First Sunday at CVPC
There once was a little boy named Sam who was very excited about Halloween. But his parents kept putting off getting his costume until finally the day of Halloween his mother came home with a costume that Sam hated. It was of some comic book character who had been big once but who now was seen by all the kids to be ridiculous and only for the littlest of children. Sam was devastated. How could he ever wear this? He couldn’t possibly go out on Halloween in this costume! He was so upset, he ran down the street to where an older couple who had become surrogate grandparents to Sam lived. He ran into their house and cried and cried about the terrible costume his mother had picked out for him. Well, Norm, the older man thought for a few minutes and then he said to his wife, “Don’t we have some old costumes up in the attic from when our kids were children?”
“Why, I believe we do!” she replied. Up they all went into the attic and down they came with an old ghost costume. Really, it was just a sheet with holes cut in it for the eyes. But Sam was so thrilled with the costume, he just couldn’t wait to put it on. With a look of awe in his eyes, he pulled the sheet down over his head and before anyone could stop him, he went running out the door to go trick or treating and ran straight through the yard and bam into a tree! Norm saw this and he dashed out after him, picked up the little boy, but before he could stop him, there Sam took off again, running as fast as he could until bam he ran smack into another tree! This time the force pushed him flat onto his back where he lay still until Norm came running up. Norm wondered what on earth was going on until he looked into Sam’s face and realized that Sam had not lined up the eye holes to match his eyes. He had been virtually blind, running around the yard, completely unable to see where he was going. Norm gently but firmly took hold of the sheet, pulled it around until Sam was able to see through the eye holes, tied a rope around his waist to hold the costume in place and sent Sam off on a much more successful and enjoyable Halloween evening of trick-or-treating!
Blindness. The inability to see without help. Walking around in the dark, not because it is dark, but because our vision is covered, obscured in some way. The darkness of failing to realize that we could see, if someone were to just help us adjust our masks, adjust our outlook, adjust our approach, just a little bit. Oftentimes it is this blindness which causes us to err, to sin, to take a wrong path so that somebody gets hit, whether it be just a tree or another person, someone gets hurt: and we obviously do as well.
I am just beginning a new journey with you and I am so happy to be with you in your walk at this time. But I am coming here with my costume a little bit askew. I am coming with my eyes partially covered. This is your church, this is your home, the place where you gather with God and God’s people each week. I am new here and I don’t know the players, I don’t know the routines, I am on a journey, beginning to learn the ways that things are done, I don’t know where the sacred cows are, the things that matter most to people. I don’t know where the trees are planted that define who you are and what makes this place special to you. I come thinking that I am speaking the same language, like the little boy knowing it is Halloween, knowing he is supposed to wear a costume and heading out into the night. After having served for nineteen years as a pastor in different churches, I know what I am about as a pastor, what I am called to do, but sometimes when we come thinking we know how things are supposed to work, we miss the very cues that tell us our eyes are not seeing clearly right now.
Similarly, when new people come into your space, it is sometimes hard to read them as well and so I, too, will do my best to be transparent and to be clear about who I am and what I believe God to be calling us all towards as people, and as people in this place. I come to you to walk with you, to learn together, to work together, but I also ask for your patience as I learn to see through the eye holes of these new trappings. Likewise, I promise to offer you my patience and understanding as well. I will try to respect your traditions, try to honor your values in ministry, recognizing that by the very nature of our being different people, with different church experiences we may do things differently, I may step on toes, and while I promise to love and serve you with all of who I am, I will undoubtedly make mistakes. And so I ask you to tell me your stories, tell me what matters most to you about this place and in your personal lives, I ask you to try to trust me but to do so with honesty, to speak truth, to be the people who, when I have run into a tree can come and adjust the eye-holes with grace, kindness and forgiveness. And again, I will strive to do the same for you.
I have a little survey that I would like you each to fill out which is in your bulletins today. It begins with a recognition that we have first received God’s grace and then we give in return. It begins therefore with the question of what Clayton Valley, what this place is giving to you. What programs here feed you? What events feed you? What parts of worship and education and fellowship feed you in this place? Then it goes on to ask what you hope to get from this place in the future. What are your hopes and dreams for what Clayton Valley might be able to offer you? Are there programs that you would like to see here? Are there events that would help you to grow in your faith and in your journey towards wholeness? Then, from a place of recognition for what you have been given and what you would like to have, it asks you what you give in return. What service, time, talents, gifts do you bring to Clayton Valley? And where would you like to grow into bringing something more or even, something different that perhaps you haven’t done before but would like to try, or feel that God is calling you to try?
Learning to walk in this place with my costume on straight has to start with knowing who you are as individuals, as a church, and as a community. This survey will help me to know that. So I ask you to take a few minutes to fill out this form and to place it in the offering plates when you are finished. I also will be calling each family over the next few months and would love to spend time with each of you, hearing about your lives, what brought you to this place and where you hope to go in the future. I want to know you and I find the best way to do that is with one on one time.
We are called always to reflect on the amazing gift that God has given to us by calling us into relationship with God. It is an amazing act of grace to remember that God initiates care for us, and a call for each of us. It is God who creates purpose and meaning for our lives, before we are even old enough to choose to respond. It is a gift that says, “because I first chose you, because I first brought new life to you, because I begin your life by giving to you every day again and again; now you are called to return that gift to all God’s people, caring back, giving second chances to others, choosing to love and live and care for others in the way that I have cared for you.”
In all that we do, let us search for God’s call for our lives, invite God’s call into our lives, respond to God’s call for our lives with a “yes” and a “yes” and a “Yes”! Amen.