Tuesday, January 28, 2014

8,000 hours!

I have noticed something in my ten years of ministry.
If you ask someone to talk about their faith what they talk about is the church.
They talk about when they first remember going to church, when they left the church, when they came back to the church.
They will talk about the importance of being in a community that cares for them.
This of course is appropriate.
It is in the Church that we come to know Jesus.
So it is not a bad thing that people talk about the Church when they talk about their faith.
But our faith is not dependent on the Church.
Our faith is not really about church doctrines, church practices, and church policies.
Our faith is about a relationship with Jesus.
And I notice that many people have a difficult time talking about this.
I think the Church has done a poor job of making clear to people that even though we understand Jesus through the Church, the task of the Church is to make Jesus alive and real in people’s lives.

This morning in our Gospel Jesus calls his disciples.
What is clear is that he calls them to follow him, not join a religion.
He calls them to discover the Kingdom of God that has broken into the world.
And this calling that these disciples leave everything for is an adventure with Jesus.
It is an adventure that will have exhilarating highs and unbelievable lows.
It will lead them to places unknown.
They will see and hear things that are really unbelievable.
They will learn and grow in faith.
That is what Jesus calls us all into too.
Jesus calls us to an adventure with Jesus as our guide.
Because when we follow Jesus we just don’t know what will be asked of us.
I don’t know about you but that is what I find so great about this relationship with Jesus is that we are called to do things that maybe we never thought of before.

It is important in our faith life not to have a relationship with the Church, but with Jesus.
Let me challenge all of you here this morning to consider what does it mean for you to follow Jesus?
I am not asking how can you serve the Church?
Or what is great about coming to Church?
I am asking what is great about knowing Jesus?

The reason why this is so important is because we spend very little time in Church.
Consider that there is roughly 8,765 hours in one year.
How many of those hours do we spend in church?
Well let us say that you come to worship every Sunday, and that you attend one type of Christian education class a week.
Let us assume you serve on some committee or do some service thing in the Church for an hour a week.
That is roughly 156 hours a year in Church. (You all know that my math is really not good.)
That means that we have 8,609 hours left. (of course some of that is spent sleeping.)
In other words we spend most of our time outside the Church.
And in those hours we are called by Jesus to fish for people.
We are called to live with Jesus those 8,000 hours as Jesus people, doing the things in the world that Jesus would do.
How can we do that if we don’t have a relationship with Jesus?
How can we do that if we don’t know what it means to follow Jesus?

Let me put it another way.
We tend to compartmentalize things.
We tend to say this over here is my religious self.
This over here is my home life.
This over here is my work life.
This over here is my fun life.
And perhaps this is why people talk about the Church when asked to talk about faith, because we think, “ok now I am supposed to talk about my religious life, and that happens for an hour or two a week when I am at Church.”
But really faith happens just as much in the other 8,000 hours a year we are not in Church.

Even when we hear this story of Jesus calling his disciples we think this.
They were working as fishermen, and now they are going to go off with Jesus and do some really cool religious thing.
Jesus calls them to is to fish for people.
He uses the words of their work to describe what he is asking them to do.
Not only this but what did Jesus spend so much of his time doing?
He spent time eating and drinking with people.
He spent time going into towns and healing.
He spent time out in nature talking to crowds of people.
In other words, Jesus didn’t take the disciples off to some school somewhere and have a class.
Jesus didn’t sit them down and say, here is what it means to follow me in my three point presentation.
What he did was take them into the lives of people and taught them through doing.

The question that we should be asking ourselves, those other 8,000 hours or so that we have outside of these walls, is what Jesus is up to here?
What is Jesus calling me to do this moment?
What is sacred about my day?
Religion might be a couple hours a week thing, but our faith is an every hour, every minute thing.
The other thing about Church is that it is an institution run by people.
It is really a very imperfect place.
 Even the lofty ideas that we put forward the doctrines, the theology, and the Biblical study are imperfect.
We know this because the Church is constantly adapting its teaching.
Consider that in some Churches it used to be taught that slavery was ordained by God.
Or that women should not speak in Church.
Or that homosexuality is an abomination.
Or that everybody, but a very select few righteous people, is going to hell.
This is not to say that doctrines don’t matter at all, but it is to say that they have to be tested in the grit of everyday life.
They only make sense as far as they are able to withstand what we experience when we are not in Church.
And we all have to test them against what Jesus taught us about living in the kingdom of God.
Martin Luther was not right about everything.
Neither is Pastor Jon. (Not that hard to believe)
The only thing that matters is does this help us to convey to other people God’s love.
Do I love my neighbor as myself?

What Jesus taught his disciples, and what he teaches us is that wherever there are people that are suffering, in pain, sick, poor, that is where we are called to be.
It often brought the disciples to places outside their comfort zones, just as it does for us.
Jesus taught his disciples and us that faith is not about the ending as much as it is about the journey.
It is about the ride we take when we boldly follow Jesus.
It is not about a set of rules and theological propositions it is about the wild ride we go on to discover the places where God is at work.

Today I am hoping for you to think about your relationship with Jesus.
I am hoping that you will think about what Jesus is calling you to do, and to be.
I am hoping that you will risk leaving the comforts of your home, just as the disciples did, to go on a journey that has its exhilarating highs and unbelievable lows.
It is well worth the ride.

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