This past weekend our Youth Group and several adult volunteers (myself included) participated in the 30 Hour Famine program. From noon Friday to Saturday evening we fasted, prayed together, volunteered at Northwest Harvest, and washed cars to raise money and awareness of hunger in the world.
The 30 Hour Famine is a program created and promoted by World Vision.
We were one of thousands of youth groups across the country participating this last weekend.
The work the youth did was admirable. They washed dozens of cars and they packaged 2450 pounds of instant Oats for distribution at food banks around the greater Seattle area.
What impressed me the most was the spirit with which this work was done. That spirit was evident in our Compline service on Friday evening.
As we entered the sanctuary, each of us took at taper and lit it from one of the three candles burning before an icon of the Holy Trinity. David Lepse was playing softly on the organ, creating a sense that we were entering into a special, holy space.
Then we proceeded down the center aisle to a worship space prepared especially for this service. That passage, between pews draped with fabric, was truly a transition from chronos time to kairos time, from the world of schedules and obligations to the world of love and spirit.
We gathered in a circle around our icon of Jesus on the cross. There, in that candle lit space we experienced the beauty and power of God’s love as we shared in the ancient prayers of Compline.
These prayers and beautiful music brought us into the reality of God’s presence among us. God does truly love us. God gave us the gift of Jesus to show us how God loves us and how we can live in and be a part of that love. Worship God in beauty and faithfullness. Respond to God’s love with service and courage. Feed the hungry. Pray for and with one another.
I pray that each of you will know God’s love in meaningful, powerful ways. St. Dunstan’s Church is be a place that brings those who seek God’s love together. Some of us have clear language to describe what we see and experience. Some of us only know a hunger and thirst to be loved. Whether you call yourself a Christian or you are just hoping to find something real, you are welcome at the Lord’s table. Come, seek, and together we will find the love that gives life purpose.
This week I am attending the annual clergy conference for our diocese and I want to share with you an interesting and inspiring list. Bishop Rickel presented this list that he borrowed, with permission, from Professor James Wellman. This list comes from a presentation provocatively titled: Religious Revival for Disenchanted Liberals, Sobered Evangelicals and Depressed Atheists. After studying mainline and evangelical forms of Christianity, and after many conversations with faithful people in both, Wellman has the following advice:
Be bold about your faith!
Share your spritual life. Spiritual experience is not rare!
Convert your kids
Start small groups
Be kid centric – but be careful to include all ages
Sin is In! Young people know that the world is messed up and they need to be able to talk about it.
Seek bold leaders
The Bible is REAL!!!
Be Ambitious – DREAM BIG
Boldly ask God for what you need
Be Prophetic – speak the truth even when its risky
Be demanding – Expect more of yourselves. Don’t minimize your faith or your commitment
Create Beauty – in your worship, your music, your prayers, your physical spaces
Don’t be afraid. Don’t be afraid. Don’t be afraid!
I didn’t capture the entire list, but these are the basics. These are the kinds of ideas we clergy are talking about this week. Each of these statements will provoke conversation and ideas. I was particularly drawn to the admonition to dream big, believe that God can and will provide, and pray for what we really need. We are the adopted sons and daughters of a loving, creating God. We are brothers and sisters in Christ. Together, we are Christ for the world! We will do great things together as we respond to God’s love and grace.
The most common way, by far, that people begin coming to a particular church is that someone invites them. As you know, we have a lot to offer at St. Dunstan’s Church:
We have beautiful worship with very good music.
We offer a traditional, liturgical form of worship that allows people to open up to God through shared prayers, deep engagement with scripture, and the comfort and power of ancient rituals.
Our Sunday School is growing and improving, and frankly, the best way to improve that ministry is to have more children participating!
The volunteer Sunday School teachers, with the support of our directors, are doing a great job with the Seasons of the Spirit curriculum.
We are including the children in our worship more visibly by having them bring gifts to the altar in the offertory procession each week.
We are striving to be a blessing to our neighbors, to the poor and needy, and to the world. Every week there are multiple opportunities published in our newsletter for you to make a difference. We actively look for ways to be a blessing! That’s something people can understand and be a part of.
You don’t have to have it all together or know all the answers to be a part of this congregation. Wherever you are on you spiritual journey, you are welcome here. We have members who are devoted followers of Jesus. We also have members who are struggling to figure out if and how they can trust in God. This is a safe place to figure things out. This is a place to grow and thrive. This is a place to find love and understanding when life throws rocks.
We have a very friendly, loving and welcoming congregation. Even as an older congregation, we have something to offer people of any age! There is great value in bringing young adults together with older adults. They can learn from each other in valuable ways. Multi-generational community is vibrant community!
So, invite a friend to come and see your congregation. Introduce them to me after the service. Show them the wonderful Stations of the Cross icons we made in Lent. Tell them about our outreach activities, our small but growing youth group, our music program and our excellent and active women’s guild.
You have built a beautiful congregation. We are growing spiritually. We are experiencing God’s love as we support one another through struggles and losses. These are things that people need and want. Let’s share them.
Alleluia, Christ is Risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!
As faithful followers of Jesus, we celebrate Easter with gratitude and joy. The resurrection of Jesus is at the heart of our faith and our relationship with God. The resurrection makes possible a new way of living. To fully appreciate this gift, we need to ask ourselves, “Now what?” How does the resurrection make a difference in our lives?
The resurrected Jesus appeared to his disciples in many ways, but each time he gave them the same message. I think his post-resurrection message is something like, “I have shown you the way, now you bring God’s love to the world!” Or, as Jesus says to the disciples, “As I have love you, so you should love one another.”
We have the opportunity to participate in resurrection. We have the opportunity to receive God’s love and blessing and to take that love and blessing to those who need them most. Eternal life is God’s life. We can participate in that life but we cannot possess it. We can receive God’s love and we can give God’s love to others, but we cannot possess God’s love. And so, we need one another. We need communities of people, like this little church, where we can participate in God’s love together. We need congregations, like St. Dunstan’s Church, where we can come together to respond to God’s love by worshiping together, caring for one another, and by doing God’s work in the world.
Now what? Now we will love one another as Christ has loved us. Now we will be sustained by the gift of God’s love, shared in loving community. Now we will take God’s love to a broken world.
Alleluia, Christ is Risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!