This past weekend I went to my college reunion. As I flew to Boston I was remembering my Grandfather. He failed out of Cornell after his freshman year. He wasn’t studying! Instead, he was pledging a fraternity, rowing crew, and playing on the tennis team. SOMEHOW, though—believe it or not!--he transferred to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)! He and his father convinced them that he would study. He did. And for the rest of his life he went to BOTH reunions! The Cornell reunions for the class he started with, and the MIT reunions for the class he graduated with. He lived to be 97, and for all of those decades he maintained deep friendships with classmates from both schools, he participated in opportunities to learn and be together, and he looked forward to what was coming next.
It makes me think of what the great 19th century Scottish theologian Thomas Chalmers called “the Grand Essentials of Happiness.” Chalmers said that in order to truly experience happiness we need: SOMETHING TO DO; SOMEONE TO LOVE; AND SOMETHING TO HOPE FOR.
In many ways for me that summarizes what we have been talking about as a congregation these past five weeks. “The Five Practices of Fruitful Congregations” give us “something to do, someone to love, and something to hope for.” By participating in radical hospitality, passionate worship, intentional faith development, risk-taking mission and service, and extravagant generosity, we are fulfilling “the grand essentials of happiness.” And we are inviting others into fulfilling them too. I’ve seen, to tell you the truth, how these practices help people live longer. And not only that. They help people live something WORTH calling “life.”
This Sunday (November 1) is “Celebration Sunday.” As the Rev. Dr. Tim Shapiro leads us in passionate worship, and as we celebrate God’s goodness and dedicate to God our stewardship pledges, it will be an opportunity for us to practice “extravagant generosity” and undergird and strengthen all of these practices in the year to come.
Jesus said, “I came that you may have life, and have it abundantly” (John 10:10). What a gift it is, to be part of a faith community that is experiencing this truth! And what a privilege it is for us to invite others to experience it too!