This is the day that the Lord has made;Psalms 118:24 (NRSV)
let us rejoice and be glad in it.
I wonder, when you think about “church,” what is the first thing that comes to mind? Now maybe some of you immediately thought about God, or Jesus, or the Holy Spirit. Perhaps you thought about the love of community or our call to love our neighbor as ourselves. Maybe you thought of a warm welcome or an amazing gift of grace. Perhaps you thought of the fun of fellowship or the sacredness of communion. Or maybe when you thought about “church,” you thought about not fitting in or feeling guilty or being judged. Maybe you thought about being ignored and being made to feel unworthy. Perhaps you thought about the misuse of power or the inability to connect with what is happening in the world today.
The truth is, throughout our lives, we have all learned different things about faith. Our journeys have been varied, and our experiences have shaped not only our faith but also our understanding of the bible and the church. Because some read the bible literally as a rule book, and they spend their lives trying to get it right and to be as good as they can be, while others look to it as a library of stories to guide them on their way, encouraging them to be and do their best, not only for themselves but to make the world a better place.
To me, my faith is not about morality or being as good as I can be, just so I do not get in trouble. Instead, it is a reminder of my own mortality, remembering that someday we will all die. Now I know that might sound sad or depressing, but really, it is not! Stick with me for just a minute. Like on Ash Wednesday when we are reminded that from dust we have come and to dust we shall return, our faith is constantly encouraging us to turn away from fear and worry and guilt and to appreciate the time that we have and the gifts that we have been given.
As Psalm 118 verse 24 tells us, “THIS is the day that the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it!” And folks, that’s not just meant to be a Sunday thing; that is an everyday thing! Because sometimes life gets too crazy, and we just need to simplify. We need to “get back to the basics,” as they say, and rather than trying to do everything and be everything, going through the motions as we always have, we need to slow down and start listening to our hearts. Because when we do that, we begin to find the strength to cut through the worry and the stress and the complaining and the things that weigh us down. And if we can do that, then instead of feeling tired and worn out and frustrated all the time, we start to feel something different. If we learn to let go of our worry and our stress and our complaining and we truly begin to live lives of faith, something wonderful happens! Deep down inside, we begin to feel an urging, a passion-like call to do something. And it is usually something amazing!
Now, don’t be afraid. In the beginning, sometimes it feels a little scary, because your passion and your call, or your new ideas and your creativity, may not be something that you have done before. They may be completely new, and that’s okay. Actually, it’s better than “okay” because God is constantly calling us to open our hearts and our minds to new ways of being and new ways of not only living out our faith but also new ways of sharing it with others!
Think about it for just a minute: when it comes to church, what brings you the most joy? What makes you glad? What makes you lift your hands or your heart in praise? And what are the things that you are the most thankful for? As we begin to think about heading back to our sanctuary in August, one of my goals is to make sure that we as a church are continuing to rejoice and be glad for each moment that we are given. Because, friends, I guarantee you that there will be times that are difficult. There will be moments when we stress and when we grieve. There will be times when we feel like no one is listening and when we are afraid of stepping on toes. There will be times when we disagree and face conflict. And there will be times when we are afraid that we don’t have enough. And it is especially in those times that we need, not our fear and our worry, but our faith to guide us through.
Friends, it’s easy to think that we have time. It is easy to say to ourselves that once we get back, everything will be better. But folks we need to step forward in faith, now! Because this is the day that the Lord has made! We need to take time right now, identifying the gifts that we have to share and the things that we long to do, because this is the day that the Lord has made! We need to figure out who we are as post-pandemic Christians and as a post-pandemic church, and how we will not only function but how we will feed the passions and meet the needs of our “new” Oldtown Family and our online and in-person communities. Because this is the day that the Lord has made!
Friends, I know, we have all been through a lot in the last year and a half, and if we’re going to be really honest, we were just “going through the motions” before that. So simply “returning to normal” will not be enough because our faith, our church, and our community deserve more than that! We need to look for the light of Christ within ourselves and the fire of passion that burns in our hearts. We need to start living out our faith, not waiting for someday to make changes or share new ideas, but remembering that this is the day that the Lord has made! Not tomorrow or next month, not next year, but today!
Friends, because the time is now, on Friday, June 18th at 7pm, I am inviting all of you to a parking lot conversation. Now many times when we hear about parking lot conversations, they have a negative connotation because that is where we tend to complain about things that we don’t like and talk about people that we disagree with. But this parking lot conversation is a time to gather–while staying socially distant, outdoors–not to complain or to worry about stepping on toes or to judge others for what they do or do not do. This is a time to share new ideas and possibilities for the future of our church.
So, take some time this week and think about your faith and our church. Think about what brings you joy. Think about what makes you glad. Think about what makes you lift your hands and your heart in praise and think about what you are truly thankful for. When you consider all of those things, what would you like to do more of? Do you have new ideas for worship or Household Huddle? Do you have new fundraising or stewardship ideas? Maybe you have new justice or mission projects that you are passionate about. Or you have new thoughts for fellowship time or holiday events. Now is the time to share!
If you can’t join us in person on Friday, or you’re not quite ready to gather outdoors with others, that’s okay. You can also email your ideas to firstname.lastname@example.org or post your ideas in the comments of this sermon. And I have a feeling that we just might be having more of these parking lot conversations over the summer because your thoughts and you’re ideas are so important to the health of our congregation.
Folks, I’m so excited about the future in Oldtown, because the possibilities are endless. But it is going to take us ALL sharing our ideas and our energy, as we continue to build and stretch and grow, being thankful for where the church has been, but now having the faith and the courage to step out and be the church that God is calling us to be! As we heard in scripture today. now is the time, for this is the day that the Lord has made! So, let talk and share as we rejoice and be glad in it!