Vision Sunday 2017 Address
"Celebrating 215 Years of Christian Witness, Work and Worship through Embracing, Equipping, and Empowering God's people.
Our theme is derived from 1 Corinthians 15:58; "Therefore, my beloved, be steadfast, immovable, always excelling in the work of the Lord, because you know that in the Lord your labour is not in vain."
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost! Amen
The text tonight is lifted from the context of the resurrection of the body and bathed in the Christian hope; which reminds us that our LAST enemy Death is destroyed - and that we, in spite of death, because of Jesus Christ, will live again. The conclusion of the chapter is a parade in the face of a defeated foe - Death where is thy sting, Grave where is thy victory? - And so it is within this understanding that Paul encourages - be steadfast (STAND FIRM), immovable, ALWAYS abounding (excelling/progressing) in God's work - for your labor is not in vain (payday is coming after a while).
St. Andrew's has proclaimed the gospel for over 215 years in Exuma; we have declared the grace and goodness of God in times when no one else could or would - our history and heritage then is a great and stable one - built on the FIRM FOUNDATION of Jesus Christ.
We have witnessed and continue to be a witness to the Fact that Jesus is still the answer, He is still the solution, He is still OUR center, and the spring from which all life flows. That being said, therefore, our focus for the future, as we continue to witness, work and worship is a threefold one designed to ensure that we are embracing, equipping and empowering God’s people.
First, I believe that we as a Parish should continually seek to customize our witness in order to embrace our context and culture in a deliberate way so that we confront and flood our communities with the message of Jesus. Confrontation is usually considered a bad word because of its aggressive and intentional nature; but I believe confrontation is what is needed in this season and in these times in which we live - it calls for our AGGRESSIVE AND INTENTIONAL DUPLICATION, SHARING, CHALLENGING AND FLOODING OUR communities with, what the presiding bishop of the Episcopal church would call, "the Jesus Movement". We need a MOVEMENT, A WITNESS of Jesus throughout Exuma - that will shake us AGAIN! Now when the shaking takes place, we MUST be open - we are called to have an OPEN heart, and an OPEN mind; in layman's language that means - we must be willing to change our seats, back over, move aside, resign, and give way so that those whom God is sending and raising up may have a place to grow and minister. This means St. Andrew's we MUST become a friendlier church - we MUST have an open eye for visitors followers, and fringe members; this means that we must embrace them, wrap our arms of love around them and draw them into this fold and fellowship. This must be intentional. So, regardless of who you are, where you come from, what denomination or faith you belonged to before now - THE LANGUAGE OF OUR PARISH MUST SAY - THERE IS A PLACE HERE FOR YOU!!!
Second, our focus has to be on becoming equipped. We must equip ourselves for the work of ministry. In the strictest sense, that is the job of the leadership, specifically Rev. Cartwright and myself. We are charged with the responsibility to ensure that you all have what you need to GO (evangelize) and GROW (mature). Ephesians 4:12-13 says 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood,[a] to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.." This suggests that we are all equally responsible for the equipping of each another. All that is required is: 1. Paying attention to how you live; 2. Sharing your knowledge and spiritual experiences; 3. Mentoring, loving and caring for someone else within the church. It means divorcing ourselves from groups and cliques - widening your circle of love and compassion - and sharing in a personal way what God has done for you and what you already know about Jesus and "THIS JESUS MOVEMENT". This aspect of our role and responsibility has to do with us identifying gifts in each other - and calling those gifts forth. We are a WEALTHY parish; spiritually wealthy and gifted - we have everything we need in each other to make not only our churches, but our communities great - we just need to call it FORTH! Whatever you can do for God and for the kingdom - THIS IS NOT THE YEAR TO RETREAT OR TO SURRENDER - THIS IS THE TIME TO ACT, TO INITIATE, TO ENGAGE AND TO GET INVOLVED. I challenge all of us to do MORE - to be more faithful, more committed, more involved, more spiritual, more focused to the WORK OF GOD.
Third and finally, our focus must be on empowering. St. Andrew's has been in the business of giving power much longer than BEC or BPL - It is a power though, that doesn’t belong to us, it did not start with us and will not end with us - it comes from GOD! 1 Corinthians 4: 7-9 declares "7 But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. (8 We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; 9 persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed...) So, the truth is we have only been a CHANNEL, a conduit as it were, for God's power to flow. We must renew our call and repurpose ourselves to being channels, a conduit as it were, for God's power to freely flow through. If you have ever had an issue with your plumbing, you would know that sometimes the solution is not to change the pipe, sometimes it just needs to be cleared. Many times it is just clogged up! The same can be said for our spiritual lives and explains why we aren’t able to experience God’s blessings or be vessels through which God can bless others. We clog ourselves with prejudice, malice and unforgiveness, and jealousy and gossip, and through being disobedient and rebellious to what God's spirit is saying through our leaders and even directly to us - for us to continue to be effective in our witness, work and worship for 215 more years - we must clear ourselves of the debris, declutter our spiritual spaces and atmosphere - so that God through this Holy Spirit may flow freely once again; so that the power flow and fall in every dry dead and barren place of our lives.
In conclusion, God wants to use St Andrew's in unprecedented ways. He desires to strength our witness, anoint our work, dwell in our worship - so that we can embrace, equip and empower this community, our homes, our schools, our workplaces, and shake this place - we must get out of the way - recommit, reposition, and refocus ourselves to be the KIND OF CHURCH the KIND OF PARISH what INTENDS.
"Therefore, my beloved, be steadfast, immovable, always excelling in the work of the Lord, because you know that in the Lord your labour is not in vain."