Together in Hope – Pastor Jane – 9.10.2017

Thanks again to Dr. Girvin – to our choir – and our instrumentalists who are helping to lead our worship this morning.

It’s probably been nearly 20 years that we’ve celebrated Rally Day with a New Orleans liturgy. It’s become a wonderful Rally Day tradition as we start a new program year.

At the last of our regular Forum programs in the spring, Pastor Mac and I talked about our new yearlong theme – “Together in Hope.” During our conversation, we talked about a 10-year plan…and in those first days after he died, I couldn’t help but shake my head, thinking back on that conversation and about those plans.

This has been an unusual summer here at Faith. Not just for us a Family. But for so many folks who are dealing with their own pain… Families confronting death – long and lingering, sudden and tragic. Folks battling diseases and struggling with relationships. It’s safe to say, that this is a time without precedent for our Family of Faith.

Midst it all – through the tears and the hurt, the disbelief – there’s the constant reminder of God’s presence. A reminder for us of the unexpected and surprising ways that God works in our lives. And the reminder to us of who’s in charge.

Time and again throughout these past several weeks, a number of people have said that they don’t know where they would be without [their] Faith. Knowing that God is with us midst these times of change.

It’s the promise of God that has provided the glimmers of hope for our lives.

That’s why this Family cares for the sick, the hurting, and the grieving the way we do. It’s why we advocate for justice and inclusivity for all of God’s children in the church, in our community, and in our world.

It’s why our new Immigration and Refugee Task Force has taken off…meeting and planning throughout the summer. It’s why more than a hundred backpacks were collected and shared with school children in Newark and Plainfield.

It’s why 100s of meals were served at the Soup Kitchen. And dozens more cooked and prepared here just this past week – for our Hospitality guests.

It’s why we send our high school Peer Leaders to the Youth Gathering to work in places like New Orleans and Detroit and next summer in Houston.

It’s why we have Mission Partners in the Portuguese community in Newark and on Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania.

This is the moment for which we’ve all been baptized. When God touches our lives with love and forgiveness, with grace, and with new life and with hope.

The moment when our hearts and heads come together with the realization that regardless of what we do and no matter what we say – it’s not about us. That the status quo isn’t going to give happiness or meaning to our lives.

Our lessons this morning remind us of the gift of community – united and empowered by the Holy Spirit. They remind us that the Church, the Body is Christ, is made up of many different parts – of many different people – each of which is to be treasured, as gifts of God.

It’s for this moment that we’ve been baptized and that’s the gift and promise we have for the world – that together in hope we can journey in faith. A journey that makes us alive in Christ in this life – and with God’s promise and gift of eternal life.

What a gift, what a blessing to be surrounded by this Christian community that nurtures and cares for one another. To claim the promise of baptism is to claim those gifts, so that we can join the struggle in a world that is constantly in need of God’s care.

Midst our struggle, the Gospel brings a promise for a new day. And that promise is that God is with us. Every step of the way.

As challenging as it may be to confront change – and each new beginning – our faith enables us to live a new life – and to give life to each new beginning. We’re reminded us that as people of faith, we are in God’s hands. We’re in God’s hands – ever holding on – trusting that God is with us on our journey.

And God takes each one of us – holds on to us – leads us – both on those good days and the bad days…God is on the journey with each of us – and in community, as this Family of Faith…And he walks together with us, in hope. Amen.