Sermon: “I WONDER IF……” based on Joel 2: 28-32

 “I Wonder if….?”

November 11, 2012

Joel  2: 28-32

Matthew 6: 21

Joel 2: 28-32  [Also found in Acts 2: 14-17]

God’s Spirit Poured Out

 28 *….. I will pour out my spirit on all flesh;
your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
your old men shall dream dreams,
and your young men shall see visions.
29 Even on the male and female slaves,
in those days, I will pour out my spirit.

30I will show portents in the heavens and on the earth, blood and fire and columns of smoke. 31The sun shall be turned to darkness, and the moon to blood, before the great and terrible day of the Lord comes. 32Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved; for in MountZion and in Jerusalem there shall be those who escape, as the Lord has said, and among the survivors shall be those whom the Lord calls.

MATHEW 6: 21

 “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also….”

 

I.   I WONDER?

I have been wondering……

In thinking about stewardship of EVERYTHING God has entrusted our care, I wonder…..     

Are we not called to be stewards of our ideas, dreams and visions for the future!

We already talk a lot about stewardship of time and talents and money.  Last week I shared a message on what it means to be stewards of God’s creation—this beautiful earth.  But what about those things that drive us spiritually?  In our thoughts?  Are we not also called to be stewards of our ideas, dreams and visions? 

FAMILIES:

Within the context of family, what do we hope and dream and envision for our children and grandchildren?    

I think about these things knowing that in just a few months, in March, Nancy and I will become proud grandparents of a little baby boy—named Kenneth Thomas.  We saw some more ultrasound pictures this week.  The baby is about the size of a pop can, 1lb 1oz.  We already have our hopes and dreams for his future…..the future of all our babies – all our children!  We dream about HIS future!  In what ways are we responsible along with Ken and Emily as stewards of all God has given us in life to help with his parents and their friends to build a solid FAITH foundation for him…

Of course we long and pray for happiness and stability with our families and friends.  We dream of safe neighborhoods, good education, secure work and a comfortable home.  We pray for health.  Prayers emerge from our dreams of ‘peace on earth and goodwill toward all people!’  This idea I have been tossing around in thinking about today’s scripture:  Young and old, in what ways are we called to be stewards of our ideas and dreams and visions in building and sustaining healthy families and communities for our babies—our children?

II.  AND THE CHURCH?

As much as would like to continue dreaming and visioning what I hope for the future for my family and children, I now turn my attention to the ideas, dreams and visions we have for the church and our babies—our children who are the future of the church.  Isn’t part of our stewardship of all life a call from God to find ways to translate our ideas, visions and dreams, into specific, tangible planning we do as Christ’s church?     

A serious question we are all asking in this church:  As membership declines and resources dissipate in part through the care of this large building:  Are we going to let ‘time run out’ for this church? 

Hopes and dreams and visions in hand, what can we be doing to create a framework of ideas envisioning a future for this church and our babies and their children who need the church in the future?  Maybe not this particular church – but the church we know is important in helping our children grow believing in Jesus Christ?

 

Are you with me?  I wonder?  I wonder what comes next for us as we work to discern God’s will for us as the Warren Avenue Presbyterian Church?  I wonder?  What’s the church going to be for our children and grandchildren?    

 

II. FIRST POINT:  TOGETHER THE BODY OF CHRIST

As stewards of our ideas, dreams and visions:  My first point is something we always carry with us – TOGETHERNESS.  I pray that we will always work as stewards of all that God has given us to pass on to our children and their children the importance of being a Christian community—the “living Body of Christ”.

It’s like the ancient African proverb that says “It Takes a Village to raise a child”….. It takes just two or three gathered together in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord – to be the church! 

The children’s song says, “I AM THE CHURCH, YOU ARE THE CHURCH, WE ARE THE CHURCH TOGETHER!  ALL OF GOD’S CHILDREN ALL AROUND THE WORLD, YES, WE’RE THE CHURCH TOGETHER!”

Each of us as stewards of all that God has entrusted our care, TOGETHER, need to prayerfully and proactively consider what we are going to do with the ideas, dreams and visions we have been entrusted to care for in the name of our generous and gracious God.      

While it is difficult knowing where God is going to take us in the next two or four or six or more years, we have certain responsibilities RIGHT NOW in discerning what God wants us to do and become in the future. 

I wonder?  Can we take more time in all of our meetings to think “outside the box” about the future?  Together, what would God have us become in being creative, in using this building;  in nurturing more collaborative relationships with others who share our values?  If we don’t do this work, who will?  It is our responsibility – all of us – to be the stewards of this wonderful idea—being Christ’s Church! 

III. SECOND POINT: MISSION ADVOCACY

My second point, we have an established mission.  Let’s study it.  Let’s follow it.   Let’s use it in planning for the future.  Let’s dream of ways we can do the things we say we want and need to be doing

We have a mission statement that next to scripture gives us some directions on where we need to go. 

The first bullet-point in our mission statement: 

— REACHING UP TO GOD IN REVERENCE AND THANKSGIVING FOR THE MANY WAYS GOD HAS BLESSED US — As your pastor I hear from you loud and clear, worship is the primary and most important thing we do TOGETHER in REACHING UP TO GOD IN WORSHIP & PRAISE!  In all of our wonderment and dreaming and planning:  we are called to be stewards of worship that will continue to meet the spiritual needs of our children and their children….well into the future.

The second bullet-point: 

— REACHING IN TO USE OUR HUMAN AND PHYSICAL RESOURCES TO NURTURE – in a variety of ways, the use of all the gifts and blessings God has entrusted our care—including this building.  In thinking about this I would like to add to our mission Statement: “Using our spiritual resources” as well in envisioning and planning our future.

The third bullet-point in our mission statement:

n     REACHING OUT TO SHARE THE LOVE OF GOD WITH OTHERS. We continue to be in this location as a church because it is from this corner of Warren and Millard we open our doors to the neighborhood.  Is this part of our collective identity and vision for the future?  I wonder?  In what ways can we continue to open our doors to the community around us? 

Through the Women of Colors and health Delivery we will be hosting in our building the “Parent Action for Healthy Kids” workshop down in the Gym…..finding ways to bring parents of middle and high school age youth into our building to learn and develop their parenting skills?  This is important work we are already doing in REACHING OUT TO OTHER WITH WHAT WE VALUE – THE LOVE OF GOD!

IV.  THIRD POINT:  MINISTRY

In addition to the mission of the church, I envision something we will always want to dream about for the future:  Meaningful, uplifting, enriching MINISTRY.  MINISTRY!  Consider this definition:    

“Ministry is our using all the gifts God has given us as the “body of Christ” to serve our Lord in TOGETHER responding to the needs of each other and those in the larger community around us.”

I wonder?  I wonder if good solid caring and compassionate ministry aren’t key component to becoming and sustaining the church of the future?  I truly believe these ministries of care and compassion are part of our spiritual DNA we must pass on to future generations of Christians.    

To this day, with over 147 years of dreaming and visioning behind us, it is our ministering to and with each other in times of need that will sustain us and keep us moving forward as Christ’s church…..in the end all that’s really important isn’t the structural church as much as the spiritual church and what we do together in loving and caring for each other!          

VI. I WONDER….

We had a meeting back on June 3rd.  Most of you were at this meeting. This was the gathering we had in the Memorial Lounge to talk about our future.  This was a good time of conversation in sharing some of short-term visions and dreams. 

At this meeting we put out some difficult facts….sobering details about where we are as a church.  Some of these facts: 

Fact One:  We are a small church.  Back on June 3rd we were a 90 member church.  We are now an 87 member church.   The fact remains, we are a ‘maturing’ congregation and “we cannot predict how quickly our membership may drop”[1]  (A side note:  About half of this presbytery, 23 churches are our size or smaller—we are not alone!  There is still one church, Ithaca Lafayette, that still worships with a congregation of 10 members, The Elkton/Chandler church with 21 members). 

Fact Two:  It is more and more difficult to make up pledges we are losing through the decline of membership—that’s why every pledge—every increased pledge that helps us make up what we are losing—is vitally important….helping us take dependency off investment funds…..investment funds that are fast being depleted if we keep on doing what we have been doing!

The good news that came out of that June 3rd meeting was the enthusiastic, passionate and positive things you had to say about this church! 

Simply, this was an important meeting back on June 3rd because we are dreaming dreams and realistically envisioning our future.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            So now I wonder…..what kind of church can we become with fewer members, a large building, and a small budget?  What kind of new things can be developed in collaboration with others?  Are there new ways for us to think about fund-raising?  What are others doing in situations like ours?  There are lots of questions we need to be asking! 

VII.   WHAT IS THIS SERMON ALL ABOUT

So now I ask myself the critical question:  What has this sermon been all about?  As I said at the beginning of this message:

There are many things we need to be doing as stewards of our ideas, dreams and visions—in using them to create a path into the future….so we can do some serious planning for the future. 

 

And this final point:

Absolutely critical to our future!

We need to have fun in what we are doing!  We need to do things that bring smiles to our faces.  We need the laughter.  We need to be friends in doing the important work we have been called to do.

I am still having fun doing what I am doing. I enjoy being with you. I may not always like the work that needs to be done.  I never really enjoy hearing the phone ring to share someone is hurting or ill….but I get a great deal of satisfaction in knowing this is what I have been called, ordained and trained to be doing as your pastor.  I enjoy being your pastor.  .

I enjoy the fact that NOBODY HAS GIVEN UP ON THIS CHURCH!  We haven’t lost any pledges.  People aren’t leaving this church because they don’t like what we are doing.  I THANK GOD YOU’RE NOT WALKING OUT ON MY SERMONS—AT LEAST NOT YET! 

I hope and pray that with all our dreaming and visioning—we make sure there is time to enjoy what God has given us – that we have fun doing Christ’s work.  That’s why we are going to have a special Harvest dinner after worship next week…so we can have some fun together! 

So now my friends—it’s time for us to put our faith next to our dreams and visions so that our sons and daughter can continue to prophesy, our more mature members can dream dreams, and the young adults in our midst see visions for the future – and TOGETHER WE HAVE FUN planning and serving our lord and savior Jesus Christ.   

I wonder?  What comes next?

AMEN


[1]  From June 3rd Meeting of the Congregation

 

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