After Easter, I count the weeks until the summer schedule begins. But then, come the 2nd or 3rd week of August I start looking forward to this day – kick-off Sunday and the start of the “real” year: The choir back in full force, adult education, fellowship groups, I am back in my dress – all of it. Kids back to school – it is time for the seasons to turn over, to begin anew.
There have been a lot of changes since we last worshiped together at 11:00 on a Sunday morning. Clover is preaching today to her new congregation in Denver. Dacia and family are worshiping at some church 40 miles east of Dallas.
We have a new starting line-up so to speak: As you have heard and now seen, we welcome the Rev. Lois Annich and newly graduated seminarian Rachel McDonald to the ministry team. Both are amazingly talented faithful people. We are so, so blessed.
Anne Wilson (she isn’t so new, but still VERY young!) – but what do you say about her that hasn’t already been said – she is the best musician in town.
Leading our children and youth programs Shannon Headen and Kate Burleigh.
Peg Weissbrod makes sure all of the good news is spread out to the community.
What a starting line up! “Pinch myself!”
But the first thought that came to me this past week was this: while each of us on the staff has out particular calls to ministry and we are pleased to share our gifts with you. It is very important to properly identify our roles: Ours and yours.
Because really, YOU are the ministers of Jesus Christ in the world. YOU are the ones who work outside these walls in the mission fields of school, of office, of homes. YOU interact daily with folks reflecting the widest possible diversity.
The staff’s job is to coach, train, teach, encourage you in order to, as we read in Ephesians, to equip YOU “the saints” for the work of ministry, “…for the building up of the body of Christ…. Until all of us come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ.” It is all about growing up and life-long learning!
YOU are the hands and feet, the voice of Christ in this world and that is why we begin our day together in Christian Education – because we have to get trained in the playbook; we have to know our story and get clearer every day about why we do what we do.
I have been following the case of Kim Davis, the magistrate in Kentucky who denied marriage licenses to same gender couples because of her Christian conviction. Now, I am not going to pile on Ms. Davis. I recognize and respect conviction.
I am reminded of the little boy of German heritage who, when finding out in his 1st grade class that there was no Santa, stepped before the class and with all manner of conviction responded: “Well if there is no Santa, who decorates our tree for Christmas morning?” That is so sweet, no? But conviction can be wrong at any age.
So to equip you Saints for your work means that we study our bibles, and dig deep about what faith means, and get beyond this simplistic notion that Christian faith is really about where you are going to spend eternity and rule following.
That is NOT what Jesus was about. Jesus showed in his life and death the fullness of God’s inclusive love for you and for me and for all: for every Muslim, Jew and Hindu, for every person of conviction or no conviction.
I was talking to a non-Christian friend the other day and she said, “I love your church, it does so much for our community and the world. You all seem to care for each other when in need. And I really love the teaching of forgiveness and redemption. I need to hear that.” But she is critical (which is fair sometimes) of the church that is narrow, judgmental, and exclusive and rejects intellectual questioning.
You and I have a lot of work to do!
We worship together each Sunday to praise God and to give thanks for life, to be together, simply to be together – and sometimes the sermon IS boring but the music never. And sometimes a child says something, you hear a word that seems just for you, someone sees your emotion and comes over and puts their arm around your shoulder and you know in your gut that something just happened… it could and probably does happen other places, hope so – but it happened HERE.
We study together – because we need to know our story, our vocabulary – our heritage. We need more Bible Nerds! It is the only way for us to understand the calling of God on our lives for justice and mercy. It is how we know about redemption and forgiveness and the zealousness of our Creator that “all God’s children have a place in the choir.”
We work together – we reach out in service to others; to show God’s compassion and mercy and yes, indignation at stupidity, at bigotry, and narrowness; our own and others. As the question that is asked of every new member: we trust the gracious mercy of God and so we turn from the ways of sin and death and we renounce evil and its power in the world.
This is our mission – to show Christ’s loves to a broken world.
Christ’s hospitality to all.
Inspired – we breathe in the spirit of God – that is what “inspire” means – to breathe in — in worship we breathe the breath of God.
And so inspired, we conspire together (breathe with) that is what “conspire” means – so we put our hearts and minds together to do the revolutionary work of God.
And when we are INSPIRED and we CONSPIRE guess what – yes, we PERSPIRE – we “breathe out” for that is what “perspire” means – and we give our sweat equity to our witness of the Kingdom that love overcomes hatred, and inclusion is more powerful than exclusion.
You have to show up every Sunday – I say this not to guilt you, but where else are you going to go where this much takes place?
You have to pledge to the work of this church – I say this not to obligate you but to encourage your spiritual disciplines so that you will experience the power of God in a new way.
You have to evangelize – YES evangelize – spread the good news, and invite people to experience what you have experienced…. Tell you story, share your life… it will be enough.
In closing, and some of you have heard this story… my very first sermon I ever preached was on the text from John chapter 1 about the disciples of John the Baptist following behind Jesus away from the river Jordan into the desert. Jesus is aware he is being followed and so he turns and looks and asks a very deep question: “What are you looking for?” We are all looking for something, no?
And those who are following respond with a very profound answer, one that I think speaks to all our yearning: “Rabbi, where are you staying, where are you pitching your tent?” In other words: Where can we see and feel something larger than ourselves?”
And Jesus offers the invitation: “Come and see.”
Come! See! Catch a glimpse of something beyond sight and sound and smell and touch – we bump into the holy and we are changed and made better, we feel better –
So come and see, come and see, tell others to come and see…. And together, coached, trained, and supported we will change this world… come and see. We have the starting lineup. Let the season begin!