Sermon for the Second Sunday after the Epiphany
January 19, 2014 – Holy Comforter Annual Meeting
“What are you looking for?” Those are the first words of Jesus in the Gospel of John. “What are you looking for?” Andrew and the other disciple are looking for a liberator, a leader, a redeemer to save the people of Israel. It is a question that is striking in its simplicity, yet boundless in its depths. “What are you looking for?”
That is the question that the Holy Spirit has asked the Church in every age. “What are you looking for?” the Spirit asked to the first apostles as they spread out across the world. Those first Christians were looking for communities ready to hear the good news of Jesus Christ.
“What are you looking for?” the Spirit asked our Church of England forebears as they struggled in a time of bitter controversy. They were looking for an authentic Church. A place where they could worship in the beauty of their tradition.
“What are you looking for?” That was also the question that Bishop Scott Field-Bailey and Bishop Milton Richardson asked of the first thirteen Episcopalians that lived in Spring, Texas. What were they looking for? Those first thirteen Episcopalians were looking for a place to call home. They were looking for a church. And after discernment, and prayer, those two bishops and thirteen Episcopalians had a vision. And in October of 1971, Holy Comforter Episcopal Church was established.
Forty-three years on, I believe that the Holy Spirit is again asking us that enigmatic question: “What are you looking for?” And I have heard a common answer from you. You are looking for a family of God. You are looking for Jesus. You are looking for a place to call home.
In the spirit of those thirteen Episcopalians forty-three years ago, our Vestry met last Saturday for a special meeting. We envisioned our future. We prayed. We discerned God’s will for this Church. We talked about who God is calling Holy Comforter to be. And there was one resounding, crystal clear answer. We are looking for a church.
With unanimous support, our Vestry has created a Building Committee, with the expressed intent to redevelop our present campus. To reimagine our campus so that we can serve our community better. But most of all, to build a church. A place to call home. To build a worship space in which we meet God, a worship space in which we can be found by Jesus.
This has been the dream of this parish since the beginning. And I believe that God has been calling us again to reclaim this vision. Our first worship services were held at the Lexington Woods Country Club. Then, this property was eventually purchased, and we worshiped in the “little white building.” That’s the building you see in the picture as you enter the main doors. This present building was meant to be a temporary worship space, temporary kitchen, and eventual Parish Hall and gymnasium. But through the years the dream has remained – for the building of a beautiful worship space on this very campus. We have been a church in search of home, and I believe now is the time to reclaim our historic vision.
You may have noticed, this area is growing. There are thousands of people moving here all the time, and tens of thousands are slated to move here in the very near future. And you may have noticed that this church is also growing. In order to facilitate our current growth and to prepare for our anticipated future growth, we need to invest in our campus right now. Because this building will not suffice for God’s vision of this church.
Believe me, the Holy Spirit is asking the new residents of our area that same question: “What are you looking for?” And I sincerely believe that they are also looking for a place to call home. A place to worship. A place to be found by Jesus. I heartily believe that people are looking for Holy Comforter.
In order to respond to this growing demand, our parish will spend 2014 revisioning ourselves and envisioning our future. We will bring on an architect. We will dream of the possibilities that God has put before us. This is not just revisioning at the parish level. I am asking every ministry and every group to revision who God is calling them to be, and how they can better serve the community.
See, this redevelopment and building process will not be restricted to bricks and mortar. This entire process will be about renewing ourselves for mission. Our physical structures are an integral piece of this renewal, but so is our worship, our youth ministry, our fellowship, and our outreach. We are going to enter deeply into prayer, so that we can discern who God is calling us to be.
Good people of Holy Comforter – I am resolutely convinced that this vision of building a church is a vision to which God is calling us. But it will not be easy. This process will take everything we have and everything we are as a congregation to accomplish. This process will not be a mere fundraising campaign or building plan. This process on which we are embarking will be a spiritual exercise. We will learn how to corporately trust in God, trust in one another, and give of our time, gifts, and money to the mission of this church. It will take everything we have and everything we are, and this process will change us through and through. Yet like the man who invests his talents to make more talents, I believe that God will repay us two fold, ten fold, one hundred fold if we engage this process with authenticity and humility; if we engage this process with Jesus.
All across the country, Episcopal churches are gathering for their annual meetings. And all across the country, more Episcopal churches than I would like to imagine are struggling with declining membership, petty squabbling, and shrinking resources. That is not Holy Comforter, and that is not who God is calling us to be. God is calling us to serve as an example and a light, not just to the people of Spring, Texas, but indeed to the entire Church.
I know that all of you have questions. What will this process look like? When will everything happen? What will the finished product be? How will this change us? I cannot give you answers to all of your questions today, because this is a long process, and many things will be ironed out along the way. A Building Committee will be formed, a Strategy Team will be put in place. And at every step along the way, we will stop and pray. We will gather around this holy table for inspiration, comfort, and encouragement.
Finally, I am committed to this process. I am here, and will be here to walk with us, and to lead us into this vision. I want to be part of a loving church community that is willing to take risks for the gospel. I want to be part of a church that serves as a model and an example. I want to be part of this forty-three year story, and beyond. I want to be at Holy Comforter.
This is a journey on which we are embarking. This is all of us, as a church, picking ourselves up and following after Jesus like the first two disciples. So I invite you to join us on this journey with the second words of Jesus from the Gospel of John. “Come and see.” Come and see how this parish will thrive and grow over the coming years. Come and see how the Holy Spirit is at work among us. And people will not show up here on their own. I am humbly asking each and every one of you to be cheerleaders for Holy Comforter in your own networks. At school. At work. At Starbucks. At the gym. You don’t even have to come up with your own words. Use the words of Jesus to tell people about the incredible things God is doing at this church. All you have to say to them is, “Come and see.”
Most of all, I promise you, I promise you, Jesus will be with us during this journey. All of the effort, all of the sacrifice, all of the love that will be put into building this church will not be for our glory, but for glory of the Kingdom of God. Come and see.