January 24, 2020
+ Today is, of course, our Annual Meeting Sunday.
And let’s just say that we have never had an Annual Meeting like this one before.
And it is the Sunday in which I get to be the head cheerleader for our congregation.
And there is so much to cheer about.
Fr. Jamie, did you sleep through 2020?
Yes, you heard me right.
There is much to cheer about, even in the midst of a pandemic.
Despite all that has happened, for us it has been a year of growth, of crazy, nonstop activity, of doing and seeing things in a new way.
We have one of our very best years for giving, for budget.
Even in the midst of all the darkness and the strangeness of this past year, St. Stephen’s once again proved itself to be, as it always, a resilient, amazingly strong congregation that steps up the plate.
I am just amazed by it all.
I am amazed at how God has moved in this parish this last year.
God’s Holy Spirit has been truly present here.
But yes, it is a very different Annual Meeting Sunday than in the past.
We will be gathering together by Zoom, rather than in person.
It will be different.
It is painful that we are not all here together.
But, let me tell you, in some congregations, it is much worse, as many of you know.
And I am deeply saddened over that fact.
But for us, we need to be grateful this morning.
We need to truly thank God, for God’s holy Presence among us.
I know you feel it.
I certainly feel it.
And it is that vitality, that presence of the God’s life-giving and amazing Spirit, present among us, that we celebrate today.
So much has happened over this past year.
Yesterday I was talking by phone with Jennifer Tackling.
And she was sharing how important St. Stephen’s has been to her over this whole pandemic and how it was good for her to know that even though she and her family were unable to actually physically BE in church, it was comforting to know that we continued to do what we do, without pause.
And that we have found new ways to “be” together.
I love to hear things like that from people.
And it is because of comments and sentiments like that, that we actually are celebrating St. Stephen’s and who we are, what we have done and what we will do.
I think our Annual Meeting is also a time for us to pause and to actually orient ourselves.
It is important to see where he have been this past year and look forward to where we are going.
And it is a time for us also to “turn around,” to have a moment in which we wake up and see things anew.
In our spiritual lives, we call those moments, “metanoia,” – a Greek word that I absolutely love.
But I will get into that a bit more in just a moment.
For now, this idea of “turning around,” this changing of perspective, is what Jesus calls us to do again and again throughout the Gospel.
Christians instead “have preferred to hear something Jesus never said: ‘Worship me.’ Worship of Jesus is rather harmless and risk-free; following Jesus changes everything.”
What does that mean?
How do we do that?
Well, there's a great meme going around that says this:
THIS YEAR I WANT TO BE MORE LIKE JESUS:
- Hang out with sinner.
-Upset religious people.
- Tell stories that make people think.
- Choose unpopular friends.
- Be kind, loving and merciful.
That's how we follow Jesus.