Wednesday, September 11, 2019

10 Years Later Still Rolling the Dice

Something of significance happened this summer for our congregation and me.
It has been 10 years since we have been together.
I will be honest I wasn't expecting it.
I told Phil Joseph early on in our ministry together that I thought I would be here either 3 years or 8 years.
It would be a short time, and I would realize that this was not the place for me.
Or it would be a good 8 year run.
I want to explain the eight years.
My grandfather was also a pastor, and according to him eight years is the perfect amount of time to be the pastor of a congregation.
It was long enough to build relationships and trust so that you could get things done, but not too long were you both wear each other out.
But here we are at ten years, and I have no plans on leaving as long as you will still have me.
I still feel called here, I still feel that we have work to do together.
God is still keeping things interesting for me, and I hope for you.

I mention because I have mixed feelings about our Gospel this morning.
Jesus tells us that to be his disciple we have to "count the costs".
That we have to figure out if once we start something do we have the resources to finish the job.
On the one hand Jesus is right.
It is important to take measure of things and figure out can we do this thing.
We bought a new couch this week, and before we did we looked at all the options, we figured out if we could do it financially, and then we bought the couch.
We counted the cost.
Many times in our ministry together we have done this.
Before the current Capital Campaign the council discussed if we thought it was possible to raise the money we needed, and to figure out what needed to get done and why.
And Jesus is telling us that when we follow him we should do the same.
That there will be a cost to it.
It will cost us our lives.
To be a disciple of Jesus Christ is not something we do on the weekend when we have no other plans.
It is something we are all the time.
No matter where we are, or what condition out life is in, we are called to give of ourselves for other people.
And maybe the Church in this time doesn't do a good enough job of helping people see that cost.
The Church is just happy when people show up, and we take Jesus message and make it easier for people to be here.
We don't teach enough what Jesus is actually calling us to.

On the other hand.
How can we really know what the cost is?
I am not sure either Concordia Lutheran Church, nor I really understood what we were getting into ten years ago.
I wonder sometimes if you had really counted the cost would you have called me as your pastor?
Did you realized that some people would leave because of the ELCA vote on gay marriage and clergy?
Did you realize that some people would leave because of our open communion table that invites all people regardless of age, sex, faith tradition, or anything else?
Did you realize that your pastor would be an advocate for repeal of the death penalty, the homeless, immigrants, or LGBTQ+ community?
Did you realize that our church building would get a makeover?
Did you realize that we would get new seating, new bathrooms, new doors, new carpet?
Did you realize that your pastor would be always looking to do and try new things?
Did you realize that we would be running an early learning center?
I want to tell you that I didn't expect or know any of that at the time.
I really didn't.
I had no ten year plan.
(I will say the one thing I knew when I started was we needed new flooring in the fellowship hall.)
I went back and re-read the sermon I gave on the Sunday that you  voted to have me as your pastor.
It was about rolling the dice.
Here is a portion of what I said,
"This morning you all have a decision to make.
This morning together we have to try and discern God’s will for the future of Concordia Lutheran Church.
You have to discern if you feel that God is calling us to do ministry with one another here in Concord NH?
Let me suggest that we both are rolling the dice in this instance.
We are deciding on a course of action that neither of us know the outcome of.
We don’t know if we will be successful together.
We don’t know for sure if we will be a good fit.
I myself have prayed and agonized trying to discern God’s will in this case.
What are we to do?
Well you could flip a coin I guess.
But what I have done in the process as I met with the call committee and then the council is to be open to God’s call.
I have prayed about it.
I have given this my reverent best guess that this is where God is leading and calling me."

In other words in what was probably one of the biggest decisions of my life I simply trusted in God.
I am assuming you did too.
And that is what is difficult about Jesus words this morning.
We don't know the full price always.
We don't know what it will cost.
We certainly don't know how it will turn out.

Jesus disciples were following him from the start of his public ministry, but they didn't even know how it would work out.
They followed in faith.
And maybe this is where our lives and this teaching are most important.
And that is all of our lives are lived in faith.
We have to at some point turn it over to God, because we simply cannot see all the things that will come at us.

I want to end this morning with something my wife always says.
She says that she had no idea what she was getting into when we got married.
She was young and in love and didn't realize all the things that go into a marriage.
She didn't realize she was going to have to put up with me for all these years.
She married me on faith.
I want to say for my part it was worked out wonderfully.
But her point is well taken.
We simply don't know everything.
But we go on faith.

So count the cost, crunch the numbers, take your best guess.
And in the end have faith that on the walk Jesus will be with you.
I believe he has been with us as a congregation for the last ten years.
I am grateful that you rolled the dice and called me as your pastor.
And I still don't know what the future holds, but I know that as we walk together I am ready for the wondrous, glorious things that God will do here at Concordia Lutheran Church through all of us working together to witness to the awesome God we worship.

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