When God Grieves – August 18

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When God Grieves
Genesis 6:5-7, 11-13a

Rev. Laura Brewster

One of the more familiar stories in the Bible is the story of Noah and the great flood. When we read this story, we often skip past the reason that the Bible offers for what happened. Today’s scripture reading deals with the question of why – why God who created humanity and once delighted in humanity eventually moved to wipe out humanity. Read Genesis 6:5-7, 11-13a. Note that God grieved when he saw the violence humans committed against each other.
Violence Which Grieves God Today
On average, 100 people are killed in the U.S. every day by a gun. That is an average of 36,383 deaths due to shootings every year. This includes murders and suicides. Gun violence has become all too prolific. Surely God grieves as he notes the violence.
Why Do These Things Happen?
Why do these things happen? The basic reason is that God allows us to make choices regarding how we treat others, and humans often treat each other in hurtful and harmful ways. We call that sin. Some sins are acts of commission. Persons who commit mass shootings are committing sins of commission. But some sins are sins of omission. Sins of omission are those times when we can show love, but refuse to do so. So, for example, if I truly love those who are being hurt by gun violence, and God nudges me to push for a change, but I refuse to do so, I am sinning by omission.
Don’t Be Surprised If God Asks You to Act
After every tragic event involving guns, we offer our thoughts and prayers. We pray for God to console the victims, and we pray for God to stop senseless violence. However, we would do well to remember that God often acts in the world in partnership with his people. After God resolved to wash away the violence he had seen in the world, he turned to a man named Noah and gave him the responsibility of helping to repopulated the devastated area with other humans and animal life. (6:20-21) So again, if you are praying for God to act, don’t be surprised if God nudges you to be a part of the action because God’s most common way of working in the world is that of working through his people.
Possible Actions
There is no one answer to the problem of gun violence. We cannot stop it all. There are, though, a few steps we can take to help lessen the impact of gun violence on our neighbors. First, advocate for a ban on military-style assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines. Second, ask Congress to pass “red flag” laws, which would allow police or family to petition for the temporary removal of firearms from a person if they deem them a danger to themselves or others. Third, ask Congress to fund gun violence research at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Fourth, push Congress to enact universal background checks on gun buyers.
Don’t Lose Hope
How do we maintain hope when we advocate for change but little seems to change? We remember that evil will not have the last word. God is at work in our world seeking to bring good out of evil. Romans 8:28 tells us, “We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.” God is at work in the world, and God is at work for you and through you too.

Baptism – August 11

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Series: The Sacraments
Today: Baptism
Romans 6:1-14

Rev. Audrey Spencer

Introduction: We continue in our teaching of the sacraments. Last week we spoke of the Lord’s Supper and the mystery of it. This morning we hear the mystery of Baptism. Baptism is our new life in Christ, whether we have been baptized as an infant or adult. The United Methodist Church believes in the sacramental and the evangelical means of baptism. God grace poured on both infants and adults to wash our sins and incorporate us in the family of Christ to then live out our baptism in the resurrection of Christ.

What does Baptism do? Baptism is the agent that flavors and shapes our worship, our schooling, our family life, and our personal life. But baptism is much more than a ceremony. The ceremony in church serves to point to “the more” and to confirm it. Without a baptism we might hear that more clearly. Our baptism tells us that we were “baptized” into Christ Jesus. The meaning of that may not be immediately clear to us. The word “baptism” is a foreign word. Maybe that is why we do not normally think about baptism all that much and associate it with, or limit it to, a ceremony in church. The word “baptism” means: dip, immerse, wash, to be drenched with, to be plunged into, to sink into, to be dyed or colored with. To be baptized into Christ is to be dipped into, immersed into, drenched with, colored with Jesus. But a reminder appears to be necessary. “Don’t you know?” You were immersed into Jesus. Therefore:
• When Christ died you died.
• When he was buried you were buried.
When he arose to a new life you arose to a new life. Baptism is a visible sign, a constant reminder, a road sign, pointing us to who we are in Jesus. It affirms our identity in HIM.
• It tells us that we are part of a new people, the people of Jesus.
• It tells us that we are no longer immersed in Adam but in Jesus.
• It tells us that we are no longer subject to death because of Adam’s sin.
• It tells us that we are subject to life because God immersed us in His Son.
How significant! How wonderful! Through our drenching in Jesus we have been “clothed with” Him, we have “put on” Jesus, Galatians 3:27 tells us.

What happens after Baptism? Every baptismal font calls out to us to live our identity in Jesus, to clothe ourselves with Him, to put away stuff that marked us before we died and arose with him, drunkenness, dissension, jealousy and the like according to Paul’s instruction in Romans 13:13 and 14. Paul says: God amazingly and surprisingly did something completely unexpected: He gave His Son Jesus to take away our sin, and to set our feet on a new path. God made His Son Jesus to be the head of a new people. God replaced the old humanity of which Adam was the head with a new humanity of which Christ is the head. The “one trespass” of Adam “resulted in condemnation for all people.” The “one righteous act” of Jesus “resulted in justification and life for all” (Romans 5:18, NIV). What God does goes beyond us. It is very hard for us to grasp such divine glory and grace. But what His action through Jesus means for us is that with Christ as our head, His dying becomes our dying and His resurrection becomes our resurrection. Through Adam, death and sin came into the world. Through Christ, life and righteousness has come into the world. Through Christ, life and righteousness has come into our life. What a gift! Do you believe that? We have been united with Christ in His death and in His resurrection.

See & realize the new YOU: Hear this: you have been raised to a new life and are able to be an “instrument of righteousness”. God sees you as worthy, as wonderfully made, as uniquely gifted by Him. You are able to rise above the violent and traumatic experiences that may have marked your past. No, you will never forget them. You may have scars; Hear this: you have been raised to a new life and are able to be an “instrument of righteousness .” See yourself as clean, able to learn new ways of being in relationship, and capable of self-control because the Spirit of God is within you. Count yourself dead to sin and alive in Jesus. You are more!!! Amen!

Avoiding Infection or Splinters and Logs, oh my! – July 28

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Series: Puzzling Parables
Today: Avoiding Infection or Splinters and Logs, oh my!
Matthew 7:1-5

Rev. Audrey Spencer

Jesus is preaching a sermon … it starts with what we know as the Sermon on the Mount from Matthew Chapter 5. As a crowd gathers, Jesus tells them what people who are in His family look like. His sermon continues through Chapter 5, 6 and into Chapter 7.

So, we are going to jump in the middle of this sermon – where Jesus has been addressing one primary subject … how to have an authentic relationship with God … not a religious experience …. and in the middle of this message, he
decides to address a part of human nature that needs desperate reformation!

Why shouldn’t I play Judge and Jury?

“Don’t judge, so that you won’t be judged. You’ll receive the same judgment you give. Whatever you deal out will be dealt out to you. Why do you see the splinter that’s in your brother’s or sister’s eye, but don’t notice the log in your own eye? How can you say to your brother or sister, ‘Let me take the splinter out of your eye,’ when there’s a log in your eye? You deceive yourself! First, take the log out of your eye, and then you’ll see clearly to take the splinter out of your brother’s or sister’s eye.

Judge = Greek means ‘to condemn’ ‘to pronounce opinion on right or wrong’.

This scripture may be one of the most misinterpreted verses in the NT. We’ve all heard this phrase “Don’t judge me.”

Typically, what we mean is – “Don’t talk to me about my questionable behavior.”

Sometimes, we are simply making a statement about our uniqueness … to which we would all agree! We are each unique. God created us this way, and we should celebrate our differences and our diversity.

But that’s not exactly what Jesus is talking about here. Jesus does NOT say – “Don’t let others judge you.” Jesus is not addressing the response of the accused, but rather our desire to judge others, but not ourselves.

What’s fascinating is our natural reaction to judge the people who are judging us … isn’t it?

When you feel judged, you judge. When you were a teenager, and your parent judged your language – what did you do … you told them that you learned it from them!

When your friend pOints out something you’ve done wrong, don’t the 10 things they’ve done wrong come to mind as well?

Jesus is warning us about the way we work as humans. We prefer to look at what’s wrong with others more than what’s wrong with ourselves.

Jesus is not lowering the moral standard. Jesus is not saying everyone can just do what they want.

If that were His intent, I doubt he would have spent the first part of his sermon raising the moral bar for everyone.

Jesus often raised the moral bar, so as to say even to religious people … you are STILL in need of God.

What is Jesus saying? I’m glad you asked … Let’s look at how he clarifies this first statement: “For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”

Jesus clarifies his statement by talking about standards.

He’s saying – be aware of the standard you use for others, because you shouldn’t use a different standard for yourself.

This is our nature, isn’t it?

We declare a standard, and hold others to it but ignore our own situation.

Illustrate: Parents – do as I say … not as I do. This is a good example of our nature.

Other examples – as a father, if you asked your daughter to consider how to dress modestly because she is a precious daughter, but found that you don’t always treat or speak to her as a precious daughter and child of God, that’s a double standard.

Jesus is saying, don’t do that. It’s bad for you. It’s destructive. It lacks mercy. It lacks grace.

And if you are the kind of person that lacks mercy and grace … you will receive that same treatment by others. If you spend all your time condemning others, they will spend their time condemning you.

If you focus on others sins, they will focus on yours.

The implication here is this, “what if God used your standard to judge you? How badly do you think that would go?”

Would there be assumptions about your motives? Would there be any room to explain? Would there be a lack of mercy and grace?

You see, Jesus is not saying God is not ultimately going to hold each of us accountable for our actions … Jesus is encouraging you not to take that job from God.

But we love that job so much!

For example – How many times have you heard your kids, or yourself say this: “It’s not fair.”

It’s not fair that they treated me that way. It’s not fair that he said what he said to me. You may be right, it may not be fair. But fair is all about us.

We never complain loudly about getting a bigger raise than someone else. We complain when someone else gets a bigger
raise than us.

Fair is really about our advantage. Fair is about us getting what we think we deserve.

So Jesus flips that on its head. Jesus changes the question. He says – you want to judge others … and you want to make sure they are getting what they deserve, but is that what you want for yourself?

Do you want to get what you deserve?

Do you want justice for every mistake you’ve ever made?

Do you want to be punished for every bad decision you’ve ever made? Probably not.

Maybe what Jesus is trying to get at is this: Judging others infects us with condemnation instead of grace.

When we judge others, we are in a constant cycle of judging ourselves.

Jesus warns us not to chain ourselves to judgement, because we will become prisoners of standards we can’t keep … we will be victims of our own quick leaps to condemnation, devoid of grace.

Maybe our temptation to judge isn’t really about what someone else is doing wrong, it is about keeping others from seeing what we are doing wrong!

The problem is – Jesus says … pointing your finger at someone else has the opposite effect – it only draws more attention to yourself!

Jesus goes on to explain the problem with us playing judge and jury: “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite …”

Judging others infects us with hypocrisy.

According to Jesus, to stop judging is good for our own self-interest. If you don’t like being judged – stop doing the judging!

Good advice for Jesus followers in a very divided country.

Why is our propensity to point out others sins, while ignoring our own? It is like a coping mechanism to make ourselves feel better about our own lives.

Jesus isn’t saying there is no right and wrong.

Jesus is explaining that when people do wrong, our role isn’t to judge them, but to help them. Look how Jesus advises us to act: “… first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”

These “planks” become magnifying glasses that make everyone else’s issues seem worse than they actually are, while keeping us from seeing our own issues.

This passage is NOT primarily about understanding right from wrong (which is often the incorrect interpretation of this passage).

In fact, Paul says in 2 Corinthians 2:15 that the spiritual person makes judgments about all things.

The problem with most of us as Christians is that a little bit of spirituality is dangerous because we begin to see what’s wrong in the world, and we point our finger at the people doing that wrong …. trying to carry out God’s justice

This passage is really about why it’s wrong for you and I to carry out justice that belongs to God.

This passage does not say “no one gets to say what’s right or wrong” … it says don’t point out what’s wrong when you can’t see it clearly because you aren’t repentant about your own wrongs.

If you haven’t forgiven, if you haven’t taken inventory of your own sin … how can you lovingly point it out in another. You can’t!

So, is Jesus saying we should never talk to another Jesus follower about sin that is hurting them?

Clearly, Jesus is not excluding us from helping remove a “speck of dust from a brother’s eye” in Matthew 7:5, but He is EMPHASIZING something important about the PROCESS by which we should do so.

What’s really cool about this passage – and I think it gets missed by most people when they read it – is this: Jesus is teaching us about the gospel in this passage!

Do you know what the primary themes of the gospel are?

I’ll give you a hint, it is not primarily a message of justice, is it?

The good news Christ brought was not one where justice is poured out on you and me.

The good news is not a message about our condemnation. Most of us already feel condemned for our regrets and bad choices.

The gospel’s primary message – think about this – the primary message is one of reconciliation … of grace … and mercy!

You all know John 3:16 – Jesus came that we might have eternal life.

Do you know John 3:17? Jesus did not come to condemn us, but to save us!

In this passage, Jesus is helping us understand that “The true test of spiritual maturity is not poinbng our finger at people, but being able see what’s wrong, and point it out without pointing our finger!” R.T. Kendall, Total Forgiveness p. 100

Perhaps what Jesus is saying is that instead of playing judge and jury, we could choose love instead.

If judging others makes us hypocrites, then loving others makes us more like Jesus.

When the actions of others are doing great harm to those around them, it is important, particularly within the Christian community, to help protect victims and help the offender avoid an infection of shame through careful correction.

Jesus did this all the time.

In fact, Jesus never settled for a cheap imitation of love where we tolerate each other, or feel sympathy without empathy, or be polite to keep the peace. Jesus fought the spiritual battle for people – to heal our hearts.

Jesus loved the condemned adulterous woman enough to save her from being stoned, but sent her away and said “Go and
sin no more.”

We are healed to love God and others not by pointing out their sin so much as pointing them toward Jesus.

Our motive must be to love others, to restore them into a relationship with others, and with God … which often means helping each other with all of our sin issues.

When can we help someone else? According to Jesus, we are qualified to lovingly correct only when we have no “plank in our own eye.”

Isn’t this what Jesus was saying? When we have sin in our own life that we do not see, and have not asked Jesus to help us with – how can we help anyone else?

It is Love, not judgement, that leads others to Jesus.

So, next time before you play judge and jury:

Ask yourself, are my words NEEDed? Are they …

Necessary: Is it necessary to say this? Is it my role to say it?

Encouraging: Will it give them the courage to follow Jesus?

Edifying: Will it build them up and make them stronger?

Dignifying: Will it make them feel like they are worthwhile to me and to others?

CONCLUSION: We point our fingers at ourselves first. We invite God to deal with our messiness first. Then we invite anyone else to do the same. Our role is not to point the finger, but to love them by being honest about how God is transforming us!

We have great opportunities every day to show others supernatural love – and to teach them the way of reconciliation in
a culture that loves to judge.

How surprising would it be to people far from God, if instead of hearing our “judgment” of each other, they could see the way we lovingly, gently, and consistently we help each other through careful correction!

Lost Sheep, Lost Coin, Lost Boy – July 14

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Series: Puzzling Parables
Today: Lost Sheep, Lost Coin, Lost Boy
Luke Luke 15:3-32

Rev. Laura Brewster

Introduction. We’ve heard the parables about the lost sheep, the lost coin and the lost boy before. Today, we will consider if they can teach us something new.

Scripture. Read Luke 15: 1-1 0 (The parable of the lost sheep and the parable of the lost coin.)

We Are Valued By God & God Celebrates When We Turn To Him. Both the sheep and the coin in these parables have little value when placed in context. In the case of the missing sheep, the owner had 99 other sheep. Losing one was not going to break the bank. In the case of the missing coin, what was missing was worth about one day’s wage. That was not an insignificant sum, but it wasn’t huge either. Again, the items are of limited value. However, the owners of the missing items launch an immediate search, and the owners hold celebrations after the items are found. The traditional interpretation of these two parables is that we are the lost coin and we are the lost sheep when we are living sinful lives away from God. But God loves us so much that God never stops reaching out to us and calling out to us, and when we finally decide to turn away from sin and turn, or return, to God, God celebrates.

Join the Search Party. When we puzzle over these parables a bit more, we see another lesson emerge. A clue to this second lesson appears in the opening words of the parable of the sheep – “Suppose someone among you had one hundred sheep and lost one … ” This language encourages the listener to assume the identity of the person who searched for the missing sheep. Through these stories, then, Jesus encourages us to help search for the lost instead of sitting back and waiting for them to show up at church.

Where Can We Search?
So where might you go to encounter new people and share God’s love? How can you move out of the church building and into the community, begin to show interest in others, and gain the opportunity to share your faith?

Who and Where Is the Lost Son?
As we continue to puzzle over these parables, still one more lesson soon appears. That message is found in the parable ofthe lost son (Parable of the Prodigal Son.) Read Luke 15:12- 32. The traditional take on this parable is that the prodigal son was the one who got “lost” but then came to his senses and returned home. It is said to represent how we sometimes get lost but can return to God who is always watching and waiting for our return to him. But what about the older son? Although no one had noticed, he had emotionally broken away from his family. Pastor Edward Markquart says this about the brothers, “We have one brother who is the prodigal of the flesh and the other is a prodigal of the spirit.” This is a challenge to us to consider, who has been a part of our church family in the past but has left due to resentment, hurt, or some other reason. Have we even paused to take notice of who has gone? If so, what have you done about it?

In short, many of us love the parables of the lost sheep, lost coin and lost boy because they speak of God’s love for us. But they’re a challenge too – a challenge to become a part of God’s search and rescue team.

Guard Against Greed – June 30

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Series: Puzzling Parables
Today: Guard Against Greed
Luke 12:13-21

Rev. Laura Brewster

Introduction: Parables invite us to consider where we fit within the story as well. The Parable of the Rich Man: One day a man told Jesus: “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the family inheritance with me.” The laws of inheritance were clear at the time. The law said that when a man died, his oldest son would receive a double portion of the inheritance (Deut. 21: 17). It seemed that the man who approached Jesus wanted more than he was allowed by law, and he wanted Jesus to help him in his quest. But Jesus refused to intervene. Instead of helping the man make acquire more wealth, Jesus provided a lesson of even greater value. He did so by telling the Parable of the Rich Man. (Read Luke 12: 13-21.)

The man in the parable became wealthier than anticipated. He then had to decide what to do with his riches. He didn’t ask God for guidance though. The thought of giving to persons in need never crossed his mind either. Instead, the man simply decided to build a bigger storage facility for all he owned. One commentator notes: “There is no one else in the story – just the man and his possessions – until God speaks to him.” (The New Interpreter’s Bible, volume IX) At this point, God calls the man a fool.

What’s So Foolish About Storing Up Wealth? The man was a fool because he thought that if he had enough money, he could control his life. He didn’t realize that he could not add a single day to his life. He was also a fool because he made no room in his life for anything but seeking wealth. There was no room for God, family, or the community. Rev. J. Ellsworth Kalas writes, this man wasn’t just a fool, he was a damned fool. That is, the rich man was so foolish that he was in danger of losing his relationship with God and his very soul.

What Does the Parable Say to You?
We are challenged to see what the parable has to say to us. As we’ve noted before, parables invite us to place ourselves within them. This parable invites us to “hold a mirror before us and asks us to take a good look at our own inner lives and listen to our own inner voices.” (The New Interpreter’s Bible, volume IX, page 256) What have we been telling ourselves about the wealth we have gained? Have we been foolishly telling ourselves: it’s mine! It’s all mine!

The Holy Spirit can help us keep the right perspective on wealth. Through scripture and additional avenues, the Holy Spirit reminds us that we have not been blessed solely for our own benefit and pleasure. We are blessed so that we might be a blessing; we are given to so that we might give to others.

Practice Steps to Guard Against Greed:
In addition to reading the scriptures, consider doing the following:
• If your garage is packed with stuff, sort through it and give some of it away.
• Review your spending habits. How does your charitable giving compare to your other spending? Does the order need to change?
• When you find yourself wanting what someone else has, stop to pray for contentment with what you have.
• If you rent a storage unit, go through it and give away half of the stuff.

What is yet to come – June 16

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What is yet to come
Joshua 1:9 and John 16:12-15

Rev. Karen Horan

Joshua 1:9 “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.”

The word of God for the people of God. Thanks be to God!

Good morning! I am so glad to be with you today. Again, my name is Karen Horan. What an honor to be with you this morning. Today being Father’s day, I think about all the godly men in my life … yes my dad, who is strong and innovative, an entrepreneur and taught me what hard work could do, but also the other Christian men who influenced and shaped me. My grandpa who believed that I could do anything I dreamed … my youth director and his wife, who showed me what love and marriage looked like outside my home. My mentor along the way as I was becoming a pastor, Russell cheered me on when I doubted myself … men .. .let me just say … you have no idea the influence you have on those around you. You may or may not be a father, but on Father’s day, I want to say thank you for being an example and encourager!

And we all need to be encouraged, right? To be reminded of who we are. As we look at our passages today, Joshua, a mighty warrior, had to be reminded of who he was and to be brave trusting in God. And who could blame him?! His mentor, Moses had just died. He had to be mourning, and yet God hands the reigns of leadership to Joshua. In the first few verses of Joshua, God is basically saying, ok … Moses got us this far, but now you will lead the Israelites into the land I promised. But I find it strange that God has to tell this mighty warrior to be strong and courageous … 3 times. 3! Why? Joshua understood the task at hand.

That leading people and entering the promised land wasn’t going to be easy … but he also had to remember WHO was sending him … and who would be with him. Remember what God said — “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.”

And in John’s gospel, we see Jesus holding up the disciples in their time of uncertainty … he has told them he was going to the cross, going to die, and he has promised them the Holy Spirit, but they don’t understand. Let me just say … This is an odd passage after Easter and after Pentecost, right? I mean, he has already resurrected and the Spirit has already come, right??? But I think this passage in John is part of the lectionary after Pentecost to remind us of a couple of things: 1. the fact that they ( and we) don’t often “get it”! And so we need to be reminded again and again of the power and presence of the Holy Spirit with us .. for us! Jesus has spent so much time talking to his disciples about his death and the coming of the Holy Spirit and yet … we as human beings can only see what we can see, amen? We only know what we know … what is right in front of us. All they knew was that Jesus was talking about dying and leaving them. And yet…there is so much more, more that God had for them. Which leads to the second reminder: we are a sent people

… God has more for us too. The difference is that we are not necessarily sent to a foreign land – oh maybe for a mission trip! But most of us are not sent to a new country to do God’s work, no we are sent to places nearby to serve people that we may not know much about. Our city or our neighborhoods … apartment complexes … schools … places we work or hang out. We are sent to share God’s love with people we don’t know yet. And in our unknowing … we are afraid .. Hence God’s reminder – be strong and courageous!

Maybe we are not physically scared, but uncomfortable. We don’t like change do we? We prefer what we know … who we know and where we are. And yet … God has more for us, so God sends us out even when we are uncomfortable. When I say that, I keep hearing something my yoga teacher says as she is taking us into a deep stretch – you don’t want it to hurt, but we have to get comfortable with the uncomfortable. (say that again)

And I love the connection in these two passages – God never sends us alone.

God reminds us of God’s loving presence AND the knowledge we will have as we go. God is with us, God goes before us to lead AND the Holy Spirit dwells in us reminding/teaching us all we need. I love that line – “he will tell you what is to come.” Now don’t get too excited – I have never experienced God giving me (or anyone for that matter) the entire road map … the whole picture or plan. Nope .. .it just doesn’t seem to work that way. (and personally, I hate that!) Oh, sure, God gives us big visions, huge promises -like with Abraham “I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore,” Great! But how … when … you see? The big picture-yes- but not the entire road map. However … God always gives the first next step

ALWAYS! Pray and step has been my motto for a long time … ever since I was sent to start a new church. Talk about a scary thing! (tell a little about Gruene- sent to a part of town, 17 of us … I was new … But God didn’t send me alone. I knew the big plan/picture but didn’t know have the road map … pray and step)

What about you … and this church?

Where is God sending you? Calling you? What is yet to come? I have seen and felt the presence of the Holy Spirit here … I have met with your pastor and leaders in the past … God is working here, but the question remains – Where is God sending you? Or maybe to whom is God sending you? As you look around the church sometimes the best questions to ask are questions like – who is missing? Not meaning who didn’t come today that comes every week (even though that might be a thing some of you could do) but who is missing that lives in this area … neighborhood? Maybe it is young families, or people of color. maybe there are a lot of single adults in apartments … who is missing? Where might God be sending you? For me, it was just a few miles away to a growing edge of town. But what about you?? (pause) Where is God sending you? Are you willing to go there? (pause)

For some churches they feel called to reach apartments just next door to the church – one church couldn’t figure out how to reach/connect with the folks in the apartments so they used what they did have to make connections – some land … and they asked the folks from the apartments if they would want to help with a community garden

to grow some veggies for themselves, yes, but also for the food pantry the church participated in for the city. They are meeting people they never knew … they plan on deepening the relationships as they grow and harvest and even share meals together after each harvest. Will the church invite the folks to attend a service now and again … sure … but the point of sending isn’t to fill the sanctuary, but to create relationships and share God’s love in new ways. Do you see? Where is God sending you?

Another church felt called to get connected to the elementary school nearby. They started by simply praying for each teacher by name and periodically sending a note to the teachers letting them know they were being prayed for. They also connected with the leadership of the school to find out if they needed folks to read to classes or volunteers for any events. Just a few did regular volunteering for a few months in the spring until they realized that the school needed new bleachers for the end of year field days. So the church did that

got to work on building the bleachers then blessed them – prayed over them and then celebrated

with the school on field day.

One more story – another church felt called to reach the Hispanic population in their town. When they tried to do “events” … no one came.  Finally they stopped striving and asked some folks, what needs aren’t being met? There are food ministries already and free stores, but what is needed in our area that isn’t being offered? The school counselor helped find the answer – ESL classes for the families/parents of the kids in that small town school. Most of the kids spoke English, but the parents or other relatives needed help … maybe speaking or reading better in English. And so they got started with just a few volunteers because this was uncharted territory for all of them! But they prayed and stepped out

one relationship at a time.

So now the question is

Where is God calling /sending you?? This church? Who isn’t here yet? Or who is out there needing to know about God’s love and grace … not through more transactional encounters (like food or clothing – even though that is great stuff) but who is out there needing to know God’s love and grace through relationships? Who are they? Where are they? And how can you get out of your comfort zone to reach them for Christ?

I don’t have the answers for you, but God does. The Holy Spirit is already moving, collectively you can listen and ask God for the big vision of where to go … but remember … we only get one step of the plan at a time …

Pray and step, pray and step, pray and pray and pray and step.

And remember God’s words – Joshua 1:9 “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.” Amen? Amen … let’s pray