Faith Stories: Looking Back with Gratefulness
As I prepared this message, I was thankful for being given the opportunity to look back with gratitude on all that St. John’s has meant in my life these past thirty-plus years. I joined St. John’s in the early 80s, and since I was just out of college, it feels like I have grown up here as I navigated adulthood.
Looking back, not only did I grow up and mature in my life and faith these past few decades as St. John’s nurtured me, we, collectively as a church, have grown in many ways too. I don’t have time to count them all, but here are a few that resonate with me.
When I walked into this sanctuary for the very first time, it looked a bit different. The sides and back sections were enclosed and held multiple rooms where Sunday School classes met and offices were located. That was the first sanctuary renovation I witnessed – making space for more people to worship! Along the way, the building that used to stand behind us was removed and the Education Building was constructed. We didn’t yet have the beautiful lot on the side where we now enjoy the occasional fun activities. And then, as you know, more recently, renovations and additions created the spaces we now enjoy anew We have taken our time; we’ve been intentional with our facility changes as we’ve tried to be good stewards of the resources we’ve been blessed with, all the while doing this for the purpose of expanding our ministry to the world.
I believe we’ve also grown and matured emotionally as a church family. As within our own families, there are ups and downs, turns and twists as we experience life’s positive events and storms together. With God’s help, we’ve come out stronger and better for having weathered the good times and tough times. We have grown and matured together into a strong church family. It doesn’t take long for newcomers to start hearing the word “family” around here. And we are truly joyful about welcoming new people into our family.
I have seen us grow financially. And I don’t necessarily just mean how our personal giving has expanded over the years to enable us to do more for God’s Kingdom. We have seen the positives our contributions have provided. We are called to reach out to our neighbors, and even the world, through our financial giving. We have done that! Also, I feel blessed to be a member of a church family who has used our financial growth to resolve a challenge – to meet a need. I personally put forth one such challenge back in the day when Rev. Donald Avery was our pastor. I challenged our church family that year to give a little extra to meet a budgetary need and this church delivered! There have been other such times when we listened to our call from God to go the extra mile when needed. I believe this is evidence of how we have grown financially, but more importantly, indicates our spiritual growth and the good that comes from listening to God.
We have grown spiritually in ways too numerous to mention. We’ve studied, we’ve been spiritually nourished in small groups, we’ve attended spiritual renewal retreats, and we’ve stretched ourselves to pray in our neighborhood. One thing stands out the most to me however. We have grown spiritually in a way that allowed us to open our doors to become a place where people are fed. We feed them food to nourish their physical body and we have faith that we have been and will continue to be God’s instruments in feeding souls as well.
How have we been doing all this? How will we continue to be a place that feeds God’s people spiritually and physically? With God by our side. With God’s call on our hearts. With gratitude for all that God has blessed us with. Just look around. Look at all our blessings. Let’s look with gratitude on our own life’s blessings. We honor God as we gratefully give back a portion to Him so that His purposes may continue to be realized, right here on the corner of Renee and Highland and reaching beyond.