Monday, October 25, 2010

Walking on Water and other churchy activities

Happy Monday!  Here is the manuscript from the message I gave yesterday in church.  It is a pretty personal one and, I think, a really important one.  

Matthew 14:22-33 (Today's New International Version)
Jesus Walks on the Water
 22 Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd. 23 After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, 24 but the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it.
    25 Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. 26 When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. "It's a ghost," they said, and cried out in fear.
    27 But Jesus immediately said to them: "Take courage! It is I. Don't be afraid."
    28 "Lord, if it's you," Peter replied, "tell me to come to you on the water."
    29 "Come," he said.
    Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. 30 But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, "Lord, save me!"
    31 Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. "You of little faith," he said, "why did you doubt?"
    32 And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. 33 Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, "Truly you are the Son of God."
Prayer: God we ask that you would come and be present with us know.  Help us to turn our hearts, minds, ears and eyes towards you.  Help us grow in faith and trust in you as we seek your will.  And now, Lord I ask that you would hide me behind your cross, so you are what’s seen and speak through me so you are what’s heard.  Amen.
I have Spent the last two weeks talking about ‘Stewardship’ and how God is calling each of us to respond to the gifts of time, talent and money that he has given each of us.  Per the message calendar this is supposed to be the 3rd week with that same message.  It is an important message and one that is worthy of at least three weeks – certainly more than the one week it often gets. 
But I think, I believe, that many if not most of us know and understand that all that we have is a gift from God and we have a responsibility to respond to that gift by sharing generously what we have been made stewards of.   I also spend a lot of time this past week reflecting on what we have talked about the last few weeks and all of the information that was shared during our Bread and Soup luncheon. 
We talked about stewardship and its importance, but we also talked about the financial situation of our church.  As I have been thinking about all of that information, I realized that it was a year ago – almost exactly – when I began having conversations with the Pastor Nominating Committee of Good Shepherd Presbyterian Church.  Good Shepherd has been on a journey for 20+ years now; a new leg of that journey began a year ago when God began to draw us together. 
I believe that I am not here accidentally.  I believe that we have been called together for a special purpose.  I believe that God has called us – and is equipping us – to play a role in his Mission and Plan for this world that only we can fill and that we have been uniquely gifted and brought together to fill.
From the very first conversation with the PNC, and several times from this pulpit I have shared the general vision of what I believe we are being called to do and who we are being called to be.  The word that captures what I believe God is calling us to is Missional.  It is a relatively new word that describes a call that God has been placing on the lives of the people of God from the beginning of time.
Simply, being Missional means opening all of yourself up to the work and will of God’s Holy Spirit and accepting God’s invitation and call to become a part of God’s mission in the world.
It involves having eyes to see: 
First, to see the things in and around our communities and our world that are breaking the heart of God. 
Second, to see the ways in which God’s work and mission are already being done & to see where there are places of need that are not yet being addressed.
Third, to see how we (as individuals and as a congregation) might be uniquely gifted to participate in that mission or how our unique gifts, abilities and interests have equipped us to reach out into our communities and the world in new ways to fulfill the call and mission of God.
It involves being willing to really put Jesus Christ at the center of your life – your whole life.  We are really good in our world today at compartmentalizing every aspect of our lives.  We put school or work in one box and our family in another.  We put our friends in another box – or maybe a couple.  We put our hobbies and our interests in yet another.  And then there is the ‘God’ box. 
Jesus is not asking to be the box at the center of our lives or even the biggest box.  Instead God asks to be in, connected to and at the center of every ‘box’ of your life.  Even more than that God asks you to get rid of all your boxes and reorder your life with him at the center, connected to each and every aspect of our life.
With Jesus centered in your life it allows God to open your eyes to see the world through his eyes.  It allows your heart and mind to be tuned to the heart, mind and will of God.  And that, at the heart is what it means to be Missional.  There isn’t a blueprint or a step by step process for becoming a Missional person or a Missional church because God calls each of us to different and unique parts of the mission of God.   
How each of us lives into God’s call to be a part of his mission in the world will determine what it looks like for Good Shepherd to be the Missional church God is calling it to be.
[now I am not supposed to do this – I am going to talk about myself – I was told several times in seminary not to do this.  But, I think it is important to share how these beliefs and thoughts are manifesting themselves in my life]  For me the particular places God has opened my eyes and my heart and mind to are: Orphans, the world water crisis, hunger (especially in children) and modern-day slavery. 
How does that translate into change in my life:
Marathon for Living Water International
Beginning the process of looking into adoption
Giving too and talking about in IJM
Regular work and giving to combat hunger (through World Vision – including child sponsorship)
How might this translate into our life together as a church (if these interests/concerns are shared by others in the congregation:
Focus on ‘the least of these’ and how we can share our blessings: through giving, through organizations like ‘Trade as one’, World Vision, LVI and IJM
Increased hands-on involvement in combating hunger locally
Beginning to explore what we as a congregation can do to care for the orphans among us and around us. 
Focus on mission in these areas
While there is no ‘step by step’ process.  There are a few key elements that must be present for us to live into this call of being the Missional church that God intends us to be. 
Trusting in God:
Gideon – as we heard, God winnowed down and already numerically overmatched army and used this small group of soldiers to win a great and amazing victory – with no doubt as to who was responsible
Sending out of the 70 Disciples – In Luke 10 Jesus sends out the 70 disciples in pairs and intentionally has them leave everything behind that they could use or rely on to help them succeed or even survive – even their shoes – again so that they would have no choice but to trust in and rely on God – and in turn be clear in pointing to God in all that they did.
Keeping our eyes on Christ
Peter walking on the water:
Remember Peter DID walk on the water.  It was only once he took his eyes off of Jesus that he began to sink.  If we are focused on Jesus, if we are focused on what Jesus is concerned with then we will be able to do amazing and impossible things through the strength and power of God’s Holy Spirit available to us because of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.
These two things, trusting in God and focusing on Jesus Christ are the key for us as we face difficult and trying times invididually and as families.  They are the key for us as we focus difficult and daunting times as a church, financially or otherwise. 
We didn’t spend much time on the miracle that was Peter walking on the water, but I want us to hold on to the truth for us in that story –
Nothing is too hard for God.  Nothing, when done in Christ’s name for the glory of God is impossible.  Difficult times, stacked odds and great challenges are merely opportunities for God’s glory to shine through.  
Peter was distracted by real danger: a strong whipping wind, rolling, rollicking waves, and the sheer impossibility of what was happening.  The same is true for us – there is real danger all around on the path that we are being called to, legitimate concerns that seen to demand our focus and attention. 
But by trusting in God and keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus Christ we get the opportunity to be a part of the amazing and even impossible work of God in our lives and through us in the world.  

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