The Sunday Sermon – November 22, 2015
The Omega and the Alpha: Ephesians 1:15-23
A prayer of Thanksgiving from Paul to the church in Ephesus may serve as our prayer to and for this church – remembering as we are this morning, not only the church we’ve known in our brief time here, but the church over the last 149 years. We give thanks for all the people – the men, women, and children; for all the ministries – from Sunday school classes to community dinners; for all the mission – right here in Pewee Valley and around the world. One year after the Civil War ended, through two World Wars, Korea and Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq, right up to this day and the war on terrorism, this church – at its best – has offered the alternative light, Love, and Life of the Lord our God through Jesus our Christ.
It is right to give our thanks and praise. Listen for the Word of God …
Read Ephesians 1:15-23 … The Word of the Lord. Thanks be to God.
Well, of course, there much more to today than the kick-off of our 150th Anniversary remembrances and celebrations. As we gather this morning beginning a celebration, we gather to end something else. Today is an omega, as well as an alpha.
This morning is another end of a “church year.” Today is the “New Year’s Eve” on our calendar of Sunday’s! Our church year begins with the first Sunday in Advent and that’s next week. (Oh, yes it is – it’s been on the calendar for years now …)
So, as on New Year’s Eve Sundays of the past, I want us to think back for a few moments, over the past year: We have proclaimed again, in one way or another and however poorly, our Gospel Good News: The story of Christ’s coming in the birth of Jesus (last Advent and Christmas); Jesus’ life (with Epiphany and his Baptism and through our Lenten journeys); Jesus’ death (Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and black Saturday) and Resurrection (Easter); his ascension (the 50 days that follow), and; his promise to send an Advocate, the Holy Spirit (Pentecost). Finally this past year, we spent the summer and early fall in “ordinary time,” celebrating our spiritual growth as a church community. All of these celebrations and remembrances come to a climax on this last Sunday of the year for us. In addition to all the other “stuff” we’re doing this morning, this is “The Reign of Christ Sunday” and today, as we prepare for Advent (as we “prepare to prepare”) we celebrate the “Omega,” the final word of all of it, our Good News – the Word that was for us as Christians, made Flesh.
What’s so incredible about this morning this year, is that we are imagining in very tangible ways this “end,” the “end” of church years for the last 149 years in this community. As we look back at this year this morning, we may imagine this congregation looking back at years past. What must it have been like to ask those that were gathered here in 1867 to look back on the “year past,” on the events of their first year as a chartered church. They were moving into a new church building at the end of their first year. This structure was actually completed in 1867, I Understand.
What must have gone through the minds of the men and women gathered here as they looked back on the year 1900? A New millennia. Or on the year 1918? World War One had ended only weeks earlier. Or 1939? World War Two had started only months earlier. Or 1950, 1963, 1975, or the year 2000? Many of you were part of this congregation in those last two years. One hundred and forty-nine years of “omegas,” endings and now, officially starting tomorrow, I suppose, one hundred and fifty years of beginnings. I don’t want to wish any time on this world away too quickly, but what fun it will be to look back on this year, next year.
Paul’s prayer in our reading this morning is perfect for this Sunday. It offers us assurance that there is no part of the created order which is capable of effectively and finally preventing God’s will on earth. It may take a very long time, in fact it is taking a long time – one hundred and fifty years and counting for this community, but God’s will “will be done on earth … as it is in heaven.” (We pray for it every Sunday.)
In this prayer of thanksgiving, Paul expresses pleasure about some news he has heard about the Ephesians. As the Member Development Committee, the Ad Hoc Anniversary Committee, me, and many others have explored the history of this congregation through rolls and records and Session Minutes and Annual Reports in order to get ready for all that lies ahead this year, we, too, have been increasingly grateful for the news we have heard from and about the Pewee Valley Presbyterian of the past.
Of course, it’s true: In looking back through the minutes and reports of the past, things have happened here that many say they don’t want to talk about or remember. Just this week as I was looking through some micro-fiche records we have on loan for the Presbyterian Historical Society, I came across a correspondence dated June 22, 1906 from Elder H. M. Woodruff. In it he writes that “desiring to keep all of you from all strife and bitterness,” he “deemed it best to remain away from (an) approaching church meeting, convened as it has been in total disregard of our Form of Government.” (At issue was the dismissal of two Ruling Elders form the Session.) One hundred years after that letter, this congregation and many of you, found yourselves healing from a rift that diminished both the size and spirit of the community. There are events we’d rather not remember, news is not always positive in this, or any other church. But the news that Paul give thanks for in his letter, and the news for which we give thanks in these words, is not, finally, the earthly news of the mundane, however serious it may be for continuance of the congregation. No, the news for which we are thankful is the Good News of God in Christ: That faith, hope and love, will abide. And the greatest of these is Love.
We have heard of our faith – expressed most often in an unfailing trust in the presence of God here – in your own lives and in the life of the church.
We have heard of our hope. If faith is entrusting our lives to God in Christ in the 150 years past and on this day, then hope is about the future, about where it is that our faith leads, into the next century and a half.
We have heard of our love. Over and over again, we share that “special spirit” that is present here and that has brought us all into this community’s history.
On this Sunday we celebrate our final word and prepare to begin again. Next week, as Advent begins, our Omega turns to our Alpha. Our final word turns to our first words, as they have for so long already in this place. We pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ gives us “a spirit of wisdom and revelation … so that, with the eyes of our hearts enlightened, we may know what is the hope to which God has called us, what are the riches of God’s inheritance, and what is the immeasurable greatness of God’s power for us who believe.”
At the end is where we begin, one step further to the future. Thanks be to God.
Reverend Joel Weible, Pastor / Pewee Valley Presbyterian Church / November 22, 2015