By Rev Steven R Mitchell
Mountain View United, Aurora, CO 11/22/2015
Based on Psalm 111
The Psalmist tells us that we are to Praise the Lord, to give thanks to God with our whole heart, in the company of the faith community! This is what we are going to do this morning. We are going to celebrate God through worship. Worship consists of a wide and varied spectrum, ranging from music, to readings, time for reflection, opportunities for confession and re-assurance of God’s love, space for prayer, for welcoming into the community new life through baptism, a time for social affirmation of old and new friends as well as a time to say “goodbye” to those we love. Worship is celebrating God in our lives!
The psalmist gives us reasons as to “why” we should come and celebrate God. We celebrate God because of the works that God has done. We celebrate God because God is righteous, gracious, and merciful! God provides for our basic needs and never forgets the covenant made with all of creation. We celebrate God in the good times. We celebrate God in the sad times as well. For we recognize that God is with us, walking along side, sometimes in Spirit, other times physically through friends and family. All we have to do is look around us and we see the power of God’s work. As I look upon you, I see the power of God’s work!
This is my last Sunday to celebrate God with you as your pastor. It may seem strange that I chose to reflect about celebration on my last Sunday. But celebrating God is about celebrating life. Life has an ebb and flow, there are beginnings and there are endings; that is the cycle of all life. Beginnings are generally welcomed because they are filled with joy and excitement. Good-byes are not so easy, generally filled with mixed emotions, especially when significant bonds have developed. For almost four year, we have prayed together, sung together, come to Christ’s table together. You have sat week after week listening to my reflections on scripture. It has been a great privilege serving as your pastor.
Since worship is to “celebrate God”, what are some of the things we celebrate this morning? I have seen a number of you grow in your spiritual hunger and growth. We have had the opportunities to discuss some very deep personal questions about life, of learning how others see God, heaven, community, and spirituality, and how all of that ties together with our own experience. As a congregation, we have been working on bringing God and the outside world together into this sacred space of worship. We realize that when we enter the doors to this sanctuary, we do not check our problems at the door, but bring them into the sanctuary and lift them up to God. As Thomas Parker, Theology Emeritus of McCormick Theological Seminary, Chicago, Ill. says, “To live as if there were no God is to live in a space too small for our souls to grow and flourish. It really is all about cultivating a sense of the presence of God.” God is not just in this sanctuary, but is in our living rooms, at our work, even at a Broncos game.
The greatest joy that I celebrate this morning is the sense that ministry is happening here. We should “celebrate God” for what has been accomplished during these three plus years together. We have seen an outreach to the larger community through our Hot Cakes and Hot Topics; bringing awareness on many social justice issues and becoming a teaching congregation for the larger community. This is possible because we formalized our passion for social justice by creating a staff position designed to reach outside of the congregation and through Pastor Wayne Laws, be our voice among a number of secular organizations that also work on social justice issues. We are a part of the coalition to end gun violence. Mountain View is now working with a network of churches that minister to homeless women. For some churches this would be enough, but Mountain View is more than a church, you are a faith community and I am confident that God will reveal to you more opportunities to present God’s love to the Metro area. Because as ambassadors of God, that’s what we do – share God’s love to the larger community.
Let me close with why I “celebrate God” this morning. I celebrate God for the existence of Mountain View United, as a specific faith community. You have not just allowed me to serve you as pastor, but you have allowed me into your lives, a space that is so very sacred. You have let me stand beside you at the hospital. I have buried you, married you, baptized you, and eaten at God’s table with you. You have shared your hopes, your pains, your losses, your fears, and your joys with me. We have prayed together, laughed together, and cried together. Your pain has been my pain, your rejoicing has been my rejoicing. My life has been deeply enriched by serving you.
I celebrate God because I have watched a group of faithful believers grow in strength, in confidence, in hope, and in spiritual wisdom. You invited me in and allowed me to show you my understanding of God’s love, of God’s forgiveness, and of God’s inclusiveness. You have given me freedom to develop worship experiences that pushed the envelope of traditional styles. Some of it worked, some of it didn’t, but the important thing was, the willingness to explore.
I celebrate God, for I see a congregation that is living out Psalm 111, “The reverence and awe of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; all those who practice it have a good understanding.” Let us all continue to develop in reverence and awe of the Lord. Let us all “celebrate God” each day of our lives! New ministries await both you and me; let us celebrate the God that honors these diverging paths. Amen