Good morning! I hope everyone had a good weekend. We had our annual church bazaar and it was amazing! A true testament to God’s grace in the midst of the church. My sermon reflected that … enjoy!
Rehoboth Congregational Church
November 8, 2015
Building With God
The bazaar …
The first year that I was here, I felt like I deserved to wear a button the Sunday after the bazaar that said, “I survived my first bazaar at RCC.”
First of all, let me just say this: The RCC Christmas Bazaar is undeniably extraordinary.
Now I am not just saying this because I am on payroll. I have spent my entire life “doing church” and I have never been part of a bazaar quite like this one. The hospitality, the attention to detail and the sheer abundance of food and products available are absolutely incredible. Year after year, I am consistently amazed by the people who give of their time and their talents, who donate food, items and service and who come out to spend their hard-earned money to support the bazaar and this church. I am humbled by the people who take time off of work in order to prepare for the weekend, who plan their fall vacation schedules around the bazaar weekend and who spend hours (and I mean hours) baking and crafting. I am grateful for the people who work tirelessly behind the scenes, whose meticulous detail work gives all of our spaces a magical touch and who swoop in at the last minute to break down and clean up when everyone else is running out of steam. I feel blessed because of every conversation, every embrace and every moment of joy and laughter that this weekend created for me.
I promise that I did not just decide to stand up here and ramble on about the bazaar as a way of getting out of writing my sermon this week; I really am going somewhere with this.
This morning’s reading comes from the book of Psalms, Psalm 127. It is a tribute to the supreme reign of God in our lives; it is a reminder that we are only human and that it really is futile to think that we can get through life without relying on God’s help.
I actually laughed when we were planning out our fall worship schedule, because I looked at the calendar and saw that it was going to be the weekend of the bazaar and then I looked at the lectionary for the week and read this psalm.
(For those of you who may not know, I follow something that is called the Revised Common Lectionary when I am preaching. Every week there is a passage from the Old Testament, a psalm, an Epistle from the New Testament and a passage from one of the Gospel. I look at the four passages and then – depending on what is going on at the church and what season of the year we are in – choose one or two scriptures to preach on and then we build our worship service from there.)
(The point of that explanation is to reiterate the point that I did not seek this psalm out when I was thinking about what to preach on the weekend of the bazaar. In fact, I think it found me.)
So here is how this psalm begins:
Unless the LORD builds the house,
those who built it labor in vain.
Unless the LORD guards the city,
the guard keeps watch in vain. (Psalm 127:1)
Here is why I laughed: Because as I thought about this scripture in relation to bazaar weekend at the church, I kind of changed the words and wrote my own psalm. And here is how my psalm began:
Unless the LORD is part of the bazaar,
the bazaar is happening in vain.
There is a profoundly sacred reason that we gather and it is a powerful force at work within us and among us. But I do think that sometimes we can get so busy and so caught up in something we are doing that we start to lose sight of the reason we have come together in the first place.
I could be wrong, but I do not think that the church bazaar is only about big crowds and successful sales; I think that it is also about coming together as a community of faith. I do not think that the church bazaar is only about making money; I think that it is also about welcoming people into our space and practicing radical hospitality. I do not think that the church bazaar is only doing what we have always done because we have always done it (or doing something new, because you want to mix it up); I think that it is also about listening to God and prayerfully discerning who and what and where God is calling us to be.
We are a church – and that means something.
I know that is it easy to try to differentiate between what we do in worship and what we do at something like the bazaar by saying that worship is when we tap into our spiritual side and connect with God and something like the bazaar is when we come together as a community.
But God should always be at the center of all that we do.
Everything we did this weekend – the food, the crafts, the candy, the music, the ambience and all of the fine details – means nothing if we are not doing it for the glory of God.
We have to keep God at the center of all that we do. We are a church and as a church we have to take ownership God’s role in our life.
Any group or organization can come together and organize an absolutely lovely bazaar. But I think that something truly special happens when people come together in the spirit of God and extend a hand of hospitality, love, creativity and gratitude. There is a deeper purpose behind it all.
And I sincerely believe that was what happened this weekend.
The Rehoboth Congregational Church Christmas Bazaar is not an easy event to organize. People are pretty much thinking about it at any given point throughout the entire calendar year. There are a lot of moving parts and those parts really need to stay in line with one another. The majority of the work is being done by volunteers; volunteers who have jobs, families and chaos in their owns lives. People do not always agree on how things should be done and people often get in each other’s way. The work gets hectic, the work gets stressful and the work gets messy.
But grace is what happens when God takes the mess we have created and turns it into something holy.
And something certainly holy happened this weekend.
God was most certainly part of our bazaar this weekend. I felt it: I felt it every time I had a conversation that took broken pieces of me and me more whole. I felt it every time I embraced someone and felt that incarnational nature of God’s love in a human touch. I felt it every time I saw someone in our community show hospitality by welcoming someone into our building and answering any questions they had. I felt it every time someone stepped into my office on Saturday night, looked me straight in the eyes with a huge smile on their face and said, “This was a great weekend.”
The psalmist wrote:
Sons are indeed a heritage from the Lord,
the fruit of the womb a reward. (Psalm 127:3)
We are not alone in any of this. Not in life – and most certainly not in church. And as we build and lead our church, we had to remember that we – sons and daughters of God – are part of a heritage that no human can break. If we never refuse to put God at the center of what we are doing then, with God, all things are possible.
I really do believe that, as a church, we are called to do great things.
Let’s not try to do it alone.
Unless the LORD builds the house,
those who built it labor in vain.
Let’s build with God.
Thanks be to God!