This is the first week of our new message series called Cornerstone. A cornerstone is the first stone set in the construction of a masonry foundation. All other stones will be set in reference to this stone. So the cornerstone determines the position and integrity of the entire structure.
Over the next five weeks, we plan to look at the cornerstone of our parish. It is upon this cornerstone that our parish vision, at Saint Mary, is based. Vision is essential to every organization. Great vision, and execution of that vision, is what makes an organization great.
Speaking of vision, long ago there was a coastal town known for shipwrecks and many drownings. A small dedicated group of people created a crude life saving station in response to the need. They had one boat, some old cots and a small structure to keep the rain out. They were single hearted in their vision to save the dying and became famous for saving so many. Some of the survivors, and those in the surrounding towns, approved of and supported their vision. Many decided to join the mission.
Over time, the growing number of new members wanted to improve the facility so they bought more boats, purchased beds instead of cots and built a new, much larger building with a kitchen and a nice place to gather.
As time went on, less of the members wanted to go out on the life saving missions. They preferred to stay at the new center with their friends. Eventually, a meeting was held and it was decided that a team of professional life savers would be hired to take care of the rescue missions, leaving the members to focus on their life together at the center.
The members didn’t completely abandon the vision. They retained some pieces of art on the walls that were reminiscent of the early days. They even celebrated some occasional anniversaries and ceremonies to recall how it all began and honor some of the early heroes of their group.
Do you see how this sounds like the church? We started off with a life saving vision for which each of us were responsible, all of us were supposed to seek and save the lost, to save lives, but something changed.
Back to our story.
Eventually, over time a rift occurred among the members of the life saving organization. One side believed the center should get out of the life saving business altogether. The second group wanted to return to the original vision. So splits occurred within the organization and hundreds of years later this coast is peppered with many beautiful, classy life saving clubs up and down the shoreline. There are still many shipwrecks, but now the people just drown.
Does this sound like the church? It is not unusual, that any group, organization, or institution over time, will become somewhat removed from its original vision. As generation after generation passes and adds its own concerns, interests, and style to a group, it is easy to see a distance develop between what the church was originally created to do, its initial vision, and what it has become.
As the people of God, the church, we are NOT supposed to be focused on ourselves and what the church can do for us. We ARE supposed to be focused on others, and what we can do for others. The primary thing you are supposed to do for others is share Jesus with them by helping them get to know him. We share Jesus with others, so he can save them, he can save the lost, he can save those drowning in the confusing sea we call life.
That is who you are as the church, that is Jesus’ vision for you. Your primary life’s calling, as given to you by Jesus Christ, is to share him with others by helping them get to know him.
Back to the idea of a cornerstone which determines the position and integrity of an entire structure. Our cornerstone is Jesus Christ. The organizational structure of the church is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness. He is Lord. Lord of all, Christ alone is our Cornerstone.
Our parish has looked to our cornerstone, and looked at what his vision is for his church. From that we developed our vision. Saint Mary Catholic Church: “A place where it becomes impossible not to share Jesus with the world.” That is our vision because that is Jesus’ vision for us.
One of the biggest problems of the church today is we have forgotten who we are because we have lost our vision. For the longest time we have associated “church” with a place or building. This Covid-19 pandemic is teaching us that the church is not a building.
Even though we weren’t meeting for a couple of months; and even though there are still some who may not feel comfortable coming back to Mass yet, or shouldn’t come back yet because they are among the most vulnerable, it makes us ask, “What is church for us now?” If church for us is only inside this building and the buildings on our campus, we have lost our way.
For the first 300 years or so there were no church buildings or campuses. They met in secret, mostly in homes, but they met wherever they could find a place. Because of the pandemic we can’t really meet together, at least not the way we used to. And because of that, this pandemic is reminding us of the vision that Jesus gave us as the reason for our existence, which is to share him with the world.
What is our interior motivation to share him with the world? Our motivation should be love. Jesus Christ radically loves us by laying down his life for us on the cross. And we are who we are because God loved us first.
It was God’s love that moved the universe into being. God didn’t create the world because he was lonely and needed something to do. God loved, so God created. God loved, so God created us and knit us in our mother’s womb.
And when we sinned and fell short, God still loved. So God gave his only beloved son. The active, powerful love of God created the world and then redeemed it through Jesus. All we have finds its origin in the love of God.
As the love of God is poured into us by HIS generosity, out of OUR generosity, we should want to pour God’s love into others. We pour God’s love into others by sharing God’s Son, Jesus, with them.
A few years ago, our parish realized that Okaloosa county needed a Catholic parish that focused on saving the lost, a church that sought to help save those drowning in the swirling seas of confusion we call life. Why? Because that is the original vision of our cornerstone. It is the original vision of the church of Jesus Christ, a vision we lost. I am not blaming anyone here, just stating a fact. It’s not just an Okaloosa county problem, it is a global problem. O
ur cornerstone’s vision is a vision we follow out of love, too help Jesus seek and save the lost by sharing him with them.
We continue to challenge people in our pews, or watching us online, to get up out of the pews, or off the couch. Take responsibility for sharing Jesus, especially among the unchurched.
If you are comfortable only sitting in a pew or on the couch. I encourage you to snap out of it! Snap out of your complacency. Complacency kills. Vision gives life. The right vision, well executed, gives life.
Vision is essential to every organization. Great vision, and execution of that vision, is what makes organizations great. Christ alone is our cornerstone, and his vision is our vision, that we are to share him with the world. It is upon that cornerstone, and Christ’s vision of sharing him with the world, that everything we do is based.
So how do we share him now in the midst of a pandemic? Think about our last message series we called Three Conversations. That is how you share Jesus with the world, and you do it for the same reason God created you, out of love and for love. All it takes is three very simple conversations. Don’t complicate it. The three conversations are: intentional prayer, sharing your story, and sharing how your life is a ministry.
We are looking for people to sign
We want to share Jesus with one another so that we can learn, through practice, to share him with the world. So sign up. Sign up this week. Just go to our website saintmary.life/3c. We will gather online or in person in Jesus’ name. He promised us that where two or three gather in his name, he is with us, so he will be with us online or in person.. Gather in his name, and share him out of love and generosity. Sign up today to learn how to help Jesus save the lost, those drowning in a sea of a confused life. Sign up to learn how to be part of Jesus’ vision for you.