Dreams and Visions:
An Invitation, Part 1
July 8, 2007
The Rev. Dr. Anthony J. Godlefski, Pastor
Montgomery United Methodist Church
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, good morning! How are you doing? Are you doing okay today? Let’s say our affirmation: I am alive, awake, alert, energetic, and enthusiastic about life! Amen! That’s the spirit.
I’d like to start off with a little funny story, but I have to check something out first. How many of you here are former Roman Catholics or Roman Catholics presently or something in between? Quite a few. So you know what a novena is. A novena is a series of services over nine days that somebody attends. That’s what it means to make a novena. So here’s the story:
This fellow goes to confession, kneels down, and says to the priest, “Forgive me, Father, for I have sinned. I stole some lumber.” The priest says, “Okay, say an ‘Our Father’ and a ‘Hail, Mary’.” The man says, “Thank you, Father,” and leaves.
The next week, the man goes back to confession, kneels down, and says, “Forgive me, Father, for I have sinned. I have stolen some lumber.” The priest says, “Hmm, okay, son, say a rosary.” The man says, “Thank you, Father,” and leaves.
The next week, he comes back to confession, kneels down, and says, “Forgive me, Father, for I have sinned. I have stolen some lumber.” The priest says, “I don’t know, young man. I think I’m going to have to ask you to make a novena.” The fellow says, “Sounds great to me, Father. If you’ve got the plans, I’ve got the lumber.”
I want to talk with you today about dreams and visions. The prophet Joel says, “In the great days, the Lord says, ‘I will pour out my spirit on everybody. And among other things, your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams.” It’s a beautiful promise. I’d ask the prophet Joel what about the rest of us in between, what do we get to do? Maybe we get to do a little bit of both. And that’s what I want to do with you today.
I want to talk with you about dreams and visions for our church, because we are in a fantastic time as a congregation. I think it’s time to dream dreams and see visions. First of all, let’s talk a little bit about where we’ve been. This is a very special Sunday for me, because on this day nine years ago – nine years ago! – I came to be privileged to be your pastor. How quickly it has gone by! It’s amazing how fast time flies when you’re having fun, and I have been enjoying this time with you so very, very much.
Let’s talk just a little bit about that time. In these last nine years, we have done many things. We have dreamed dreams and seen visions and have seen them come true. We have had Bible studies and vacation Bible schools. We have had confirmation classes. We have had retreats and square dances, progressive dinners and St. Patrick’s Day banquets. We have had fall festivals and picnics and covered dish suppers. We have had candlelight services and seen Visions of Hope, our internet ministry, established. We’ve established a Prayer and Care team, had Saturday night services, Holy Week services, hymn sings and choral concerts, sermons in song, and most importantly, Sunday services together, where we get together to praise the Lord and to encourage each other in our faith in Jesus Christ. We have had new member welcomings, coffee hours, mission projects, church bazaars, Christmas pageants, and so many other events together – wonderful, wonderful times in the Lord.
Also, in these last few years, we were able to see a new sign on our church lawn and we’ve seen the construction of the new church school wing – that was in the plans before I came, to be sure. Our new balcony is complete and usable. Our pipe organ has just been dedicated. And of course, there’s our wonderful air conditioning – who could forget that? – and comfortable new chairs. Wow! We’ve been able to do a lot together. To mention these things is not to say in any way that I’m rolling the credits. I simply want to construct a launching pad for the future, and to say that this has been a wonderful and productive time.
But what does God have in store for our future together? This week and next week, I’d like to present this series of sermons called “Dreams and Visions.” Let’s think together about where God could be calling us to in the future.
I think this is a wonderful time to do this. We’ve just been through all the busyness of Easter and the spring, and we’re not quite yet at the avalanche of busyness that will be ours in September. So I’m encouraging us to dream and envision together.
Now, in preparation for that, there are a couple of things I’d like to say. First thing, I want to say thank you. Thank you, thank you, thank you to this wonderful congregation for all that you have enabled to happen. It’s because of your insight and your generosity and your support and your patience and your love that we’ve been to do so much, and I want to say thank. This is a great congregation, and I am humbly privileged to serve here with you.
Secondly, when we talk about dreams and visions, they must be our dreams and visions. They certainly are not just mine. I have the unique privilege and responsibility of being your pastor, and therefore seeing an overview of things that are happening in our church life. But it is also my responsibility to share that with you in a brave way, and to tell you what I see and what I believe the Lord is laying on my heart.
However, it is so important that whatever dreams we have, we have them together. And so, I am going to invite you to do something with me. Won’t you write down this email address: firstname.lastname@example.org. I invite you to write to me about what the Lord is laying on your heart. I want to hear how God is inspiring you, and what you’d like to see as part of our church’s future. And then next week we’re going to wrap it up and talk some more about it.
Third, this is a remarkable time. I really believe it. This is constellation time in the life of our church and our congregation. I believe that a remarkable gathering of people has come together in this congregation and that we can respond to the Lord in a remarkable way at this time. Now, I know, no congregation wants to hear what a pastor did in a former church. But allow me just this little bit. There was a time like this in the Piscataway church for me when, after a while, a constellation of people came together and it was clear that the Lord wanted to do remarkable things. And I think some remarkable things were done over there. We added to the staff; we grew a bunch of programs; we grew a building together that you can see today; it’s pretty unique and remarkable. That’s not to say that that’s exactly what God is going to do here. But I do believe that the constellation has formed and that the time is right. I think that this is a time of opportunity that is unique and remarkable and a gift of God.
Now, I’m not exactly sure what the future is going to hold and what it’s going to look like in a couple of years, but I do think that this is the time and we are the team. Next week, I’d like to talk with you in practical ways about areas that we can grow, about things that I think we can do together, flesh this out in practical ways. As a framework for that, may I suggest a few things?
First of all, I think we are called most urgently in terms of ministry to our children, to reinforce and fortify our education and participation of children in the life of the church, to reinforce and fortify our Sunday school and support it in a mighty way. I think that is the primary calling that we have. And also, the participation in worship in terms of instrumental worship, of singing in the choir, any other forms of participation – I think that’s a real primary calling and vision that God is going to put on our hearts.
Second, ministry to youth is right in the same vein. For those youth who are past confirmation age, we need to reinforce their education and their participation. And I’ll be listening to you for ideas and ways that you think that we can do that.
And third, ministry to adults in our congregation. I think adults in our congregation need a blessing, too. I believe that one of the strongest needs of the people in Hillsborough and Belle Mead and surrounding areas is fellowship and togetherness and gathering and knowing each other and having fun together in the Lord. I believe there’s a need for education, but I believe that need for togetherness and fellowship is primary. So I’d like to talk with you about that, too.
Fourth, how can we reach out? How can we reach out even more than we have? How can we expand upon the wonderful things the Outreach Team has been doing for our church, so that we can bring God’s blessings to this community in a mighty and positive and powerful way?
So, I invite you to think about these things with me. Talk to me; write to me; talk with each other. And share with me your thoughts and insights about how we can move mightily into the future to be God’s wonderful church, to do all the things God is calling us to do.
Finally, in closing, let me share this one statement with you. This is the one statement that is on my heart as I think about our future together and I think about God’s mission for us. I believe that Montgomery United Methodist Church is a fountain of blessing, hope, and inspiration to everybody who needs it. I think that’s who we need to be. I think that’s how we need to grow, so that Montgomery United Methodist Church can be a fountain of blessing and hope and inspiration to everybody who needs us. I hope you’ll join me as we envision and dream together, because God loves you. I do, too. Have a blessed week. Amen.
© 2007 Anthony J. Godlefski