Sunday, June 20, 2021 – Pastor Teressa Sivers
2 Corinthians 6:1-13
God who is perfect community—Creator, Redeemer, Sustainer—Father, Son and Spirit—Lover, Beloved and Love; Open up our lives. Help us live big. Help us live expansively. Help us live Beloved Community. Amen.
Companions, as Paul begins, we have been in ‘this work’ together. We have been in the work of becoming a compassionate community led and transformed by the Spirit. We have been in the work of stiving for Beloved Community, connecting with and through the Spirit, acting with compassion and standing up for justice. We have weathered a pandemic together, we have prayed for and with one another, we have held one another in love from safe distances. I borrow Paul’s opening words today and deepen the words a bit to truly lift up the passion and love with which Paul speaks. Oh Co-workers, Oh Beloveds! We have been in this work together. I beg you, please don’t squander one bit of this marvelous life God has given us. Please don’t shy away from this new beginning unfolding before you. Now is the right time! Now is the day!
Certainly, as United Methodists, we all have experienced pastoral changes. It is part of our identity as an itinerant (pastors that move periodically to different congregations) denomination. But no one alive today at St. Paul’s or anywhere in the United Methodist Church has experienced this change while a pandemic still deeply impacts the world and our community. We have been so isolated from one another in too many ways. Our worlds turned upside down. So many individuals and families in our community have been functioning with tremendous burdens—home schooling children, working from home, handling the stresses of a pandemic for the household and for themselves. Naturally, we have been pretty self-focused. We needed to be to rise to survive day to day. We could only spend so many hours online, answer so many emails, and attend so many zoom meetings.
And now, the world shifts once again. New York State, and especially Tompkins County, is doing really well with a low number of active cases and a high percentage of vaccinations. Opportunity opens before you, to clearly define who you will be in the coming days, months and years. Take the time to explore who the Spirit is leading you to be. As Paul says, Don’t put it off. Don’t stay disconnected. ‘Don’t show up late.’ Be present together. Be part of the dreaming, the visioning, the planning, the implementation. You have so much to offer one another and the larger world, such talents and energy and skills and love. Now is the time! Now is the day!
What a privilege it has been to be with you, to serve alongside you, to walk the discipleship journey among you. We have held one another in times of deep sorrow and tears and pain, rejoiced with one another through successes and celebrations and joys, and been companions, as Paul says, on the road of life in all the ‘in-between days.’ I have learned so much from you, and I appreciate the wondrous ways you experience God and move with the Spirit. I am so excited for Pastor Beckie, as she walks with you now, to experience all that you are and all that you will become. I am sorry for the times I wasn’t able to rise fully to the needs that came before us. As a super over-achiever, it pains me to not be at 120% all the time. But we are a people of forgiveness. I trusted you to be there for one another when I could not.
Beloveds, we have been in work together. Now is the day to embrace all the potential the future is holding for you, the Spirit is holding for you. Now is the time to metaphorically join hands and discover where the Spirit is calling you to go. As Pastor Beckie offers opportunities to meet with her, to dream with her, to share with her, go! Share! Dream! Invest of yourself! Listen to one another! Take risks! Make sacrifices! Be led by the Spirit! Be transformed by the Spirit!
So again, to borrow and deepen the words St. Paul gifted to us today; “Dear, dear St. Paulians, I can’t tell you how much I long for you to enter this wide-open, spacious life! You are NOT fenced in. The smallness you may be feeling is something you have convinced yourself of. Your life isn’t small so please don’t live it that way. I am speaking as plainly as I can and with such, such great affection, such love. Open up your lives! Live openly! Live expansively! As our vision statement says, strive for Beloved Community; connect with and through the Spirit; act with Compassion; and stand up for justice!
And now, as a sign of this new opening happening among us and in honor of Juneteenth, let us lift every voice and sing—even if it does still need to be softly behind our masks. Lift Every Voice and Sing! Amen.