May 29th, Message For A Resurrecting Community: Rising To The Challenge, by Pastor David

Acts 1:1-11 In the first book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus did and taught from the beginning 2 until the day when he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. 3 After his suffering he presented himself alive to them by many convincing proofs, appearing to them over the course of forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God. 4 While staying with them, he ordered them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait there for the promise of the Father. ‘This’, he said, ‘is what you have heard from me; 5 for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with[b] the Holy Spirit not many days from now.’
So when they had come together, they asked him, ‘Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?’ 7 He replied, ‘It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.’ 9 When he had said this, as they were watching, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. 10 While he was going and they were gazing up towards heaven, suddenly two men in white robes stood by them. 11 They said, ‘People of Galilee, why do you stand looking up towards heaven? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.’


Let’s have a moment of meditation as we hear scripture and take in on this Ascension Sunday, the reality that God is always with us even when we feel alone or lost. 

May 29,, 2022 Message for a Resurrecting Community: Rising to the Challenge

Two questions people keep asking me: What are you going to do in retirement? I have 3 answers, 1. It’s what I’m not going to do that matters. 2. I’m going to summer camp - at the end of July, for a week in New Hampshire. or 3. I’m taking the summer off, then God has work for me to do.  

Second question: Are you going to miss preaching? The answer is yes - I will miss the ritual and discipline of studying and preaching, and baptizing, but most of all, I will miss loving this community and playing with the little ones I love. 
It has been wonderful remembering the last 26 years during this Easter season. Today is the last day- remembering the last four years, since 2017. We have to start in 2017 though, with the amazing new members who joined that year Bob Jeffcoat, Charlene Reim, Pat Graham Reim, William Reim, Sherry & Ernie McNelly, Tom Curtis, 
and a few weeks later the confirmation class: Holden Daggett, Cecilia Pagana, Phillip Pagana.
Then in 2019, we baptized Maggie, Ben, and we baptized Noah Nichilo. 
And the same Sunday, Terri Leone, and Ann Abbott joined the church. 
Sara Grace Brown danced down the aisle on Easter in celebration.

In May of 2018 we did another work trip with Tom Lank, to Puerto Rico; I tried to keep up with the big guys, but they always got 10 times the work done, and they got 10 times as dirty.

In June of 2019, we went to Harrisburg to advocate for equitable funding for education
and we did a wedding for Laura Woolston and Ben White and the next month for Raymond Haigh and Victoria Plummer.

We organized a Blessing of the Backpacks when we blessed the sanctuary that fall.
and in Dec, we blessed a new oven in Lurwick Hall with Maggie and Ben’s help.
I will miss our spiritual retreats and Melanie serving Holy Communion

Then in March that year, everything shut down for the pandemic. 
For months I have lots and lots of pictures of flowers. 

But the building still needed attention. Jon Cumming mopped the floor when it rained. That goes under the category of things I will not miss.
We continued to have outdoor vigils, especially after George Floyd was killed
During the pandemic we had endless Zoom meetings, and we learned new ways
Slowly we figured out ways to get together and it felt delicious
Connections grew in our churches and community.
Blacks Lives have always mattered to God.

At first Pastor Joanne helped us to keep connected through the services and tech, but slowly we got better at it and more people came in to the sanctuary to help. Joanne put together care bags that we sent to people to remind them we love them.

And on Easter we could still have a masked Easter Egg HuntThe older children found the eggs in harder to reach places.
A year later, we were still on Zoom, but the soloists and Matthew were leading worship from the sanctuary.
It was kind of a good time for them to take out the bridge and it became a symbol of repair when we came back together.
in June 2021 Radnor UMC merged with St. Luke and St John AME took over the Radnor historic building. Janita Mahoney, Jerry Mahoney, Pauline Manley, Phillip Manley, Priscilla Porch, Caroline Silverie, Ed Silverie.

A year ago, we had children’s Sunday with pizza outside.

We put out the Heeding God’s Call memorial T-shirts for those lost to gun violence
Unfortunately, our hearts are still breaking today as gun violence continues.
St. Luke gave a party for me to honor my 25th anniversary as pastor here. I was deeply moved and honored. 
Cathy keeps saying it takes some of the pressure off this year. hope so
The first ministry Walk happened in Sept of 2021. This is an historic picture. 
We began to have more worship series like “Welcome is the Essence of Worship” and “Grace Period” 
And we’ve started to have more arts performances - like the Taiko drum concert
Pastor Joanne continued to make beautiful altars, even during the pandemic

And last Dec. Father Joe Mostardi and I blessed the bridge that was finally opened.
Our Advent worship at the Inn was beautiful and helped us make room in our hearts. 
The Omicron variant was getting stronger so we were glad we had online options.
The worship series seemed to get stronger and more meaningful  - for me anyway

We have faced a lot of challenges in the past few years. With God’s help we have risen to the challenge through Ministry Walks and Zoom meetings and good leadership. In a few weeks, our walk is going to diverge as we go in different directions. This sermon series has been an extended love letter to St. Luke, remembering our 26 years of ministry together. It has been amazing to remember all the ways we have met the challenge together. And the time is coming for saying goodbye. My saying goodbye is not the same as the ascension of Jesus. I’m not going to heaven. I’m just retiring and I’m confident God has some more ministry for this congregation and for me to do in our community. 

Goodbyes are important. Painful as they are sometimes, they help us to realize a reality about change in our lives - that we can survive it. In fact, God in Christ never leaves us alone. We can get discouraged and ask where God is during hard times of our lives, but the truth is that Jesus promise is to never leave us alone.
Jesus rises to the challenge through the resurrection into the people of God, the body of Christ. So this congregation has risen to the challenge of change. We were so proud that we could pull off a beautiful spring cantata, even after losing our music director. In some ways the music seemed to get stronger. We know St. Luke will always find ways to praise God through music and the arts. This congregation will always celebrate the resurrection by rising to the challenge of ministry - challenging white supremacy and Christian nationalism, challenging sexism and marginalization of LGBTQ folks and people with disabilities. With God’s help we will rise to the challenge to follow our vows to follow the way of Jesus. 

I am so proud of this community and the commitment of folks in this congregation to welcome all people and to work for justice in our community. We have come to realize that Jesus’ resurrection is not up into some far away heaven, but actually into the community of the body of Christ. The angels say the same thing to the church today as they said to the first disciples, “People of Galilee, why do you stand looking up towards heaven?” Jesus is here among you and there’s a challenge for us to meet right here and now. Pick up and continue the ministry of Jesus, realizing that Christ is raised into the body of all who are broken and in need of God’s presence. I know you’re hurting. I know we are feeling loss. We take that feeling and that knowledge and we reach out to other people who are feeling loss and hurt. We find God again simply by being God’s people, and being with God’s people.

As we come to the last three Sundays of my ministry here at St. Luke, I’m thankful to Ann and Terri for hanging the butterfly up in front of the church here. It is a good symbol of resurrection on this Ascension Sunday, and it’s a good symbol of rising to the challenge of being God’s people every day in every circumstance.  And that’s why we sing,  they’ll know we are Christians by our love. Because this is God’s good news.

Responsive Hymn 2223 They’ll Know We are Christians