The Rev. Jimmy Abbott
The Second Sunday after Pentecost
June 5, 2015
Disturb us, Lord, when
We are too well pleased with ourselves,
When our dreams have come true
Because we have dreamed too little,
When we arrived safely
Because we sailed too close to the shore.
Disturb us, Lord, when
With the abundance of things we possess
We have lost our thirst
For the waters of life;
Having fallen in love with life,
We have ceased to dream of eternity
And in our efforts to build a new earth,
We have allowed our vision
Of the new Heaven to dim.
Disturb us, Lord, to dare more boldly,
To venture on wilder seas
Where storms will show your mastery;
Where losing sight of land,
We shall find the stars.
We ask You to push back
The horizons of our hopes;
And to push into the future
In strength, courage, hope, and love.
We prayed this prayer for all of 2014, and God heard us. We have been disturbed. We have created a beautiful master plan for our future campus. A campus that will be sustainable, accessible, and beautiful. A campus that will be a sacred space for the people of Spring. We have been disturbed, because last week, we remade our baptismal covenant and vows to the Lord Jesus. And again, God is disturbing us.
Along with Bishop Fisher, the staff, and the Vestry, I have recognized that the way we are set up as a church doesn’t work for who we are. With more and more people encountering the grace of Jesus here and coming on Sunday mornings to glorify God, we are at a point where something needs to be done. You have probably heard me say this before. Holy Comforter needs to increase our capacity for worship so that more and more people who experience grace can return here to glorify God. That’s exactly what Saint Paul is talking about in Second Corinthians.
So, with the Vestry’s support, and with Bishop Fisher’s blessing, Holy Comforter will move to three Sunday morning worship services. Our target date for this new worship schedule is Sunday, August 23 of this year. Most likely with service times of 7:45, 9:00, and 11:00. This is a monumental shift for this parish. We all know that. But as Saint Paul says that the grace of God extends to more and more people, we need to make room for more and more people.
As many of you have heard me say, our parking lot at 10:30 can’t hold many more cars. The perception to newcomers is that there is no room for them here. And if people wish to come back and glorify God in this place, then they have to have a place to park. That’s simple mathematics.
Now of course, we are going to build a bigger parking lot. Along with a new worship space, our master plan calls for us to double our parking capacity. That’s fabulous, because we’re going to need it. I think that so many people will find the grace of God in this place, that when it’s all said and done, we’ll need a new building and four worship services.
If we wait until the completion of a construction project to increase our capacity, then we’ve just made an idol for ourselves. We will have set our hopes on bricks and mortar, rather than setting our hope on God. And that is sin. Our hope is founded on God alone.
This change in worship schedule is not going to affect our building project. We can do both. We are going to dream big dreams. We are still going to embark on our building project because we desperately need it. Our facilities as they are now will not sustain this congregation far into the future. We need to build in order to plant a firm foundation for the church we leave behind. And the simple reality is that church construction projects take a long time. We have to get our fundraising together, we have to get the architects and contractors on the same page, we have to get the diocese coordinated with us. The plan that the Vestry and Building Committee shared with Bishop Fisher, is that fundraising will be in 2016 and construction in 2017. So we can’t wait until 2018 to increase our capacity for worship. By then, we’ll be way behind the curve. As Saint Paul says, “we do not lose heart.” We can do both.
The other beauty in this, is that three Sunday morning worship services invites more and more people to experience grace, and to be raised into roles of ministry. To serve communion. To be ushers. To lead Sunday schools. To take communion to the home bound. We will be challenging ourselves, and in my experience, people of integrity and faith thrive when challenged. This challenge is an opportunity. opportunity. An opportunity to cast visions and to create liturgical identities for each of our three services.
So here are the next steps. A transition team will be formed of the leaders of the various ministries that make Sunday mornings happen: Eucharistic Ministers, the choir, ushers, greeters, youth ministry, children’s ministry, and pastoral care. From there, we map out the logistics of what needs to happen to get from two services to three. So we’ll keep the early service Rite One with no music, but what about the other services? What is the music like? What do worship bulletins look like? When do we focus on children and families? What does Sunday School and Adult Forum look like? How do we do name tags? Now, these are actually the easy questions. That’s just simple logistics. That’s what the transition team will be working on over the summer. The hard question has already been answered. That it’s time to sail far from the shore.
And it’s important that we don’t get caught up in the logistics. We have to remember the main point. This is about glorifying God. This is about our congregation daring more boldly to worship the Lord Jesus. So that grace may extend to more and more people, so that we may increase our thanksgiving to God. And through it all, we do not lose heart.
I know there are other concerns. Will I, me, Jimmy Abbott, be alright? Can I do three worship services on a Sunday. Yes, I’ll be fine. I’ve served a church before with three Sunday services. But more importantly, because this is precisely what the Lord Jesus has called me to do – to preach, to celebrate, and to proclaim God’s mercy. That is the point.
There are often two responses to bold challenges like this. “We’ve never done it that way before.” Which is true. The other is, “but we tried that before and it didn’t work.” Which is also true from our past Saturday evening service. Our past will not dictate our future. At every moment in the church’s life, we have the opportunity to dare more boldly, to venture onto wilder seas.
And there is the third response: “This is a huge risk, what if it fails?” Three years ago to the Sunday, I preached on risk and failure. Some of you were here. That was my first Sunday. Quoting myself is weird, but here it goes, I said:
“You may be wondering what this sermon means for my ministry here at Holy Comforter, and for the future mission of this church. First of all, it means that we are going to take risks. As a church, we sin when we do not take risks for God’s Kingdom. These risks may be challenging and difficult. They will require all of us, including me, to be uncomfortable and vulnerable; because the cross of Christ is neither comfortable nor safe.”
Finally, I see this endeavor as an image of true spirituality. For many of us, we play it safe with Jesus. Our dreams come true because we dream too little. We don’t take risks in following Jesus because we sail too close to the shore. But the people in my life who have deep, profound relationships with Jesus are those that have taken huge risks for their spiritual lives. There is risk in choosing prayer and turning off the TV, because you never what God will say. There is risk in choosing hospitality over fear, because you never know how a stranger will change you. There is risk in choosing discipleship over wealth, because we think money is all that matters when all that matters is God’s mercy. When the church takes a spiritual risk, we too should be inspired to greater acts of piety and spirituality; of stretching ourselves and our relationship with Jesus. As the Church, and as individuals, we do not see the stars, unless we sail far from the shore.
As Saint Paul says, “so we do not lose heart.” We do not lose heart. We must not be afraid of risks and failure, because we follow a Lord who was crucified and raised again. We will not lose heart.