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Going places with Jesus

“Going places with Jesus” by The Rev. Tracy Dugger Christ the King

Proper 29C Colossians 1:11-20* Luke 23:33-43

It’s hard to believe today marks 2 months of Sundays with y’all! And what an incredible joy last Sunday was. I’m so thankful for all of the love and the support I received. Today marks Christ the King Sunday and the ending of one Liturgical Year and the beginning of another, it’s yet another big Sunday to celebrate. And so with this celebratory tone it’s interesting that our Gospel for today is the crucifixion.

In the gospel this morning we hear about 5 different groups and their reactions to Jesus’s journey to the cross. First, we hear about how the crowds watched (Lk 23:350, and this is still the case for most today. The world watches, and observes, but doesn’t interfere for the good, or the bad. This is the predominant attitude of most people who are unchurched today. They observe the church scandals in the news. They observe the feel-good stories of churches banding together to help others. And for the most part they’re indifferent.

The second group we hear about is the leaders. The leaders are scoffing, “He saved others, let him save himself.” Many influencers of society today within and without the church seek to use their influence only to criticize, only to point out where things didn’t go well, and to say, “If you’re really called by God, get your act together.” The third group we hear about is the enforcers, the soldiers…they join in the bandwagon with the influencers and echo the refrain, “If you’re the king of the Jews, save yourself!” The fourth group is the official position from Rome: Rome announces the superiority of its authority over the Jewish authority with a sign and inscription: “This is the King of the Jews.” Still today we have people in positions of power using words of truth, to bolster their own authority and position, rather than submitting to the truth and finding their identity in Christ.

And the fifth group is the criminals, here we find the meat of the story. Two criminals both stand rightly condemned, guilty under the law and they’re meeting with the Savior and the Redeemer of the world at the culmination of God’s eternal plan for salvation. But the first doesn’t understand, the first criminal is like some of us, selfish. He wants salvation to be here, and now, and bodily. He can’t comprehend an all powerful king who wouldn’t use his power to serve himself. He looks to Jesus and essentially says, “You idiot, if you’re the savior, save yourself and us!” And unfortunately, I see myself in this criminal sometimes, and I leave it up to your conscience to see if you see yourself. But often many of us come to God with demands, with questions, “If you’re really God you’ll stop this.”

“If you’re really there you would heal me.” “If you love the world you would end suffering, not become part of it.” And it is to us, the church, and the selfish thief that we hear this rebuke: "Do you not fear God?” We are under the same sentence. All of us have fallen short of the glory of God and have failed to follow the law. We have failed to love our neighbor are ourselves, and even with the equivalent of a paint by numbers diy righteousness kit we cannot get it right. We are sinners, and the penalty is death, and not just a death here and now, but an eternal death. Were it not for Jesus’s submission to the cross our fate would be sealed, but because God loves the world so much, he gave his only Son, to be condemned to die, so we might life, eternal life, and abundant life. It is out of this grace and abundance, that Jesus looks to the contrite thief and says, today you will be with me in paradise.

For those who are perishing the cross is foolishness, the crowds observe, the leaders scoff, the soldiers mock, and for the Romans the cross was all about shame and humiliation. But the historic Church takes the account of the Cross, and proclaims it not just a sign, but THE sign of Christ’s kingship. But it took someone on the margins, a humble and contrite sinner to recognize when Jesus took the force of shame and turned it to grace.

We continue to preach Christ and Christ crucified because it is THE story, when the truth is revealed that what the world counted as loss became the greatest victory. It is where the love of an invisible God is made visible (Col. 1:15). It is where Jesus ultimately rescues us from the powers of darkness, so we can be a light in the darkness that leads people to THE light (Col. 1:16). It is where we hear how Christ holds all things together and by HIS blood we are reconciled (Col 1:17). The cross is always a story worth telling. It is a story that has led many to question: What kind of a King is this? And are we ready to say yes to that kind of kingship? A kingship of humility, redemption, 2nd chances & glory…

And if we say yes…it invites us to ask another question…If Christ, who as King is head of the church, has redefined kingship…might he also be inviting us to redefine the Church over which he is head. And this is why Bishop Brewer preached as he did…you see I firmly believe this church is going places, but are we going places with Christ?

I’ve invited my wardens and the vestry to have a peek behind the curtain as it were for my vision for the Church. And today as we close out one year and next Sunday begin another, I’m going to share it with you.

I believe Jesus is issuing us the invitation to redefine our Church, not because there is anything terribly wrong, this is a great church. But I believe my vision will help us gather momentum and go places with Jesus that we’ve only just begun to dream of.

To build this momentum I want to highlight the Center, In cycling the area of the wheel that circles the axle is called the hub. Jesus is the axle that connects us to the framework of God, Scripture, tradition and reason. The hub in Anglican tradition is generally the Bishop’s local designee the Rector. Note that the hub doesn’t actually do any of the work to get you anywhere, it merely provides the framework of strength and support so that everything can revolve around Jesus. Next you have the gears. In our Anglican Church governance, high gear is the executive council: the wardens with the rector. These high gears can do a lot if you already have momentum, but everyone who’s a cyclist knows if you’re going uphill, to build momentum you have to switch to a lower gear. The bigger gear for the Episcopal church is the vestry. It’s where more contact can be made and momentum gets going. And I have a big vision for our vestry next year.

Our vestry will form a team. Each member of the vestry team will be the point of contact between the vestry, wardens, and rector and whole groups of ministries. As a smaller church we can’t do 46 individual things well. But we can form teams to do a few things really awesome to the glory of God. So my vestry will be the team of teams. The ministry teams they will either lead or serve as the chief communication point will be:

1. Children and Family ministry. The church has always been 1 generation from dying out. Where we are now is nowhere new, but to continue to say the cross matters for all people and all times we have to place a priority like Jesus did, on letting the little children come to me.

2. Fun & Fellowship: Scripture says the joy of the Lord is our strength. So let’s have more joy, more fun, and more unity.

3. Worship: we are called really above all else to offer thanks and praise to the living God.

4. Spiritual Formation: We are called to grow more and more into the image of God, and to progress as Paul said from milk to meat.

5. Pastoral Care: Jesus calls us all to love one another as he loves us, and since there are so many more of you than me, I need a team to love on and support wounded, hurting and lonely people.

6. Outreach: We as called to love others as ourselves which means sharing what we have with the least of these. But what we have goes so much deeper than just worldly goods. We have the grace and love of God to share, and when we look at it that way, our signs, our website, our social media, our volunteering in the community as members of this body, and our feeding ministry are all a part of our outreach.

7. And lastly we have buildings and grounds: This campus matters. These buildings matter. In a world where most are a bystander to the cross and it’s meaning, maintaining our campus as a place where all may come and find an oasis, find rest, find refreshment, and find the love of Christ made known through all our ministries…That matters!!!

So yes that’s only 7 spokes, 7 ministry teams under which all of these will nest. 7 spokes that will support the work and the weight of this wheel. Some of you’re thinking man that’s a lot of work…but some of you are feeling your heart strangely warmed. I’m trusting some of you are getting fired up! I’ve talked to people who’ve already said yes to vestry. A few others are praying about it… What I’m asking of you as we look at Christ the King, in a world that says the Church is dying, and the cross is irrelevant. Let’s say yes to redefining ourselves. Say yes to focusing on the core of who we are, and lets build our momentum in Port St. Lucie, but to do that I need a team…

I need a team of 12. I got 4 already that you know about, Dennis, Richard, Bev, and Will. I need 8 more…I need 4 people for a 2 year term, and 4 people willing to serve a 3 year term. This will rebuild our vestry to 12, and staggering the terms like that will give us 4 that rotate off every year so I never have to bring on 8 people all at the same time again.

But why 12 and not 9? I only named 7 ministry teams…Well I’m trying not to overwork and overburden our folks. I’m making room for people who work, people who travel, and people with families. I envision having co-chairs and co-laborers: 2 persons on Children & family, 2 on outreach, 2 on pastoral care, 2 on fun & fellowship, 2 persons on spiritual formation, 1 layperson on worship, and 1 on buildings and grounds. That’s 12, but 12 that I’m praying will have ample people on their team. After our vestry election in January we’ll have a vestry retreat where vestry leaders can choose where they’re most passionate and skilled to serve. And then they’ll begin opening up their teams to you all to come on board and get to work.

If you’ve not yet spoken to me, or maybe even said no to vestry in the past, if God is calling on you to be part of the vestry team, pray about it this week, and make an appointment to come see me the first week of Advent. And let’s get to work in the new year.

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