“He doesn’t have a prayer,” is a phrase that I have heard from time to time meaning that the situation is hopeless. Like many people at my age and stage of life, I have been thinking about my life and my legacy. My wife and I are updating our wills. What do we have and what do we want to do with it when we die? Secondly, the church that brought me to Canada had it’s 50th anniversary two weeks ago. I was the second pastor of this church, only 18 months out of seminary when I came to Canada in 1971. My task was to build and shape the ministry of this new congregation. I think this situation fits nicely under this blog titled, What was I thinking? (And perhaps “What was the denomination thinking” as well.) A young, inexperienced minister with such a challenge!
Yet, we all felt like it was a call, and in hindsight that was accurate. I was at Christ Moravian Church for 9 years with the task of building the church and shaping its ministry. I recently spent a wonderful Fiftieth Anniversary celebration reflecting on that time, renewing connections and celebrating the life of the church. I spoke about the nine years I was pastor of Christ Moravian. I was also asked to open the Sunday worship celebration with a prayer of gratitude that would emphasize the past and the future. One would think this is a no-brainer for a minister with 50 years behind him. Yet this was a challenge for an evolutionary Christian to pray at such a pivotal point in the church’s history. In this now moment the past and the future stand on a platform where experience and opportunity meet.
This a challenge for an evolutionary who has a strong belief in God in a whole different way than seeing God as a being directing life from above. I saw my task at the beginning of this service was to ground people in their past, to place them in the flow of divine history, and energize them for the future. I didn’t have a prayer.
As I sat (in a prayerful mood) I began to reflect on my history and my hopes; I began to understand what prayer meant to me. As this was working for me, I understood that my task was to bring the history of love, ministry, hope and dreams together creating a sacred time of possibilities. This is the prayer I offered.
We enter an atmosphere of prayer
When we close our eyes, take a breath.
This is when the distance between God and our selves
slips away and we are one.
The distance disappears between us and those who began the Moravian church in the 1400’s and 1500’s. They didn’t believe in a denomination:
They believed in community building
They believed in music that brought people together
They believed in scripture that came alive in the language and action of the people.
They believed education of the head and the heart brought new life and hope to people’s lives
They believed in love and freedom and the presence of God for growth and healing.
And now we believe those things too because of this church, Christ Moravian Church, our church that says: “In essentials Unity, in non-essentials Liberty and in all things Love”.
FOR THESE PEOPLE WE GIVE THANKS.
We are grateful for 50 years of leadership who had the patience and the will to hear the voice of God.
Al Taylor in finding this wonderful, just right, location,
Lew Thomas, whose roots in the Moravian tradition began and shaped the foundation of this faith community,
John Griffith, Glen Stoudt and Steve Gohdes, whose faith provided depth, vision, guidance and blessing that brings us here today.
FOR THESE PEOPLE WE GIVE THANKS.
And for the leadership in this congregation, the hundreds of people who gave their time and energy, their faith and their doubt, their voices, hands-on help, sharing their hopes and dreams, their pain their grief, their joys and celebration. It was a flow of history, the way God shaped us, healed us, stretched us, loved us.
WE REMEMBER AND WE ARE GRATEFUL.
And we remember that one person who invited us to drop in, see what it was like, who, without knowing it, was teaching us about what it means to be a Moravian – to be an evangelist, reaching out to a neighbour, a friend, or a stranger with an invitation to experience a community where the grace and love of God has a place for everybody.
FOR THAT PERSON AND THAT INVITATION, WE GIVE THANKS.
We close our eyes to shut out the world for a moment and somehow it brings us all together. “We are one in the Spirit; we are one in the Lord. We are not alone.”
In that 50 years of life – sometimes struggle and challenge, shifting priorities, questions of faith that moved us deeper, struggling to find the language to express the holy life of Christ as we realize that his body is our body too – we have become the body of Christ.
We have all had at least one moment of Light, one experience of resurrection, we are not the same person who stepped through that doorway in the past year, two years, 10 years or 40 years.
AND FOR THIS WE ARE ETERNALLY GRATEFUL.
We pray because it takes away the distance between God and us, between us and our neighbour, between the past and the future.
It is all present in us now, in this congregation, in our history, in our life together. On this anniversary we are not just celebrating our past – we are beginning to see our future. This anniversary is about the life to come, the gifts of the Spirit that God promises will shape us and our community in the years to come. Amen. Let It Be So.
From not having a prayer to having a prayer was a spiritual journey. I know it was a prayer because even I was surprised. Where did that come from? An evolution in my faith experience?
That’s what I have been thinking.