Summary: This sermon emphasizes that the congregation and pastors worked together for 24 years to accomplish God's goals for the church.
Today we celebrate having served here as your pastors for the past 24 years. We entitled our sermon “Together We”, because our journey has not been about us as pastors, but about what God has done, is doing, and will continue to do through us as a congregation and its leaders. Anniversaries are kind of a funny thing when you look at years. We know that Presidents look a lot older at the end of 4 years than they did while running for election. We guess in terms of presidents, we will have run and been reelected for office six times. How does the aging process work for pastor-church anniversary?
A famous comedian was asked, what he would like people to say about him in 100 years and he answered, “I’d like them to say, “He still looks pretty good for his age.” As we look back over the past 24 years of ministry that together we have done in this community, we hope the community can still say, “we still look pretty good for our age.”
In our Old Testament reading, Nehemiah arrived on a scene in Jerusalem at a time period over 80 years after it had been destroyed. The walls of the city were still torn down, and it looked pretty depressing. But God was stirring in Nehemiah’s heart to do something, but he knew he needed the will and the help of the people to make it happen. When he shared a future of what could be the people responded “Let us start rebuilding.” The scriptures then state: “So they began this good work.”
Looking back to the year 1989, when we arrived here, our church, Glenville, was making a major decision concerning its future. Would we fold as a church or would we open our hearts and minds to a new move of the Spirit of God? We knew that change was going to have to happen? We knew that our journey would not always be easy. We knew that we would have to give up who we had been, in order to become what God wanted us to be.
Jesus put it this way, 24 Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. What has made Glenville unique has been a willingness on the part of the church and of the pastors to be willing to die, in order to further the kingdom of God. Together we have died in order that others might experience Jesus Christ. As a consequence, together we can look back and see how the hand of God has moved over the past 24 years.
God placed you in this church at different points along the 24 year journey with the gifts, talents, abilities and resources that we were going to need as a congregation to make a difference in moving our church forward. God gave us different abilities according to God’s plan for each one of our lives. Each of us was given a role to play regardless of our age, our education, our profession, or our economic standing. Together we decided to believe that God wanted to do a work in and through us.
If you look around today you will see a lot of wonderful people who have served us so faithfully down through the years. But you also would have to look up to see some of them because many of the great saints that served with us so well are now surrounding us in the heaven.
We see in Hebrews Hebrews 12:1 (NIV) 1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. We can all think of the name of some of those witnesses, some are in heaven, some are in nursing homes, and some are in other cities and states still doing ministry for God in other churches. Call out the name of one of them right now.
As we look back over 24 years, we can the spiritual victories that have been won all around this place . There have been prayers up front after the sermon for years. There have been tears that have flowed from our hearts as we have been convicted by the Spirit of God of our sins. There have been burdens that have been lifted as we cried out to God for help because of the struggles we were going through. There have been moments in which we found a new strength in God as we looked into the faces of our loved ones one final time as they lay in coffins down below the pulpit. We didn’t know how we would make it, but God has made a way.