Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you.
~ Philippians 4:4-9 (NRSV)
Have you ever had an idea of something that you could do—something amazing—but you were too afraid to tell anyone about it or to act on it? I think that happens to all of us at one time or another. It goes something like this: you get an amazing idea, one that fills your heart with joy. But you worry that people will think it’s crazy, so you don’t tell anyone about it. You try to forget about it, but no matter how much you try to ignore it, it just keeps coming back and nagging you, and you get to the point that you can’t ignore it anymore. Have you ever had an idea like that?
Well, that happened to me. I remember it as clear as day. You see, I was about twelve years old, and I was sitting in this very church. As I sat in worship, I got an idea. Like in our storybook today, it started out very small, kind of like little thought or a little daydream, but little by little it started to grow. You see, as a kid, I would sit in worship and dream about standing up here and being the minister, especially on Communion Sundays. I imagined standing at the table and sharing the story of what happened on that night when Jesus gathered with his disciples. Then, I imagined holding the bread up high and breaking it and pouring the cup so that everyone in the church could see, then sharing it with the congregation as I encouraged everyone to remember—to remember the story of the bread and the cup, to remember Jesus and what their faith means in their lives, and to remember that they are beloved children of God.
Each time I thought of it, my heart felt warm on the inside, and I had the feeling that this wasn’t just an idea but that it was something I was going to do. The only problem was that I was afraid to tell anyone about my idea. I was twelve years old, and a girl! And I had never seen a girl minister before. The other problem was that I was deathly shy, and there was no way that I would ever, in a million years, be able to speak in front of people. But the crazy part was that when I thought about my idea, and I imagined myself doing it, I never thought about being afraid. Fear was never part of the idea. I always felt strong, like I was in just the right place.
For years, I kept my idea to myself. I was afraid to tell anyone about it because they might think I was crazy. I mean, who has ideas like that? Over time, I tried to forget about my idea and focus on other things. I went to high school and college. I got married and had three children. But every once in awhile, when I least expected it, my idea would come back. It would follow me and even search me out, no matter what I was doing.
Finally, about twenty years after first thinking about my idea, I decided to talk about it. I actually acknowledged it in front of other people. It was kind of scary because some people didn’t like my idea. Some people thought it was crazy, but somehow, that didn’t bother me. I thought about my idea a whole lot more. I prayed about it and talked to God about it. My idea seemed to really like that. And then at thirty-three years old, I went to seminary to learn more about how I might make my idea work. That’s when I realized that my idea wasn’t my idea at all; it was God’s idea. And that for all those years, God had been calling me and encouraging me, but I had no idea that that was what my idea was all about.
Friends, we all get ideas, every day. Some ideas as small and mundane, like, “I have an idea, the laundry basket is full, so maybe I should do some laundry.” Or, “I have an idea, why don’t we go to the zoo this afternoon.” Those are great ideas, but sometimes our ideas are a little bigger, and we think about how we can change the way we are doing things or how we can try new ways of being. Here in Oldtown, we have people with amazing ideas. To be honest, we are not a church that is afraid of change. I am blessed to be a pastor that can stand in her pulpit and say that. Because many, I would say even most, churches are afraid of change. But here in Oldtown, we have learned to embrace it! We try new and different ideas all the time. Some new ideas work wonderfully, and others not so much. But just because every new idea doesn’t work, does that mean we should stop? Absolutely not!
One thing that I have learned over the years is that when starting something new in the church, it often take s a few steps. It takes excitement but it also takes, listening, and praying, and looking with open eyes. Then the most important part is evaluating. Is the new idea working? Do we need to tweak it a little? Or do we even need to acknowledge that it’s just not right? Or at least not right now?
When it comes to working in the church, today’s reading from Philippians gives us good advice. If we break it down just a little bit, it reminds us to always start out by rejoicing and giving thanks for what we have. Then it says don’t worry about your idea but pray and talk to God about it. Make sure your idea is grounded in your faith, and then that big long list of descriptions comes in. Is the idea true? Is it honorable? Is it just? Is it pure? Is it pleasing? Is it commendable? And the truth is my friends, if my idea makes it through to this point, I usually find that it is not really my idea, but that it is God working in and through me.
The good news right now is that we have a whole summer ahead of us to search our hearts and to think about new ideas. How might we begin to do things differently here in Oldtown? What might we need to evaluate regarding the way that we have been doing things? What new changes might be right around the corner?
Folks, I get so excited when I think about the possibilities of what could happen here because I know that the Holy Spirit is alive and active here in Oldtown! I know that God works in and through each of us, calling us and directing us in unexpected ways. And I know that if we truly focus our energies on following Jesus, we can do amazing things!
So, brothers and Sisters in Christ, as we all go out into the summer that is before us, I urge you all to think about new ideas for our church—ideas about worship and fellowship, ideas about household huddle and missions, ideas about getting people to work together while truly living out our faith, but most importantly, ideas about how we can learn to truly be a congregation that does things simply because they bring joy to our hearts.
My friends may it be so. Thanks be to God, Amen.