John 14:1-4; 15-19
Once a man laid down his head and he had a vision – a vision of angels coming and going from where he was up to heaven. And he heard the voice of God promising God will always be present and will finish the good work God has begun.
So dreamed Jacob. And he took the stone he had slept upon, set it upright, and made an altar to worship God.
Today I ask us to imagine… what did our founders dream? What did Mr. and Mrs. Amschpacher dream in 1917? They’d only lived here four years when Rev. George Weisz came by on horseback.
What dream inspired them a year later to trust the land across the street towards the work of God? Where they laid down their heads, those men and women, who came from three different denominations, did they dream of unity?
Dod they ever dream their little log cabin would grow into a brick church, and continue to grow to have a fellowship hall?
What vision did they see to found a church out of their families and neighbors?
You know, back in Germany, the German Lutherans, German Presbytarians, and German Reformed churches did not talk much. Yet here they shared a single one room church!
What whispers of the Holy Spirit, what lessons of Jesus, what messages from God urged them together?
Picture these people who would not speak often to each other in Germany sharing one building here on the rural American frontier. I think surely this is our evidence of the Holy Spirit uniting us, working with us, towards Christian unity.
I think of God’s words to Jacob: I will not leave my good work undone.
God will not give up on the good God starts.
The uniting work began almost two hundred years ago right here on this road is good work, and work God is assisting.
You heard it in our songs today – we have Methodist Trinity hymns, and down-home Baptist toe-tappers. We’ve sang modern Mennonite hymns and classic English, Gaelic, and Catholic hymns. These are the favorite hymns of Saint Michael’s. These are the hymns of a people who have come from many different backgrounds and yet have found a home here in this rural country church.
These are the hymns of a rural country church who has been welcoming in all with the peace of Christ for centuries.
When you look back on our history of pastors, that history, too, speaks of our diversity, our bravery in trying new things, our commitment to discover what it means to be the body of Christ in each day and age.
For we are the body of Christ. We are always the body of Christ. And this body changes, grows, moves and acts – but always it is filled with the Spirit of Truth.
This Spirit of Truth, the Holy Spirit, is what reassures us, comforts us, when we face hard times. I’ve been here so short compared to most of you, and yet I have heard of some of the hard times. Yet in these hard times St. Michael’s was not alone. Not orphaned.
As long as two or three gather in the name of Christ, Christ continues to live in the hearts of our communities. Our language may change — from thou and thees to you and yours– and our looks might change — all German to the plethora that sits here today and the kaleidoscope of tomorrow — and our worship style may change — from no musical instruments or art to today’s piano, organ, and banners — all of these things may change, but our faith remains. Our Christ remains. Our body continues to live. The Holy Spirit continues to bring us dreams of heaven; continues to show us that where we lay our heads — this common earth — is where angels tread.
And the good work God begins, God will finish.
This day, this marvelous day, we welcome home all who have made St. Michael’s a place God surely is.
And we rejoice that our body extends beyond these walls and out across the world. We rejoice that God has walked with us here in this place for so many years, and before that traveled with us on horseback, and in Pennsylvania, in Germany, in Italy, in the Middle East, in Egypt, in Eden.
We rejoice God will continue to walk with us, continue to gather us, unite us, as one. The good work God begins God shall finish — and what a homecoming that day will be!
Praise God we get a little sample of that day now! Amen.
Given to Saint Michael’s United Church of Christ, Baltimore, Ohio, on 9-13-2015 for their 198th Year Anniversary