Bucket Lists: Vision and Hope are Inspirations of the Heart
Pastor Diane Gordon
Mt Pleasant FUMC
October 22, 2017
Scriptures: Joel 2:28 NRSV, Colossians 3:1-4 CEB and Matthew 6:31-33 CEB
Have you ever seen the movie The Bucket List with Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson? Two terminally ill men develop a list of all the things they have always wanted to do. They face their task with a great sense of urgency. Today, we will explore our bucket list for the church.
Some of you attended the Saturday Vision Into Action event a few weeks ago and gave suggestions of things you thought would help us grow into our vision statement which says: First United Methodist Church is a welcoming, vital church, / filled with people of all ages, from all walks of life and stages of faith, / growing together to become deeply committed Christians who follow and serve Jesus Christ.
For those of you who were not able to attend that event, I would like to take a couple minutes right now for you to jot down one thing you would like to see happen in the church in the next year.
There are little white sermon note pads in the pews, or you could also use the back of a purple prayer slip. We are going to pray silently while everyone finishes their note and then I’d like you to put those notes in with your offerings when we take up the collection later in the service. What would you most like to see happen in this church in the next year? You’ve got two minutes. Go. (Music underscore for two minutes.)
The next thing I’d like you to think about is what you would like to see happen in your life in that same time? (Pause) Now consider what ways your passions for the church align with your personal desire? We must keep in mind that you, the people, are the church. We are a volunteer organization – except for a handful of paid staff whose job is not to do all the work of the church, but to lead and facilitate the work of the church. Plus, we have the determining guideline that states that all our work must in some way contribute to the making of new disciples of Jesus Christ.
We may make beautiful music here, but this is not a concert hall or entertainment venue. This is God’s house. We may share meals together, but this is not a restaurant. Our breaking of bread together is done to feed our spirits and connect us in fellowship. We may study together, but we study to know God better and to learn to see God at work in our own lives and in the world around us. We may do mission work to help our neighbors in need, but it’s not done just to make ourselves feel good. It is service to the living Christ, who has never failed to hear our prayers and send angels to help us in our hour of need.
The prophet Joel offers direction for us, as we consider the vision of the church. Vision comes as God inspires people to prophesy, dream and have visions. What has God inspired you to envision for the coming year?
Colossians instructs us to set our hearts on things above. It is very difficult to focus our attention on God when we are distracted and overwhelmed by the cultural influences in our lives, but that is the call on our lives.
Think about your two answers – what you’d like to see happen in the church and what you’d like to see happen in your own life. Is there a common thread? Do you envision yourself taking action and participating in that thing you’d like to see happen in the church, or is your desire for yourself going to draw you away? Being drawn away is not always a bad thing, especially if it is a calling from God to a new mission field. But being drawn away for frivolous things can also be a temptation to turn one’s back on God, while holding expectations for the life of the church that become someone else’s job.
When we are passionate about wanting to follow Jesus, Matthew’s Gospel sets our personal and community priorities. Together in community, we help one another seek God first in all things, to strive for righteousness, or right standing, with God. These verses give us the starting place for understanding what God has called us to do and be as a church in the coming year. “…desire first and foremost God’s kingdom and God’s righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” Matthew 6:33
When we keep our eyes upon Jesus, when we focus on what it would take to fill our homes, schools, churches, communities and world with God’s kingdom kind of living, then all the basics that we need to live will be present. There will always be enough for everyone. It’s a matter of distribution. There is more than enough love, more than enough clean water, more than enough clothing, shelter, medicine, seeds for planting, tools for harvesting, and pots for cooking. You name it. There is enough. It just needs to be shared, and like the loaves and fishes story, everyone’s belly is full and they can stay and learn from Jesus. They can be healed by the grace of God. We can be healed by the grace of God.
My vision for the church in the coming year has not just ideas being presented, but people willing to help bring the idea to fruition. If you would like to see more small groups – volunteer to lead one. Invite some people to join you – and it doesn’t have to be just church people. Ideally, it could have some friends from work, your neighborhood, or that person you struck up a conversation with at the coffee shop the other day. You can be the conduit that God is using to help people explore faith. You can be the convener that need not have all the answers, but has the willingness to put on a pot of coffee and gather people together to wrestle with a good study, watch a thought provoking video, read a passage of scripture and see where God takes you.
My vision for the church in the coming year has you welcoming a new pastor after I retire and being patient as that new pastor learns your names and stories. Please get in the habit of wearing your nametags regularly. Nametags will not only help the new pastor, come July, but they help new church people learn the names of long-time members and vice versa. They help those of us whose memories are less reliable than they once were, too! God may have each of your names engraved upon his hand, but I only have age spots!
My vision for the church in the coming year has you being generous in your support of the church – not just in memorials and designated giving, but in no holds barred, give it all to God and trust that something wonderful is going to happen giving to the General Fund. It is not glamourous to pay the electric bill, the gas bill, the trash bill, etcetera, but they all need to be paid. Exciting, creative work comes with a price tag. There is a bigger picture to consider, and future generations to foster. We need to think big and give generously to fulfill the dreams and visions God has laid before us.
The Bucket List for this church includes welcoming people who are new to this whole faith thing. They didn’t grow up in any church and it’s all kind of a mystery to them. My hope is that no one will ever question their participation or make them feel uncomfortable. My hope is that grace will prevail when someone speaks their mind and says something you disagree with. My hope is that the Spirit of God so influences you to love the stranger that you will give the proverbial shirt off your back to help them. Sometimes that help is in real goods. Sometimes it’s money that supports a helping agency. But what we need here is funding to support the spiritual nurture of souls; souls who long to belong to Jesus’ family, who long for a place at the table despite their doubts and failings and want nothing more than to know they are beloved by God, just as they are.
You can help make that happen. Next week, as we bring our pledges forward for consecration to God’s work, we are showing God that we trust God to supply everything we need as we give away a portion of our income. Pray about what portion that will be and don’t be afraid. God is with us! Amen.