1 John 1-7a
Will you pray with me, Holy One lend us your vision that we may see as you do. Lend us the arch of your sight that we may have your insight as we live in this place and live out who you would have us be. And may the words of my mouth and the meditations of all of our hearts be acceptable to you, O God our rock and our redeemer. Amen.
Today is celebration Sunday. Today we celebrate the capital campaign, the outpouring of time, talent and treasure. We celebrate it all as an expression of how much this community values this building, this church, this life we have together on the corner of Collins road and Beacon street. We value the being The Union Church in Waban. What it stands for and what it teaches us.
We were remembering at the council retreat yesterday morning that there was a time in the 1950’s and 60’s when going to church was just what you did. It was the social convention. It was expected and life outside the church accommodates Sunday morning church going. There were no soccer games scheduled on Sunday mornings. No hockey practice.
But that is no longer the case anymore. Being church requires intentionality and a commitment. It would be far easier not to come to church than to come these days. And I am sure that you too have had the experience of your friends or acquaintances looking a little baffled when they happen to learn that you are a church goer. In a way, at least in this part of the country, going to church has become rather counter cultural, rather an oddity.
So it was for those we read about in the passage from Acts this morning. The book of Acts was written by the same author that wrote the Gospel of Luke and while the Gospel tells us all about the life of Jesus, the Book of Acts tells us all about the life of the followers of Jesus as they continued to try to walk in his Way after Jesus death and resurrection. The book of acts tells us about how those followers became church together. They had to figure out what it was going to be like to be Christ’s body, to be his hand and feet and eyes that see with compassion in the world. And what they created together and with the Spirit of God was a community of care and unity. Where they shared as one heart and soul and took care of each other.
That church, that family of Jesus followers would have been such an oddity to those around them. For in that part of the world in the first century, society was very stratified and delineated by household. But this church, these followers of Jesus were changing all of that and defining belonging not by whose particular household they belonged to, whose was their father or who they served but instead by seeing themselves as part of one household of God, serving God alone. They were declaring that there is something stronger outside the social structures of that time and that that is the love of God that binds us one to another and to God.
And that love was made manifest in the way they lived one with another. People looked at them and saw something new and different and were amazed.
And then to fast forward a generation to the passage from 1 John, we hear again the people again are declaring. They are declaring that The Way of following Jesus, the Way of Love, this Way of being in the world matters. They are declaring that this Way is worth committing to even though at that time Rome was bearing down on them and Empire was persecuting them. It would have been easier to acquise and conform to what Rome wanted but they did not. They declared the word of life, the Way of Love, the Light of God. They held on. They persisted.
And now fast forward to January of 1911, when a group of Jesus followers here in Waban decided that something mattered here as well. They decided that they would build a church here that would shine forth with the light of God welcoming all as they welcomed all in Love.
So in January of 1911 they secured the land. In April they finalized the architectural designs. In June they completed the fundraising which was $25,000 interesting to note that the funds much the funds raised were donated by other churches, including $3500 from Old South Church in Boston. In September they broke ground and in November they laid the cornerstone. In less than one year, they had built this Sanctuary. Turns out we are not the only ones who know how to get things done!
And like that early churchs we read about in scripture this morning, our forebears here in this place also had something to declare. Their voice and their values, their declaration is built into this very sanctuary. This space speaks to us every time we gather in it. Their witness and declaration has surrounded and sustained this community throughout the decades.
What are they saying? Look at the lights? Look at the lights? That grape and vine pattern in the lights comes from the Gospel of John, where Jesus says I am the vine, and bids us to abide in him, for the branch not bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine. And so every time we turn on the lights, every time we illuminate this sanctuary we are reminded that we are connected to each other and to God.
But there is more. While Amy, Brian and I look out at a large clock on the back of the sanctuary, certainly a message to form our founders to those leading worship here, while that is what we see, you on the other hand gaze at this window.
I wish we could have found the minutes to what surely must have been an robust and fascinating conversations from that year in 1911 when they were deciding what to that window should declare to all who gathered Sunday after Sunday. But here is what they decided. These stories from the Gospel are the ones they wanted to declare. They could have just had some beautiful image here but instead they lifted up seven stories from the Gospel.
It is fascinating to think about what in these stories they wanted to be sure were a part of the life of those that gathered. What values are they declaring here through this window that they wanted to be sure all future generations would share in. The first on the upper left, is of the children coming to Jesus and we remember that story and Jess saying “Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs.” (Matt 19: 14)
And this one, when Jesus and his disciples encounter a man that had been born blind the disciples asked who sined the man or his parents. But Jesus tells them no one, his blindness has nothing to do with sin. Not only does Jesus heal the man’s blindness but he gives his disciples a new way of looking at those around them.
And this one, the man by the sheep gate, who Jesus asks “Do you want to be made well?” What is it that we want? What does being made well look for us?
This one the road to Emmaus when in the breaking of the bread the two recognize Jesus and all the cynicism and despaire falls away as they realize that the Risen Christ is present to them.
Jesus preaching from the boat; that perhaps we too are to get out of this place and share the good news and love of God with all who will hear.
Jesus overturning the money changers, that we need sacred space to live into values of transformation that are set apart from the transactional culture of our times.
And finally the woman at the well. A story of inclusivity, where one who was lost, found new life and hope and promise.
It’s amazing to think about it isn’t it that our forebears are speaking to us through these stories they have chosen. They are declaring to us what being church looks like.
I love is that they chose to do this, to declare this through the stained glass. Because the thing about stained glass is that you cannot really see anything in it until the sun shines through it. In each of these stories, in this building it is the love of God that shines through, that lights up the lives and transforms the space into a place of beauty and welome.
The same is true for each and every one of us and us together. We have been fearfully and wonderfully crafted by God and in us there is a message, something to declare to the world. When we are filled with the risen son our very lives declare that message.
For the time now is ours. Now it is our time to declare as we care for and tend to this building. Here we declare that this is a place of nurture and welcome. Here we declare our care for the earth as we seek ways to decrease our carbon foot print. Here we declare our future as we create safe nurturing space for our children and youth matter. Here we declare what being church looks like and how the Love of God comes alive in this place, in and through us. Now is our time to declare this to the world.
Thanks be to God. Thanks be to Love.