May 1, 2011 -- 2nd Sunday after Easter -- Anne-Marie Jeffery [Annual meeting Sunday]

posted May 3, 2011, 8:02 PM by Unknown user   [ updated May 3, 2011, 8:03 PM by Terry Brady ]

The Changing Community of God

John 20:19-31


What do you want church to be like? Do you want it to be a place of rest? Do you want to see faces of people you know and love? Do you want to work with people who understand the needs that you see in the world and will work with you to make a difference? In worship, do you want say the words that you have said for most of your life?  Do you want your church to be a place which stays the same? Churches can be restful, loving and stable places at times but if you have been around a church for awhile, you’ll find that church comes with change.


Sometimes, church is not very restful and there is much to be done. Sometimes it seems that your friends aren’t there anymore. There can be difficult people who while they are working to meet the needs of the world, seem to be at odds with each other as to what that means. Then they are those priests who just love to change the liturgy and put in prayers with words that they think of as new and interesting. Churches face challenges and go through changes.  It can be hard when you are looking to the church to be the one stable thing in your life. Sometimes, people who are new to the church are surprised at all the ins and outs of a church community. We have people holding each other up in times of trouble and people disagreeing with one another. We have people showing incredible love to one another and people being angry or disappointed.


None of it is surprising if you remember that churches are communities of people and communities of people are challenging.  As Parker Palmer says, –Community is that place where the person you least want to live with always lives … And when that person moves away, someone else arrives to take his or her place”. We are communities whose purpose is to praise God and make God’s love know in the world. Take a close look at any Christian community and you will find people just like us- communities who continually are listening to God and figuring out how we can best do God’s work.  We are challenged and we change. There are moments of getting it right and moments of struggle.  We doubt. We fight. We believe. We have done all these things for quite some time – just over 2000 years.


In our gospel today in one of those stories of the disciples after the resurrection, we hear about the early Christian community as they struggled to make sense of what was happening and who they were becoming.  They were challenged and were going through great change. This particular story includes quite the range of the experiences of a community. We start with fear. The disciples are hiding from the Jews behind locked doors. Then Jesus appears among them which must have produced excitement and joy as well as bewilderment. Afterwards, Thomas, one of their own, refuses to believe. They must have been frustrated and perhaps angry with him.  They must have wondered why he could not listen to them, his fellow disciples?  And then we have such grace when Jesus appears to Thomas and he believes.  Notice that when this happens Thomas is still with the disciples.  They have not disowned him. They are a community experiencing life with God with all its up and downs.


Christian community, like any community of people, is complex and always evolving.

We are bound together by our common purpose to know and love God and to become friends of God and of one another and in the midst of that we change and are continually changing.  Without this ability, we would not be able to respond to the God’s calling to us. We at St. Margaret’s are in the midst of a lot of change and with change comes challenge.  It’s not that we are not always changing, but at the moment it is especially obvious. We are in the transition period between rectors.


In some ways, life continues as usual and in other ways it is different.  Certain projects and decisions are on hold since they are best left for a new rector.  There is an air of excitement to find out who the new person will be and at the same time some uncertainty – what directions will this new rector take us in?  Will we like how we evolve and change in the next few years?  I have great confidence in your future because in the time with you, I have found you to be a warm and welcoming community that loves one another deeply. There is energy in your life together that draws people in and sustains you. You have the ability to be responsive to and creative in the up and downs of vibrant Christian community.


During Lent, I taught a class on spiritual practices. One of those classes was on the spiritual practice of community and at the end of the class I had the class draw or write about what they would like the St. Margaret’s community to be or what it is for them. Some drew pictures.  Some wrote words. I was amazed and touched by what they did because they captured many aspects of what is special about St. Margaret’s community. I wanted to describe a few of them to you.  One person drew a big heart with little hearts inside and music notes.  For her, St. Margaret’s is a big hug with music. Another person describes St. Margaret’s as being at the intersection of our imagination and God’s imagination. Another drew a large chalice and the bread that we use at communion, with lots of people (she noted that they are in pews). She wanted to show how central communion is to life of St. Margaret’s. One person wrote that we are a place waiting for others so that their deepest hunger can be fed. Another drew a huge umbrella to signify a place where there are             lots of beliefs and open doors – doors that open out to Connecticut Ave. Finally, one person drew a church with different groups of people connected to it.  The groups were - those who have gone before us, the regulars, those who are currently separated, those who are not yet born and those who have not yet found their way to us.


Think about these images and words as well as your own experiences here and your dreams for this community. Share them with one another. Be open to what each person and your new rector bring, and trust that that this community of St. Margaret’s, your community, will continue to evolve and grow in many wonderful ways.  Stay open to the amazing change that keeps you a vibrant community of God.