One year ago today I officially became your rector. In my first Sunday sermon I asked you to respond with me to the invitation of Jesus to “Come and see.” I reminded you that we are invited to dance with a savior who will step into our lives and our very hearts, shake everything up, and in the midst of that dance, call us. The last year has been full of many steps and a few missteps, yet what a dance this has been.
We have said goodbye to beloved brothers and sisters in Christ who were called home or called in new directions. We have said hello to new brothers and sisters who have become beloved. We have visited with and been visited by brothers and sisters whose path took them to new places or shared a stop on their way home.
We have prayed together, played together, shared holy meals together, sang together, cried together, laughed together, fussed at one another, supported one another, and continued to grow together in our relationship with God and each other.
The journey has not always been an easy one and sometimes our dance has resulted in us stepping on one another’s toes. That is part of learning a new dance. Each of us comes with our view of what the right steps are and sometimes those steps result in a change in the dance. Sometimes we have to take a break, rest, and start the dance again in a different way.
The good news is that we are a people who believe in grace. There have been times we have had to say, “I am sorry,” or “I accept your apology.” Those are hard words and yet necessary in the life of the church. Much like a dance in time we begin to move more fluidly together as we let Christ be in the center rather than try to wrest control ourselves.
Our lectionary now places us at the beginning of the Gospel of John. We see Jesus inviting Phillip to “follow me.” That invitation is for us too. We have had the chance to come and see and now we are called to take that next step. To actively respond to the invitation to follow Jesus.
Phillip immediately goes and tells Nathaniel about Jesus. When Nathaniel questions him Phillip’s reply is to “come and see.” And they go to find Jesus again. Their dance takes them into new life.
The calling of Samuel is a story familiar to many of us. We usually focus on the response of Samuel to God, “here am I.” Yet remember at first Samuel was confused and keeps going to Eli. It is to Eli he says, here am i. Samuel is unaware that the one calling is God. It is not until Eli realizes that it is God speaking that Samuel is able to respond to God’s call. It is then that Samuel says, “speak for your servant is listening.”
Just as Samuel needed the wisdom of Eli, we need the wisdom of those who have gone before us in the place, the saints that have helped to make this part of the body of Christ what it is today. We need to remember the steps of the dance they have shared with us. We learn from their example as well as their missteps. We carry on the dance which began on that St. Mary Magdalene day over 130 years ago.
We need to listen for and discern God’s call for us today. What does it mean for us as a worshiping community to follow Jesus? How are we being called to live that out with and for one another and the communities in which we live, work, study, shop, and play?
This next year will be a lean one in terms of budgets and pledges, yet that does not mean we limit our response to share the Good News of God in Christ. It may mean we do so in creative ways as we use our resources wisely. It may also mean that we discern more carefully how we share our gifts and talents with the world.
So rather than spend money we don’t have on curriculum, can we continue to rely on the gifts and talents of those teaching to develop Sunday school programs that fit the needs of our children?
Can we do Bible studies relying on our Bibles rather than a program?
Can we make materials needed for worship as an act of prayer rather than purchase them?
What would our altar look like on the weeks no one signs up for flowers if we brought them from our gardens at home? What if we planted a garden here?
What would it be like to listen to the Word of God rather than follow a written sheet?
What would it be like if rather than pay an electric bill for those in need, we worked with others to transform lives?
There are many more questions I could pose, but I will leave you to ponder some creative responses to how we move into this phase of the dance. I will rely on you to listen to how God is calling you to share your gifts and talents in the year to come, how you hear God calling us.
And while we each discern how that is lived out, the good news is we do not do this as individuals, but rather as the Body of Christ lived out in this place we call home. We do this as we continue to grow together in our understanding of how to love God and love our neighbor. We do this as we respond to the invitation to “follow me.” We do this as we continue to learn to dance with our Lord and with one another. There will still be times we may step on one another’s toes, yet there will be more times when our dance becomes fluid and more intricate.
We do this as Samuel did by saying, “Speak for your servants are listening.”