January 26, 2020
One year ago today…
Parsonage was undergoing repairs
We’d just hired a second full time pastor
The visioning team had just gotten going
Revision of constitution on the to do list, along with many other items.
But God has been faithful!
A year later, our budget is in the black
Pastor Brian is happily ensconced in the parsonage,
and has brought his gifts with younger generations and spirituality to our congregation
We have welcomed a new admin,
Revised our constitution, and worked our way as a congregation through a visioning process by which we have set a common direction for our ministry and launched 8 new ministries in healing and fellowship.
You are a gifted bunch of people, full of knowledge, spiritual strength, and professional expertise. Together we trusted that just as our community has discerned the path so far,
that God would provide the next steps on our journey. But I think another key to our amazing year was having a common vision to strive for. Common vision is what St Paul talks about in our second lesson to the Christians in Corinth:
“Now I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ,
that all of you be in agreement and that there be no divisions among you,
but that you be united in the same mind and same purpose.”
Like you all at St Matthew, the people of Corinth were a gifted bunch.
They cared for one another, prayed deeply, and had ecstatic experiences in the Spirit.
They were full of deep knowledge and pondered the inner meaning of life.
But they were also divided.
They’d had a bump in the road in transitioning from one pastoral leader to another.
You see, Paul planted the church in Corinth and was followed by another teacher named Apollos.
But instead of seeing each teacher as having complementary gifts,
Some people started choosing their favorite.
Folks started lining up behind Apollos or Paul, and pitting people one against another,
Turning their community into factions of ‘us’ and ‘them.’
Paul’s purpose for this letter Paul is to call the Corinthians back to their fundamental unity,
being of the same mind and same purpose.
It is about sharing a common intention.
It’s about seeing the big picture, and for Paul, that is what he calls, “The message of the cross.”
The word ‘message’ can also be translated ‘wisdom.’
But the cross was hardly considered wisdom—it was frankly a strange symbol to claim at all. The cross was the empire’s way of snuffing out dissent and scaring others into submission. The cross was a painful and humiliating death.
To claim the cross as wisdom seems downright foolish, a death wish
If everyone followed Jesus to the cross, then where would the movement be?
But Paul sees something different in the cross, because he sees it through the lens of the resurrection. The cross is not defeat of the powerful over the powerless
It’s a win win for everyone, because in the resurrection, death and sin lose their grip on human life. The cross is not a death wish, but life: life lived for the well being of others,
And finding that the giving of yourself is what makes life full and meaningful after all.
The cross is a counter intuitive wisdom As St Paul says, “The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, But to us who are being saved, it is the power of God.”
The uninitiated might not see it, but those who have experienced the cross shaped life
Recognize God at work in the joys and the challenges and even in suffering.
St Francis captured the message of the cross beautifully in his famous prayer,
Lord Make Me An Instrument of Your Peace. Here’s the conclusion:
O Divine Master, Grant that I might not so much seek to be consoled as to console
To be understood as to understand
To be loved as to love.
For it is giving that we receive
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned
And it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.
In the past year, our shared intention and our common vision has been shaped by the cross of Christ.
The message of cross is about pouring out your life for others, as Jesus did—
And knowing that you get it all back in kind.
That giving attitude is behind all the ministries we launched –
The healing ministries that care for others,
the fellowship groups and family nights that reach out to new people and younger generations the service opportunities in the the church and the community beyond.
The self giving life is also what motivated the financial generosity and strong leadership of this congregation To invest in our ministries, close the gap, and update our congregation’s constitution and practice.
This last year shows that we can do more together than we can by ourselves,
And that we can, in fact, do more than we can ask or imagine when we follow Jesus’ call
and all pull in the same direction.
I have put together a little slide show of some of the ministries of this past year.
In the photos you will see the faces of people who are living the message of the cross
A joyful, self giving life here at St Matthew.
You’ll the faces of new members and visitors.
You’ll loved ones that we have lost,
and people who are now members of other communities but remain are a part of the extended SM family.
I think you’ll see what have much to give thanks for, and that God has been faithful.
We continue to move forward together in the same mind and the same purpose:
sharing generous life of Christ with others.