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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.”
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