Renew300 Commitment Sunday Sermon, 6th Sunday of Easter
6th Sunday of Easter, May 21th 2017
Renew300 Commitment Sunday – Acts 17:22-21, Psalm 66:8-20, 1 Peter 3:13-22, John 14:15-21
In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
So evidently there is a creature on this planet with us… a creature that exists in our universe…
called a Ghost Shark!
I’m serious, and as a lifelong surfer, this sounds frightening.
About a year and a half ago National Geographic published footage of the elusive “pointy nosed blue chimaera”,
a.k.a. The Ghost Shark, filmed deep in the Marianas Trench.
Mt Everest is the highest point on earth. The Marianas Trench is the deepest point in the ocean, 7 miles deep.
The Ghost Shark lives and exists in the Marianas Trench, and has only been seen a handful of times.
So if you pull up the footage from National Geographic on YouTube, this creature is not a frightening man-eating machine at all, it’s actually pretty small, with a small dorsal fin, with these big dark shallow eyes.
It’s kind of haunting but also kind of cute.
We know more about our planet, our oceans and outer space than we ever have in human history. It is pretty cool that I can whip out my little computer in my pocket and google just about any question that I have.
BUT, did you know that we have only explored 5% of our oceans. 5%!
Astrophysicist Father George Coyne, reminds his readers of the timeline of the cosmos,
Imagine the history of the cosmos as a 24 hour day, humans only came into existence one second before midnight, and Galileo only invented the telescope milliseconds before midnight.
Father Coyne jokes, “So we don’t have all the answers about the universe yet, just give us another second or two.”
We know a lot, but there is a lot we don’t know.
Who knows when the next Ghost Shark will be discovered?
Or the next breakthrough in cosmology will happen.
There is a lot more to learn.
There is still many a mystery to be explored.
As we gather as a community of faith. As we explore faith, explore ministry, and as we explore and strive what it means to follow Jesus. We have come a long way. But there is still a lot to learn.
There is still many a mystery to be explored. We can still go deeper.
Yes, there are times when we are more comfortable with keeping things safely on the surface. From time to time that’s ok, we leave room and time for the Holy Spirit to work progression, growth, and transformation. But let us not forget that the Holy Spirit also challenges us to go deeper.
And so on Commitment Sunday, when we are calling and challenging you to commit to our capital campaign to renovate our building on 300 East Rosemary St. we want to faithfully ask and discern the answer to the question,
How do we do deeper in our faith?
…deeper in our ministry.
…deeper in our stewardship of our God given gifts.
…deeper in our love of God and love of neighbor.
Now I confess, we did not look at today’s assigned scripture readings before planning what day to have Commitment Sunday. With all the busyness around us, we mostly looked at the University and School Schedules along with our own calendars and many happenings.
So it is the providential work of the Holy Spirit that as we talk about using our gold and silver to renovate and renew our buildings and structures made by human hands we hear St. Paul do this TED talk to wise and confident Greek philosophers,
“Athenians, I see how extremely religious you are in every way.
For as I walked through the city and looked at the objects of your worship, I found among them an altar that reads
‘to an unknown god.’ What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you.
The God who made the world and everything in it does not live in shrines made by human hands, nor is (this God) served by human hands, since (God) gives to all mortals life and breath and all things….
There is a search for God in all of us, though indeed God is not far from each of us.
For ‘in him we live and move and have our being’; as even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we too are (God’s) offspring’. And since we are God’s offspring, we ought not to think that The Divine is like gold, or silver, or brick, or contained in any image formed by the art and imagination of mortals.
We are called to (turn and return) to God, because (this God) has given assurance to all by raising (Jesus) from the dead.”
Yep, I needed to hear this today. Of all days, we needed to hear this today.
This bold act and speech from Paul calls us away from materialism and the many and diverse idols fighting for our attention.
This pushes me to ask again,
How do we go deeper in our understanding of God?
Sure Paul has some confident claims about who he believes God to be as revealed in the Risen Christ… but he is also opening up this conversation with a larger audience, beyond his own tribe. He uses the poems and sacred writings from another culture and tradition to point to the larger truth of our unity in God and how close God is to each of us.
As we have gone through the process with the Renew300 Capital Campaign, as with any capital campaign or fundraiser, yes there have been meetings, looking over building plans, creating and printing communication materials, hard work in thinking through logistics and the impact this will have on our community, and how to use and spend our precious resources.
But more so, on a deeper level, this process has helped reveal to us again our understanding and discernment our core values, our identity as a community of faith, reflecting on what God is doing with us and through us, a healthy reflection of what good stewardship looks like, and what we hold as important.
I know for me, going through the process of this campaign has helped me see what we do well and where we need to grow. And while there is a lot of talk about gold and silver and buildings made by human hands, this campaign and process has helped me go a little deeper into our theme verse for our capital campaign from 1 Corinthians, “This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God.”
With Commitment Sunday and our calling to go deeper as disciples of Jesus, I will say loud and clear, whether you fill out a commitment card or not, “You are loved if you do, and you are loved if you don’t.”
God’s love will never abandon you.
But the Holy Spirit is calling us to go deeper.
Because here is the good news. In the adventure of our search. In our adventure of going deeper.
We are not left alone. Jesus promises an Advocate, the Greek word is Paraclete, which literally means
“one who is called alongside.”
We have One who walks alongside each of us.
The Holy Ghost
The Spirit of Christ
The Breath of God
It is this Holy Spirit, our Advocate, that calls us to go deeper into the mystery of God and calls us to go deeper in our love of God and love of neighbor.
And so taking my lead from St. Paul in acts allow me to stand on a symbolic Areopagus and proclaim,
Chapel-Hillians, Durhamites, and Triangleists –
I can see that you are extremely busy in every way, and you have many commitments, you may even have written on your calendar, “To an unknown commitment”.
But allow me to remind you of God’s commitment to you.
So committed that the Christ lived, died and rose again for you.
We are a part of one human family and we all long and search for the grace and love of God.
Where ever you go and whatever you do, God is closer to you than your own breath.
Yes, God does not dwell in buildings made by human hands.
But these buildings are spaces to train these hand’s to do God’s work.
God’s work, our hands!
“This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God.”
This is what we boldly commit to.