Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Faith To Become New

I thought I'd share my sermon from Sunday today.  I hope you are encouraged in walk.

Faith to Become New

Last week we talked about choices, choices that Jesus made for himself and for us.  Today we are faced with choices too.  The choice to believe, to answer, to follow, to love, to grow, to respond and here’s the big one, to trust, to have Faith.  

Would you please pray with me?  May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all of our hearts and minds be acceptable to you, O Lord, our rock and our redeemer.  Amen.

Can you imagine being Abraham?  To one day, just have God say to you, I want you to leave your home, leave your father, and go where I tell you. What?  First I’d have been like, can’t I take my dad with me?  I was one of those kids who always wanted my parents to be chaperones on trips and such.  Then I’d have said, where?  Where do you want me to go?  Can we be a little more specific? But not Abraham.  That guy had faith, blind faith!  He went not knowing exactly where God was leading him.  He got up and just left the familiar behind to become a new people, a new creation.  God called him forward, to move, to a new adventure!

God is still moving and speaking today and he is inviting us to be on the move too!  But what does that mean?    Abraham followed God, he allowed God to move him, to move through him and did as God asked and was made new!  He was made into a new people. 

Just as God moved and worked through Abraham, He can move and work through us, he can make us new!  He invites us to move forward with Him. I think today, the world is so noisy that it’s hard to hear his voice but he is speaking to us.  We just have to listen, to focus.  

In our reading in John, Jesus says, “The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes.  So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”  We are born of the spirit, that happens in our baptism.  We are born again through baptism so this wind, this spirit is moving in us.  It calls to us.  I know this, I know this without a doubt.  I hear it, I feel it, when I’m working on a sermon, or when I’m really thinking about what we need to do to reach our community.  Often, this is when I’m laying down to go sleep, or just waking up and I feel my mind focusing on a particular idea, I begin to pray asking God to fill me with his spirit that I might know what to say or do and slowly ideas or words fill my head and I can feel the spirit leading me.  Sometimes, I think, “You want me to do what?  Are you crazy?  Is that even safe?  Or that takes a lot of time!  Or you want me to say what?”  I need start grabbing a notepad and start writing these things down so I don’t forget them.  Honestly, sometimes I’m afraid if I move to write it down, it will all leave me.  Or maybe I’m just being lazy and don’t want to get out of bed yet.  I prefer to think it’s the first.  But God does still speak to us.  He does, we just have to listen and be open to what he is saying to us, be open to His creativity. 

It can be scary.  Being made new is exciting and scary all at once.  It’s something we want but the getting there can cause anxiety.  How do we do it?  How can we afford it?  I often think of the money involved or the man power involved and feel unsure. 
Did you read the devotion in our Lenten devotional booklet on Thursday?  It was called “Faith In A Time of Financial Need.”  The author was feeling called into ministry but couldn’t afford full time seminary  and didn’t have the time to take it on full time either.  She shared her story of how God provided for her time and her financial need.  God called her to it, she responded and then he saw her through it.

This also made me think of my cousin, Amy.  She and her family have made several trips to Africa to be in mission.  They always start out thinking how in the world we will pay for this?  But every time, the money is there.  They work for it, they have fundraisers (jewelry, salsa, t-shirts etc.) and such but she always shares how amazed she is at God’s providence.  He always provides a way for them do go and do his work.  In fact, I remember the first time they went.  She expressed a little fear.  She was taking her children to a country filled with turmoil and she was nervous.  But now she says that God provided her with the courage to follow his call!  She told me yesterday that God provided more than in just monetary ways. She said, “He provided in ways like courage to do what we need, compassion for people like we have never felt compassion (we visit lots of prostitutes), etc.  Our mission experiences have shown us more of God and grown us in our faith more than anything in our lives!”  He calls and he provides.  I find it interesting that He often calls before he provides.  There is another step in there.  He calls, we respond, and he provides.  In fact, my cousin said God has been so good to provide for them when they have said YES!

I had another example but I don’t have time to share it this morning so be sure you take a minute to ask Shannon to share with you about a Chaplain he had during one of his deployments.  It’s a great story of how God provides in strange and miraculous ways. 

As I was reading some commentary, this week, at The Adventurous Lectionary or Living A Holy Adventure by Bruce Epperly, I really felt that God had led me to it.  I felt that the message I was reading was one that God wanted me to share with you.  In fact, I almost feel as if it was written just for us!  Really!  I’m going to share some of it with you now and you can decide what you think about it.  These are just highlights, and I’m usually quoting verbatim here.  

“God is still moving and speaking, and faithfulness to God invites us to be on the move too! The Story of Abraham’s call celebrates forward movement.”  The author says this passage invites us to ask, “Where do we need to move forward beyond our current - even positive - past?  What adventures await us if we explore new ways of mission and worship?  Where will our spiritual walk take us?”  He continues to say that, “We must leave the familiar and adapt to a new landscape - or seascape - of possibilities.  Divine movement builds on the past but lures us toward untraveled futures, personally and institutionally.”  I love this part... “God takes the initiative in our adventures.  We travel forth, not to earn God’s love but to faithfully respond to the love we have already received.”  Wow.  

I love looking at life as an adventure and I really love looking at ministry as a grand adventure.  How exciting is it that God is calling us as a church to go on an adventure with Him!  He is calling us as a church!  You know how I know?  Because you all are still here.  Because I’ve had some of you come to me and say, help us, what can we do to reach more people? A few of you have even shared ideas with me and we are working on them! You hear him calling you too!  You do or we wouldn’t still be here, you wouldn’t be asking me what we can we do.  

Now, back to the commentary, the author says, “God calls, we respond, and our response leads to new manifestations of divine creativity.  Faith involves trusting that God will make a way where there is no way and that possibilities can emerge where we see only dead ends for ourselves, our congregations or our nation.”

I know that our little church seems to be struggling right now.  We live in fear of costly repairs.  We even sometimes worry about being able to pay regular bills.  We worry about having the man power to hold certain events.  I understand these worries.  I feel these worries too.  But I do believe that God still has a plan for us.  God still loves this congregation and wants us to continue to spread his love to the world.  The commentary reminds us that, “The words of John 3:16 describe the divine intentionality and universality.  God wants to save everyone.  Salvation touches all creation, embracing our cells as well as our souls.  There are no limits, outsides, or impediments to the graceful providence of God.”  Did you hear that?  No limits!  No limits to God’s love, no limits to his providence.  The author continues to say, “God’s love is on the move and it invites us to construct larger and larger circles of love, moving from our individual salvation to saving the world.”  We are to build a larger circle of love!  Think about it for a minute, that’s what Abraham did.  The circle he built included us as he became a new creation, a new people.

We can become a new creation, a new people.  I feel the spirit moving freely around us, through us, moving us, leading us.  Do you feel it?  This week, take time to be quiet, to feel the spirit flowing through you.  Be still and listen for the whispers in your mind of God’s own creativity.  What does he have in store for us?  What is he calling us to do?  What ideas come to mind?  No matter how crazy or big or even how little they may seem, (little ideas can bring great things too) write them down, email them to me and to each other. What if you have an idea that you think is crazy and don’t share with anyone but what you didn’t know is that someone else had the very same idea that they were afraid to share because it seemed too crazy or too big, or little, or like it wouldn’t matter.  Share your ideas!  No matter what. Let’s talk about them and pray about them and listen some more until we see a clear way forward down the path God has set before us.  

God is calling us, yes, this little church is still on God’s radar and he is calling us!  He believes in us!  I’m not saying he’s going to grow us in numbers or even financially.  But I do believe he is calling us to great work in our community and if we respond to his call ready to love, ready to serve no matter what, he will provide the means for us to follow him, we might have to work a little for it and give a little for it but in the end he knows our hearts and he will do his part to provide for us to do his work.  We just have to say YES.  ~  Amen.

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