Oh, The Place You Will Go
We are reminded that Faith is the evidence of things hoped for and the substance of things unseen in the book of Hebrew. Even Christ was concerned for those followers who came later and could not see him physically but believed. It can be a frustrating journey to be a part of a 2000-year movement that puts so much into hope and things that are intangible.
I believe this is why the church is so often manipulated by the world. Why so much of our own denomination is aspiring to be banks, insurance salespeople or Madison Avenue Marketers. We constantly attempt to fill that unseen hole with things that are certain in our world, instead of filling that hole with what we are instructed, hope.
It is fear that hobbles and constricts our stride toward a hope filled faith that we are called. It is both the projection of our internal individual fears and a collective hysterical narrative that stops a positive movement toward the salvation we need to be working out.
Let me give you a few examples of fears and then the unseen hope of faith:
-We Don’t Have Enough Money: Last week when Lionel, Margaret and I met with the sub-committee for the Presbytery we were told that the Presbytery no longer has the money to support the type of ministries it has done in the past. I deeply love the people whom conveyed this information, but I humbly disagree on multiple counts.
First, this is patently not true. Aside from the over $600,000 the presbytery has in the bank to do New worship communities and help existing communities of faith, this money is sure to grow if the Presbytery continues the practice of putting the assets from the sale of closed churches and property in this account. This is not including any other assets that the Presbytery has or funds. The Synod of Living Waters has over $3,000,000 in the bank as well. One church that is blocks from us has millions of dollars itself as a foundation to pay its church’s bills. Denominational entities hold billions of dollars in assets alone. This does not even take into account the demographic nature of our churches. White and educated. We are one of the denominations with wealth in the pews. So, where is this shortage of money? As Carol says, our denomination is more like a dragon who breaths fire out of her cave to protect the gold and wealth inside. We have an attitude of scarcity in the midst of our abundance.Yet, further than the fact that there is plenty of liquid assets the more troubling aspect of our faith is that we too often start with the question of money. It is prudent to have a plan for how any work we do will finance itself. Still, we are too often paralyzed by the fear of finance. Our bean counters come forward to be speak to their reality. The problem with an accountant’s reality is that it is not the reality of the faith in the miraculous feeding of the five thousand. If an accountant mentality had won the day on the banks of the water, everyone would have starved to death. We start with the dream and vision of faith, not end with it after all the finances are secured.
-We Don’t Have Enough People: This is a pernicious lie. We have enough people in this room today to begin to change the entire Westside. I believe that to the very core of my being. Why? Because I have faith. I know what faith can do. It doesn’t stop until the itch is scratched. This congregation could have just as easily given up, closed its doors and everyone moved on to more fashionable churches. Still, you are here. You want to know why? Because God isn’t finished with you yet. Something burns, seethes and agitates here that won’t let us go. We don’t know what it is, because it is unseen. It is the spirit of Christ burning amongst us. Even when we are tired, depressed, dragging ourselves out of bed and back to this room. We know that Jesus is not done perfecting his work in us. We are being called, and called and called and called, again and again and again.
Can you hear God. I will tell you what the divine is telling us right now, in this moment. Our creator is saying clearly, “You are enough.”
We are not too old, too small, too poor, too anything to accomplish the things that God has for us. We have great things still to accomplish through faith.
-We Need to Merely Survive: There is a saying in 12 Step Programs that I dearly love. It goes, “It wasn’t that I was afraid that I would die, it was that I was afraid I would go on living that way.” I feel that is too often the attitude of the church. No one wants to be a part of merely subsistence survival, how is that better than death? Unless there is hope that subsistence will give way to abundant faith our subsistence will be the lulling nursery song that lulls us into premature death. Fear of death, which by the way is inevitable, keeps everyone in a semi-permanent holding pattern. If we can just make it one more year, one more month, one more week…
That is not faith, that is surrender. We are called to be the pioneers of faith. I grew up in lands where my genealogy was filled with pioneers to Nebraska. They boarded Conestoga wagons and headed for prairie lands that they had never seen. They busted sod, endured grass fires, lived in dugouts, weathered horrible winters and encountered desperate loneliness. All so that they could fulfill their dream of owning land and providing crops to feed their family.
So, I am ready. Today is my first official day as your pastor. I refuse to give in to these three fears. We are strong in faith. That is all a community of faith needs. Money, people, and survival are not our calling. Our calling is to perfect our faith. This we will do by being unafraid to dream, live out our visions and love each other. I am excited to get started on that journey.