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Rev. Nancy S. Taylor
Sep 8 2013


I invite you to look up. Study this ceiling and its great beams and trusses. Notice the keel-shape of the vaulting. The term nave—the space we are inhabiting— derives from the Latin, navis, meaning “ship”. Since the first century the ship at sea, underway and under sail, has been used as a symbol of the Christian Church.

From Noah in his Ark to Jonah in the fish … from Sinbad’s fantastic adventures to Odysseus’ exploits on the wine-dark sea … from Captain Ahab’s obsessive pursuit of the great white whale to the villainous Captain Hook … from the sinking of the Titanic to the great storm that pulled The Andrea Gail to her watery grave … From Old Iron Sides to the Black Pearl … from Christopher Columbus to William Bligh … the sea has captured our imaginations and lured the bravest and brashest out into its perils and opportunities, its wonders and adventures.

‘Follow me’, said Jesus. ‘Throw in your lot with God and we will do battle with the howling winds of injustice.’ ‘Follow me’, invites Jesus, ‘and we still the storms of violence and harness the winds for good’.

‘Follow me’, says Jesus. And each and every one of us is faced with both question and decision: Do I dare? Do I dare do battle with the demons of the world … and with my own demons? Do I dare venture beyond the safety of the harbor and to put my trust in God?

Do you? Do you dare? Will you follow Jesus? How far? To what distant horizons of holiness
and righteousness do you dare venture?

“We put out to sea,” says the one who narrates the story from the Book of Acts, and Paul’s adventure begins.

But be warned: Paul’s adventure as a Christ-follower led to ship-wreck and prison, to lashings and to stoning.

Frederick Buechner said of Paul that he was Punch-Drunk and Christ-Drunk … that the foolishness of the Gospel, its insistence on love and grace, had gotten to Paul … and that because of it, Paul planted churches the way Johnny Appleseed planted trees. (Peculiar Treasures: A Biblical Who’s Who, Paul, p. 129)

Paul couldn’t stop talking about Jesus, preaching about Jesus, writing about Jesus and getting in trouble for it.

If you are a visitor today, you should know this: Like Paul, we, too have been smitten by Jesus. We too are Christ-drunk. The foolishness of the Gospel, its insistence on love and grace, has gotten to us.

So, when Jesus calls out: “Follow me, Old South. Get on your sea legs. Refit this old ship and this old crew for an audacious voyage.” We cannot help but follow him … to weigh anchor and venture out into the perils and opportunities, the wonders and adventures of the Christian life.
And so we are, and we have been, readying ourselves … preparing ourselves and our ship: making repairs, upgrading the equipment, putting on supplies … getting on our sea-legs, learning to work together as a crew.

Will you join us? Do you dare?

Where are we headed? Our destination is an audacious: Our Vision for the 21st Century.

The Vision calls us to have developed experiential curricula for children, youth and adults … curricula that forms and equips us to live the Christian life, to speak of and from our faith with simplicity and confidence, to act, live and speak with courage and conscience.

We are asking: How do we teach Christian courage? How do we form ourselves for generosity? How shall we equip ourselves for kindness?

We are asking this: in a world where the best answer to violence is more violence, how do we train ourselves to wage peace?

Will you join us? Do you dare?

The Vision calls for a majority of us to participate annually in a mission trip, service opportunity, retreat, immersion experience, interfaith or intercultural encounter … serving others while, at the same time, exposing ourselves to transformation.

Some among us have responded by learning about prisons and the justice system … inspiring us to address the twin horrors of mass incarceration and solitary confinement.

Others among us are addressing the shame and pain of food insecurity in this land of plenty.

Still others are inviting us into greater environmental responsibility.

Will you join us? Do you dare?

The Vision challenges us to employ 21st century technologies to speak the Good News into a bad news world.

It calls us to double our membership from 600 to 1,200. So, we are evaluating what we will need
in the way of provisions, crew, craft and communications to get from here to there.

While the world succumbs to hatred, suspicions and violence, we are learning the difficult and costly art of love.

Will you join us? Do you dare?

To get from here to there, to chart our course, provision the ship, train the crew and operate the craft in stormy seas, means learning to work together in new ways as a crew.

This is a bodacious undertaking and we need all hands on deck.

If you can serve on a Task Force, let us know.

If you can take up Bible study, enroll in a seminary class on ethics or theology, now’s the time.

If you can pray, pray. We cannot and will not realize The Vision if it is not swabbed in prayer.

If you can organize volunteers, we need you.

If you are an expert in social media, don’t be shy!

If you have a feel for how visual and performance arts can inspire us to deeper discipleship, step right up.

If you are gifted at giving money, if you are eager to learn generosity, now’s the time.

If you deplore injustice and are heart-sickened by poverty in a world of abundance, here’s your chance.

If you ache to give witness to a God who is more mercy than judgment … who weeps at intolerance … whose heart and doors are wide open … come aboard.

Over the course of 342 years what we have done and said has mattered … has influenced the course of history, has brought God’s love and grace to bear upon our common life as a nation: the first anti-slavery tract in 1700; the first published African American poetess; abolition, suffrage, civil rights, housing for the poor … love, understanding, respect and affirmation of LGBT persons … these are the sort of things at stake.

If you believe that our future is as compelling as our past is storied: Climb aboard. We need you.

But be warned: To enter into the life of this people of God is to encounter God’s soul-challenging, life-changing, radicalizing love.

Will you join us? Do you dare?