Monday, January 23, 2012

Turn Around!

We have had a very successful year at Concordia Lutheran Church.
Today at our annual meeting you will hear all kinds of good news.
Good news about our worship attendance being up.
Good news about Sunday school growing.
Good news about our financial stewardship growing.
Good news about our membership growing.
All these things are good.
We should celebrate them and rejoice together in our mutual ministry.

This past month as I was preparing for our annual meeting I was thinking about all our success and what would be the message I would give to you this Sunday.
Once again the Spirit of God moved because the lessons for today say it better than I ever could.
God is always calling us away from our comfortable lives and into good news.
Maybe a better way to say it is that God is always interrupting our lives and calling us to turn to something new.

Think about Simon and Andrew this morning.
They are at work.
They have been doing this for a long time.
Their father before them fished these waters.
They probably thought that for the rest of their lives this is what they would be doing.
Waking up every morning, mending nets, pushing out the boat, sailing on the water, catching fish, hauling them in, selling them, going home, eating, going back to bed.
Some days were better than others, some days there were storms or trouble, but it was usually about the same.
Then Jesus arrives, calls them, and everything changes.
I am hoping that in the next year of our ministry together this will continue to happen, both for our congregation, but also for all of you individually.

We think of churches as static things.
In many ways it is comforting to think that something in our lives will always be the same.
We can count on the church to remain the same to always be there in the same way it was.
However, the truth is that the Church is not a static thing.
If it is to constantly hear the call of God it can never be static.
The church always is in motion.
I think it is merely a reflection of our own lives.
We are always in motion.
Things change.
People grow up, grow old, grow apart, and grow close.
This is the nature of the world.

I guess the question for all of us is how will we handle it?
What will be our reaction?
I suppose that one thing we could do is fight against it.
We could try with all of our might to keep things from never changing by creating traditions and set patterns of thought and behavior.
This is usually what I do.
I create in my life tons of traditions to keep up the appearance of things remaining the same.
If we do something once and it is good instantly for me it becomes a tradition that can never change.
I will tell you I am working on this because it is unhealthy, and a lot of work to try to keep everything exactly like it was.

We could also simply become upset and angry that things are not the way they once were.
I have spoken many times about this condition.
It is really not good for you, because you become mad about things that you have no control over.
You end up alienating other people who don’t share that same world view.

Today I am going to go against type and suggest to all of us that we learn to embrace it.
Jesus told people that the “Kingdom of God had come near. Repent”
We hear that word repent and we think about confessing all the sins that we have committed in our lives.
But hear it is about turning ourselves around changing the direction of our lives in order to be able to correctly see the Kingdom of God that is already here now.
Unless we allow God to turn us around we can never hear and see the good news.
We will not be able to follow Jesus down unwalked paths.

As we enter this new year of ministry together perhaps this is a helpful image in our church and in our lives.
We might find our lives on a certain path, going a certain way.
Today is a good day to hear Jesus tell us to turn around look at things in a new way.
I know that there are probably whole hosts of ways that I need to turn around.
There are things I need to look at from a fresh perspective.

There is immediacy to our life.
We don’t have all the time in the world.
Our lives are finite with a limited amount of time.
More than this Jesus tells us that God’s kingdom time is now.
Right in front of us, now, is the good news that we need to hear and believe.

We can’t look back because that is already done.
We can’t look ahead because we don’t know what that will be.
We can only have now!
We have the immediacy of this moment.

I know that some of you feel at times that we as a church are moving too quickly.
Things are happening at an accelerated rate.
Know that I am sensitive to that.
But also know that there is immediacy to our actions.
The Church as we know it is dead or dying.
If you don’t believe me all you have to do is look at the statistics and see that we are heading in a negative direction.
I believe that God is calling us to turn and see things from a different perspective.
I understand that it is not easy.
It probably was not that easy for the disciples either.
But we have to be open to the ways that we will be turned around.

I had this moment this year when I panicked.
Three leaders Alva Hauser (Who was head of our altar guild), Phil Joseph (Our council president), and Bob Hunton (Our treasurer) were all stepping away from the positions they currently held.
Three leaders of our congregation who I rely on were stepping away from their positions!
The reasons for their stepping away were varied and none of it was due to hurt feelings or bad blood.
It was just natural for these three leaders to step away.
In Phil’s case it was constitutionally mandated that he step down.
But when I heard it I freaked out.
I relied on those people.
I knew they would do the job.
It was comfortable for me.
For example, I never worried about the altar.
I knew that Alva would make sure everything was just right.
What was the church going to do without them?

But I was turned around.
God calmed me down.
The Holy Spirit reminded me.
This is the natural course of action for congregations.
This is the way things go.
New leaders will be called, new people will step up.
Those three leaders are being called in a new way.
At the end of it I could see it as a good thing.
I share this with you so that we can remember that God is always turning us around.

The question I want to leave you with is where do we need to be turned?
What are the things that we have become so comfortable with that they keep us from following Jesus?

As we individually and as a church face the challenges ahead let us remember to let God turn us around so we might here the call and believe in the Good News.

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