It is good to be speechless in worship.
What do I mean? I mean the sense of awe that happens when we encounter the Risen Lord in such a deep way that it takes our breath away. It leaves us amazed. It leaves us deeply connected with our Lord and each other.
I cannot help but think this has happened in worship the past few Sundays. We have had some deep worship moments that have connected us with our Lord and brought us closer together.
I say this because for the past two weeks we have journeyed through a time of remembrance. We have remembered what Trinity has meant to each of us and how certain people here, both past and present, have influenced our lives for Christ. These acts of remembrance help us to acknowledge that in each of these stories we know that God was and is active and present.
Who knew a stewardship campaign could be so powerful and deep? It has been wonderful to hear how Trinity has impacted your life and how the people here have made you feel Christ’s love in a deep way. As I am learning more about you, these stories and many others have been special to me. They have helped me to connect with you and to fully see how special Trinity is.
I hope you see this. I hope you have gained a deeper appreciation for Trinity and what God is doing here. It is an amazing story to recognize that for almost 125 years, we have been a living witness of Jesus Christ in Latonia and throughout the world. You have been a part of a story of God’s love here that continues to be written.
A story that is ready to turn the page and set course upon a new chapter. Today we focus specific on the next chapter of our story here that is our future and where God might be leading us as a congregation. We want to focus, now, on that big step that we want to take. If you remember a few weeks ago, I asked us to be willing to take a big step and to go where God might be leading. Today we want to begin to thinking and praying about just where we might take that first step.
Today is about our hopes and dreams. These are things I know many of you have wrestled. Some of you have talked to me about them. These discussions have centered around a few basic questions: Who are we? Who are you? Where are we going? What is God asking of us? I have tried to avoid answering some of these questions, wanting instead to listen and learn how you might answer them through your words and actions. However, today I want to being to walk through some of these questions and start a process of walking forward into our next chapter.
Our passage from Colossians 3:1-4 is an appropriate starting point. Paul’s words challenges us to think about what it means to be the church, to see ourselves as God does, and to reflect upon the Lord’s direction. These words challenges us to dream big and wonder about what is next for us at Trinity. Paul’s words are guiding by a perspective that helps us to be missional in our focus and guided by what it truly means to be the living witness of Jesus Christ in our community.
A perspective that starts to become clear when Paul writes that we “have been raised to a new life with Christ.” What does Paul mean? Each of us are participants in the hope of the resurrection. So often, we only focus on the realities of the resurrection during the Easter season. However, the resurrection is the hope and power that gives life and vitality to everything. The resurrection is our assurance that Christ has won the victory over sin and death. This gives power and authenticity to all Jesus says, does, and asks of us.
And we are participants in the resurrection through our baptism. When we accept Christ’s grace we are raised to a new life and were able to receive the hope, joy, and power behind the resurrection. We who were once dead to our sin have now been raised to a new life of hope through faith in Christ. This calls us to live our lives in response to God’s grace by “making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.” The things that scare us, hold us back, or challenge us have nothing over the greatest hope, peace, and joy the world has ever known in Jesus Christ.
Because we have been raised to a new life, we are called to set our sights on the things of heaven and not the things of earth. These are competing images. On one hand, there is the life of Christ and being connected to our Lord. It is our willingness to go where Christ is calling us. On the other hand, are the things of the earth. The focus of which causes us to live as people of this world who focus on what is in front of us instead of what could be.
What does this mean? Let’s look at what it looks like when we focus upon the things of the earth. When we focus on the things of earth we allow current realities to define future potential. That is because we think more about the bottom line than we do about making disciples. We allow fear to define mission. We let our obstacles hold us back. Focusing on earthly things happens when we says we can never be a vital church, because we do not have the highest numbers, our giving is low, or we don’t have enough people.
This is the imagery of a church that has stopped dreaming. A church and community that perhaps have said, either through words or actions, that nothing is possible anymore with God. We look around and say, “There is nothing left here, so let’s just ride it out and see what happens.” It is the image of a church that has given up.
I don’t know if this describes any of you. I imagine at some point that it likely has. Hear me when I say this: God is not through with Trinity United Methodist. God is not done with us. God has something for each of us and this community. We have work for the kingdom of God still to do! As long as there are people in need of hope, justice that needs to be proclaimed, love that needs to be shared, and until Christ comes in final victory there is still work for the church to do!
This work calls us not to think about the things of earth, but to think of the things of heaven. We must focus on what God desires and to see things as the Lord would see them. We must be a community that dreams big and asks the questions of where God is leading us.
The idea of dreaming big is at the center of what Paul means by “setting our sights on the realities of heaven.” Paul wants us to be kingdom focused. He wants everything about us – our lives, families, communities – to be directed by the truth that Christ is alive. Paul wants our churches to be led by the hope of the resurrection that gives power to all Christ did and continues to do at the Father’s right hand. When we set our sights on the things of heaven we do so with an acknowledgment that Christ is the victor over all things.
When we set sights on the things of heaven we are able to live in confidence about our future. This is because we trust that Christ is with us, through the presence of the Holy Spirit, in our mission and witness. When we set our sights on the things of heaven we have the ability to dream big and pray about our vision and mission, in spite of whatever current reality exists within our community.
Friends, I want us to set our sights upon heaven and pray about where God will lead us as a church. I want us to be a church that is unwilling to allow current realities to deter us from doing the difficult, from doing the challenging, from going wherever God asks us to go to serve the poor, the lost, the forgotten, and rejected.
I never want us to stop dreaming big about the mission that we live into at Trinity. Many of you might be asking what are some of my dreams for our community. That is fair. The dreams I have for Trinity are not just for us here, but for our community and the global church.
I dream of a church that is relevant. A church that is relevant not by being “cool,” “hip,” or “entertaining,” but by being true to God’s word and love. A church that desires to be authentic. An authenticity that leaves in an transparent desire to be honest about our faith and struggles with others.
I dream of a church that is willing to be the hands and feet of Christ in our community. A church that partners with other churches to help to address the poverty and drug issues that surround us. A church that seeks ways to heal the sick, pray with the hurting, and care for the rejected in ways that reflect Jesus’ love for all people. A church that is willing to do the challenging to share God’s hope.
I dream of a church that is committed to a vision and purpose. I dream of a church that knows its gifts and talents and is willing to use those gifts to serve God and world. A church that is committed to a way of being like Christ that defines everything we do and seek to be. A church that knows who it is and where it is going. A church where we are unified around a common focus that is simple and powerful.
All of us have dreams for Trinity and the global church. Dreams that may be what God asks of us here. Today I want to announce that in a few weeks I will be inviting some of you to come together to pray and seek God’s desires for us at Trinity. We will work to build a unified vision and purpose that will define our worship, discipleship, and missions. We will discern God’s plan for Trinity. What will come out of these discussions, I hope, is a pathway of mission that will define everything about us here at Trinity.
It is a process that actually begins today. In your bulletin, you will find your third “heart card.” This week’s card will lead us into this time of dreaming and visioning. What are your dreams for Trinity? What are the big steps you seek us taking when we set our sights upon heaven and commit ourselves to God’s desires? Whatever those dreams are – no matter how big or small – I want you to write them on that card. As we sing our closing hymn, you are invited to come up and lay the card at the altar as an act of us seeking not just our vision for Trinity, but God’s vision for this great church. After the closing hymn, we will take a moment to pray for these dreams, to pray for our church, and to ask God to lead us in what it means to dream big here.
God isn’t through with us. God has something wonderful and powerful for us. I wonder what it may be. I wonder what will happen if we set our sights upon heaven and trust that God has a plan for us. Let us take that big step forward and go where Christ is calling.