Proper 25b 2012: Dream even bigger

Job 42:1-6, 10-17     Psalm 34:1-8, 19-22     Hebrews 7:23-28     Mark 10:46-52

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”

It is those words with which we introduced ourselves in a sermon in this place on July 5, 2008.

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”

How glad I am to read those words today!  In some ways, we all look for rest:  rest from a difficult time, respite from emotions that are bigger than we are, rest from the fatigue of the hard things in our lives.

Do you think that Blind Bartimeaus needed rest?  I do.  When he told Jesus that he wanted to see, that he wanted his sight restored, he may have been revealing how tired he was of being blind.  What did Bartimeaus have to do to rid himself of his cloak of blindness? …

He called out to Jesus.

He threw off his cloak, his beggar’s cloak, his identification as a blind person.  Again and again he called to Jesus, until those around him told him to be quiet.  He could not see and he did not listen.

“Take heart, get up, he is calling you.”  Faith in Jesus made the blind man well.  Through Jesus, the blind man received what he asked for.  And I suspect that the blind man worked very hard to get himself within the vicinity of Jesus and to shed his old life along with his garments.  He had to shed his old life ….

You and I are entering a new sort of life today; it is one in which we will be together in our faith but apart in our day to day ministry.  Oh, how hard it is to walk away!  Let’s remember some of our favorite stories –

The flying squirrels’ performance for Bishop Gray predates me, yet I love to know the story.  It is part of the history that we share.  We had another flying squirrel visit us one Christmas Eve; it sat on that beam, and I thought that it might just fly into my outstretched hands.  Mark was unusually distracted by the squeak of that little Christmas critter.

The story that so many of us know and love (or hate!) is the one about our resident snake.  Our snake was so comfortable here that it shed its skin in the corner by the organ and sunned itself on the keyboard, head and tail hanging off the ends.  What you may not know about is how Ronnie and I peered into the windows before church on Sundays to make sure that the snake was not making an appearance that day.  “Don’t upset the ladies,” Ronnie would say.  When I would walk into the church in those days, I would sing (sing song) so as not to upset myself, and to scare the snake away.  My method did not work, and Ronnie and I found the snake on an October morning.  The snake did indeed go away; it slithered under the church and Ronnie quickly closed up its entranceway.

We have undergone some renovations in these years.  Our worship space and other areas look refreshed, not new, but somehow just right.  We have put up with dust and hammering and one another.  It is my hope that our hearts have undergone some renovations, too; that we realize that our building is just that: a building, and that what builds faith is our stretched out arms and our voices that shout, “Jesus, have mercy on me!”  Remember that carpet will always be … carpet.  It is our faith that makes us well.

We have welcomed children into our church in some new/old ways:  Martha got us into a Vacation Bible School spirit that has not stopped.  So many of us have welcomed children into St. Stephen’s to play games, sing, worship, eat, make crafts, and to learn about God and the love of Jesus.  “Come to me, … and rest.”  We adults rested quite well in the days after VBS filled our rooms and our hearts.

We have learned that we like fundraising, not the “knock on doors” kind, but the kind that brings the community into our church home.  We started with a garage sale at Rawls, and then brought people through our doors with smoked chicken and, for two years now, a frozen food sale.  It brings me joy to see how we come together in these ventures, how much we like one another, how we spend different kinds of time together and getting to know one another.

We are an active community.  Four or more clubs meet here on a regular basis; how delightful it is to welcome our neighbors in and to show them our space.  Come worship, we invite!  We won’t steal you … just come visit, any time; you are always welcome.  We gather with one another in Christian Education, Lenten studies and prayer, in family gatherings, ECW, bible studies, and occasionally in stealing – I mean pruning – our neighbors’ yards for altar flowers.

Thank you Lord, for a place to welcome the stranger and for the gift of liking one another while we love another while we love You.

We are, of course, not perfect.  I am truly sorry for my words and actions that may have hurt feelings or caused pain.  I forgive you those same things.  We give thanks for our God who forgives us our sins, “known and unknown,” and those things that we have both “done and left undone.”  Thank you, Lord.

Now we move forward, you and I.

A slip of paper fell out of my mail yesterday, and on it was written:  “Dream big dreams.  Then dream even bigger.”

That is my wish and my prayer in so many ways:  for all of us and each of us, for me, and for St. Stephen’s as a community of Episcopal faith.  Dream big.  Come unto Jesus and find rest, and then, with faith, go into the world, just as you are doing.  Then do it more.  Dream bigger.

This congregation is more than a pretty building with a scenic bridge.  It is a living place of Christian faith, a holy space, filled with the Holy Spirit.  It is blessed by more than any person could do or make claim to.  It has been claimed by our Lord.  I encourage you in these days ahead to show Columbia how you are indeed the church, that St. Stephen’s is a place in which to find the love and peace and rest of our Lord Jesus Christ, and how those things equip us to live confidently as Christians in a chaotic world.

Show the world how to live in community with our particular form and style of worship and of life.  Love one another.  Come to the Lord’s Table.  Even when we disagree.  Especially when we disagree.  When a priest is here.  Maybe especially when a priest is not here.  Stretch your faith so that your faith may transform you, even when stretching means learning about Morning Prayer and how to be a church while looking for a new spiritual leader.  Be the church.

Dream big, then dream bigger.  Pray for one another.  Pray some more.  Let God do the rest and at the end of the day or in the midst of chaos or uncertainty, give you rest.

Know always that there is a vicar/priest named Catherine who loves you, is praying for you, and who left a piece of her heart right here.

God bless you and be with you.

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