Today we are talking about growth – growing our parish in ministry, in people, and in resources. The life and health and future of St. Dunstan’s Parish depends on how we can grow as God’s people here.
We heard how Jesus called his disciples together, not to hang around the clubhouse of the Jesus Movement, but to go out into the world on a mission. He preps them: he gives them his own power and authority to proclaim the kingdom and to heal. But he tells them to carry no extra earthly provisions. He makes a clear point about this mission: go and offer my message, my healing. If people receive it, great! If people refuse it, then move on to the next village.
This is how the church grows – not by staying in our building, but by circulating in the world…. As fishermen know, the ones who bite, bite. The ones who don’t, don’t.
Speaking of fishing….
The Packers and the Vikings had an ice fishing tournament. The first day the Packers caught 100 fish and the Vikings didn't catch any. The second day the Packers caught 200 fish and the Vikings didn't catch any. The third day the Vikings were getting worried so they dressed their quarterback up like a Packer and sent him over to see why the Packers were catching so many fish. When he returned to the Vikings, they asked, "What's the deal, are they cheating?" The quarterback said "You bet they are. They are drilling holes in the ice!"
When Jesus called his disciples, he said, “I will make you fishers of people!” Our beloved church is at a real pivotal juncture right now. We can no longer chill out like the Vikings, waiting for the fish to jump magically into our bucket. We’re going to have to go out, drill through some ice, and go after the fish ourselves. We’ll have to experiment with different kinds of bait, to see what people are hungry for here in Bethesda.
We heard good news at our Annual Meeting, where Fred Bentley and Praveen Jeyarajah presented our plans to strengthen our membership and work for growth. We’re blessed to have great leaders. But leaders can’t do it alone….
We’ve stood up two new teams – one for membership and one for growth. If you are on membership, please stand. And growth…
Will you actively support these good people in our mission? Will you say yes when they ask for your help?
We have much to celebrate here at St. Dunstan’s; much to be proud of:
Huge service in our community…SOME and MoW for decades
$140,000 in outreach from our capital campaign - $50K to Bishop Walker School, $25K to Samaritan Ministry for their building
Our building is more and more a community center here – many children every day, school events, concerts, neighborhood meetings, kids using our playground and our Trail entrance
Why do we do this? Why is this so important? Because these are ways to spread the love of Christ…build up God’s people…welcome the stranger…teach compassion. St. Francis said, Preach the Gospel at all times; when necessary use words. That’s what we’re doing…
We’ve built a fellowship where all people are welcome and respected. We accept people as children of God. We honor Christ in all people That’s not nothing in a world where presidential candidates freely demonize Muslims, Mexicans, and gay people. What we have here is precious – so precious we need to share it.
One of our guest teachers asks us to think about how we recommend a great new restaurant we have found. Can we do the same with our church? Can we say, “You should try our church…why don’t you come with me this Sunday, or to the cabaret, or to the picnic, or a concert….”?
Years ago, my mother invited many people to church with us. One woman was a coworker of my mom’s at the county welfare department. They were both caseworkers. Her name was Linda. She came and stayed at our church…and ended up marrying the priest! (Don’t expect that to happen here….)
One last thought. I’ve always liked the joke: How many California psychologists does it take to change a lightbulb? Only one, but the lightbulb has to want to change.
Nobody can change us if we don’t want to. I can’t make you do anything you don’t want to do. Our growth teams can’t change this parish on their own. We as a congregation have to want to change. We have to be brave enough to change, to speak up, to reach out to people we know. We have so much to offer – such a great message that God loves every person and wants us to live lives of love and service. People need to hear this! People are hurting out there. People are lonely out there. People are hungry for a message that endures, that affirms, that calls us to be our best selves.
But if we don’t want to change, it won’t happen. I’ve been with you 16 years and I hope to journey with you to St. Dunstan’s next peak, our next heyday. Please walk with me to proclaim the kingdom of God and bring healing in this broken world. AMEN. JBM