275th Anniversary Sermon

James 2: 1-10, 14-17    Rev. Dr. Galen E. Russell III

Mark 7: 31-37  September 9, 2018

Then looking up to heaven, he sighed and said to him, “Ephphatha,” that is, “Be opened.”  And immediately his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly.

Prayer:  God of all our years, God of our present day, God of our future, may the richness of our legacy handed to us inspire our faith in you.  In Christ we pray, Amen.

I say again… Happy Anniversary, Christ Church! We celebrate 275 years of ministry!  275 years of sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ.  275 years of amplifying, magnifying, evangelizing, revitalizing God’s Good News for all, God’s resurrection power, God’s redemptive work, God’s love and grace—For ALL!   For 275 years we sought to live out the purpose of the Christian Church, which is to increase the love of God and neighbors and ourselves.  What a legacy!  So, we celebrate! Yay!

That word ‘legacy’ should have new meaning for us today.  It first of all implies our “past” heritage.  Indeed, in the first part of our worship today was about “Remembering our Past.”  We heard music from centuries ago.  We spoke ancient liturgy from scripture.  We sang hymns written even long before the beginnings of Christ Church.  It all reminds us of what ministry we’ve done, where we’ve been, what gifts we’ve left behind for others to use, and what gifts we’ve brought so that God’s love is increased.

Let me remind us again that the voices of Christ Church’s past gift-givers are Stillspeaking to us today when we use their gifts… for example, when we spent money on this year’s summer concert series, when we look at our choirs with beautiful robes, when we hear the bells of our Carillon choir, we are really hearing the voice of Martha Seibert who wanted her gift to be spent on music that gives glory to God right here at Christ Church.

When we hear Justin play the organ, or Ray, or Nancy, we are really hearing the voices of Edna and Jeannette Barnes because they gifted Christ Church with this instrument.  We also know it’s improved and maintained by money given by Jeannette.  The voices of these two women continue to speak of their love of God, music, and Christ Church.

When we support our seminarian Dan Dorsey through the Seminary Fund, we are really hearing the voice of Earl “Beanie” Kaufman from the past who donated a gift designated to assist people discerning a call into ministry and support their education for that purpose. And there are many more voices who continue to speak to us.

It is wonderful that we hear the voices of past Christ Church members that are still speaking to us.

It’s their voices that inspire us to create a new legacy of faith for the future with joy.  It’s their voices that remind us that just as they handed this church and its legacy to us and we engaged in ministry with them, we also hand it to our children and our youth, and invite our kids to engage in ministry with us.

I think it’s important for us to ask what kind of church do we want to give to our kids?  What will our very youngest receive from us? What kind of church will the kids in our nursery right now receive? Will they receive a new legacy of God’s grace? Will they get a church that practices love others? Will they receive a church mirroring God’s all-inclusive nature?  Can we give our kids a church that has deliberately says, “Yes God, please open our ears to the voices our society has grown deaf to?”  Can we give them a church that, with its tongue released by God, intentionally speaks words and practices full welcome and full participation to any person marginalized by society and other churches?  Can we give our children a church that is committed to practicing this type of ongoing faithfulness to God?

It is for us, I believe, to dedicate ourselves to the ongoing task of inspiring this legacy of faith for us and for our children.  We will be amazed to see how God will use us to touch the lives of those who need God’s good news of resurrection power, of incessant love and redeeming grace.

It is fitting, I think, that we were under a tent last night with no sides.  In some ways, I think that a side-less tent is a metaphor for our church as we create a lasting legacy for our future.  Might we think of Christ Church, as literally Jesus Christ’s own church?  A church without walls.  A church that desires to be bearers of God’s love and light in the world.  A church that is on the move spiritually… so that those who have gone before us will not have gone on in vain… so that our church, in partnership with God, may have a new resurgence of life… a resurgence of covenant and that the purpose of increasing the love of God among men, women, youth, and children shall never end for the next 275 years.  Amen.