Annual Meeting Sermon January 28, 2018
I love you. I really really love you. I love this church. I love this town. I love God and I love my life.
God is so good. You people are so special. All of you.
And every single new face that enters this place is so special. Every time. Just when I think, oh maybe not this time… bam they are so special.
This church shines. You all shine. Let’s keep shining.
I literally pinch myself daily, all day because I must be dreaming or I must be in heaven. When I am with you all the atmosphere between heaven and earth is so thin. This is what many call a thin space.
The love you have for your families, the love you have for each other, the love you show to strangers and neighbors and the love you have for this church is power.
It is power. Power that is changing the world and transforming this community in which we live.
Let’s officially commence our Annual Meeting.
This year brought many changes to St. James. Through months of discernment, you came to understand who you are and embrace the special place and people that you are. You reached out for a new leader, a new priest and your interim priest Drew Kadel was an amazing support through that process.
I want to thank all of you who served on the Search Committee, Parish Profile Committee, Applicant Review Committee and Vestry during the past year. Would you please stand?
I was also discerning while you were, what was God calling me to next? Now?
I had no idea it would be here, or did I?
From the first moment my feet hit the earth beneath us at St. James, I felt a pull strong and peace that way surpassed my understanding. That was over a year ago in the fall of 2016 when I came to help you with your special needs ministry.
From then on this church kept tugging at my heart.
I thought, it can’t really be this easy, life can’t be this good. But guess what?? It is!
I believe this is our time together.
And I am still excited, every day to be here.
Yesterday I wrote a letter to our families with children and I shared it on our facebook wall if you would like to read it.
In it, I shared that I knew that having children in this place has been a prayer and a dream for a long time. I wanted that too for this place and I knew it could and would happen but I was prepared to wait a while.
And on my first day, the Warner’s were there. Let me tell you, they were not just there because it was my first day. They had been here before and felt the love of this community and the care you have for St. James and one another. From that day we began to welcome families and we still do and will continue to.
Now, what I find so special is that just like the community of people I first met here, all new folk who come through this door are all in. They are all in for their families. They are all in for this community, all in God and all in for transforming this world from the nightmare it often is to the dream God intends it to be.
Like I said, this place, St. James, all of you are powerful.
In the gospel today Jesus’ power ignites and the community around him acknowledges this and is astounded. He speaks with authority, he even commands the demons.
You, We have this power too. We can do this. We can be a community of faith that literally turns the hearts and minds of the people all around us to the love of God and neighbor. Where the people of Lincoln, say “What is going on there at that little church with the red door? They say they love God and welcome all and they DO!
They say they are beacon of hope for the community and they are bringing healing and restoration to people suffering and they are, and not only that but they are transforming lives for Christ and helping people find their power and purpose through God. People who once were strangers are now friends. They share their pew with all who come in the door. They recognize that they are not always the helpers but also the ones in need of help. They give what they have been given and sacrifice for those they know and love and they sacrifice for strangers and even those they dislike or hate. They are real people there. People who know they can’t go through life alone and need the support of community.”
Brene Brown, do you know who Brene Brown is? She is a popular social worker and author of many books. Her main topic and research is on vulnerability. But many don’t know this, she is an Episcopalian. Brene preached last Sunday at the National Cathedral in Washington DC which is an Episcopal Church. She spoke about how she needs church and we all need church. God designed us to need communities of faith. It is in our DNA. Just as God is in our DNA.
Brene pointed out something that has been disturbing me for some time and particularly disturbing me more and more over this past year. We are forming social tribes of friends where the thing we share in common are the people we dislike or even hate.
And as we continue in this path the statistics show that even tho we are bonding with people over this, we are growing lonelier and lonelier.
Because we all need each other. We are all connected as the human family of God. Without all of us, with all our diversity of color, culture, language, sexuality, diversity of thought, politics and even religion we are not whole.
WE belong together as God’s children and that is why God came in the person of Jesus Christ to reconcile us to God. To show us the way, the path to do just this, to be the family of God again. To love one another, to love all people.
And church is where we can do this! Church is like our gym, where we go to be reminded every week that we share a table with strangers, we exchange peace with those we disagree with, we welcome all and nourish all with God’s grace and love. We even drink from the same cup.
So we need church. Let us embrace the authority and power that we have been given through God in Jesus and continue to be that church where people in this town say, “Hey, what is going on there at that little church on the corner with the red door? Something is up over there… They actually do what they say. They actually follow Jesus, they really love everyone.” We have the authority to say, “This is the way of God, the way of Jesus. We are striving to do that!”
Let us keep this thin space between heaven and earth real and alive here at St. James and then take it out into the world. And invite your friends and family and strangers to come here for what they need - God’s love found in this community of faith.
Our work is not over, it is just beginning. God is certainly not done yet with Saint James or any of us.
Let us be that church, that church where people say, “Hey, you know that little church on the corner with the red door, they are real Christians, that is Jesus there, and I want to help. Because If being a Christian can truly mean following Jesus’ ways and loving and seeing God in ALL people. Welcoming all just as God made them with the gifts God gave them and embracing all that they are and helping each other live their dream!? If I can go to a church and truly follow Jesus, then I want in on this!”