By Stan Friedman
IRVINE, CA (June 24, 2012) – When Linnea Carnes was ordained, she told God she didn’t want to go to Africa or anyplace where she would be uncomfortable. So God brought Africa and other parts of the world to her.
The small congregation she pastors in Chicago – Immanuel Covenant Church – is made up of people from 14 different nations. Additionally, a Filipino Covenant congregation worships with the church.
Serving such a congregation is not always comfortable, though it often is rewarding, Carnes told worshipers this morning during the final worship service of the 127th Annual Meeting of the Evangelical Covenant Church.
Speaking especially to the men and women who were to be commissioned, consecrated or ordained following her message, Carnes said, God is calling some of them to serve in foreign nations, “but God is calling all of us to serve globally at home.”
She exhorted the gathering to serve with a heart like God’s, showing no partiality and always welcoming the stranger. Carnes began serving at Immanuel in 1999 and noted that the church was a historic congregation made up of Swedish immigrants. It also was known for the welcome it extended to others, a place where the visitor was quickly invited to lunch.
The church no longer is a Swedish congregation, but remains one of immigrants, she said. It still is a welcoming place.
The Covenant has made developing multiethnic congregations a major priority, but Carnes said, “It is not a new plan.” From the beginning, God’s design has been a heaven made up of people from every nation, tribe, peoples and languages praising God together.
Welcoming the stranger is not always easy, however. “Serving a multiethnic church is one of the biggest challenges of my life,” she said.
She, like everyone else, has her prejudices, Carnes confessed. She continues to undergo the ongoing circumcision of the heart – the cutting away of all that is useless or gets in the way.
Carnes reminded the worshipers that God has called us to not only welcome the stranger – even those we had been taught to hate – but to love them. “Jesus drew to himself people who would be repulsed by each other,” Carnes said. “Love is the cost of being bound to Christ in love.”
Carnes told the story of a woman who greeted everyone she met with joy. Asked how she could do so with strangers, the woman responded that strangers are just friends she had not yet met. The church should live with the same attitude, Carnes said.
Speaking again to those who were being consecrated, commissioned, and ordained, Carnes reminded them that their colleagues come from diverse backgrounds. She cautioned against the temptation of meeting in groups of people only like themselves.
Our relationship with one another should loudly proclaim to all that “God shows no partiality, but is Lord of all.”
Following her sermon, Curt Peterson, executive minister of the Department of World Mission, told the audience that he felt his call to global ministry when he attended Immanuel.