It is a good time to celebrate. It seems that God is a big fan of celebrations because there are many descriptions of how we are to give praise and celebrate. In searching on the word “celebrate”, there are at least 70 places in scripture about celebrating and celebrations. Specific instructions are often given and when and how to celebrate with the emphasis on how big the celebration should be and all the people that should be included.
Plymouth has something to celebrate. We have ten years of inclusion to be celebrated. It’s been ten years since Plymouth voted to become an Open and Affirming (ONA) congregation within the United Church of Christ. This has been and continues to be an amazing and joyful step in the life of the church.
When I was at class at Brite Divinity a couple of weeks ago, I was reminded by class discussion how rare and special it is when an “established” church makes such a significant shift and change. It just doesn’t happen as much as we might like to think. It’s often easier to start new churches than make a significant change in an existing church. And yet, Plymouth made a significant change. After over twenty years, the leadership of the church decided to take a risk and explore a new path. After several years of study, discussion and prayer, the congregation voted to become Open and Affirming.
Plymouth voted to affirm that God’s love welcomes all. God speaks through many voices of experience and has, from ancient days, given specific instructions on how to welcome strangers and visitors. In the days of Jesus, we have stories of him eating and being with all sorts of people. His disciples and church leaders continued to be surprised at how wide his welcome was, and put relationship in priority over rules and regulations. Jesus kept telling stories of radical welcome and then would say God and God’s Kingdom is like this!
What a blessing the ONA decision has been for Plymouth! What a blessing it has been for the members! What a blessing it has been for this community! Plymouth has grown and has been witness to much joy and praise. Look around at our friends in community, the people we pray with, the people we sing with, the people we share laughter and tears with. This is indeed an anniversary worthy of our joy and praise!
Especially in times of trouble, it is good to remember to give thanks and praise. It is good to remember God’s presence and blessing among us. Yes, we are stunned by the flood waters swirling around us. Yes, we are still adjusting to changes in leadership. Yes, there will be more challenges ahead. But, now we give thanks and praise. God has been good, and is worthy of our praise. God is still leading us into a future where good things are in store.
Come, this Sunday and give thanks and praise. It is a great day to Celebrate!
Peace in Christ,