1 Peter 2:4:1-10; Luke 5:27-32
17th Sunday after Trinity: Dedication Sunday
St Barbara’s Church 27.09.15
Today is Dedication Sunday. We give thanks to God for his faithfulness to us as a church over the last 84 years. We thank him for the lives that he has touched through the ministry of this place. We give thanks for the daily, week-by-week witness that this church has been in the community. We give thanks that his love has remained constant to us through the many ups and downs of the years. And we look to the future, knowing that we will continue to need God’s help and leading, above all else, in the months and years ahead. Today is a good day to stop, take stock and give thanks.
Back in May, the PCC were encouraged by the diocese to do just that – to complete a survey about our church, to reflect on our health and vitality, to think about what as a church we do well, and to think about those areas where there is room to develop. Thirty people filled in the survey, a cross-sample of people across all the generations represented in our church.
The results of the survey have been guiding us as a PCC in some of our decisions over the last couple of months. The survey helped to highlight those things which we do well at as a church. We are a church that enjoys to serve and where people use their talents and skills to good effect. Our church building and garden is so well maintained, our services run so smoothly, our newsletters get produced and distributed every couple of months so efficiently, all because of the tremendous dedication of so many you. That is something to celebrate and give thanks for.
The survey also recognised that there were areas where we need more encouragement. We need more encouragement to pray for one another and with one another. And I mentioned last week some of the ideas the PCC are beginning to explore to help encourage us to pray with one another more.
We need more encouragement if we are to enjoy reading and learning from the Bible by ourselves, and so we are forming a group that will explore how we may meet round meals to study the Bible. Let me know if you are interested.
And we need more encouragement in deepening our relationships with one another. We don’t always find it that easy to talk with others in our church about deeper issues, whether that is about our faith or whether that is about challenges and struggles.
So we give thanks for all that God is doing in us, and we look forward, asking that God will continue to work in us, shaping us and changing us.
As Peter wrote in the epistle reading we heard, the church is far more than bricks and mortar. St Barbara’s Church would continue even if the building were to fall down and not be rebuilt. Even if we had to meet in a school hall, or in each other’s homes, St Barbara’s Church would continue. For St Barbara’s Church is us, the people. We are the living stones, being built into a spiritual house.
God is doing a work among us, shaping us, chiselling away at some bits, sanding us down, making us stones that will fit and inter-lock with one another, so that together, wherever we are together, will be a holy place, a place where worship takes place.
Peter then shifts the analogy – from a building to a people. For we are being made into a holy priesthood. He wrote when only the select few, the priests of the Temple, could come to present sacrifices to God, and where only the very top priest, could enter into the holy of holies. Peter, radically, turns all this on its head. Everyone of us who believes in Christ is a priest, everyone of us can come before God in worship, everyone of us can offer him our service as an offering of praise and thanksgiving.
This is what it means to be St Barbara’s Church – to be a community where all are able to worship and offer our service to God.
And our Gospel reading also points out what it means to be such a community. Jesus welcomed all to eat with him – tax collectors such as Levi, sinners, Pharisees – all were invited, all were offered a place at the table of Jesus’ hospitality. Later today, three of our church children will be receiving communion for the first time. They are a sign to us of how God’s grace is at work in all of us, no matter how old or young we are. Their receiving communion is a sign not only of the hope of the future but also of the grace that God extends to each one of us and to all in our community.
And later this morning, as part of that service, rather than hearing a sermon, we will be hearing the stories of six or more people whose lives have been touched by the life of this church.
May God draw us together by his love, build us into a people that lives out his love and grace, and help us become a people where all may be truly welcome.