There’s an underlying message in our lessons this morning. God is bringing people together for their own good and for the good of the world. That is hopefully, a clear mark of our outreach ministries here at Faith.
Paul reminds us in our second lesson that all the old boundaries, all the old labels, don’t count for anything. To be new in Christ is to have a new vision of God’s world; it is to be touched by resurrection hope; it is to have a new understanding of our mission.
And that mission is described in the lessons this morning. It is a nurturing, it is a guiding, it is a caring, it is a feeding that reaches all people, regardless of labels. These are wonderful lessons for any time, but particularly today in these early weeks after Pentecost and as we celebrate Grace’s baptism. They come as a reminder of our Easter hope. They come as a blueprint for our congregational ministry. They come as a guide for each of us in our daily baptismal ministry in the world.
Good lessons for us as in just a bit later this morning our Appalachian Ministry team will board a bus for a better than 12-hour ride to the hills of Tennessee in the town of Sunset Gap. A bit about the history of this ministry. I was here 22 years ago when it was just a vision – a ‘what if’ – that became – ‘why not’. And for this, our 21st year, dozens of folks – an intergenerational group – will once again make that journey.
Our work crew will do a housing rehab and the rest of us will have a grand, but exhausting time running a Bible Camp and Nutrition program there for dozens of kids.
Those early trips at the beginning back more than 20 years ago were mainly adults…just a few kids. Gradually over the years we had to change the age requirements from Confirmation age to Post-confirmation – high school – and above… So many wanted to go – again and again…
Just a little aside… Those early years were anything but luxurious. Not that they are now, but… No air conditioning. Primitive housing [and showers.] Rather sparse to say the least. It was, in my opinion, “glorified camping.” Never one to pretend to even like that – camping, that is – I recall having “the talk” with my husband about this being one of those things that he does with the kids… You know, because it would just be too much to expect of me – on the edge – kind of roughing it.
Another time that God didn’t listen – didn’t’ care what I thought…
But it’s more than that…God takes care of us, and gives shape to our lives, to ministry and mission. As our vulnerabilities are exposed, he comforts us – as individuals and congregations. We want stability and seek security – too often unwilling to take a risk – reluctant and fearful of the unknown. Sometimes at the risk of remaining isolated, we stay cocooned in our own little world despite potential challenges – real or imagined.
This is a challenging time to be the church – in a world that presents an often different portrait of Christianity – one that doesn’t align with our Lutheran beliefs. It’s also a wonderful time to be the church – to be able to engage in the call to mission.
And how do we share our faith? Where is God at work in our lives? What might God be calling us to be or to do?
To truly be the Church, we need to acknowledge our weakness and vulnerability; we need to rely on God’s word to nurture us and God’s meal to nourish us. All of that together, gives us strength and courage. It enables us to trust in the power of Christ crucified for you and for me…
We shouldn’t let our fears inhibit us or limit us. We need to be willing to open our hearts and our minds – We need to be willing to open our whole selves to the Holy Spirit – with a willingness to allow that Spirit to empower us to trust God – to allow God to work in us and through us… To be spirit led and guided by Christ, guided by faith. That’s what we’re about – we’re about faith. We’re people of Faith.
Our lessons transcend time and context, assuring us that as witnesses to Christ’s crucifixion, we too are empowered to serve and care for the brokenness that is God’s world.
Our Gospel reminds us that we are called to faithfulness to the world. We’re called to speak truth from the heart, in love – in our own words, by our own witness…trusting in the promise that God is with us, leading us and guiding us. Amen.