It’s Been a Long Time Coming

The Rev. Jimmy Abbott
Twenty-first Sunday after Pentecost
October 9, 2016 – Capital Campaign Kickoff

Luke 17:11-19

It’s been a long time coming. Years of waiting. Years of hoping. Years of wondering when, if, it will happen. Years of looking for the answers, years of trying. It’s been a long time coming, and through it all, even when things were tough, even when it was hard, even when it seemed that it was all for nought, God was faithful. It’s been a long time coming for those ten lepers. And then Jesus comes walking down the road.

In the time of Jesus, lepers were cut off from society. They had to create their own communities, they banded together because no one else would accept them. They had to live on the outskirts of town, on the fringes of society. Villages would not have them, towns would expel them. Their families would not see them, society would not accept them. But those ten lepers hang on to hope. Hope for grace that comes from an unexpected place.

When those ten lepers see Jesus coming down the road, they know it’s their chance. It’s their chance to receive grace and mercy and love. It’s been a long time coming, but they haven’t yet given up hope. Nor should they, because God has been faithful to them. Never mind their waiting, never mind their isolation, never mind their loneliness – God is with them. And Jesus gives them all, all ten of them, a full measure of healing. It was a long time coming for those ten lepers, but God remained faithful. God was gracious.

We are here this morning, all crammed in, because it’s been a long time coming. This building project, this capital campaign, it’s been a long time coming. And we’ve talked this thing to death, haven’t we? We’ve had surveys, town hall meetings, small group meetings, one on one meetings. We’ve had presentations, forums, informational meetings. We’ve waited and waited and waited. I have had 514 separate email conversations that pertained to the building project and capital campaign. I first started planning for this project in the summer of 2013. It’s been a long time coming.

That’s just a fraction of the time some of you have been waiting. For some of you, it’s been a very long time coming. Ten, twenty, thirty years. Longer than I’ve been alive you have been waiting for this moment; when this congregation finally, finally commits itself to building a church. Your stories, they inspire me. Because they are proof of God’s faithfulness. It’s been a long time coming, but God has been faithful.

But you know, something odd happens in that story of the ten lepers. Only one comes back to thank Jesus. Only one. That’s like getting a Christmas gift and not writing a thank you note; my mom would be horrified. Think of it, Jesus came into their midst and healed them. He gave all ten of them grace beyond measure. They can now return to their homes, to their families, they become whole people again; but only one returned to give thanks and praise, and for that, he received an even more abundant life. That one leper was growing in God’s grace.

That’s the name of our capital campaign, “Growing in God’s Grace.” Because, at the end of the day, this campaign and this project is not about bricks and mortar, about blueprints and floor plans, it’s not about square feet and parking spaces. It’s about connection, relationships, it’s about the people. It’s about growing in God’s grace. And that’s exactly what’s happening here.

Think of the grace we have received. In four years the number of people worshipping here as doubled. We had 216 cars come through Drive-Thru Ashes this year. 197 people got involved with Church Has Left the Building. Our parking lot is packed, the Education Building on Sunday morning is crammed full. That is all God’s grace. And people have noticed. The Episcopal Diocese of Texas is graciously giving us $1.88 million for this building project. Like all ten of those lepers, God has indiscriminately blessed us beyond compare. Like the one leper, we come back to God and give thanks. We aren’t going to take these God-given gifts for granted. We are going to give back as signs of our gratitude. We are going to give back with our souls and bodies yes, but also with our money. As God has been generous to us, we are now generous with God.

I am not saying anything you don’t already know. And I will tell you, I am consistently amazed and humbled by you. I truly am. I have been humbled and amazed by your generosity, by your zeal to get this done, by your commitment, by your vision, but most of all, by your faithfulness to God. That is crux of the issue. I will tell you that in Vestry meetings we pray and we study the bible. And before every big decision we have made on this project, we have stopped to ask Jesus into our midst. In our Building Committee meetings we stop every time to pray, we ask the Holy Spirit to show us the way. In planning this capital campaign, in preparing for this day we have prayed and prayed and prayed. It must have worked because the weather is beautiful. This whole process has been about building a church, but it’s also been about us growing closer to God and each other.

And there are people who are still waiting for the Lord. They are waiting for to hear some good news. They are waiting for a church to welcome them home. They’ve been looking for a family. For many people in Spring, Texas, it’s been a long time coming. They have been sitting on the fringes waiting for the Master to walk down the road and speak the word of grace. This building project, it’s not about entrenching ourselves in one place. It’s about energizing us for mission, for outreach, for evangelism. This campaign is about Jesus. The ten lepers are the tens of thousands of people who pass by here everyday, desperate to know that they are loved. And for them, it’s been a long time coming.

Now, I want you to fast forward in your mind to next year when construction is slated to begin. It’s going to be a mess. Parking will be a pain. The campus will be noisy, and messy, and nothing will seem right. We’ll be making payments on our capital campaign pledges and all we’ll see out there is bulldozers and torn up ground. It’s going to be a headache. When we finally move into the new building and we consecrate it, we’ll look back to this day and say, “it’s been a long time coming.” But, you know what? It won’t be over. Just because we have a new church doesn’t mean that we can stop being the church. We’ll still have a bible to study, children to teach, youth to mentor, the poor to feed, the elderly to visit; there will be new people to welcome, new leaders to raise up; we’ll have babies to baptize, couples to marry, old friends to bury. We’ll still have a God to praise and worship. We’ll still be Holy Comforter. It will feel like a long time coming, but we’ll never actually be finished. Because the work of the church never ends.

That brings us back to that one leper who returned to give thanks. Jesus says to him, “go, your faith has made you well.” That can also be read, “go, your faith has made you whole.” That’s what I’m talking about it. This capital campaign will require faith. Paying our pledges will require faith. Watching a building be built, however slowly it may seem, will require faith. And that’s the whole point. We, as a church and as individuals, putting our faith in God and trusting that through it, God will make us whole. This is not the time for hedging our bets or being stingy with God. The measure you give is the measure you get back. This is the time to trust in God. This is the time to be grateful. This is the time to be transformed because I promise you, when you give thanks to Jesus in faith, you will be transformed.

It’s been a long time coming, so don’t hesitate. Be faithful, be generous, be grateful.

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