive is now public. Salvation’s available for everyone! We’re being shown how to turn our backs on a godless, indulgent life, and how to take on a God-filled, God-honoring life. This new life is starting right now, and is whetting our appetites for the glorious day when our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, appears.
When this area was first getting settled nearly two hundred years ago, the immigrants felt moved to start a church. There was a need for a witness for Christ in this neighborhood, especially among the German-speaking people who were living here. Science Hill was begun as a way for those in the Reformed and Lutheran traditions to worship in their native culture. We still feel it’s important to be current, to speak the language of those around us, and to worship accordingly.
The church flourished for several decades at the start. But, after the Civil War, as happened throughout our nation, religious fervor and zeal lagged. Science Hill was close to going out. But it was revived in 1899 through a series of meetings meant to fan into flame the glowing embers of faith in this area. The church caught a second wind.
The ministry of proclamation is still essential to who Science Hill is and what we do today. The first part of our mission is “to joyfully share the good news of Jesus Christ.” Science Hill has always been eager to tell the story, to share the news, to expand the kingdom. Evangelism is a central part of who we are, whether through preaching, teaching, youth ministry, children’s ministry, or young adult ministry.
The people of the 1800s needed a church for them. Those of the 1900s built on what their ancestors had begun and continued a church of witness for that generation. The people of this century also need what Paul is talking about to Titus here: examples of grace-filled living, demonstrating how to live in accordance with the Bible. The message hasn’t changed, only the language in which that finds expression!
Let’s take a look at the second part of Paul’s charge to Titus: He it is who gave himself for us that he might redeem us from all iniquity and purify for himself a people of his own who are zealous for good deeds. Declare these things; exhort and reprove with all authority. Let no one look down on you. Is this true of us? Are we living out our mission and our witness boldly? I believe so.
Another consistent trait of Science Hill through the years has been taking up authority to discharge Christian ministry. Whether it was starting this church in the first place in 1833, or taking on projects through the years for the benefit of the congregation and community, the church has acted with authority when appropriate. Twelve years ago, when things grew so difficult with the mother denomination, Science Hill voted to go forward as an independent congregation as a sign of conscience and submission to biblical authority. That adherence to God’s Word, that obedience to the Lord, is now in our DNA!
It’s appropriate here to talk about the second part of our mission statement: “To lovingly care for others.” Science Hill has always believed in ministry that goes beyond words to actions. Not instead of, but in addition to. So whether it’s the Harvest of Blessings, the Marlington Care Closet, the Angel Tree, the Alliance Pregnancy Center, a Habitat House, the Alliance of Churches, a mission trip, or the Ladies’ Aid of yesteryear, Science Hill people are zealous for good deeds. This trait is a part of who we are, who we’ve always been, and what we desire to pass on to the next generation. The best way to teach that is to live it!
Again, hearing from The Message: He offered himself as a sacrifice to free us from a dark, rebellious life into this good, pure life, making us a people he can be proud of, energetic in goodness. Tell them all this. Build up their courage, and discipline them if they get out of line. You’re in charge. Don’t let anyone put you down.
Yes, there are things that have always been true of Science Hill, they may just look a little different now and in the future.
We’ve gone from speaking German to publishing a web page.
We’ve gone from a hay wagon picking up children for summer Vacation Bible School to a weekly Kindness Club for children.
We’ve gone from a musical group of young people called the New Addition to a youth ministry called Witness which has the same objective, to live as salt and light in this generation.
We’ve gone from the Ladies Aid to WOW, with the same mission: evangelism, service, and fellowship.
We’ve gone from Bible study to small groups.
It’s all still the same gospel, it’s all still the same heart. This Is Us!
I don’t know if you know this, but scattered around our church property are several time capsules. There is one in the cornerstone of the church, another buried out by our church sign, another in the wall of the prayer room.
When those will be opened, we don’t know. But they serve as silent witnesses, reminders of the era in which they were sealed and buried, in the hopes of passing The Science Hill Story on to the next generation so that it would be passed on to the next.
The age that we live in certainly has raised up its challenges against Christianity, but the Church is not over yet! Instead, it is up to us to do what we can do to live out the life described in the Bible as being in accordance with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
This is our legacy, what we have received and what we hope to pass on. This is our story, this is our song, praising our Savior all the day long. This is us.
The story of Science Hill is not buried in a time capsule – it is alive in us! Now is the time to let it shine!
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11For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, 12Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; 13Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; 14Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works. 15These things speak, and exhort, and rebuke with all authority. Let no man despise thee. (KJV)