Wise Ones Still Seeking 1-4-15

In January we look forward to a New Year of spiritual growth and community building. At St. Luke we use this month for our planning retreat as we think about our children’s programs, our worship, & our mission as a church. Today, as we get ready to share a symbolic meal to dedicate this new year, I would like to briefly talk about some of my hopes and dreams for our church for this new year.
We look ahead to these goals in the light of this reading from Matthew which highlights the interest of the wise ones of the first century and their interest in a birth in Bethlehem.

Matthew 2:1-12 After Jesus’ birth—which happened in Bethlehem of Judea, during the reign of Herod—astrologers from the East arrived in Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the newborn ruler of the Jews?  We observed his star at its rising and have come to pay homage. At this news Herod became greatly disturbed, as did all of Jerusalem. Summoning all the chief priests and religious scholars of the people, he asked them where the Messiah was to be born. “In Bethlehem of Judea,” they informed him.  “Here is what the prophet has written: ‘And you, Bethlehem, land of Judah, are by no  means least among the leaders of Judah, since from you will come a ruler who is to shepherd my people Israel.’”Herod called the astrologers aside and found out from them the exact time of the star’s appearance. Then he sent them to Bethlehem, after having instructed them “Go and get detailed information about the child.  When you have found him, report back to me—so I may go and offer homage, too.” After their audience with the ruler, they set out.  The star which they had observed at its rising went ahead of them until it came to a standstill over the place where the child lay. They were overjoyed at seeing the star and, upon entering the house, found the child with Mary, his mother.  They prostrated themselves and paid homage. Then they opened their coffers and presented the child with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. They were warned in a dream not to return to Herod, so they went back to their own country by another route.

January 4, 2015

 Wise Ones Still Seeking

Over the last few months, when people ask me what I do, I have found my answer shifting a bit. I used to say, “I sing in the choir at a church in Bryn Mawr.” Lately, I’ve been saying, “I work at a fun little church on the Main Line.” The response I get to this admittedly somewhat flippant statement is – surprise. People don’t think of churches as being fun places. They don’t think of Sunday morning as being a fun time. It catches people’s attention a little bit. I like that, of course.
I received a few Christmas cards this year which influenced my sermon for this morning. Sending Christmas cards seems to slowly be going out of style, but I enjoy receiving news from friends’ families and we have the cards that we do get displayed on the mantle in our living room and on the front table. I received two very similar cards from dear ones in this congregation that said on the front, “Wise Ones Still Seek Him.” The Magi are a favorite theme of Christmas cards, even though we read about them closer to Epiphany – January 6th than to Christmas.
So today is our celebration of Epiphany and we read about the Magi, and I thought I would talk today about goals for the coming year and what we and our wise friends are still seeking. We are still seeking right? We are still working for God’s kin-dom in our midst.
Let’s admit it – the first thing we are seeking in this congregation is new members. Most congregations are in the same boat on that. But congregations seek new folks in different ways. Some congregations seek new people to join what they are doing, to become like us. We think that we are friendly folks, so people should want to be part of our group. I’m having fun, so I get surprised that visitors who come don’t have as much fun as I do, and don’t come back the next week.
A small shift in attitude can make a difference in seeking new folks. It might be as simple a shift as making friends instead of being friendly. Some congregations are more focused on making friends, getting involved in what someone else is interested instead of expecting them to see how friendly you are and want to do what you’re doing. You see the difference.
I’m hoping and dreaming this year that we continue to develop our church as a fun, exciting center of spiritual growth, changing lives through our outreach to new people, listening to new folks about their spiritual needs and their spiritual gifts, and finding ways to be their friend, to journey with them on the path. I’m hoping that we will reach out this year to new people with a message of rooted and thoughtful engagement with the Living God.
In my sermons this year, I plan to re-examine and teach about some of the great theologians like Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Martin Buber, as well as some less known folks like Beverly Harrison and Rosemary Radford Reuther. I’m also planning to preach and teach about Paul and think about Jesus and Paul both from the perspective of their Jewishness and what difference their Jewishness makes in how we understand them. James Carroll’s book Jesus Actually is inspiring me to think about all these things.
Wise parents are still seeking community for their children where they can find support and nurture for their spiritual development. We as a congregation will pour love and energy into Brian and Carolyn and Kiara as they help us in that effort. Along with that, a key area we will be seeking to address this year is the area of accessibility and welcoming all people, especially the children in our congregation who need special attention and care.
Finally, our seeking will continue to move us toward connecting with friends in ministry in Philadelphia. We have great opportunities and resources available to us to make our mission and ministry more effective in the suburbs and in the city. We will have to challenge our fears to connect more fruitfully to those resources. We have opportunities to work with Arch St. United Methodist Church, with a group called Philadelphians Organized to Witness, Empower and Rebuild (POWER), Heeding God’s Call and the Methodist Home for Children.
We are so blessed to have these great connections that will support and challenge us in our ministry, our spiritual journeys, and our growth in the Spirit. We will be wise to open our hearts, our minds, and our doors to these opportunities and ministry possibilities. We will explore them more in our planning retreat on Saturday, January 24th.
In the meantime, today we share this meal that reminds us of our calling and our deep connection with the Spirit of the Living God. As we join together at the altar, may we remember the wise ones who have visited us in the past, who helped us on our journey and gave us gifts and taught us that we are God’s beloved. This is God’s good news.

Worship through Giving – special offering to Heeding God’s Call
Responsive Hymn: 254 We Three Kings [middle 3 verses by male soloists without refrain]