Sermon: Casting a Vision by Rev. June Fothergill September 11, 2016
Well, I was looking for jokes about vision to start this sermon and discovered several ways to have vision.
In one a man is trying to get ideas for how to grow their Sunday School Class by using an old fashioned easel and paper for all the great ideas people will come up with. What did they come up with? Coffee, More Coffee and Better Coffee!
And then there’s Charlie Brown’s little sister Lucy who hears a snippet on the TV which is actually about a man’s golf game but she hears it differently. “There’s no tomorrow” OH no! She thinks. “There’s no tomorrow? “She rushes out the door yelling her vision of the non future to all her friends, “They just announce on TV that there’s no tomorrow! Panic, panic Run Hide Flee, Run for the ills, Flee to the valleys Run to the Roof tops. “She and Linus and Snoopy end up on top his dog house in great dismay.
Then, there’s my favorite one about a personal vision. During a party the older bachelor gathered up sufficient courage to discuss marriage with his girlfriend. “Here comes a time when one longs for the companionship of another being,” He said. “ A being who will regard one as perfect, as an idol ; who will be kind and faithful when times are hard; who will share one’s life and sorrows.”
His girlfriend looked at him excitedly, “Oh, let me help you choose a pet dog.”
So, sharing visions can be rather tricky! Yet as the wise writer of Proverbs observed without a vision the people perish. Without a sense that we have a future, that we can trust God for our future, we get discouraged and apathetic. My hope is that a shared vision can give us common purpose and direction. Yet, I know that vision is not just something I can invent. It is a gift of God to the community. So today I humbly, share with you some of my sense of vision for our congregation.
Ecclesiastes 11:1 in the King James Version says, “Cast your bread upon the waters…” That’s what I‘m doing this morning with my vision for Ebbert. I want to share with you my picture of what we can become. I’m casting it out to you expecting it to reverberate around so you can add your own ideas and reactions, arguments and questions. And then as Ecclesiastes promises, it will come back to us all, strengthened by our shared wisdom and discernment.
I think that we at EB can reach a new generation for Christ. I believe this because one, we have a long history of youth ministries. It is part of our DNA as a congregation to make space for youth in our building and in our hearts. Secondly, we have a wonderful mission now of feeding people in body and spirit. I picture that mission enhanced and sustained into the future by adding new people and partnerships. Oh and we will have A3 students here next week.
So I base this vision on our history, our present and also on our values.
One of our top values is faith, which includes prayer. The first part of my vision is of us at prayer: intentional prayer as individuals and as small groups asking God’s help and direction for our church and our outreach for Christ to a new generation. Maybe we include in those prayers concern for the youth of A3 and the unhoused young adults who come through our doors each week and for the LAST youth and for the youth who sit on our steps.
I heard of a church which had no youth but decided to join in a regional youth program. What they did for 2 years was simply pray and pray and pray. Then one day they were asked to use their building for a funeral of a young person in the community. They did so, but also they provided a big meal afterward for all the friends and family of this person and spent time talking with them after the service. Eventually a group of these young adults became part of that church. So let’s pray!
The second part of my vision for us relates to our value for kindness and caring. I see us expanding and deepening connections between individuals with youth: such as friendships and mentoring programs, some or which already exist in our community. But also I see us deepening connections with community partners such as other churches and expanded building use. I imagine us becoming a Community Care Center where people come to receive support and help to build healthy lives.
I see this happening through us making partnerships of care and respect with community groups and individuals. For example I know there are several young parents in our area. Would they enjoy an indoor play group or parent support? There are many community organizations to partner with for that!
We have the beginnings of this with the 12 Step groups that use our buildings, with healthy meals and yearly flu shots with our partnership with the Lions and Wesley UMC and Egan. What partnerships or ways to connect with a new generation is God opening for us? In my vision we keep our hearts and our minds open for new connections and relationships that allow us to share our value of kindness and caring and therefore Christ.
Finally one of our highest values as a congregation is service. We will have youth coming here next week and all fall-even all year for choir classes and writing classes. How can we serve them? Can we greet them with a bottle of water and a pencil? Or with snacks outside? Can we attend their concerts Can we maybe do something together as choirs? Can we share our experiences of writing or offer them a forum for sharing their writings with us? Can we offer afternoon snacks? What would it mean for us to offer ourselves, our hospitality, our stories, and our help to the youth and young adults who already come through our doors? What an opportunity! How does this help us reach a new generation for Christ- well we have to start by connecting with each other!
One of the big things we are exploring to better serve the whole community is an elevator or lift to make more of our spaces truly accessible. This way we will open our doors wide to people of all ages and abilities.
Finally, I have heard over and over that we in the church today need to go outside our walls to reach a new generation for Christ. I’m beginning to think that for us here at Ebbert the first wall we have to overcome is not the walls of the church building but of our hearts and bodies. I know this is true for me. In my 30 plus years of ministry- I haven’t thought of myself as very good at youth ministry. Yet, I know that many of you are! So I have to climb over the wall of my own fears and ego. Some of us may worry that we will be intruding or that the youth won’t be interested, or that we have nothing to share. Some of us struggle with the judgments we make about the younger generation. And finally, some of us have real concerns about our physical limitations. I think that if we are willing to reach beyond these internal walls, we will discover the opportunities God is giving us for prayer, connection and service with a new generation for Christ.
For in fact outside the physical walls at Ebbert isn’t really very far- it’s the steps, the neighbor across the street or in the parking lot, or on our church lawn, in our families, eating and in our basement. A new generation is all around us. My vision for our church is that we will pray, connect and serve so that this new generation comes to know they are loved by Christ and can discover healthier, hap1pier lives through relationship with God and yes with us.
What do you think?