This is a sermon for a church anniversary, based on a very specific context. The readings are: 2 Chronicles 7:11-16 and Matthew 12:1-8
This morning, we celebrate our Church Anniversary at XYZ Methodist Church. As we talked about earlier, one of the things that we’re celebrating is the community of people who meet here.
Today we are celebrating everyone who worships here on Sunday, whether they are young or old; and we’re also celebrating the groups that use the church building during the week: some groups for worship and prayer, some for singing and making music as well as some community groups and associations.
God has created each individual uniquely in his own image and everyone has different gifts and talents. And - just like the ingredients in a recipe - we all bring different things into the community.
In today’s Old Testament reading, we heard how Solomon built the First Temple but the bit we didn’t hear about was the fact that King David, Solomon’s father, had prepared the way for Solomon to build the temple. According to stories in both the books of Kings and Chronicles, David planned and provided for the construction of the Temple and Solomon carried it out.
And so, in addition to celebrating all the different groups and people who are part of our community in 2007, we also remember the people who came before us. We remember the people who founded this fellowship 122 years ago and we remember the people who built this building forty four years ago.
The purpose of this remembering is not to dream nostalgically about the past, but to thank God for the life, the work and the witness of those people. We remember how they lived and the love and the concern they showed to us, and we acknowledge all of that before God.
Remembering our mothers and fathers in faith can also help us to have a touchstone, an example of Christian living.
Relationships Can be Difficult
Of course, human relationships are not always sweetness and light, and the difficulties we have are part of being human and part of the risk of being a member of a community.
In addition to telling us the story of Solomon’s building of the Temple, The Old Testament also tells us that God did not allow King David to build the Temple, because David had too much blood on his hands. In fact, as we read the stories of both David and Solomon, we realise that they were very human in the mistakes that they made.
David, as we know, used his power and authority to kill one of his most loyal supporters for his own selfish interests, Yet, because of David’s later and genuine repentance, God forgave him.
Relationships are at the heart of what it means to be human. Some relationships are easy and some are difficult. Some take a lot of effort and some very little effort.
And I think that our relationship with God can be like that too: sometimes it’s easy and sometimes it’s difficult. Sometimes, our relationship with God seems to go along swimmingly for weeks, months, or years And other times we struggle: either with faith, with closeness, or with perceiving the presence of God.
But to acknowledge the difficulties as well as the goodness in our relationships is a truthful thing, and an authentic thing. And the best relationships are the ones in which we are free to be truthful and authentic. Because, when we acknowledge our differences, our disagreements and even our faults, we can make amends and start to move forward constructively.
We can learn to forgive and we can learn to be forgiven.
Forgiving and Being Forgiven
Forgiving and being forgiven are both difficult activities. For some people and in some circumstances, being forgiven can be just as difficult as forgiving.
That’s because many of us – and I include myself in this category – don’t like making mistakes. We don’t like doing the wrong thing and we don’t like hurting others. And that can make it just as hard to be forgiven as it is to forgive. Because being forgiven means acknowledging that we have done something wrong. Which is what repentance is.
It is this ongoing process of repentance and forgiveness that makes for good relationships between people And it’s that process of repentance and forgiveness that makes for a good relationship between a person and God.
God’s Good News is, because of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, that being wrong can be forgiven. We never have to worry that one day there will come a time when we’ve messed up one time too many and God will no longer forgive us. God has promised that he will always forgive us.
So what’s all this got to do with Church Anniversary?
Well, there is one group of people we’ve not mentioned yet. We’ve mentioned the people who are part of our community today. And we’ve mentioned the people who have come before us. But we’ve not mentioned the people who will come after us.
Over the next few months, we’re going to be doing a review of our church life and we’re going thinking about who we are as a Christian community and what we have to offer the community outside these walls and to the generations who will come after us.
As we do that review, I’d like to call us to make sure it is done in the light of Christ. What do I mean by that?
I mean that we would do well to remember that a loving relationship between us and God is at the heart of being a Christian community. This relationship is one based on forgiveness, on honesty and on the commitment to the truth. It’s a relationship where being wrong can be forgiven. It’s a relationship where God has committed to always forgive us.
As we think about who we are now and who we want to be in the future, some of us will have different ideas; I’d be surprised if there wasn’t some disagreement, but all of that is OK.
My prayer is that as we go forward into what is for us a new year, that the Spirit of Christ will go with us and give us strength to continue to be a community who are forgiving and forgiven.
May the Spirit open our eyes and our ears to the work of God in our lives and in the world and help us to respond as we are called. I make this prayer in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen