Thursday, August 26, 2010

Great to be back along the Gulf Coast

View from my office! Well, actually the back of the church building.

Nevertheless, we are off to good start at St Simon's and appreciate all the prayers and support. Our family feels very blessed with so many wonderful friends - it's made a huge difference with this transition from Connecticut back to the Gulf Coast.

First Sunday at St Simon's

There are moments in life,

which come to us…it seems,

from beyond the stars .

Moments which are precious, loving and so grace-filled…

we never want them to end.

You can probably think of a few, I am sure, in your life.

And so it is today,

we find ourselves in just such a moment.

Because today we gather here at St Simon’s and are filled to the brim

with an abundance of new blessings…

It is a blessing to worship God in such a beautiful sacred space.

It is a blessing for a fresh opportunity

to regroup and rethink

how we can better serve God’s people.

I am indeed honored and excited

to be called as your eighth Rector,

and to claim these moments with you, along the way.

Jesus loved people…

and he loved observing people –

he would have been a great Walmart greeter.

Jesus had an eye for the person in the corner,

the blind man, the woman scorned

and, today, the one so crippled by a spirit,

she couldn’t even stand up straight.

Jesus’ first instinct

was to touch others with Compassion.

But, Sabbath is supposed to be about rest.

And there is no rest for one who is crippled by pain.

So with a word and a touch of his hand,

Jesus heals this woman,

and immediately she stands up and praises God. Something old has been made new!

Well, let me just warn you,

God is fixing to do a whole lot of new and exciting things

right here at St Simon’s…

Old things are now ready to be transformed

into something New!

As many of you know, my wife Cheri Smith grew up here,

and I was born and raised over at Trinity Church, Mobile.

It’s still hard to believe, isn’t it?

Who would have ever dreamed…

only wish our dear friend Ed Horton,

my dad, and Cheri’s dad were here…

*Gen. Doolittle and Malcom at Eglin/Hurlburt.

Well, a few weeks ago,

I said good-bye to many wonderful dear friends and colleagues

at Christ Church Greenwich, Connecticut.

And in the midst of saying good-bye and thinking of this ministry…

I realized something significant…

I believe there is a disconnect taking place

between Religion and Spirituality.

What I mean by this is…

many folks in their 20s, 30s, and even a few 40s/50s…

have grown up in a totally different spiritual environment,

than their parents or grandparents did.

Church is different now.

Church membership and financial giving are clearly different…

Making time for God, has changed.

But, what I am discovering,

as someone who is almost 50, is…

there remains in every human being

a very deep longing for Spiritual Connection,

for transformation….

for a better way to live and breath.

Especially when life hurts…

Connecting to the sacred mystery of life is important…

and longing for answers to profound questions and doubts,

about personal and professional ethics

for conflicting societal standards,

are indeed all appropriate and good.

But, unfortunately, there is bad news for us…

because many now see The Church –

mainline protestants, and Roman Catholics --

as a less relevant community for spiritual growth.

In fact, I think you will discover

that even among some evangelicals

there is push back now…

Because what is emerging

is this deeper longing for

authenticity, relevance

and connection with The Living God.

Who is real…and knowable.

This is not about Mega Church,

Conservative or Liberal…

its all about what am I to do

with this dark emptiness inside…

I am tired of keeping up with the latest,

cars, boats, clothes, house…

In other words,

many are saying…

there’s got to be more to this life,

than managing my daily appearance.

Seekers of Jesus Christ

need a safe space to connect with Him.

To fall in love with Him.

To Worship Him.

This is really not rocket science…

It’s called FAITH.

And as you know,

“Faith is the evidence of things hoped for

and the assurance of things to come. “

Maybe one of our first faithful tasks together

may very well be to ponder all this…

Asking for God’s help

as we seek to serve Christ in all people.

My immediate predecessors,

Bill Richter, Jim Spencer and Ed Campbell

all provided solid leadership here.

And you certainly have a long rich history

of successful ministry here…

You already know what is needed

to nourish a healthy congregation.

Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, in his book,

Where God Happens,

says -- “A healthy church is one in which we seek

to stay connected with God

by seeking to connect others

with God.”

Fortunately, we don’t have to do this alone…

Jesus shows all of us the fundamental way to be:

and that is -- be Compassionate Observers.

Prayerful Observant Christians point the neighbor to Christ,

and show the same compassion that Jesus did.

Jesus says,

“come to me all you who are heavy-laden;

and I will give you rest. “

We at St Simon’s,

are called to serve all those who seek

the Face of God

and need rest.

As St Francis loved to say so long ago…

“Always, we begin again.”

We begin with this moment…

A moment when The Word

has come very near to us

from across the stars,

and has landed right here in our hands.

So, let’s grab it,

claim it,

love it,

and then give it away to others.

If you are ready,

I am ready!

Let’s get this started…