Today, our normally scheduled readings have been preempted. The Diocese has declared that this Sunday we would celebrate our ongoing journey with RSVP. Now some of you may be asking yourselves, “What RSVP is and why we are celebrating it?” Probably, for many of you, you didn’t even know that we were on a journey with RSVP. If you fall into these categories, that is ok; there is no reason to feel embarrassed. RSVP stands for Revitalization and Strategic Visioning Project. It is part of the Diocese of Swampland's effort to bring new life and new light to the mission to Christ’s people throughout Michigan and the world.
Part of the RSVP process was to have people sit down and really look at where the diocese has been and where it is heading. And also, to sit down and look at what drew each of us to the church, what keeps us in the church, and how we can spread this energy to those in our communities and out into the world. I would like to take this time here to ask you to consider these same questions: What brought you to St. Swithin's? What made you want to come back week after week? And finally, what do we have to spread to our community and to our world?
We really need to think about these questions because how we answer them becomes our defining story. If we tell ourselves we are blessed and capable, we will find the blessings in our midst and find the energy and ability to make those things happen. If we tell ourselves we are doing God’s will, we will find that paths will open and opportunities will arise. Our old ones will dream dreams and our young will see visions. If we have faith that God is with us and gives us gifts for the journey, no matter where on the journey we find ourselves, I am certain we will find those gifts surround us.
But if we tell ourselves the story that I have been hearing all too often, we will find this to be true. I have been hearing that we are “just too old” to do anything. We cannot possibly become a thriving flourishing congregation because we do not have any young people. This is not something that I have heard from just one person, I have heard it many times. The story we tell ourselves is the story we come to believe. If we tell ourselves this story, if we keep telling ourselves that we are too old, it will become true. We will continue to grow older and we will continue to find our numbers are dropping.
I am sad that this story has become the story that surrounds us here at St. Swithn's. We continually tell ourselves that we are too old and that we have nothing left to offer. What is unfortunate is if we argue for this reality, it will surely become ours. If we argue that as a congregation we are just too old and can do nothing, we will do nothing.
But that argument forgets one of the great truths that we hear in today’s gospel; this truth is that we are blessed! Jesus tells us in the Beatitudes that even those things that we may not readily consider blessings, things such as mourning or hungering for righteousness, even those things are to be considered blessings! The story that Jesus gives us is not that we are too old or that we do not have enough, the story that Jesus gives us is that even when the world tells us we are lacking, we are still blessed! What we may see as a curse, in God great plan, we will find it a blessing!
And again, in Ephesians, we are told that we have been blessed, we are told that the Spirit has given gifts to the people. All people! If you are here, you have been blessed! We all have been given gifts, we all have been given talents. We all have been given a heartfelt desire that God wants to use for the building of the Kingdom.
As the diocese is revisioning its mission in the world, so too, we need to revision our mission as a congregation and also in our lives. We need to find a new song, a new story, a new voice. We need to find a new vision. Or maybe we don’t need to find a new vision, but search to find that vision that God has had for us all along!
But living out God’s vision can be scary! In living out the vision, God expects us to put our faith in God, not in ourselves. God asks us to trust. God asks us to be about the work of building the Kingdom in the world. God calls us to be a part of something bigger than ourselves, but God also asks us to trust.
What is God asking of us? If we were not afraid of failure, what would we do? If we knew God had blessed our efforts, what would we do to change the world? I believe God has something planned for us. I think God has more planned for us than just to watch us grow old. I believe that God has given us a set of gifts and talents that is just waiting to find expression in the world! If God believes in us, how can we doubt?
Now that you have had some time to think about the questions I asked at the beginning of the sermon, I am now going to ask you to answer those questions in writing. I ask you to write the answer to those questions on the card that you should have found in your bulletin. Those questions again: 1) What drew you to St. Swithin's? 2) What keeps you coming back week after week? 3) What gift or talent do you have that you could share to help bring the Good News to the world? On this last question, I am not asking for a pledge of money, I am asking about what talents or passions you have that could be used to the greater glory of God.
Please do NOT put your name on the cards; this is something between you and God. But I do ask you to put the cards into the offering basket. I will take the cards and compile the results. Hopefully, in this way, we can learn something about our journey together as a congregation and see where God may be leading us.