given on Sunday, January 30, 2011 after a two week break
The last few weeks provided this brain to shut down and then reboot, in the language of today’s technology. The brain is rebooted, but it still lacks something. When we last met together, I challenged each of you to “dare to dream.” You had a card to fill out—one side for reviewing 2010 and the other for identifying dreams for 2011. I was afraid you would forget to bring the completed cards, so the bulletin is designed to help with this activity.
Today we are going to have a working sermon. Let’s begin by reviewing 2010:
a. What has been the key verse listed on the bulletin?
b. Define grace.
c. What have we, as a church, done well to share grace?
d. What do we need to improve?
e. How are we fulfilling God’s dream?
Please share with all of us. Remember we are family and there are no right and wrong answers. (Encourage sharing, allow a little time to fill in questions.)
As your pastor, this can be an intimidating process. As a teacher, though, I know that the evaluation process is important in order to see if the content of the lesson is understood. The next goal is to see if the understanding is being transformed into application.
Therefore, before we can name the dream for 2011, we must share what we think we need. Now look at the flip side of the card:
a. Describe a dream you have for your own spiritual growth.
b. In your words, state what you feel is God’s dream.
c. What do you dream for your church whether immediately or whether it may take 5 years to reach?
d. List any dreams you have for the church.
The scriptures, the quotes, and the Wesleyan core terms hopefully help you to answer these questions. We get so mentally cluttered with all the daily living, the noise from the world, and the concerns we have for one another that it is difficult for the mind to settle down, clear out the cobwebs, and dream. Yet if we do not dream, set a plan out and then follow that plan, we do not grow.
Reviewing just the introduction of Bishop Schnase’s most recent book, Five Practices of Fruitful Living, I witnessed a process unfold. Granted, we have all read the Bible, we have known the history of the church, but looking at the words on that page, I discovered my pre-planning for today was a pattern that has repeated itself throughout human history.
Look back at the three scriptures we have used today. Notice that they are from Psalms, one of the prophets, and then Paul, the most notable teacher carrying Jesus’ message forward, developing the church as a structure to carry the message of loving one another forward, beyond geographical limits, beyond cultural limits, and even beyond the generations.
Naming the dream has been done, but in order for us to continue our own spiritual growth much less to carry on the work Jesus, his apostles, Paul, the earliest monks, and theologians began and continue, we must name our dream, too.
The questions on the card should help us name the dreams we have for 2011 which will set up a plan that may be more long-term than one year. How do we do it? Think of these questions Bishop Schnase listed in the introduction:
How do I have that mind in me that was in Christ? How do I cultivate a life that is abundant, fruitful, purposeful, and deep? What are the commitments, critical risks, and practices that open me to God’s transforming grace, and that help me discover the difference God intends for me to make in the world? How do I live the fruitful, flourishing life of a follower in Christ? (p.7)
These questions seem to share his dream that all Missouri churches—all Methodist churches focus on five practices: radical hospitality, intentional faith development, risk-taking mission and service, and extravagant generosity. Maybe you are groaning because those terms have been repeated and repeated for several years now, but I went on through the introduction to find something more:
1. The book of Acts identifies these acts or practices that all Christians should follow: worshipping God, learning God’s Word, serving one another, and sharing generously.
2. The earliest church structure began with patristic and monastic teachers who developed “disciplines of daily practice”: hospitality and receptivity; worship and prayer; study and learning in community; service to the ill, poor, and imprisoned; and the stewardship of all earthly possessions.
3. John Wesley’s early Methodist movement followed strict personal practices: worship, singing, fasting, and receiving the sacraments; searching Scripture and participating in classes and covenant groups for spiritual encouragement and accountability; serving the poor and visiting the sick and imprisoned; and tithing their incomes. (p.12)
The process of reviewing one year and one’s personal practices can be painful, but it can set us up to look ahead. We are capable of dreaming, planning out how to reach that goal, and working to reach it.
We certainly have excellent models to follow throughout history, but we are in a world that has moved away from God’s ultimate dream. The generations have all had their teachers and their prophets, but for some reason the appeal of Christ’s message has dimmed.
Bishop Schnase reminded me that the appeal of Christ’s message was so phenomenal that the Church grew rapidly and continued to grow from the Mediterranean region to reach around the world. I am sure that God saw that growth and believed that his initial dream of a world filled with loving people in a Garden of Eden was once again realistic.
Wesley must have looked at his world and turned to the Bible wondering what had happened. Why was the world filled with so much suffering? Why did the living circumstances of so many appeared a nightmare rather than a Garden of Eden? He followed God’s word, and he stepped out in faith to reach his dream of a deep personal faith that would take God’s grace and move it into action with the Holy Spirit.
Today, we dare to dream. We must name our dream. We need to return to the practices that make us stronger Christians. We must name our dream in order to continue growing and to continue sharing God’s grace with others in this world. That is the only way that God can transform this world.
Return to those cards. Make sure that you have filled them out. Turn them in as you leave because if we do not name the dream, if we do not develop the plan, we will not continue to grow in God’s grace, because God’s grace may be all we need, but we need to learn how to grow both personally and as a Christian community.