January 24, 2016
Anthem: Promised Landarr. Lojeski
Grace and Peace to you this morning. Grace and Peace.
This morning I am taking license to step out of the Lectionary and use two passages that speak to the calling of God. The first, the calling of Abram; the second, when Jesus calls the disciples.
In reading the Bible, we have all sorts of ways of mitigating our anxiety and missing what the people are going through. We know how it ends. We have several centuries of commentaries to get lost in, just in case we don’t like what we read. Often we put back onto this part of the story what we know from the later parts.
But in these stories, let us stick with where Abram and Simon and Andrew and James and John are. It is Abram, not Abraham. It is Simon, not Peter. They will each be given new names, but not yet. Abram is given a promise here, “To your offspring, I will give this land.” But he will be given a new name, and a covenant, and although they have had no children, he will have offspring. But that is later.
And we know that he and his wife Sarai will not always handle their anxiety well. They will become fearful. They will try and trick God’s promises by having a child through Hagar, her maidservant. And it will not turn out well.
Abraham will lie to the powers that be and nearly get himself and his wife killed. And it will not turn out well.
Simon is given a promise, “Follow me and I will make you fish for people.” He will be given other promises. He will be given a new name, Peter, the rock, the one on whom the church will be founded. But he will also try and prove himself and charge out onto the water to meet Jesus, and he will falter and drop into the water. He will be impetuous and proclaim he will fight and die rather than let Jesus be taken. And it will turn out badly for him. Cutting off a slave’s ear at Jesus’ arrest. Denying Jesus three times.
So there is some reasonable hesitation when we hear that we might be called by God. We tend to mess it up. We come from a long line of stiff-necked and “oh ye of little faith types.” On such a rock is founded this church.
How many times did Abraham get in trouble, trying to secure his future for himself? How many times did Peter and the disciples get it wrong, trying to follow Jesus by doing it the same old way people have always done it?
We find ourselves in an anxious time. The budget, which has been a deficit budget, passed by the church at Congregational meetings for at least a dozen years, and by some accounts much longer. We heard it for so long that the cries of the Trustees and people concerned about the finances sound like the boy who cried wolf. But the savings are just about gone.
And we find ourselves in a painful time. The Trustees eliminated Pastor Tom’s position, after long discussion, after much prayer and sleepless nights, and by unanimous vote.
We are hurting because such a move was taken. We are hurting by how it was done. We are hurting because such a move was deemed necessary. We are hurting because we love Tom. We are hurting because people who love this church and love Tom have resigned their membership over this. And we will hurt for quite a while.
When one member of the body of Christ hurts, all parts hurt.
Elimination of Pastor Tom’s position does not solve our problems. It does in fact add a few.
But our real problem as a church is not the budget, it is not the Trustees, it is not Pastor Tom. The real problem of our church is that we have been stuck for many years. We have looked back on the days of full pews and overflowing coffers and wondered why they are gone. We have been doing things the same way and wondering why we have not gotten new results.
Whatever else this moment is, it is a moment to acknowledge our hurt, and the real and profound hurt of those around us, and it is a moment to commit ourselves to something new.
If doing it the same old way worked, it would have worked by now.
Now is a moment of calling.
When Jesus called Simon and Andrew and James and John, they had no idea what they were in for. What they discovered soon enough is that Jesus was not like the scribes everyone had heard, for Jesus had authority. They soon realized that they were not going to be doing it the way they always have.
When God called Abram, Abram had no idea all that he and Sarai would face.
We are in such a moment. We have no idea all that we will face. We have no idea, YET, of the new ways we are being called to live with one another. But we do know that doing it the way we have been is not the answer.
So what is next? Next is prayer. Next is forgiving and asking forgiveness. Next is blessing Pastor Tom as best we can so that we can say goodbye well. Because every time we say goodbye, it has a great deal to do with our next hellos. And every goodbye is a rehearsal for that final time we say goodbye.
Next is living in this moment and not rushing to move past it, because we need to learn from it.
Here is the truth of our faith. The best of our forebears messed up. Abram and Sarai. Simon, Andrew, James and John. You and me.
But we do not have the final word. That belongs to the one who calls us, even before we know any of what the future will hold. That is the one in whom we trust, when our own heart and mind and strength fail. That is the one who will bind up the broken hearted, and make us once again, by the grace of God and the power of the Holy Spirit, the body of Christ.
Thanks be to God. Amen.