Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Get Out of the Locked Room

Every Year the same thing happens to me after Easter.
I get the post Easter blahs.
Easter is such a wonderful day in the church year.
It is my favorite time all year.
This year was especially satisfying.
The weather was beautiful, the church was full, the breakfast tasted great, the music was awesome.
When I went to bed at night I could hardly sleep thinking about what a great day it had been.
And well Monday morning is always a letdown.
I always get the post Easter blues.
I wonder if this is what it is like for anyone else?
Or is this just a pastor thing?
But I was thinking that perhaps every Monday is like that for all of us.
You have a great weekend.
You go to visit people, you spend time with your family and friends, you unwind and share good time.
And then on Monday you return to the grind.
You go back to work, the kids go back to school and practices.
The pace increases and you have to run around again.
I think we would all agree that it would be nice to remain on the high of Easter, the high of a great weekend.

But this morning’s Gospel is after that first Easter morning.
After the disciples have discovered the empty tomb.
It is Easter night.
There is fear and confusion.
The disciples are locked away in a room out of fear.
And in Comes Jesus.
Jesus offers them peace.
But he will not let them stay in that room.
“Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”
In other words tomorrow is Monday and on Monday there is work to be done you cannot sit in this room forever.
Jesus breaths the Holy Spirit into them and then tells them to get out, because tomorrow is Monday and on Monday the Gospel must be preached, sins must be forgiven, people must know that Jesus is alive.

This week was for me one of the busiest I have had since becoming your pastor.
It was as if Jesus was telling me, “no time to sit around and celebrate. It is Monday and there is work to be done.”
Every night this week we had some meeting or other at church.
This week we met with LSS about starting a community circle to help a refugee family.
This weekend was the youth lock-in in Milford, yesterday was the Northern area mission assembly, and today is the Holocaust remembrance service at the synagogue where I signed up to be a part of the service.
I was wondering why my week was so busy and I think it was Jesus sending me out and not allowing me to rest on the high of Easter.

Because what we know is this.
That Easter the church was filled, but Monday it is not.
Monday people return to their lives and that is where the Gospel is most important.
There is work to be done.
There is many people out in the world who still do not have a consistent relationship with Jesus.
We my friends are sent to tell them about Jesus so that they may have life in his name.
Jesus will not allow us to stay here in this place.

No the work has to be done on Monday morning.
We have to go out and tell others about the risen Lord, so that they will experience Jesus for themselves.

Let me tell you what I think we are not called to do.
That is bring people to church.
I know that it sounds crazy.
But our goal is not to get people into our church.
No our goal is to go out and build real relationships with real people and help them know Jesus.

Notice Jesus does not say to the disciples, “Go out and get some people and then bring them back into this locked room. So they can see me.”
He says go out there and tell others that their sins are forgiven.
Tell others that they have life in my name.
Our evangelism strategies for too long have been focused on keeping our church alive.
Instead of focused on helping other know that Jesus is alive.

Let me give you two examples based on my own experience of what I am taking about.
The first one is what we might think is what we should be doing.
Pat who is thirty-five, is married, and has two kids comes to church one Sunday.
I being a good pastor introduce myself.
I talk to him about the church, and the entire ministry happening there.
I try really hard to convince him that this church is the best Church ever.
He tells me that he lives nearby and is looking for a faith community.
We talk and I believe that he is coming back.
I never see Pat again in church.
In this case I was selling the church not Jesus.
It was a lesson to me about what it really means to do ministry with people.
I did not go into that conversation concerned with Pat as a person to me he was a number.

Second example, I was on the church steps one day and I saw one of the neighbors of the church in there yard.
She waves to me.
I go over and we start talking about life and what not.
She tells me about some of her struggles with her job and boyfriend.
I listen and am genuinely concerned about her life.
Not once in the conversation do I invite her to church.
I tell her that I am praying for her.
The next time I see her I ask how things are going, we talk some more.
Again I tell her I am praying for her.
The next Sunday she sends her two kids to Sunday School.
We start to talk about faith in those meetings we have over the fence.
She tells me how her kids love Sunday school.
She tells me that she would come to church, but she is divorced and living with her boyfriend.
I tell her no problem, we preach grace in our church.
I tell her that Jesus preached love, acceptance, and forgiveness.
She starts coming to church.
I never thought she would come.
In this case I was concerned about the person.
I really never thought about her coming to church.
I have learned this lesson in my time as a pastor.
When I want someone to come to church, and I work really hard at it, then it does not happen.
When I want to build relationships with people, when I desire to know them and their lives, when I allow the Holy Spirit to work then everything exceeds my expectations.

On Monday this is what we are called to do go out and love others.
Listen to their stories offer forgiveness and life.
Allow Jesus to become part of their life struggles their stories.
Let me be clear we should invite people to church.
But we should do it because that is what is best for the person and their faith journey.
Not because we want our church to grow.

Let me make a promise to all of you.
If we build authentic relationships with people.
If we connect their real lives to the risen Lord.
If they can feel his hands and touch his side, and see that he is risen.
If we offer ourselves to be sent out into the world to reach others then I do believe the unintentional consequence will be that our church will grow.

So on this Monday as you return to the work you are called to.
As you go back to your busy schedule, remember that Jesus is sending you out into that real world to listen to people and their stories,
To connect them to Jesus.
to tell them about the forgiveness of sins.
To tell that about the risen Jesus Christ so that they may have life in his name.

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