The Third Sunday after Epiphany (A)
January 22, 2017
The Rev. Randall Hehr
Trust the goodness of creation;
Trust the Spirit strong within.
Dare to dream the vision promised
Sprung from seed of what has been.
Let us bring the gifts that differ
And in splendid varied ways,
Sing a new church into being
One in faith and love and praise.
Hymn by Dolores Dufner, Sing a New Church, Stanza 3
The year is 2019. The Swanson’s just moved to Clearwater and bought a house in the Countryside area. They went to numerous church websites before visiting Holy Trinity’s where they were able to view a streaming broadcast of the service. Driving on McMullen Booth, their eyes caught the image of the church easily from a distance because no trees blocked their view. The bright, new sign also helped. They were struck by the inviting look of the complex: the nicely paved access drive, the fresh paint, the newly constructed Thrift Shop, and the beautiful landscaping maintained by one of the ministry teams. They were welcomed in the parking lot and drawn into the church. A variety of musical styles, vocalists, and numerous instruments were included in worship. From the Hispanic Ministry on Saturday to the parishioners assisting with an after-school program, teamwork was evident everywhere they looked. Partnerships with numerous local programs and agencies were thriving. When they drove home, they reviewed their pathway to Holy Trinity and recalled the three parishioners who had talked with them at their Rotary meeting and said, “Please come and see Holy Trinity.”
Today is our Annual Meeting at 11:30 a.m., and the theme is Dare to Dream the Vision. Today we celebrate the accomplishments of the past year, give thanks for the good work being done today, and look ahead into God’s future. Dolores Dufner, the author of our Sequence Hymn, encourages us to Dare to Dream the Vision. I believe that means looking ahead imaginatively and creatively, seeing many possibilities. I believe that right now we should be asking questions like: “What do we need to do in order to grow Holy Trinity? What new steps, new learning, new explorations are needed today?”
Another important theme in scripture today is our Lord’s call to us to follow him. The Collect for today says: Give us grace, O Lord, to answer readily the call of our Savior Jesus Christ and proclaim to all people the Good News of his salvation. In the past several Sundays we have been examining that call. We watched our Lord enter the Jordan River to be baptized by John, heeding God’s call to him to minister in the world. We heard Jesus call two of John’s disciples, saying “Come and see.” And today, in our Gospel passage (Matthew 4:12-23) we witness this pivotal moment when Jesus walks along the Sea of Galilee and calls Peter and his brother Andrew, James and his brother John, to leave their nets and follow him. He tells them that he will make them fish for people. Jesus called his disciples together to go into the world with him. He called his disciples to form relationships with others. Being a disciple of Jesus Christ is not a solo activity.
So today we think about dreaming a vision for the future. We think about our Lord’s call to us to follow him and make disciples. And notice the other important word in the Gospel passage: repent. Repent means “to turn around.” The Greek word is metanoia. Our Lord calls us to turn in a new direction with a new heart and new spirit. We might call this the big stretch. We are embarking on a learning experience that will stretch us. That is what Christians do by learning, studying and experiencing the work of Christ. This process shapes and forms us into the people of God.
In the sermon last Sunday, I referred to that marvelous developmental moment when our children crawl to a chair, pull themselves up, and take their first step. I remember cheering for my kids when that happened. Development steps are so important in the life of a child! We pay attention to those moments and nurture our children as they reach crucial stages. I also referred to the day when our adult children say, “It is time for me to move out.” This is also a moment when we cheer! Developmental moments are a big stretch. And the same is true for the church. We are stretched as we claim new ministries and try them out. We cheer each other on as we take our first steps.
This next year – 2017 – we are going to work hard on new ways to go fishing for people. We have a very talented Marketing Team. We will look at new ways to publicize our events. We will continue to explore direct mail efforts. But the most important challenge to all of us is learning how to fish for people. 2017 will be a great year for fishing. I think of fishing for people as a variety of conversations we share with others about Holy Trinity. It will not be enough for us to spruce up the property. It will not be enough to invent new programs. It is crucial that all of us learn more about fishing for people.
Dare to Dream the Vision. At the beginning of this sermon, I imaginatively described a family named the Swanson’s arriving at Holy Trinity in the year 2019. I pictured our parish growing, thriving, and exploring new ministry. Our Lord calls us to follow him into the world with a new heart and a new spirit. Our Lord calls us to dream about the future. And the Lord calls each and every one of us to become fishers of people.