Sermon preached at FBCW
May 21, 2017
John 14:15-21; Isaiah 42
A contextual translation from the Gospel of John, the 14th chapter:
“If you love me, you will follow my Way.
I will ask the Divine Parent, and she will send another Paraclete, an Advocate, Helper, Comforter, Counselor, who will be with you forever.
This Companion is the Spirit of Truth, whom the world can’t receive because it neither sees her nor recognizes her. You know her, because she lives with you and will be with you.
I won’t leave you as orphans. I will come to you.
Soon the world will no longer see me, but you will see me. Because I live, you will live too.
On that day you will know that I am in the Divine Parent, you are in me, and I am in you.
Whoever discovers my Way and follows it–loves me. Whoever loves me will be loved by our Divine Parent, and I will love them and reveal myself to them.
For I am the Way you follow, the Truth you seek, the Life you live. You come to remember our Divine Parent through me. For love is of God, and everyone who loves is born of her.”
May the Spirit of Wisdom lead us to understanding.
Thanks be to God.
At the end of last year, Jimmy Dorrell’s dream came true. I don’t know that it was always his dream, necessarily, but as his ministry entered its 25th year in Waco, he had learned to dream together with the community where he served.
His organization, Mission Waco, a partner with the church he pastors, Church Under the Bridge, is headquartered in an area known as a food desert. It means there is no grocery store within a mile of this neighborhood, though for them it’s actually two miles. Two miles in a part of the city where people take the bus to the grocery store or have to walk, when temperatures can easily reach triple digits in the heat of the summer.
When the big chain supermarkets left the area because they weren’t making a profit on the lower-income neighborhood, it left the community without access to fresh fruits, vegetables, milk and meats, forced to settle for the junk food of a convenience store.
So, Jimmy started dreaming. What would it be like to imagine an affordable grocery store that brought fresh food to this food desert? After a storm ripped the roof off an old Safeway in the neighborhood, the opportunity presented itself.
Jimmy Dorrell began rounding up support, to the tune of just under $1,000,000 in private and corporate donations—including from WalMart themselves—and at the end of last year, they opened the Jubilee Market right there in that food desert. It’s a non-profit grocery store that has gained the intrigue of developers and city leaders in Dallas, as they try to remedy similar and worse problems related to food scarcity.
The Waco Tribune speaks of other initiatives the creative and bold leader has implemented, breathing new life into the community for those experiencing homelessness, hunger, addiction, and unemployment.
While they are unique in their context, something about how Jimmy Dorrell imagines, dreams, inspires, his church, his organization, his city, speaks to the dreams of God for the church all across the world.
Maybe it helps that Church Under the Bridge literally meets together every Sunday under an interstate overpass across from Baylor University, something that connects them more tangibly with the needs of the people of Waco.
But breathing new life into their community—well, that my friends sounds like the work of a creative God. A creative God who is at work in Worcester every bit as much as in Waco.
Our text this morning from John’s Gospel, reminds us of this. Jesus tells the disciples of his relationship with our Divine Parent. That they are one, and that similarly Christ is in us. And that after Jesus’s ascension, the Paraclete—let me define that Greek word so that you don’t think I’m saying Parakeet—the advocate, helper, comforter, counselor will come and be with them—and us—forever. We will never be orphaned; the Divine Parent will be with us in the form of the Paraclete.
The same Spirit who was present at the birth of creation, hovering over the expanses, the Wind, the Spirit, the Breath of God. That Hebrew word that means all three of those things: ruah.
This is the Spirit at work and present within us. Even today.
The same Spirit who is calling us to imagine together what She is dreaming for us to do.
She doesn’t dream of us filling this room with people and staying here forever with our booming worship services.
She dreams of breathing new life again, like at creation, new life into our community, through her church.
Like Simple Church is doing.
Like the Jubilee Market.
Like the Mustard Seed.
Our Creator God is never finished creating new things.
Lauren Winner, professor at Duke Divinity School, in her book Wearing God, spends time looking at Isaiah 42, where the prophet likens God to a Laboring Woman.
It’s a chapter in Isaiah that was written during Israel’s exile, when they were captives without hope, and dreams dashed.
And it’s here that the prophet tells the people to sing a new song, of a God who labors through childbirth with gasps and moans and heavy breathing, creating something new for the people of God, in this case the dream and hope of a future freed from captivity.
The heavy breathing of childbirth, of creation, like that Spirit of Breath hovering at the creation of the world, this same Spirit is inspiring new dreams in us, that She might breathe new life into Worcester through us.
This is what we’ve been up to in the last couple months. We’ve tried to embody the cyclical movement of Awakening à Imagining à Engaging. Awakening to the needs, to our roles and complicity in creating them or neglecting them, Imagining ways we can make a difference even as we hope to be changed in the process, and then actually putting our feet to the Way of Jesus and engaging those ideas by putting them into practice beyond simply mental ascent.
So today, as a church, following the service, we’re going to start naming those dreams and big ideas out loud in our church-wide forum. If there’s any way you can stay and join us, I want to pack out that room with as many ideas as God has given us, and see which of those we want to discern together as a church community. I have a list of 25 or so dreams, 25 of which you might not feel inspired by. So, we’re going to also have time for you to share your dreams and ideas for how the Spirit wants to breathe new life into Worcester.
In a lot of ways, First Baptist is a bit like an expecting mother, too. We’ve had some challenging times, some transitions that we’ve experienced together, some needs that have arisen. And now we’re on the cusp of something new and exciting and also challenging whatever it might be. And yet, we move forward boldly, with courage and love because we sense that the Spirit is at work and is giving birth to something new with her breath of life.
It may not be a supermarket, or a dinner church, but with all our resources, and creativity, and faithfulness, we are going to be a part of something new and exciting.
May the Spirit of Life lead us to imagination.
Thanks be to God.
 Lauren Winner, Wearing God, 135.