On June 28, 2004, The Church of the Cross celebrated the 150th anniversary of its historic church building by breaking ground for a new campus fronting the Buckwalter Parkway that would become home to Cross Schools and expanded opportunities for worship and discipleship activities. Thirteen years later to the day, a group gathered before the three crosses rising from the fountain at that campus’ center; their purpose: a second groundbreaking event – the culmination of which will result in more than doubling the ministry potential on the site. My brief comments are noted below. Please visit thepresentforthefuture.com for an expanded look at our God-given vision.
Thank you for your presence this morning. Though it might seem a bit out of the ordinary to see me wearing clerical vestments in this setting, I am doing so because, in a very real sense, we are gathered for a worship service. Thus I have chosen to begin with a prayer, then to quickly weave together a few thoughts on Copernicus, Jesus, Shakespeare, a teenager named Agnes and Celtic Christianity in a way that will hopefully add meaning to the events scheduled to follow. That said, let us bow our heads in prayer.
Heavenly Father, gracious benefactor of the past, present and future, thank you for opening the hearts of our spiritual ancestors in this place to sacrificially give of their resources for your Kingdom’s purposes, that we might better serve you . . . in their present they provided for the future.
As did Elisha, we pray for a double portion of your Holy Spirit to fall upon us, that we might become heirs to their legacy of faithful generosity . . . in our present we, too, seek to provide for the future – not for our good, but for the greater glory of your Son, Jesus Christ. May it be so, Lord; may it be so! Amen.
In the early 1500’s a scientist named Nicolaus Copernicus challenged the way people understood God’s creation by arguing that the sun, not the earth, was the center of our solar system. Since then, it has been said that, “the Copernican Revolution turned the scientific world upside down by turning the universe inside out.”
Similarly, from birth, we tend to believe that the world revolves around us and exists to meet our needs. This self-centered view of life is at the root of the selfishness so rampant in our society today. Fifteen hundred years before Copernicus challenged the earth-centric view of the solar system, Jesus challenged the me-centric view we have of ourselves, saying simply, “You must be born again.” (John 3:7) In essence, Jesus was telling us, “What you’ve been taught since birth is all wrong. The world does not revolve around you. You were created to serve, not to be served.” The paradigm shift Jesus advocated amounts to turning our personal worlds upside down by turning our hearts inside out. Most of us continue to struggle with that revolutionary shift . . . but not all of us.
The buildings to be constructed on this and future sites will stand in silent witness to the hundreds who have dethroned themselves to live for Christ and to serve others in His name – praise God!
To live for Christ is to aspire for righteousness. Most think of righteousness as doing nothing wrong . . . it is far more than that. Righteousness also includes doing something right. Moreover, in my book, “doing something right” involves seizing the opportunities God places before us at the moment He presents them.
In the days before modern harbors, a ship had to wait for the flood tide before it could safely enter most ports. The term for this situation in Latin was ob portu. Our English word opportunity is derived from this original meaning. The captain and crew knew if they missed that one moment, they would have to wait for another tide before continuing their mission. Shakespeare drew on this background for a famous passage found in Julius Caesar, Act 4, Scene 3:
There is a tide in the affairs of men,
Which, taken on the flood, leads on to fortune;
Omitted, all the voyage of their life
Is bound in shallows and miseries.
On such a full sea are we now afloat;
And we must take the current when it serves,
Or lose our ventures.
I share that memory from my ninth grade literature class to make this point: the tide is now right to launch this endeavor!
Thousands upon thousands of parents and children are headed to this area – we must ride the current flood tide to ready ourselves to receive them. These facilities will enable the partnership between Cross Schools, The Church of the Cross, and Cross Outreach Ministries to serve their needs from six weeks old through high school while reaching them with the Good News of God in Christ. On this same flood tide, purchasing two tracts of land in Jasper County for future ministry locations will insure that average and above average students have access to academic excellence in a Christian context for generations to come.
I suspect a hundred reasons could have been found to delay this huge endeavor. But in my mind, none of them would have offset the cost of missing the opportunity to reach even one child with the Gospel!
The buildings to be constructed on this and future sites will stand in silent witness to the hundreds who have caused the tide to lift our ship and the wind to fill our sails – praise God!
My many years of ministry in Ireland have spawned a deep and growing appreciation of Celtic Christianity as it developed during the time of St. Patrick in the fifth and sixth centuries. Those saints had a special affinity for the Holy Spirit and its mysterious ways. So much so, that the Spirit of God became known to them as the Wild Goose; for like a wild goose, the Spirit’s movements were totally unpredictable. The Wild Goose fueled their dreams during the dark days of the Early Middle Ages.
Children are dreamers – in their minds, nothing is impossible! However, by the time they reach twenty-five, their imaginations have been so squelched that only two percent truly think outside the box. Sadly, society’s institutions tend to put a premium on conformity. Nevertheless, by God’s grace, a few children escape!
A young girl named Agnes felt called to ministry when she was a teenager. After training in Ireland and India, she approached her superiors saying, “I have three pennies and a dream from God to build an orphanage.” Her superiors responded, “You can’t build an orphanage with three pennies.” Agnes smiled and said, “I know. But with God and three pennies I can do anything!” After fifty years of working among India’s poor, Agnes was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. How did Mother Teresa accomplish so much with so little? She followed the Wild Goose!
The buildings to be constructed on this and future sites will stand in silent witness to the adult children of God, the Wild Goose followers, who dream of a school that will cultivate dreamers – praise God!
As was true of the initial groundbreaking event, more will surely follow; for I believe God has yet to reveal the full extent of what He plans to accomplish with and for and through Cross Schools and The Church of the Cross. And for that we can say, “Thanks be to God!” Amen.