Dreams and Visions, Part 2
July 15, 2007
The Rev. Dr. Anthony J. Godlefski, Pastor
Montgomery United Methodist Church
ďíAnd it came to pass,í said the Lord, Ďthat I will pour out my spirit on all flesh. Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy. Your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions. And it shall come to pass that whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.íĒ The Word of the Lord; thanks be to God. Amen.
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, good morning! Maybe you heard the story about the little girl who was in her Sunday School class, working on some craft activities with the other children. The teacher came up to her and said, ďHoney, what are you doing?Ē
The little girl said, ďIím drawing a picture of God.Ē
ďOh,Ē said the Sunday School teacher. ďI see. But, honey, nobody knows what God looks like.Ē
And the little girl said, ďThey will after I get through.Ē I love that story. I love the courage and the vision that the little girl had.
I want to talk with you today about dreams and visions, specifically about dreams and visions for our church. This is the second part of a two-part sermon series that we began last week. Last week we looked at some of the philosophical and theological ideas behind some dreams and visions. Today Iíd like to share with you some practical, concrete ideas that Iíve had as your pastor working with you over the past nine years about the directions we can go for the future. I think that having dreams and having visions is something that motivates us and excites us and gives us something to look forward to, especially when we surround the dreams and visions with prayer, and when we invite God to inspire us and encourage us and lead us in the dreaming and envisioning that we do.
So, letís take a look at a few of them together and see what we have.
Iím envisioning children, children in our Sunday School. Somehow Iím seeing them with pins or badges symbolizing things theyíve learned in Sunday School, either on a sash or pinned right to their clothes. Iím seeing a special bulletin board out in the fellowship hall area where childrenís names are listed and their Sunday School accomplishments are recognized, so that we all can see them and applaud them. Iím envisioning a Sunday School that has a structure wherein children will gain head knowledge and heart knowledge, where children will come out, especially after their first five years in Sunday School, knowing a lot about the Bible and how itís put together and whatís in it, but also with a deepening faith in God and Jesus Christ. Iím picturing children excited to be in Sunday School. Now, weíve got a lot of that going already, but I think we can make that grow and grow.
Iím picturing teachers who are enthusiastic about their work, as they are now, and growing in Christ and learning even as they prepare their lessons. Iím envisioning a Sunday School where we have a structure for our kindergarten through fifth graders, then sixth-grade confirmation, and then a new structure for our post-confirmation children, so that they can look forward to a new experience of Christian education. Maybe it should have a different name than Sunday School. Maybe it should be called Teen Challenge. I donít know exactly what name it should have, but maybe the students could help select the name. The class should help them take the things that they learned earlier on and apply them to their lives as they go forward.
Iím picturing the love and encouragement of this congregation, which is so abundant and so great, being showered upon these children and upon their teachers as they are affirmed together in their growth in Christ. Iím picturing members of the congregation coming up to children and asking them what those badges are for. Iím picturing members of the congregation telling teachers how proud and grateful they are that the teachers are giving of their time, their talent, and their energy to make Sunday School happen. Iím envisioning a time when children can share their knowledge with the rest of us here in the congregation and let us know how theyíre growing in Christ.
Iím not entirely sure how all that is going to happen, how itís all going to come together, but I can picture it in my mind. Can you? Can you see it happen? Iíll bet you it can. Toward this end, Iím also picturing what it would be like if we had a staff member who was the director of Christian Education to help this process go forward, to manage it and encourage it and to bring an educational and spiritual background to the whole thing that would help fortify the Sunday School and uplift it.
My dear friends in Christ, the more years I experience, the more Iím touched by the idea that this precious time called childhood is short. Itís a window of opportunity. Itís a window of growth for our children that we must bless. It is our responsibility to bless it and to uplift it. But you know what? Itís a good time. itís a wonderful time. We must be intentional; we must be sure that our children have a Sunday School experience that is memorable and meaningful, and something that is going to bless them for their whole lives. Thatís one vision for our children.
I have another vision for our children. I see children standing up here singing, singing joyfully songs to the Lord. I picture this congregation encouraging them as they sing to the Lord. Iím picturing those children remembering those songs for a long time. Let me tell you something that happened to me. A girl came up to me not long ago who had sung with our childrenís choir several years ago. She said to me, ďPastor Tony, do you know what?Ē
I said, ďWhat?Ē
She said, ďI remember the song we sang in the spring pageant.Ē
ďYes, I do. Would you like to hear it?Ē And she sang, in her beautiful child voice, ďOur God is an awesome God. He reigns from heaven above. Our God is an awesome God. Our God is an awesome God.Ē She remembered. Sheíll always remember. Isnít that a wonderful reason to encourage our music program?
So, hereís what weíre doing: weíre looking. Iím encouraging our Staff-Parish Relations Committee to look for a director of Christian education, to look for a childrenís choir director. And letís not forget our youth. I see in my mind our youth choir singing. Now, we have youth who can sing praise songs. We have youth who can sing part songs. I would love to encourage that. Wouldnít you love that? Wouldnít you love to see our youth singing again? Well, we are working on it. Our Staff-Parish Relations Committee is working on it, and weíre hoping to bring on board a youth and childrenís music director, to bless our youth and children and to bless our church.
Iím seeing our youth on fire for Christ, wanting to go to Autumn Blaze, listening to 99.1 FM, WAWZ. How many of you have heard that radio station? Iím seeing our youth having fun in the Lord, but also praying to the Lord, as they do now under Debbie Armentoís wonderful leadership. Iím seeing help for Debbie by a youth pastor whose focus is enabling and helping our teachers and helping our volunteer staff and youth of our church. Iíd love to see the youth involved and affirmed. Iím seeing it; can you see it? Wouldnít it be wonderful as we move into the future?
Iím envisioning the adults of our church, growing in the Lord, perhaps in creative new ways. Yes, our Bible study program is a wonderful thing, when we gather here at church. But maybe we need to move into the realm of the internet and ways in which folks can participate in Bible study through their computers. Iím seeing our adults growing in Christ and becoming ever more excited about the Lord and about the Bible.
Iím also envisioning the adults and the families of our church just having more fun, having a great time being a church family together. Iím seeing folks gathered together and celebrating our St. Patrickís Day, which is growing and growing. But here comes a big one Ė Iím seeing them gathered together and feasting and laughing and learning in a new fellowship hall.
Let me tell you a little story. We had a fantastic event here at the church. I think it was a crossroads event here at the church. It was the dedication of our fantastic new organ. Diane Bish was here. Many of you were here. It was a landmark, one of the happiest events Iíve ever been to in my life. The church was packed. The enthusiasm was high. The outreach team did a wonderful job putting it all together. And then, at the end of the event, I found myself walking out the doors and down the church steps, looking to my left on the church lawn, and what did I see? A beautifully, magically lit tent, forty by forty Ė I measured it Ė 1600 square feet. People were laughing and talking and shaking hands and having wonderful food and getting to know each other and rejoicing. People not from this church were here and saying what a wonderful time they were having in the Lord, and asking when our next event was.
I looked at all that and said, ďWow!Ē Have you ever seen in the comics how a character has a balloon above his head, and the light bulb goes on? It means Ďideaí, right? What if we had a dedicated fellowship hall where there could be after-church coffee hour and St. Patrickís Day dinners and autumn hoe-downs and movie nights and rainy day activities for Time Out, our day care program, and youth activities and after-church socials and after-recital socials? I bet you could name a whole list, too, and I hope you do. I donít know if we could do it. Iíve asked our board of trustees to look into it, into the feasibility, the cost, whether it can be done. Theyíre looking into it, doing a wonderful job, and theyíre going to be getting us some answers and will let us know. What a step forward that would be! Folks in the church have talked to me about this and said, ďYou know, if we ever had one, it would be great if it were set up in such a way that it was lovely and welcoming, like the homes in this area, but also had walls that could be decorated for Vacation Bible School or Christmas or Thanksgiving or Consecration Sunday.Ē It would be wonderful. Is it possible? I donít know. But itís a dream. And if we pray to the Lord and ask the Lord, I believe that He will let us know what His will is for our future.
Iím envisioning our church growing, growing thanks to the wonderful efforts of our Outreach Team, but also because folks are bringing other people. And why do they bring other people? Because they believe that what we have here is something that other folks need, that what we have here is something that will bless the individuals theyíre inviting. Iím hoping that all of us can participate in that and let folks share what we have here. The Lord may tap you on the shoulder and say, ďYou know, those neighbors of yours donít have a church home, and we have an autumn event, an organ recital, and a childrenís event at the church. Why donít you invite them?Ē By all means, do. You never know how the Lord may be opening the door in someoneís life to the Lord by an event here at our church.
Permit me one more. Iím envisioning our church being easier to get to by the folks in the area who canít get here because they canít get a ride. I would love to see Ė this is an idea that came from our Outreach Team, too Ė I would love to see us have at least one little church bus, a 15-seater that you donít need a Commercial Driverís License to drive, a nice new bus that would transport people from the Crawford House. There are so many people that want to come here from the Crawford House, the rehabilitation institution, and they do come. We want to encourage that. wouldnít it be great to make that grow? There is a new senior citizens facility in Montgomery. You never know Ė some of those folks may not have rides, they may want to come here to church. If we had a little bus, we might be able to bring them. Can you see the youth of our church going to Sunday night events in that little bus? Can you see our confirmation class taking not just one trip but maybe a couple more because we have a bus to do it? If there were folks that wanted to go on an adult fellowship mid-week, we could do it.
The list is there, and the dreams are there for us to dream and for the Lord to inspire in our hearts. Are they possible? I donít know. But I think that this is a unique and blessed time in the life of our church. Itís time to dream big dreams and ask the Lord what He wants us to do and how He wants to bless our community and turn us into a blessing to all here and all who surround the area. Our church has so much to offer. Letís dream big. Letís pray big, and see where the Lord leads. He has so much for us to do. Itís exciting.
God loves you. I do, too. Have a blessed week. Amen.
© 2007 Anthony J. Godlefski