Easter is the season of God’s dreams coming true, and we are dreaming with him. Throughout the next five weeks, we are sharing our 8th Street Dreams – the dreams God has given us for the 8th Street building and our new neighborhood. Evan initially shared his 8th Streets Dreams during our service on April 30, 2017.
Hello my name is Evan Mosshart. I’m here because everything in my flesh wants to turn in and focus on myself, but when I’m a part of this community I feel emboldened to live in service to others. I’m a part of Keith and Kimberly’s parish group and I have been given the unique opportunity to share with you the dreams I have for the 8th Street Church and why I’ll be offering my God-given resources toward it. As I was preparing for speaking tonight, I like Michaele, had a hard time putting my feelings and dreams to paper. So I did what I tend to do in that situation. I read. I was inspired by the writing of others and I am relaying their words in the hope that it inspires you all as well. So here goes.
I still vividly remember the first time I heard about this project. Chris started rattling off the details; the building was 100 years old, it was built by German immigrants, was historically significant to the city, but was old, worn out, and needed lots of restoration. With each successive detail, I got more and more excited. Now as to why I was getting such a good burn over aspects which are seemingly not really that exciting and to some would seem a hindrance, I should probably explain a bit of my personality.
I’m not sure how many people have taken the StrengthsFinder test or know what it is, but one of my top strengths is called Context. People strong in the Context theme enjoy studying the past. They understand the present by researching its history. Many of my ancestors came from Germany. Both sides of my family were represented at Pilot Point when the Church of the Nazarene was started. My great-great-grandfather on my father's side and great-grandmother on my mother's side were preachers and helped plant churches from Temple, Texas to Bethany First Church. I have a family history of courageous church leaders and a lot of what they were doing then and who they were doing it for would still be looked upon with some hesitation by the Pharisees around us today.
As I heard the vision for our church laid out, I started dreaming about the possibility of carrying on this tradition. The opportunity to be a part of something bigger than myself; part of something that tied me, my family heritage, and the greater church body into the same thread. That is super exciting to me!
Even the process of doing the renovation is meaningful to me. I get energy by fixing things. I enjoy bringing things back to life. It is a wonderful feeling to restore something to its true glory; to resuscitate it and rekindle its vitality. This is my Restorative strength at work. As the son of a painting contractor, I got to participate in some amazing restorations. My dad taught me a bit of his art of revitalization and in many instances he has given his time and skills as a gift. He showed me that you don’t have to be a pastor to use your vocation as a method for ministry. The thought of being able to put to use a skill my father taught me as an offering to the church is a blessing, and again, is very exciting!
As I dream about what we as the 8th Street Church will look like in the future, I think it’s more helpful for me to think about the traits that we will exhibit as opposed to what the physical building or the programming inside will look like. Now, I think we all have hopes that the children’s area has all kinds of fun things to play with, or that we have a great sound system, or the landscaping looks sharp, or the preaching and worship is this style or that. But to me, what will make this church an incredible gift to the people that attend it and those who come in contact with it, will be things like: love, flexibility, intimacy, connectedness, and grace.
I dream of a church where we know the people around us, not just their names, but the stories of their lives. And we are invested, whether we like it or not, in those lives and they in ours, and where things like smoothness, production value, outward appearances, and sticking to the schedule aren’t all that important. That flexibility and an embrace of the imperfect can allow for moments of deeply intimate grace that can be hard to find in the church because the setting and our sometimes selfish expectations interfere with that sort of thing. I dream of a church where we are doing everything we can with the means available to us to incarnate the sort of love, compassion, and grace we talk so longingly about.
In preparation for speaking tonight, I was reading some of Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s book Life Together, a classic work that explores the means with which to cultivate authentic Christian community. As I was excitedly reading his words and compiling my mental list of the dreams I have for the 8th Street Church, I was blindsided by his caution to the idealistic Christian dreamer, aka me. He said,
“Those who love their dream of a Christian community more than the Christian community itself become the destroyers of that community even though their personal intentions may be ever so honest, earnest, and sacrificial. God hates this wishful dreaming because it makes the dreamer proud and pretentious. Those who dream of this idealized community demand that it be fulfilled by God, by others, and by themselves. They enter the community of Christians with their demands, set up their own law, and judge one another and even God accordingly. They stand adamant, a living reproach to all others in the circle of the community. They act as if they have to create the Christian community, as if their visionary ideal binds the people together. Whatever does not go their way, they call a failure. When their idealized image is shattered, they see the community breaking into pieces. So they first become accusers of other Christians in the community, then accusers of God, and finally the desperate accusers of themselves. Because God already has laid the only foundation of our community, because God has united us in one body with other Christians in Jesus Christ long before we entered into common life with them, we enter into that life together with other Christians, not as those who make demands, but as those who thankfully receive.”
His words were like a heat-seeking missile, homing right in on my pretentiousness. I had been awakened to the fact that I will have to be on guard that I don’t love my dreams of community more than those around me, for by focusing on Christlike love, and not my dream, will the community be created.
For this church to be the place we hope and long for we must be ready to allow ourselves to be interrupted. God will be constantly crossing our paths and canceling our plans by sending us people with needs and petitions.
We must be tender to these people who are placed in our path. Pope Francis defines tenderness as being on the same level as the other. God himself descended into Jesus to be on our level. This is the same path the Good Samaritan took. This is the path that Jesus himself took. He lowered himself, he lived his entire human existence practicing the real, concrete language of love.
We must be a listen-first people and not a talk-first people. Just as our love for God begins with listening to God’s Word, the beginning of love for others is learning to listen to them. God’s love for us is shown by the fact that God not only gives God’s Word, but also lends us God’s ear. We do God’s work for our brothers and sisters when we learn to listen to them. We must be a generous people. Like the Good Samaritan, let us not merely pass by those who have been excluded or left behind. Let’s be a part of creating a new world by taking care of the other, even out of our own pockets. Mother Teresa actually said: "One cannot love, unless it is at their own expense."
We must be a merciful, graceful, loving, and forgiving people. When God was merciful, when he revealed Jesus Christ to us as our brother, when he won our hearts by his love, this was the beginning of our instruction in divine love. When God was merciful to us, we learned to be merciful with our brethren. When we received forgiveness instead of judgment, we too were made ready to forgive our brethren. What God did for us, we now owe to others. The more we receive, the more we should give. Thus God himself taught us to meet one another as God has met us in Christ. And let us remember, human love constructs its own image of the other person, of what that person is and what they should become. It takes the life of the other person into its own hands. Spiritual love recognizes the true image of the other person which they have received from Jesus Christ; the image that Jesus Christ himself embodied and would stamp upon all people.
Now you might tell me, "Sure, these are beautiful words, but I am not the Good Samaritan, nor Mother Teresa." But Pope Francis says,
“On the contrary: we are precious, each and every one of us. Each and every one of us is irreplaceable in the eyes of God. Through the darkness of today's conflicts, each and every one of us can become a bright candle, a reminder that light will overcome darkness, and never the other way around. This is our future, and its name is Hope. Feeling hopeful does not mean to be optimistically naïve and ignore the tragedy humanity is facing. Hope is the virtue of a heart that doesn't lock itself into darkness, that doesn't dwell on the past, does not simply get by in the present, but is able to see a tomorrow. Hope is the door that opens onto the future. Hope is a humble, hidden seed of life that, with time, will develop into a large tree. It is like some invisible yeast that allows the whole dough to grow, that brings flavor to all aspects of life. And it can do so much, because a tiny flicker of light that feeds on hope is enough to shatter the shield of darkness. A single individual is enough for hope to exist, and that individual can be you. And then there will be another "you," and another "you," and it turns into an "us." And so, does hope begin when we have an "us?" No. Hope began with one "you." When there is an "us," there begins a revolution.”
I know this sounds grandiose but this is what I dream for! This is the Kingdom! I dream for a revolution that tears me out of my own simple existence and sets me down amidst the Holy history of God on earth. Like Bonhoeffer, I dream of a world that is overcome not through destruction, but through reconciliation. Not ideals or programs, not conscience, duty, responsibility, or virtue, but only God's perfect love that can encounter our tragic reality and overcome it. This is not some general idea of love that does this, but rather the love of God in Jesus Christ, a love genuinely lived, that does this. This love of God for the world does not withdraw from reality into noble souls detached from the world, but experiences and suffer the reality of the world at its worst. The world exhausts its rage on the body of Jesus Christ. But the martyred one forgives the world its sins. Thus reconciliation takes place. This is my 8th Street dream.
Are you dreaming with us? Share your 8th Street Dreams by posting to Facebook or Instagram using #8thStreetDreams, or email Pastor Michaele at firstname.lastname@example.org or Pastor Chris at email@example.com.
While we are dreaming, we are also getting to work. The $1.7 million dollar project will begin mid-June, and our congregation members will be making their faith commitment to the project by the end of May. Our goal is to do this project debt-free, so that we can truly give this building as a gift to our city. We have already received $830,000 toward the project, and have a goal of $170,000 to come from the faith commitments of the congregation. The remainder will be raised from outside sources.
If you would like to give to the 8th Street Project, email Pastor Chris Pollock at firstname.lastname@example.org.