I honestly want to say ‘thank you’ for being here this morning; and I mean this as something more than just an agreeable, nice, polite thing to say, which I hope will come clear by the end of this sermon. I’ve said on more than one occasion that Sunday mornings – to me – are just a miracle. When I get here on Sunday mornings, there’s no one here except for the few of us whose job it is to be here. But then, suddenly – there you are! It’s a miracle. Not one of us actually has to be here. The church is a completely voluntary organization. But you’re here.
Look around, at all these people, at all of us, you could be anywhere else; but here you are. Sometimes, I find myself wondering, what it is that has brought you here this morning? Why are you here? What are doing in church on Sunday morning? What are you looking for or hoping for?
If you knew beforehand that we’d be gathered to hear Jesus say to us, ‘Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and even life itself, cannot be my disciple’ – would you still have thought it was a good idea to come to church? Is that what any of us wants to hear? It’s not terribly polite or nice.
At the August vestry meeting, members of the vestry took turns answering the question, ‘What is your hope for St. Mary’s Church in this coming year?’ One of the common responses was the hope that the momentum we feel from the new life and new energy God is giving us will continue. This new energy and life is a gift from God. So, before anything else we should say, ‘thank you, God’! But there is an important way that we can each make ourselves available to this gift of new life and cooperate with God’s Spirit so that the momentum we feel may continue. It’s not complicated, I don’t think. We each can offer a simple prayer: Lord of my heart, speak to me and show me how you are calling me to serve my parish and you.
At our Annual Parish Meeting this past January, I wondered aloud about my hunch that St. Mary’s is ‘a sleeping giant’. If that’s true, I see signs that God has roused us. This has everything to do with God’s faithfulness. But I think this has everything to do with members of our parish – both longstanding members and people brand-new among us – finding their call to serve here. You can see it in the way the Spirit is renewing members of our Outreach ministry group. You can feel it with our new St. Mary’s Welcomers ministry and their hope for us all to give a holy and generous welcome to all who come here. You can sense it in the heart of our Adult Christian Formation ministry members who long to show that knowing God is loving God.
The leadership of our parish – both lay and ordained – have their part to play and their ministries to carry out for this new life and momentum to continue, to be sure. But the truth is, where God is leading us into new life – fully awake! – in him, is happening because of all of us together.
So, what is your hope for St. Mary’s Church in this coming year? Ask God to show you how to put your life and your gifts into service for our parish and for God. And then say ‘thank you’ for God – who is always faithful – will surely show you, and give you life fully awake in him.
By: Amelia McDaniel, Lay Associate for Christian Formation
I recently heard the writer Kristen Schell speak at a conference. She may not be on your radar, but I’m pretty sure if you heard her speak you would want to be her friend.
She wrote a book titled The Turquoise Table and she has sparked a quiet movement. She may also likely be the topic of many a homeowner association meeting. You see the book is based on Schell’s experiences after she placed a large picnic table painted a bright shade of turquoise in her front yard in Austin, TX. She did it because she was pretty sure it was what God wanted her to do. She had been rumbling with how to serve God. But she was stuck. She was a stay at home mom. She felt a call to mission, but that did not seem a possibility for her with a large family rooted in Austin. And then she had a picnic table delivered to her house for a backyard barbeque and she knew what she was supposed to do.
After the barbeque, she painted it a lovely shade of turquoise and put it smack in her front yard. One morning she took her cup of coffee and her laptop out there and started working. Pretty soon what she had hoped would happen did. She started to meet her neighbors. At first it was a casual hello as someone walked by with the dog. But in time her turquoise table became a meeting point for people in the neighborhood. People started connecting. They sat down together, really got to know each other. Everyone was welcome. Real connections were formed.