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Category Archives: Faith

What We Are, What We Will Be

(a sermon for November 5, 2017, the 22nd Sunday after Pentecost, based on 1 John 3:1-3)

I remember his words as though it was yesterday:  “I realize,” he said, “that a lot of people look at me and think I’m nothing but a loser; and I know I’m considered by some to be the black sheep of the family.”

This sad but painfully honest assessment of things came in the midst of a late night phone conversation a number of years ago with an old friend of mine from high school (this guy was always calling me in the middle of the night!); and though, as that old friend and as that old friend who happened to be a pastor (!), I immediately sought to assure him that neither God nor the people who loved him thought of him that way, truth be told I understood what he was talking about.

For you see, though my friend was a good and fun-loving guy, and one who was always determined to put his best foot forward no matter what, he’d also had a very rough life, starting with the father who walked out on him when he was a little boy and continuing on from there.  Even as an adult it always seemed as though trouble and heartache were following close behind him at every junction of life.  Several failed marriages combined with some often bitter custody issues with his kids, moving around from place to place trying to eke out a living while dealing with a long series of medical problems that cost him a great many jobs over the years: this kind of thing just seemed to go on and on with him.  And yes, to be fair, some of the problems were of his own making, or at least were complicated by some very bad choices made along the way; in fact, it could probably be safely asserted that for most of his life, this man was “a day late and a dollar short,” in every sense of the expression!  And so, to the casual observer, it might have indeed seemed as though my friend was something of a loser and a black sheep; but interestingly enough, when my friend made this confession to me in the wee hours of that morning, it turned out that he wasn’t done speaking!

“I know I’m considered by some to be the black sheep of the family,” he did say; but then he added, “but you know what?  I’ve come a long way!  I’ve grown, I’ve learned a lot, and I’m a much better person than used to be; and despite everything, I managed to help raise three good kids who love me.  What’s better than that?” And as he went on, it became clear to me that he understood something that a whole lot of people never come to grips with: that while his life had been hard in so many ways, it was also good in others; and the best part is it wasn’t over yet!  That’s the reason he called me at four in the morning, you see; he was excited to let me know that he was going back to school; that he was going to get his degree; that he wanted to teach, to help young people in need; and now he was determined to show his now adult children, and everybody else (!) that “if the old man can reach his dream, then so can they.”  And as his friend, I wished him well; after all, life is not supposed to be something that we’re resigned to live out, but rather an adventure to be experienced: an evocation of a work in progress inspired by God’s own movement in our lives.

I still remember after hanging up the phone with him thinking of an old, admittedly lesser-known John Denver song that my friend and I knew well back in those days:

“Come, dance with the west wind and touch all the mountain tops,
Sail o’er the canyons, and up to the stars.
And reach for the heavens, and hope for the future,
For all that we can be, not just what we are.”
(from “The Eagle and the Hawk” by John Denver)

For all that we can be, not just what we are:  life is so often an intermingling of what is and what might be, of the actual and the potential, of the realized and unrealized parts of ourselves.   In other words, there’s always more to us than what meets the eye, more than others can see, more than we can even see in ourselves; our “true identity” might well be veiled by the challenges that life thrusts upon us, as well as by our own fears and self-doubts.   The hope for all of us is that over time and experience, by learning and through grace, each of us eventually comes to recognize and understand who he or she truly is, and thus embrace the whole meaning of life.

This also pretty much encapsulates our journeys of faith as well, does it not?

It’s there in our text for this morning:  “See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and that is what we are.”  Basic to our understanding of the Christian faith is the truth that in God’s love, revealed in the resurrection of Jesus Christ, we are identified before all creation as God’s own children, holy and beloved; and what that means is that whoever else we are considered to be in this life, or whatever other label has been placed upon us and we carry around with us as we go, who we are, first and foremost and forever, are children of God!   But the best part is that that’s not even the end of the story; for if we read on in this passage from the 1st Epistle of John you find there’s a twist to this incredible affirmation:  “Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we will be has not yet been revealed.”  It turns out that you and I, who have this sure identity as children of God, still have much to discover about who we are and what we are yet to become; and that is also good news indeed!

As Linda Johnson Seyenkulo, a Lutheran pastor and writer from Chicago, explains it, “What you are now is not the end.  You are a work in progress.  And the exciting part is, you don’t know what is possible until you open up to God’s possibilities.”  Faith, Seyenkulo goes on to say, is all about God-inspired and God-led possibility, “and so the Christian life is [by definition] a life of possibility, waiting to be revealed.”

And there’s great precedent for this: think of the disciples of Jesus who knew themselves to be his followers, but until that resurrection experience began to reveal itself and the Holy Spirit began to move in and through the reality of their lives they could not possibly imagine themselves to be the purveyors of his good news in the world.  Or think about the people who heard that good news from those disciples: I’m thinking of a story, for instance, from the 3rd chapter of Acts about a man regarded by everyone around as a beggar; a nameless, faceless indigent.  But upon being healed by Peter and John in the name of Christ, this beggar became something different, quite literally “walking and leaping and praising God” (3:8) as he went first into the temple, and then out to a new future… full of possibility!

For that matter, think about someone like my old friend; someone you know whose faith has so profoundly affected his or her life that who that person is now stands in sharp contrast to the person was before.  Maybe you can even see yourself in that regard; the point is that this love of God is the catalyst for true and ongoing transformation; it creates unlimited possibilities as to what can come as God’s own future unfolds.

What we will be is not yet revealed… all we know for now is that when Christ is revealed, that is, when the kingdom is come and all of Christ’s promises are fulfilled, then “we will be like him, for we will see him as he is.   And…” – here’s a key verse (!) – “all who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure.”  Or, in the beautifully rendered words of The Message, we will have “the glistening purity of Jesus’ life as a model for our own.”

For what comes between what we are and what we will be is the journey; and how along live on the way.  Think of it as a journey of self-discovery on a divine scale. On the way from who we already are as God’s children to what we will be by God’s intent and purpose, we are being called to grow; spiritually, and by extension ethically, morally and socially.  We are being called to turn around from worn pathways and old ways of thinking and being; so that we might truly walk in newness of life after the manner of Jesus.

I love the story that Juanita Austin tells about her brother, who works as an accountant, and who is, as one might expect, up to his eyeballs in tax returns every April. Ordinarily, Austin writes, this would be a sure cause for stress and strain, but this year when she asked her brother how he was doing, he replied with great enthusiasm, “Great!  I’m doing just great!  I love this!”  Though her first instinct was to call a doctor and find out if her brother was in fact seriously sleep deprived (!), she asked him why he was so visibly excited by his job.  And he explained that on that particular day he’d been able to help this widow on a pension to increase her monthly income, “so that instead of barely scraping by she would be reasonably comfortable.  What her brother had as a gift – a knowledge about taxes combined with a [new, faith centered] compassion and desire for justice – he [was now able to give] to her.”

I love this story because like all of us who are children of God, what this man, this tax accountant (!), will be is yet to be revealed—and yet by the movement of his life we can begin to see a hint of what’s to come, a glimpse of the very purity of Jesus’ life in his own life. Well, my question for each of us today is what people might see in the movement of our lives here on Mountain Road; as Christians dwelling within a decidedly non-Christian culture; as persons and a people of faith dealing with the very real challenges of life here and now, yet on a journey full of possibilities for the sake of Christ and his kingdom.

It seems to me that in faith, you and I are ever to be giving thanks for “who we are” as children of God; but we also must never lose sight of “what we will be” by God’s own intent and purpose.  For between here and there, now and then, lay all the wonderful and heretofore unimagined possibilities that God is setting before each of us.  It’s ultimately what will help us to soar as the eagle and the hawk, to “reach for the heavens, and hope for the future.”  And it will be that which will reveal to us some of the “glistening purity of Jesus’ life” in everything we are and seek to be in this life.

Where we will go and what we will be; that is yet to be revealed. But we do know who we are, beloved; and as children of God, I hope and pray that we are ready for journey of faith and discovery they lay before us.  Because the possibilities… they’re endless!

May we be blessed on the journey… and may our thanks be to God!

AMEN and AMEN!

c.2017  Rev. Michael W. Lowry

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Posted by on November 5, 2017 in Epistles, Faith, Life, Sermon, Spiritual Truths

 

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Get to the Heart of the Matter!

(a sermon for October 29, 2017, the 21st Sunday after Pentecost; last in a series, based on  Matthew 22:34-40)

One thing I’ve long found very interesting about the church as a whole is that for all our sincere talk of Christian unity and the fact that we’re still “all God’s children” despite whatever denomination or faith tradition we come from, nonetheless we really do have our share of differences; especially as to how things are done!

Take the sacraments, for example: whereas in our particular tradition communion (generally speaking at least!) is shared by the passing a plate of bread cubes from one to the other in the church pew, there are other churches that frown on such a practice, insisting that those receiving communion actually get up from their seats and approach the altar of God!  And baptism: there are those within the denominational spectrum who would question the very validity of our ever baptizing an infant, saying that to confess Christ as Lord and Savior is wholly a personal decision that can only be made when one is of age (of course, in our tradition, we entrust the child’s parents, family and church to nurture their faith until they are ready to confirm that faith as a young adult and I’d say that’s at least as valid as an adult baptism… but I digress!); and let’s not even talk about whether “sprinkling” or “dunking” is the proper way to go!

In the ways we do worship (is it better to be formal or casual, “high church” or “low church,” to sing traditional hymns or praise songs, to preach from a lofty pulpit, or to stand “on the level” with the congregation?); in the interpretation of scripture and its authority for the church and world; the methods by which we govern ourselves as a congregation; even in the process of how clergy-types like me are to be called and authorized for ministry: trust me,  in all these things and more there are as many ideas in the church as to how these matters are properly handled as there are congregations!

Sometimes the differences have to do with theology or denominational polity; often it will focus on where a church perceives itself to be in the world; or maybe sometimes it’s something much simpler than that.  I remember in a former congregation I was once asked why it was that at the end of each week’s worship service I always gave the benediction from the back of the church; after all, this woman explained, in a tone that suggested no small measure of concern, at that moment you’re offering a blessing to your church and yet the whole congregation has its back to you!  Was there, she asked, some deeper spiritual meaning to this?  Was this what they taught you in seminary, or is this a UCC thing?  Well, I got to thinking about it and I realized that for me there wasn’t any real deep-seeded theological impartment as to doing the benediction that way; it was simply that where I was standing was closer to the door (!); and much easier to get to where to where I needed to be to shake hands with people after church!

Not exactly the stuff of major church schisms, I know (!); but it points up the fact that in the church, there are always going to be differences of opinion, and approach and belief; and moreover there always have been.  Almost from its very inception, church history is filled with instances of debate, conflict and division, all having to do with how the will and Word of God is to be followed and administered!  To wit, this week marks the 500th anniversary of how in 1517 Martin Luther nailed his “95 Theses” to the door of the Catholic Church in Wittenberg in protest of what he considered the indulgences of the Roman Catholic Church; the beginning of the Protestant Reformation, which not only changed the face of religion and all of western civilization, but also in no small way, is a reason why and how we’re here worshipping in this place today!   You see, as much as we try to avoid it, these kind of differences and the conflicts that ensue because of them, are inevitable; but that’s not always a bad thing!  The difference of whether it ends up a bad or good, divisive or even unifying thing comes in how we “get to the heart of the matter” as regards these questions, and what we discover about faith in the midst of them!

And, as in all things, our example for how this best happens is Jesus.

For you see, even Jesus… that’s right, even Jesus (!) found himself in the midst of such conflict.  The gospels record several instances when Jesus was faced by “concerned religious leaders” (that is, the scribes and Pharisees) who could not, would not accept his teachings about God and the kingdom, and recognized that what Jesus was saying was threatening to them and their own power.  So now, they were doing everything they could to discredit Jesus amongst the people, catch him in uttering some sort of punishable heresy, or both.  Our text for this morning is of one such instance; actually, as Matthew tells the story, it’s the final attempt on the part of the Pharisees to trip Jesus up with a seemingly simple question: “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?”

Now, the easy answer to this question, the non-confrontational answer to this question, and according to Pharisaic law the legally acceptable answer to this question would have been for Jesus to say, “Every commandment of the Law is great, because all of the Law comes from God.” But that wasn’t the answer the Pharisees were looking for; what they were hoping was that Jesus might randomly pick one from the 613 commandments in the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Law (which, by the way, if you’re counting, amounts to 248 “thou shalts” and 365 “thou shalt nots,” one for every day of the year); because if Jesus did that, if Jesus picked just one commandment from all of those, then he’d certainly be guilty of denying or negating countless other commandments, and then the Pharisees could charge him not only as a law-breaker, but a blasphemer as well!  As far as these religious “uprights” were concerned, this was a no-win situation and now they had Jesus right where they wanted him.

But then Jesus does something that none of them were expecting: he takes a complicated, loaded question and gives them a very simple and familiar answer; moreover, with something they themselves would have known since they were children: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.  This is the greatest and first commandment.”  The Pharisees certainly knew this; this was from the Shema, words (from Deuteronomy) that are to be prayed by faithful Jews each and every morning and again in the evening.  First, says Jesus, you love God with heart and soul and mind!  Before anything else; before the other nine commandments and all the other laws and statutes and precepts that follow, before establishing any kind of faithful endeavor, first you must love God with heart and soul and mind!

It would have seemed to me that this confession of Jesus would have been more than enough to satisfy (or perhaps more accurately, infuriate) the Pharisees, but you see, Jesus wasn’t done yet. “And a second [commandment] is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”  And before the Pharisee can even begin to ask what about all the other commandments, Jesus adds one more thought: “’On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.’”  First you love God, you see, but then you also have to love your neighbor; and that’s everything, because we can’t really love God with our heart, soul, and mind unless and until we love our neighbor as ourselves.  As Kenneth Samuel has written, “the second greatest commandment is not just secondary to the greatest commandment.  It is essential to the greatest commandment, for we cannot love God whom we do not see and despise our neighbors who we see every day.”

In other words, when we get the heart of the matter as regards faith, it’s always going to be about LOVE: the kind of LOVE that puts God at the center of everything we do, and are and can ever hope to be; the kind of LOVE that ever and always reaches out and envelops those in need. To truly love God and to love neighbor: this is the kind of LOVE that makes us who we are; and that not only transcends and triumphs over every kind of difference we may have, it’s what provides the true purpose and the abiding principle for every part of the good work we seek to do as the church of Jesus Christ!

And for those of us 21st century Christians who might feel a little jaded and wonder if such a thing is, at best, kind of “pie in the sky” thinking, it’s helpful to take note of the fact that very soon after Jesus said all this to the scribes and Pharisees, they were gone; daring not to ask him any more questions.   Because at the end of the day, the heart of the matter is LOVE… it’s always LOVE… and how do you argue with LOVE?

Over the past few weeks we’ve talked a lot here about what it takes to live a life of adventuresome faith and to be the kind of disciples (and the kind of church!) we want to be.  We’ve spoken about how we need to be bold enough to “get out of the boat” of our own complacency and fear, so to follow Jesus where he leads; and about how very important it is, most especially in these days of divisive rhetoric and confused situations, for each and all us to “get to work” in this ministry to which we’ve been called, because there is a lot of work to be done!

And that’s why today we humbly and prayerfully ask – and also, we thank you and thank God – for your continued support of this ministry we share in Jesus’ name, and for your commitment to all that we do here at East Church: the work of Christian education and nurture for children and adults alike; the work of caring compassion and community outreach; the work of joy and hope that starts by being shared amongst kindred hearts, and then extended outward.  It’s the work of worship and fellowship and laughter and tears and peace and justice on a blessedly personal level, and it all happens right here with us and through us; and it takes our faithful stewardship, combined with God’s ever present grace, to keep it moving and growing.

But most of all, and never forget this… it also takes LOVE!

Because that’s the heart of the matter! In everything we seek to and to be disciples of Jesus Christ and as the church, we discover that there is and there remains this all-encompassing and faith-defining mandate to LOVE… to first, before anything else, to love God with heart and soul and mind, and then along with this to always love our neighbor as ourselves.  On this, says Jesus, “hangs all the law and the prophets;” and it continues to be, especially today, the pivot point of our lives as persons, as people and as the church.  It’s what makes the difference between truly carving out a life of faith and simply going through the motions; it’s the choice of enduring emptiness, on the one hand, or embracing a life of true abundance, on the other. It’s what gives us purpose, it’s what makes us real, it’s what helps us to grow; and it’s everything.

It’s LOVE, and friends, I pray that none of us will ever be so busy, so distracted, so hurt or confused, so suffering and grieving, so entangled in the minutiae of life that we lose sight of it.  Indeed, as you and I set out on the adventure of discipleship, let LOVE reign supreme: let it guide our thoughts, direct our devotion, set our pathways and help us along the journey.  Let LOVE be at the very heart of each of our lives, and at the heart of our life together at East Church; so that individually and collectively we might personify and manifest God’s love above all else.

After all, what’s that verse of scripture, the one we hear at just about every wedding, the one that Paul wrote to that squabbling, divided church at Corinth?  “For faith, hope and love abides, these three; but the greatest of these is… LOVE.”

LOVE!

So may it be… and thanks be to God!

Amen and AMEN!

c. 2017  Rev. Michael W. Lowry

 

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Get Out of the Boat!

(a sermon for October 15, 2017, the 19th Sunday after Pentecost; first in a series, based on Matthew 14:22-33)

And “immediately [Jesus] made the disciples get into the boat” and said to them (in essence, at least), “You go on ahead… I’ll catch up later.”

If you read Matthew’s account leading up to our text for this morning, you can understand why:  Jesus, after all, had spent a very long day curing the sick; they’d all been involved in feeding a multitude of people with nothing more than loaves and fishes; and even now, there was the matter of getting this crowd over 5,000-plus to disperse.  And moreover, Jesus had been seeking to withdraw from there so that he could be alone to pray; so it just sort of followed that he would send his disciples on ahead to cross the Sea of Galilee.

For the disciples, however, it was a strange and uncertain experience!  They had not really spent all that much time apart from Jesus since they’d begun to follow him, and they were unsure as to exactly where they were supposed to go, or what they were to do when they got there; and, by the way, what if Jesus didn’t catch up with them; what if he “missed the boat,” so to speak… what then?  And if that weren’t enough, now it’s well into the night, the wind’s picking up and “the boat, battered by the waves, was far from land, for the wind was against them.”  And so now here we have all these disciples crowded together in a flimsy little boat; trembling and fearful for their lives and no doubt crying out, “OK, Jesus… you sent us out here… what do we do now?”

Every fall about this time, I’m filled with memories of days spent with my father walking through the northern Maine woods hunting for partridge; and later on as November came around, looking for signs of white-tailed deer.  When I was very young, of course, it was always about following close behind Dad as we worked our way through acres of hardwood ridges and black growth knolls; at that point, I wasn’t old enough to be out hunting on my own, and besides, I really didn’t know those woods all that well and most certainly would have gotten myself hopelessly lost!  But finally, the day came my father said, “Why don’t you go on ahead… I’ll catch up with you later.”  He made sure I had a compass, of course, and reminded me of some of the landmarks I ought to be looking out for; but finally Dad said, “You’ll be fine… just make sure you leave enough time to get back to camp before dark.”

And with that, my father headed off in one direction and I started out on the other.  And I’ve got to tell you that even now I still remember that sense of adventure in setting out into the wilderness, on my own, for the very first time; and that incredible feeling of great anticipation mingled with… abject fear!  Now, I’ve told you stories from this pulpit of those few times when I got myself turned around out in those woods, even long after dark; what I don’t think I’ve ever spoken about are all those many occasions when I almost got turned around, lost, or worse! These were times when I used my compass and still didn’t know where I was; when I didn’t recognize any landmark and every tree looked the same; when I kept an eye toward the western sky as the daylight grew dim and the air became damp and cold.  More than once, I remember saying to myself, “OK… now what I do?” and thinking how utterly mistaken my father was to believe I knew what I was doing!

But… and here’s the thing… I always (or almost always, anyway!) found my way back to camp; and along the way, I learned something… about how to calmly find my way through the wilderness; about that which my father and his friends always referred to as “woods savvy;” and also about how to be bold, because that’s where the adventure – and its opportunity – begins.

So here we have these disciples, in a boat far out from shore and in the midst of stormy weather.  You can imagine the scene: it’s the wee hours of the morning, and still very dark, but the wind’s howling; the rain’s coming down in sheets, and water’s swelling up the side of the boat and washing inside.  And even though most of them are fishermen (maybe because most of them are fishermen and know what kind of mortal danger the sea brings forth), they are… terrified, and moreover, wondering why Jesus would ever send them on a night like this!

But that’s when it happens: something unexpected; something miraculous. The disciples look out beyond their boat into the raging storm and they see him – they see Jesus – walking toward them on the sea; walking on water!  And of course, their first response is to cry out in fear, assuming that what they’re seeing is a ghost; some kind of grim reaper or representative from Leviathan himself, the sea monster of biblical legend come to pull them into the deep and their sure and certain death.  But no… it’s Jesus, who immediately speaks to them, saying “Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.”

It’s unexpected because by now the disciples are sure their lives are done; and it’s a miracle because everyone knows you can’t walk on water!  But here’s Jesus, doing just that; walking on water beyond all human capability and overcoming the utter chaos of deep, turbulent waters, all to let these fearful and panic-stricken followers of his know that “it is well,” and that the seas, while stormy now, would soon be calm for the journey ahead.   That, in and of itself is a powerful word; and it’s no wonder that at the end of all the disciples, “exhausted by the storm and overwhelmed by what they have witnessed… make the first profession of faith in Matthew’s gospel: ‘You are the Son of God.’” (Rev. Canon Michael Rusk)  This is a story that serves to remind us that in all of life’s chaos and confusion we can take heart, because are never alone; but in the presence of one who can and does calm our fears and promises, as the song goes, that we’ll be “safe and secure from all alarms.”  And that’s important to know, because life is filled with storms; the kind of chaos that threatens to undo us: disasters, natural and otherwise, descend; jobs disappear; relationships disintegrate; we lose touch with people, values and practices; death rips us apart.  It’s times like these when you and need to know that we have the Lord at our side to help us weather the storm until, quoting Ronald J. Allen here, “the water of chaos” is transformed “into the water of life.”

And that’s what happens here in the gospel… but that’s not the end of the story.  What also happens is that Peter – bold, impetuous, Peter – sees Jesus walking on the water and calls out, “Lord, if it is you,” (notice there’s a big “if” there) “command me to come to you on the water.”  And what does Jesus do?  He calls back to Peter, perhaps with a bit of a smile on his face, “Comecome!” And Peter – God bless him (!) – with the storm still raging all around them, gets out of the boat!  He doesn’t get very far, mind you, before fear takes over and he loses heart, sinking like a stone, that is, until Jesus reaches out and grabs Peter by the tunic and brings him to safety.  A few words about Peter’s lack of faith notwithstanding, it’s another powerful example of how, even in the worst of the storm – whatever kind of storm we’re talking about – and regardless of the depth of our despair in the midst of it all, the presence of the divine will ever be our safety and our salvation.  That is one “sure and certain” promise of our God; that God will be with us and stay with us in our need; giving us strength and hope until the seas calm, the chaos subsides, and the way ahead – with all its opportunity and purpose – opens up before us.

Because, yes, that’s the other piece of this story, one that quite honestly, I hadn’t thought too much about until recently.  There was, after all, a reason that Jesus sent those disciples on ahead to the other side of the Sea of Galilee; it was so that they could reach Gennesaret, where, if you read on in Matthew, there were more people who needed the presence and the touch of Jesus.  Likewise there was a reason, as unlikely as it may have seemed to them or to us, that Jesus invited Peter to step out on the open sea so that he could walk on water… it was because it was an opportunity; a chance for Peter to leave his fear behind, get out of the boat and live a truly “whole-hearted” life of courage and hope, with eyes and heart wholly fixed on Jesus and his kingdom.

And so should it be for you and for me, friends.  No, I’m not suggesting you head up to Winnipesaukee to try your and at a little surface sprinting (not to shatter any hopes, but that would likely be a fruitless endeavor… and cold!); but I would suggest to you that some faith-fueled boldness might well be in order for us; both as persons and a people of faith, even as a church, because ours is a God who encourages us “to cross rough waters and even step out of the boat in faith.”  But the thing is that this always comes with a promise.  I love what David Lose says about this:  God calls us to “more adventuresome lives of faith… God wants more for us, frankly, than simply safety and stability, and therefore God calls us to stretch, grow, and live into the abundant life God has promised us, trusting [as we do so] that God is always with us,” that God will grab us by the hand when we lose our focus or when fear overtakes us.  The journey may not always be easy, but once you’ve moved forward and the way ahead is clear; once you’ve caught sight of your destination and know the reason that you were so bold, won’t you be glad that you decided not to stay in the boat?

Well… even now the journey looms before us, and in many, many ways.  Even now, Jesus is calling us “o’er the tumult of life’s wild, restless sea” to come; to be bold and come out of the safety of our boats so that we might participate more fully as Jesus’ disciples and on behalf of the Kingdom of God; so that we can know the possibilities and the adventure of following God’s Spirit where it leads.

And that’s especially true, I believe, when it comes to our life together here at East Church.

As you know, we’re just about to move into our annual Stewardship Campaign here at East Church, a time when together as a church, not only do we reflect on our support of this shared ministry in the coming year, but also a time when we should pause a moment to seek and affirm God’s vision for our future. It is, as this year’s stewardship theme suggests, a “Journey to Generosity” that has its pathway in the way of Jesus; truly, everything we do here as part of our stewardship is in response to the one who is always with us; who stands out there in the midst of our own storms; who seeks to calm our fears until the chaos subsides; who lifts us up when we feel ourselves sinking like a stone.

Beloved, I believe that right here and right now our Lord is there calling us to boldness; to come out of our complacency and be disciples in new and creative and adventuresome ways; to move into our 176th year with faithful optimism and hearts for Jesus Christ.  I have said this to you often in recent weeks, and very intentionally: there is no limit to what this “little church” can do with faith, and in the love and joy that we have here in such abundance; but for these things to happen, first we have to get out of the boat!

“Come.”  That’s how Jesus is calling you, and you, and me; that’s how Jesus calls us all.  So how will you respond?  I hope that we’ll all give that some thought and prayer in the days to come…

…and with our thanks unto God!

Amen and AMEN!

c. 2017  Rev. Michael W. Lowry

 

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