“The Ministry of Coming Alive”
23 Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, 25 not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
(Hebrews 10:23-25, NIV)
“The Glory of God is a human being fully alive.” Historians believe that second century Saint, Irenaeus of Lyons wrote these words. But perhaps it was people like Phineas Taylor Barnum who captured this truth in his work of connecting people to the extraordinary. “I think you need less dead things in your museum Daddy. You need something alive. Something sensational.” These words ignite a passion in Phineas Taylor Barnum as he considers this insight from his young daughter late one evening at bedtime. In the 2017 Silver Screen adaptation of P.T. Barnum’s life, entitled The Greatest Showman, we journey with the mastermind as he strives to connect people to something larger than themselves – to something alive. In the film adaptation set in 1840’s Manhattan, Barnum searches for the peculiar and the mysterious. He calls people out of the shadows and invites them to be a part of something spectacular. His plea to the world is to come alive.
During one of the film’s showstoppers entitled A Million Dreams, we witness a young Barnum envisioning a future filled with joy and endless possibility. He sings this refrain:
“Through the dark, through the door
Through where no one's been before
But it feels like home
'Cause every night I lie in bed.
The brightest colors fill my head.
A million dreams are
keeping me awake.
I think of what
the world could be.
A vision of the one I see.
A million dreams is
all it's gonna take.
A million dreams for the
world we're gonna make.”
On this Christian Education Sunday, we celebrate the countless ways that we are coming alive as a church family. On this special day, we remember the goodness of this past year of ministry and we begin envisioning a million dreams for our future together. As members of this beloved Congregational Church of Manhasset, we dream about the kind of community of faith we wish to create. We have the joy of dreaming and working together to bring about the kind of loving and just world that Jesus calls us to. This is the true celebration of CE Sunday. God invites us to come alive.
As a faith family, we come alive as we strive to care for our whole being – body, mind and soul. We come alive as we witness our children go from babies in the nursery to big kids reading words of hope from the pulpit. We come alive as we connect our teenagers to issues of poverty and injustice in our world – and then we observe their compassion and insight as they seek to help others. We come alive as we meet together in small groups to discuss how our faith intersects with what is happening in our world. We come alive as we spend a Saturday spring day to help improve someone’s life through a community service project. We come alive as we meet together to sort and package food that will go to a hungry family trying to make ends meet. We come alive as we host concerts in our building that reach people beyond this community and that fund organizations that are changing people’s lives. We come alive as we spend our afternoons tutoring children from underserved communities and reminding a child that they are valued and loved. We come alive as we extend our welcome wide. We come alive as we say to all who enter the walls of this building, “We’re so glad you’ve found us. You are welcome here.” We come alive as we create programs that build bridges and that offer hope. We come alive as we meet here every week to encourage each other on this journey of faith and to remind one another that we are not alone.
In our scripture lesson this morning, the writer of Hebrews reminds us of the importance of being on this road of faith, together. “Let us hold fast to the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who has promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another...” Church family, we come alive by being here together. CE Sunday is a celebration that we are continuing to show up to this life of faith. Today is a celebration of our continuing support and encouragement to each other to represent love in all that we do as a church community.
As we come alive to God’s call and to one another, our dreams for the future are boundless. We remember our journey over the past 76 years in building the legacy of this wonderful place we each call home. In that truth and light, we turn our gaze forward to the life-giving work and ministry that lies before us. We listen and we respond. We find new and creative ways to be the church in 2018 and beyond. And we continue a legacy of welcome and love in this place.
For as P.T. Barnum’s character resounds in one of the final scenes;
“And we know we
can't go back again.
To the world that we were living in.
'Cause we're dreaming
with our eyes wide open.
'Cause we're dreaming
with our eyes wide open.
So come alive!
We need a church that has come alive! We need a church that brings us out of the shadows and connects us to something beyond ourselves. God is dreaming a million dreams with us as we look to the future. Might our dreams carry us forward as we live out God’s spectacular ways of love. AMEN.
God of Love,
There is a richness here in this place –
a richness that greets and grows and holds and challenges and keeps.
There is a richness here –
a richness that surrounds and brings and delivers and gives.
The richness holds us in our weakness,
fills us in our hunger,
finds us when we’re lost.
So here, richly blessed, we have come, and we have been found.
Let this time together inspire us in richness and grace.
We give thanks today for the many teachers in our lives. We thank you for their commitment to love and to serve. The lessons we have learned under their care reach far beyond the confines of this church and into deep places of our lives. We ask that you would equip us for service beyond this hour of meeting together. Give us vision for the days to come.
We pray for the many needs in both our community and throughout our world. We pray for those who are separated from family today. Comfort them in a special way, O God. We pray for those in our world who lack basic needs. Give us courage and wisdom to respond to your call to care for all people.
We pray for the needs in our church family.
Open our hearts today to hear your voice and to respond to your call.
We ask these things through Christ, who gives us life, AMEN.
Prayer adapted from a prayer written by the Rev. Kaji R. Spellman, a United Church of Christ Pastor serving as a pastor of Saint Peter's Lutheran Church in New York City, and posted on the United Church of Christ website, ucc.org.
 Pasek, Benj and Paul, Justin; Lyricists for “The Greatest Showman”.