This Sunday, November 18, in the Sanctuary services I’m wrapping up my series Next90 with a look to the future and our role in it. As we’ve seen in this series, through the 165-year history of this church, the leaders and members of the church have served faithfully in their own time. As they served in their present time and circumstances, they could look back on the faithfulness of those who went before, but they also looked forward with a vision of where God was leading them as a congregation into the future. We do the same in our time.
We’ve looked back with admiration and inspiration at some of the key decision points in our church’s history. It is remarkable how often the church made bold decisions to ensure that the church’s ministries and outreach would thrive in the next generations in challenging times. The church started in 1853 and made the bold move to buy land and build its first building at Fourth and Jones Streets during the financial Panic of 1873 — the worst in U.S. History up to that point. The church moved that frame building to one side of the lot and built the first brick structure in 1887 at the height of one of the worst draughts in Texas history. Four years later the church added to that structure. It was less than twenty years before the church found itself landlocked and made another bold move to Seventh and Taylor Streets and built a beautiful domed building with domed towers and a majestic Sanctuary. They occupied that building in March of 1908 and less than twenty years later found that they were destined to be landlocked once again. They began planning another move.
On Tuesday, October 29, 1929 at four o’clock in the afternoon on the very day of the stock market crash that signaled the beginning of the Great Depression, they broke ground on the facilities we enjoy today. Next year marks the 90th anniversary of that ground-breaking and it is because of that anniversary that we have named our current visionary initiative Next90.
At the heart of this initiative is the challenging question of what we will do in our time to ensure that the ministries of the church thrive for the Next90 years. Sunday we’ll be asking that important question and reminding ourselves of our responsibility and our role in the future of our church.
There are two people in scripture who have something to say to us about this question: King Hezekiah and the apostle Paul.
In 2 Kings 20:12-19 in the Hebrew Scriptures we read about a king named Hezekiah. Hezekiah was described as a good king who initiated much-needed reforms and demonstrated great trust in God. Toward the end of his life, however, Hezekiah became short-sighted and selfish. Finally, when told by the prophet Isaiah that his behavior would result in some of his own descendants being carried away into captivity, the selfish king declared that the message the prophet had given him was good. The text says, “But the king was thinking, ‘at least there will be peace and security during my lifetime.’” What happened? He lost his vision for the future and looked no farther than his own lifetime.
May we, in our time, in this place, in our church NEVER become like Hezekiah.
Instead, may we learn from the apostle Paul, who wrote in 1 Corinthians about the way a faith community is built: “I laid a foundation like a wise master builder according to God’s grace that was given to me, but someone else is building on top of it. Each person needs to pay attention to the way they build on it. No one can lay any other foundation besides the one that is already laid, which is Jesus Christ.” (1 Corinthians 3:10-11) Jesus Christ is always the foundation of the Church and every one of us in each generation has a responsibility and a role to play in building on that foundation.
So, here’s the question: What is our responsibility and our role in setting the course of the ministries of the church into the future?
Dr. Ernest Campbell, former pastor of Riverside Church in New York City, wrote a poem that describes vision. It describes people who have reached a level of maturity to look beyond their own concerns with vision:
To be young is to study in schools you did not build.
To be mature is to build schools in which you will not study.
To be young is to swim in pools you did not dig.
To be mature is to dig pools in which you will not swim.
To be young is to sit under trees you did not plant.
To be mature is to plant trees under which you will not sit.
To be young is to dance to music you did not write.
To be mature is to write music to which you will not dance.
To be young is to benefit from a church you did not make.
To be mature is to make a church from which you might not benefit.
When I think of the future, it is my hope and prayer that there will not be a Hezekiah among us. It is my hope that we would be so open with our lives that we would grow and bear fruit and plant seeds that will bear fruit in the future. It is my hope that we would catch the vision of Paul and pay attention to how we are building on the foundation laid by those who came before us.
Grace and Peace,
2 Kings 20: 12
At that time Merodach-baladan, son of Babylon’s King Baladan, sent messengers to Hezekiah with letters and a gift. This was because he had heard that Hezekiah was sick. Hezekiah granted them an audience and showed them everything in his treasury—the silver, the gold, the spices, and the fine oil. He also showed them his stock of weaponry and everything in his storehouses. There wasn’t a single thing in his palace or his whole kingdom that Hezekiah didn’t show them. Then the prophet Isaiah came to King Hezekiah and said to him, “What did these men say? Where have they come from?” Hezekiah said, “They came from a distant country: Babylon.” “What have they seen in your palace?” Isaiah asked. “They have seen everything in my palace,” Hezekiah answered. “There’s not a single thing in my storehouses that I haven’t shown them.” Then Isaiah said to Hezekiah, “Listen to the Lord’s word: The days are nearly here when everything in your palace and all that your ancestors collected up to now will be carried off to Babylon. Not a single thing will be left, says the Lord. Some of your children, your very own offspring, will be taken away. They will become eunuchs in the palace of Babylon’s king.” Hezekiah said to Isaiah, “The Lord’s word that you’ve spoken is good,” because he thought: There will be peace and security in my lifetime.
1 Corinthians 3: 10
I laid a foundation like a wise master builder according to God’s grace that was given to me, but someone else is building on top of it. Each person needs to pay attention to the way they build on it. No one can lay any other foundation besides the one that is already laid, which is Jesus Christ.