Thursday, May 26, 2016

Bags and Pens

The other day I was driving through Main Street in downtown Concord.
I stopped to let someone cross the street.
I didn’t know the person crossing the street but I did notice that she was carrying one of our churches bags.
A couple of years ago the outreach committee ordered lots of those bags.
We still have them and we continue to give them out.
And here it was walking across the street.
A couple of days later I was in the New Hampshire coffee shop getting a cup of coffee for my wife.
I paid with my bank card.
The woman working there handed me a pen to sign the receipt.
The pen she handed me was a Concordia Lutheran pen.
Not one of our new ones, but one of the old pens that don’t work.
This is exactly why the outreach committee bought those bags and those pens.
We were hoping that people would take them out into the world and loose them, or give them away.
We wanted them to end up in the hands of someone who has never heard of Concordia Lutheran Church.
We wanted them to make their way into our community.
The worst thing you could have done with the pen or bag that you got from Concordia is take it home and used it for yourself.
It would have been good for you, but it wasn’t the intention of why we bought those things.
We wanted them to make their way into the community.
We wanted people who are not part of our congregation to see them, to use them.

This serves two purposes.
One is that perhaps someone will be looking for a place to connect to God.
And perhaps when they get to that point in their life they will think about the pen or bag that they saw.
And perhaps they might make their way through our doors and into our worship.
That reason is a bit self serving on our part.
It is also fairly unlikely to happen.
But you never know what the Holy Spirit will do.
The second is that our congregation will simply become a part of our community.
We will be known because we desire to not be confined to a building, but a people shaped by God’s love, sent by God’s love.

It is a lot to ask of bags and pens.
But I am using them as tangible examples of what happens at Concordia on a weekly basis.
We gather to receive the Spirit of God.
We gather to eat and drink the body and blood of Jesus.
We gather to be created into the people God calls us to be.
We gather to have our lives shaped by God.
But it is not meant for us to hog.
It is not meant for us to go home and keep to ourselves.
It is meant to be brought into the world.
It is meant to be given away so that others will also carry with them God’s Spirit.

I say this because today Vanessa and Ella join us at the Lord’s Table.
For both of them it will be the first time.
And I think we can all see how excited they are.
I am excited for them.
One of the things I love as a pastor is to teach first communion class.
It brings such joy to my heart to have young people come to the Lord’s Table.
But this morning I want you all to know we don’t do this just for Vanessa and Ella.
We do it because we believe that with us they will be moved by the Spirit of God to go out and share what they receive here with the world.
We send them out like a bag or a pen to give it away for others.

This is why Jesus sends us the Holy Spirit.
It is so that we can grow in our faith.
We cannot bear all the things there is to learn about God right now.
“I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth.”
Faith is a process for all of us.
It is a process for us to learn how to live out the words that Jesus gave us.
It is a process to learn how to be the people God created us to be.
It is about constantly learning and growing.
And it is a gift from God to us that is meant to be shared.

This process is different for all of us.
We all come to God in our own time and pace.
That formation work that takes time is the Holy Spirit too.
It moves in and out of our lives drawing us closer to God.
And sometimes we don’t know it is even happening.
Sometimes it only makes sense after the fact.

The Holy Spirit is also working on us to share the love that we have been given with the world.
We never know how the love we share affects people.
We never know what happens to it after we put it out there in the world.
It is like we have lost it, or thought we lost it, and we don’t know where it is going.
And then one day it shows up crossing the street, or in a coffee shop.
I believe that also to be the work if the Spirit.
It takes our offerings of love, care, concern, and makes them into something more.

After College I worked at a pizza place in North Conway.
I had a boss who was by his own admission an atheists.
Often times at the end of the night we would sit and talk about God.
He would ask me these really hard questions.
And at times he would mock me for my faith.
I tried to be patient and understanding.
But I never thought it did any good.
I just thought that he believed what he believed and I believed what I did.
A couple of years later I went back to have lunch at that pizza place and my boss was still there.
He came out and sat with me for a while to talk about things.
He told me that he was going to Church now regularly.
I was surprised.
He told me, “You played a big part of getting me to believe in God. The way you listened to my questions without judging and the way you were my friend.”
I had no idea.
I also have to say that I wasn’t trying to convert him.
I was just trying to have a conversation, and answer with honesty the questions he asked me.
I tried to have a relationship with him.
And the Holy Spirit took my offering and made into something awesome.
The Holy Spirit is doing the same thing with your offerings of love that you put out there into the world.
And because of that there is someone right now crossing the street whose life is a little better because you are in it.
It sounds hokey, but that is how life works.
We care for each other and in doing we lighten the load a little for each other.
Because life is hard enough without people telling you how horrible of a person you are, or all the things you should be doing different or better.
So the Holy Spirit is meant to lift us up shows us God’s love given through Jesus Christ.
And then we are meant to share it with others, and let the Holy Spirit work on their lives.

To Ella and Vanessa we are all so overjoyed that you will be receiving Jesus special meal today.
We are also glad that you will be co-workers with us in bringing God’s love to others.
May the Holy Spirit dwell in you and lead you into truth, so that we might glorify God together.
And keep a look out for those bags and pens.

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