We are a Resurrection Community. Our vision is one of prayer, discernment and hospitality. Evidence of being a Resurrection Community and living out our vision surround us.
At Lent One we began three Sunday morning services. In 2010 our average Sunday morning attendance was 120 and before Lent One we were running slightly ahead of that number. Not counting Easter Sunday, which by the way this year we had 50 more than in 2010 – we have averaged 140 – now that’s pretty amazing. Over the last five years our attendance has increased ten percent each year – and this year we are on pace to exceed that rate of growth.
While numbers aren’t everything - they are the measuring stick often used to determine how we are doing. For a frame of reference the average Sunday attendance for an Episcopal Church is 66. And the average age is 62. While I haven’t done an exact calculation, my guess is our average age is in the mid-thirties.
That leads me ask two questions, 1) what good things have we done to create this growing environment and, 2) what’s next?
This morning’s readings from the Acts of the Apostles contain the answer to both of those questions.
The early days of the Church were held together by a tiny band of women and men, including the Apostles, Mary and Mary Magdalene. These people were a radical Jewish sect, a new spiritual movement that lived a subversive life.
In one sentence (Acts 2:42) their strategic plan and vision statement is outlined for us. “They devoted themselves to the apostles teaching and fellowship, the breaking of bread and the prayers.
First, they devoted themselves – this kind of devotion to the apostle’s teachings created an inner transformation in the lives of those who devoted themselves to the practice of studying the scriptures. Their devotion to the scripture transformed their souls and changed their actions. These people were so devoted to the apostle’s teachings that before they were called Christians they were known as “The people of the Way.”
Second, they devoted themselves to hospitality. In verses 43-47 it tells that these people shared all that they had with each other. They gave what they had for the benefit of others. They were good stewards of their resources.
Third, they devoted themselves to a Eucharistic life. The Eucharist was the center of their worship life, which was the model for living their life out in the world. They followed Jesus Christ who emptied himself for the sake of others and they worshipped Jesus by breaking the bread and they worshipped Jesus by modeling his life.
Fourth, they devoted themselves to the prayers. There is strong evidence that these followers of the Way memorized the Lord’s Prayer, the psalms and other pieces of scripture they used in a very liturgical style of worship. These people prayed together as a spiritual practice of life.
And when they devoted themselves to these four spiritual practices, scripture, hospitality, Eucharist and prayer – God added to their number.
From the birth of the Church, devotion to these four spiritual practices have been the marks of every successful Christian community.
1. The community studies the scripture.
2. The community is hospitable.
3. The community life is Eucharistic.
4. The community prays together.
I think our growth can be attributed to our “commitment” to these four spiritual practices.
But, now the question is, “What’s next for us?” Do we go around congratulating ourselves about how successful we are? Hardly. While we can be proud of our commitment – I have a hard time thinking we stand up to the measure of the early church being filled with awe because “many signs and wonders were being done by the apostles.”
I think what’s next for us is to move from being committed to being devoted.
Committed means, we do what we do because we think that whatever we are doing is good for us, or that it’s the right thing to do.
Devoted, however, means, we do what we do because, despite the cost and the sacrifice, we know it will transform our soul and the soul of our community.
We are on the cusp of being awed by the wonders and signs of what God is going to do in our midst. But, to go from the cusp of the experience to being in the center of an actualized experience, I believe we have to move from commitment to devotion.
Together, we must discern and hear where God is calling us into the spiritual practices. Trust God’s calling – we will know it is God’s calling when it has the feeling of being fetched into something that is awe inspiring, filled with the wonders and signs of God’s Presence in our midst.
What’s next? What’s next is something that is awe-inspiring. I can feel it. I can hear it coming.