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Sermon transcript for June 17, 2012

June 17, 2012
Mark 4:26-34
Linda Johnson, preaching

Audio - MP3

When I was in elementary school we were taught a strange little song about growing things that could very well be right out of today’s gospel lesson.
I suggested to Gayle Sullivan that I begin the sermon by singing it.  She paused for a minute and then said, “Well, if that’s really the way you want to end your ministry here.”

The song, which I will not sing, goes like this: “Oats, peas, beans and barley grow. Oats, peas, beans and barley grow. You, nor I, nor nobody knows how oats, peas, beans and barley grow.”    

According to Jesus, neither do we understand how the Kingdom of God grows. It is pure mystery – God’s mystery.

Jesus is teaching beside the sea. The crowd got so large that he had to get into a boat, where he sat and taught the people in parables. I can’t help but wonder why people sat on a hot hillside to listen to Jesus’ teachings.

I mean, if you think about it, he’s telling weird little stories that he doesn’t even expect everyone to understand.  And the amazing part about his questionable teaching method is that the subject he’s teaching about is nothing less than the Kingdom of God.

The Kingdom of God – the core of his message, the point of it all.  And how does Jesus convey this crucial truth?  He says,

The Kingdom of God is “as if” someone scattered seed on the ground, and then went on about their business until it was harvest time.  The seeds then did what they were supposed to do – grow into the plant hidden inside them.  The farmer doesn’t seem to have much to do with the growth itself.

Then again, “With what can we compare the kingdom of God?”  Well, it is like this teeny, tiny seed that becomes what it is suppose to become – a plant so large that birds can nest in its branches.

What is the Kingdom of God? It is God’s place – God’s time, where and when things are the way God wants them to be. It is the culmination of creation, the perfecting of what God created the earth to become.

We have some great images for the Kingdom of God in both the Hebrew Scriptures and the New Testament.  The Holy City; the New Jerusalem; the Peaceable Kingdom.  Even nature will be transformed. A tender lamb can lie down beside a lion; a child can play with a snake. There will be no more war.  And one of my favorites, they will not hurt or destroy on all my holy mountain.  There will be no more sadness, no more tears.  A big banquet where everyone sits together as equals.

I love the idea of this place – or this time. I look hard for signs of it, signs that good is growing, signs of peace and reconciliation. Signs that humanity is maturing into the people God created us to be. I look for signs and try not to get discouraged by what I see.  It is easy to be discouraged these days, is it not?

I enjoy gardening – not the end results so much as the process. I don’t like to buy plants that are full-grown and already flowering. I like to buy small plants so I can watch them grow. And I love to plant seeds because then you see the real miracle of growth. But I’m also impatient for the growth to begin, so I start watching for signs of growth a few days after planting. Staring at the bare ground does not make my seeds grow faster. Getting frustrated or impatient does not make my seeds grow faster. Worrying that maybe I planted them too deeply and preparing to be disappointed doesn’t make them grow or not grow.  It just makes me less peaceful.   It takes away some of the pleasure of gardening for me.        

Jesus says that the kingdom is like seeds that grow after being planted – we have no idea how, and that, in fact, we have little to do with it.  We might as well just go take a nap since our efforts are not required for the seed to grow to fruition.     So, are we not necessary at all in the growth of the Kingdom?         Is that what Jesus is telling us?

That may seem to be the message of these two parables, but elsewhere Jesus tells us that what we do does matter.  It matters a lot. That we believe and what we believe matters. What we DO with our belief matters. How we treat people matters

It is ironic that this is the lectionary lesson for today, my last sermon at Belmont. This is an issue I continue to work on.  What, exactly, is our responsibility for partnering with God in God’s work of salvation? And what is God’s job alone?  And especially, when might our actions actually do more harm than good?

How do we give ourselves to caring for the needs and hurts of the world as Jesus told us to do, but without falling into despair and depression?  How do we act with passion for what we believe in without judgment or hatred at those who have different passions or beliefs?

It is important to me that we are God’s partners. That this relationship we have – with God and with each other – matters.  

I think when we get into trouble it is because we take on more than our share of the responsibility – and when we take on more than our share of blame – or credit.
It is in thinking that we have THE right understanding and when we try to exercise power over those who don’t see our way.  Or when we get so overwhelmed with responsibility that life becomes dreary.  Or when our well-intended efforts end in anger or bitterness and we end up hurting each other.
Jesus wants us to sit a little looser in the saddle than that. Jesus wants us to take naps -- with the confidence that the Kingdom is growing even while we sleep.  
Jesus proclaims that the kingdom is planted HERE, is AT HAND, and is growing in this world.

As long as I can remember I have heard warnings that the world is going to hell in a handbasket. “What is this world coming to?” people say with a shake of their head.

If we are to believe Jesus, then what the world is coming to is – The Kingdom of God, God’s place and time.  It is coming to be what it was created to be. And it’s becoming is both mystery and gift.

Can you believe that?  And can you believe it deeply enough that you can go about the business of your life with the confidence that God is at work – right here and now – right here in this world – bringing creation to a glorious fulfillment.

There are scriptures that call us to a response of some sort. To live or act differently. I think today’s message is that we should just stop for a minute.  To stop all our franctic busyness. Stop thinking about ourselves for a change – and think about God.

I was given this message one day and it changed everything for me.  Beverly Job and I were walking down Thomasson Hall one day after leaving a meeting. Beverly said, in her quiet calm voice, “Linda, God is really working through you here at Belmont.”

I don’t know if Beverly noticed that the world went still and silent. But it did for me.
God was working through me! It wasn’t about me and whether I was getting it right or not, whether I was doing enough or not.
It was about God. It was about letting God work in and through me.

That may not sound so earth-shattering to you, but it changed everything for me. I relaxed and began to enjoy ministry more. I didn’t fret or worry as much. I took my mistakes and failures into stride. I could just go about my work and do the best I could – and leave the rest to God. It was liberating. Beverly’s words didn’t change WHAT I did, but they did change me.

Our two parables today are not about what we should or shouldn’t do. They are about what God is already doing.

Perhaps the best thing we can do is to live with the confidence of that, with the relaxation of that, with the peace that such faith brings. The parable is asking us to wait for God to do what God is sure to do, and to wait with the non-anxious and carefree attitude which is becoming to the children of God.  It means building our life entirely upon God’s promise and no longer upon our abilities or inabilities, our doing or not doing.
After I had made the decision to retire this year at Annual Conference and actually started the process, I had a kind of panic attack. I couldn’t visualize retirement; I worried about finances and how life would be different. I was afraid of an unknown future. Then, during my Lenten devotional reading, I came across words to guide and hold me through this transition.

They are helping me move into the mystery of God’s future with a sense of peace and trust. I hope to keep them before me every day.  They are from Pam Hawkins’ book, “The Awkward Season: Prayers for Lent”.

Let me share them with you:

Ah, Holy Spirit;
I plant my feet into the soil of the Living God;
I turn my ear to the voice of the calling Christ;
I lean my life into the Wind of Holy Change.



Go forth from this place with the confidence and trust that God is at work bringing creation to fulfillment.   

Be content to live with the mystery of it and be grateful to be part of it.  

Let your life be a joyful witness as you lean into the wind of holy change.


Sermon transcript for June 10, 2012

Do Not Lose Heart!
2 Corinthians 4:13-5:1
Belmont UMC—June 10, 2012
Ken Edwards, preaching

Audio - MP3

“So we do not lose heart!” As I read over the lectionary readings this week, these were the words that kept coming back to me—the words that kept speaking to me. Some might want to analyze why those words kept speaking to me. Could it be that I’m on verge of losing heart, of giving up or losing hope? I don’t think so, but I do believe that those words speak clearly to all of us, who have at one point or another felt like losing heart.

“So we do not lose heart!” Those are the words as they are translated in the New Revised Standard Version. The Common English Bible, which we have been using more and more, translates this phrase, “So we aren’t depressed.” We are familiar with depression in our society as it touches many lives and at many different levels of intensity. Depression causes persons to lose hope, to despair, to give up, to lose motivation, to quit caring deeply about things, to feel that life is futile, to sense utter discouragement or to lose heart.

There are many causes for losing heart. We lose heart because we are afraid and fear wins over other emotions. We lose heart because of circumstances that overwhelm us and we can’t see a way out. We lose heart because we have been faithful to work toward a purpose but cannot see the fruit of our labor. We lose heart when we lose confidence in ourselves, in God, in our abilities, or in the value of our work. We lose heart when we feel small and insignificant in the face of massive global problems that are beamed into our living rooms each night.

I was sent to serve a church that had been losing ground for several years. When I arrived and met with the Staff Parish Relations Committee for the first time, one of the committee members said, “You did not want to come here did you? I can’t imagine anyone wanting to come and serve this church.” Another person said, “Some people here will resent it if you make any changes, but if you don’t change some things we will die.” The church was so demoralized and discouraged by loss that they could not imagine surviving and their discouragement had created dysfunctional patterns that kept them digging the hole of despair ever deeper. My wife and I decided right away that we needed to help the people see the gifts and graces they possessed and we sought ways to encourage and be as positive as we could. It was a couple of years into that appointment before they began to rekindle a strong sense of mission and purpose.

The Apostle Paul has had lots of reasons to lose heart. He writes, “We are experiencing all kinds of trouble, but we are not crushed. We are confused, but we are not depressed. We are harassed, but we are not abandoned. We are knocked down, but we are not knocked out.” (verses 8 and 9) In verse 1 of chapter 4 Paul writes, “Therefore, we don’t get discouraged.”
I have avoided speaking or writing about General Conference, United Methodism’s chief legislative conference that meets every 4 years. I have avoided it because so many things have been written or said that I couldn’t imagine that I have anything to add to the discussion. Most people agree that the Conference in May was a failure on many levels. Some came away calling the United Methodist Church a “sinking ship.” We were unable to agree on a plan to restructure the church leadership. We were unwilling to remove language from the Book of Discipline which excludes and labels. In that failure we continue to do harm to many of our members and constituents. We were unable to pass legislation that speaks the truth about who we are. Namely, that we are a people who are not likeminded and who can agree to disagree. That remains the truth about who we are in spite our lack of courage to acknowledge it. Frankly, some of us felt like losing heart after General Conference concluded.

Christian writer and blogger, Tony Jones, suggested that all young clergy should leave the denomination in response to our last General Conference. Many of my colleagues have taken issue with his call to leave and let me add my voice to those. Tony wasn’t around during the Civil Rights Movement and he wasn’t in church the day I heard my young pastor speak bravely for the cause of blacks and others who were victims of racial injustice. He was not there when people in the church got up and walked out in anger in the middle of his sermons. And though he may have been discouraged from time to time and he may have felt like losing heart, he kept preaching and speaking the truth and calling us out for our racism. And he did not give up. I am standing here today because of young pastors who did not jump ship when the water was a little rough.

And where would our church be today if a generation of clergy had left when their voices were so desperately needed? We may get discouraged but those who stick around will live to see a better day. I’m confident of that. So we do not lose heart!

We have 4 gifted women clergy on our staff. When I was younger, and to some extent, even now, women clergy have had an uphill climb. District Superintendents would tell them that they could not appoint them—that churches would not accept them. One of my colleagues sat in the church to which she was being appointed, only to hear the DS apologize to the church saying, “I’m sorry but we will have to appoint a woman to your church. We have no one else. It’s the best we can do.”

Of course, they felt like losing heart, but where would the church be if it weren’t for women like Linda Johnson, Pam Hawkins, Heather Harriss, and Sandy Sakarapanee.
They did not give up! And so we do not lose heart!

Former South Africa Bishop, Peter Storey, was planning to be with us last week and he had to cancel his trip to the Untied States. We hope he will make that trip in the future. But I thought I would share one of his stories. Peter Storey was a champion of the struggle against apartheid in South Africa. He once told a story about how he and Desmond Tutu were nearly executed for their work. An armed guard took them out to a remote sugar cane field. There they were bound for execution. The guard raised his gun toward them. But, the guard did not have the fortitude to do this evil thing, so he lowered his weapon and walked away in shame. Storey and Tutu, upon realizing their deliverance, excitedly returned to their car that had brought them out to the killing field. As they drove back to civilization, Tutu suggested they offer prayers of gratitude for their deliverance. Immediately, he folded his hands, closed his eyes and uttered a prayer of thanksgiving. While eager to join in prayer, Storey was unnerved by Tutu’s actions. Tutu was driving the car at the time.

Where would South Africa be if Peter Storey and Desmond Tutu and a host of other brave women and men had lost heart and abandoned the cause? So we do not lose heart!

What motivated Paul or those early followers to not lose heart, to avoid discouragement when they often faced intense opposition and persecution? For one thing they understood that the kingdom is not about them or their plans. It is about God’s purpose being lived out in the world. And they trusted the grace of God to sustain them and guide them in whatever they did. And they understood the call to be faithful, even against all odds. And they trusted that they were in God’s hands no matter where they were or what they were doing. Paul wrote, “We have this awesome power that comes from God, not from us.” (v. 7) “We do not focus on things that can be seen, but on things that cannot be seen. The things that can be seen do not last, but the things that cannot be seen are eternal.” (v. 18)

We often lose heart when we forget to trust, when we fail to remember that this journey of faith is not so much about us but about God’s dream for our world. I’ve been there many times and so have you. We forget that this journey is about something bigger and beyond ourselves—about something eternal, not temporal.

I read a story of an experienced mountain climber who thought he could anything, and one day he came to a great overhang of rock. He tried several techniques to get himself up and over the massive outcropping, but he could not. He began to lose strength and after some time he realized that he had done all he could. He could go back down and he did not have the strength to go up. He began to think about death, about his family and friends and the things he had hoped to do in his life. He had reached the end of his journey. At the point of complete surrender, he heard a noise above him and then a piece of climbing equipment fell past him on the mountain. He realized that another climber was in trouble somewhere above him. Somehow, not for himself, but for another, he found the strength to pull himself up and over the outcropping to help a fellow climber. We will not lose heart when we remember that there are others counting on us to be faithful. So we will not lose heart.

And we do not lose heart because we have each other. When one gets discouraged, and we will, there will be another in this wonderful community of faith who will come along and encourage, support, and hold out hope to her or him. You may want to look around you this morning at the faces of some of the people who love you and want the best for you. These people, God’s people, will be there when you need them. Aren’t we blessed? So we will not lose heart.


Sermon transcript for June 3, 2012

Bread of Life
John 6:1-16
Belmont UMC—June 3, 2012
Ken Edwards, preaching

Audio - MP3

My wife and I were in our very early 20’s, married, and taking a sociology class together at Austin Peay State University. We needed a semester project to tackle so we joined forces with another friend and volunteered to assist the county health department in surveying the needs of rural citizens. On our free days we drove into rural parts of Montgomery County, among farm families and some rather isolated poor families to quiz them about their health needs. We met a lot of interesting and sweet people and most of them were reluctant to talk to us about their personal lives.

One hot day we parked our car under a shade tree and walked down a country road to a rather run down looking home. In spite of the heat there was smoke coming out of the chimney in the back of the house. Overgrown privet bushes almost hid the dilapidated front porch from our view. We found a front door, knocked and waited. Finally, an older woman in a long dress came to the door. Her hair was tied up in a bandana and she didn’t look that pleased to have company. We introduced ourselves and started to give her our speech about county health care. She interrupted us, “I can’t invite you in because my husband is real sick and he needs to sleep. Wait here.” She shut the door and left.

In a few moments she returned to the front porch saying, “I had to get the cornbread out of the stove before it burned” as she held the plate of cornbread for us to share.  She said, “Have some. I still used a wood stove for cooking because it makes the food taste better.” She disappeared again and returned with glasses of sweet tea. The three of us sat on the front porch together for a long time. She never answered our health care questions but she told us her life story over broken bread and shared glasses of tea. There was something sacramental about our time with her on that front porch, because even out of her obvious poverty she shared what she had and it felt life giving and holy.

Bread is featured prominently in the stories of the Bible. From the Israelites finding manna in the wilderness, Elijah and the widow of Nain, sharing what she thinks will be a last meal for her and her son before starving to death, only to experience the miracle of abundance, to the Passover Meal shared between Jesus and the disciples, bread is a symbol of life and the life giving abundance of God.

In all four of the Gospels there is a story of bread and fish being multiplied and shared among the thousands of people who have come to see and hear Jesus. This story was important to the early church. It is a story of God’s provision for the people. It is a story that has sacramental overtones and later in this chapter of John’s Gospel we hear Jesus speaking of the bread which came from God, linking himself to the gift of bread. “I am the Bread of Life!”

But in each of the Gospel stories it is clear that Jesus has compassion on those who are hungry and need to be fed. It is the nature of God to have compassion for the hungry of this world. And as people of God, this must become second nature for us as well. And that compassion must be translated into action. And Jesus turns to the disciples and instructs them to feed the multitude. And Jesus turns to us, the Christ followers of Belmont United Methodist Church and challenges us to feed the hungry.

The task seems overwhelming when we examine the statistics. Throughout the world 1.5 billion people live in extreme poverty, 990 million people suffer from chronic hunger and on the Horn of Africa almost 13 million people are on the brink of starvation because of the worst drought in 60 years.

In the United States, more than one in five children lives below the poverty level. The number of people at risk of hunger in our country increased from 36.2 million in 2007 to 48.8 million in 2010. Food banks saw a 46 percent increase in clients seeking emergency food assistance between 2006 and 2010.

We can do many things to help and we must not allow the numbers to overwhelm us, causing us to do nothing. We can volunteer and participate in feeding programs in our city. Our Belmont youth, led by Bill and Mary Ruth Lane, are gardening and growing food to share with hunger ministries in our city. We can help advocate for an end to food deserts in our communities. We offer direct assistance to those in need through our Belmont Benevolence Fund. We can contribute to the hunger fund of the United Methodist Committee on Relief. We are told that we have the resources to end hunger but people still go hungry day after day.

Today, our Belmont Advocacy Team is inviting us to support Bread for the World which supports policies and programs that meet the needs of hunger here and throughout the world. Through Bread for the World we have an opportunity to influence the decisions of our government regarding policies and spending. And the church has the opportunity to act as the conscience of our nation when many would want us to embrace a “save yourself” mentality.  We must ask Congress to protect programs that combat poverty and prevent families here and abroad from going hungry.

One of my closest friends tells a painful story of his childhood. His father deserted the family when he was a little boy and his mother did the best she could to make ends meet. His mother remarried and the new step father was abusive and violent. One night they fled the home to save their lives. They first went to their church and the pastor and his wife took them in and hid them. Later they moved to public housing. His mother worked but she was not skilled and never made enough money to pay the bills. He said if it had not been for food stamps (now called SNAP) they would have starved. I have heard him tell how he and his younger sister would search the parking lot of the grocery for money that people had dropped or lost, while their mother shopped inside. The extra money would have been used to buy food. His life is better now and so is his family’s, but at that crucial time in their lives there was a program that saw them through and kept them alive.

There are some important players in our Gospel story. When Jesus saw the large crowds coming he said to Philip, “Where are we going to buy bread for all these people?” Philip answered, “Six months wages would not buy enough bread for each of them to get a tiny bit.” He saw the task as overwhelming and he was read to give up. We have all felt that way at one time or another.

But another disciple, Andrew, who is always introducing people to Jesus, introduced Jesus to a little boy who had five barley loaves and two fish. It wasn’t much and Andrew acknowledges that, but it was something and it was offered and it was shared. I like to think that somewhere in that little boy’s life a mother or father, grandparent, or faith friend or rabbi took him aside and said, “You may not have a lot in your lunch box, but if you see someone hungry, God will want you to share what you have.” And it became that child’s second nature to care for the hungry.

God can use everything we can offer. It might not always seem like much but it might be the beginning of a miracle. It always seems sacramental when we break bread together and share what we have with others. And so we shall!


Sermon transcript for May 27, 2012

When Everything Comes into Focus
Acts 2:1-21
Belmont UMC—May 27, 2012
Ken Edwards, preaching

Audio - MP3


Today is Pentecost Sunday. Pentecost was a Jewish festival which involved many pilgrims coming into the city of Jerusalem from all over the Mediterranean world. The early followers of Jesus were in Jerusalem because Jesus had spoken to them after the resurrection and instructed them to wait there. The promise was that the waiting and praying would be blessed by an outpouring of the Holy Spirit. The promise was that the disciples would receive power to be witnesses to all people to the ends of the earth.

On Pentecost the disciples were filled with the Holy Spirit and they were given the gift of speaking in the languages of the pilgrims from all of these various places. They spoke the good news about Jesus Christ. Many were added to their number and the church was given birth.

I’ve preached many Pentecost Sunday sermons over the years but today I want us to think about the Pentecost experience as a moment of clarity and vision for the early disciples.

We know when we look through a set of binoculars the first thing we have to do is focus. Before that everything is blurred but when we adjust the focus to our eyesight everything is clear and precise.

Pentecost and the coming of the Holy Spirit on those early followers was a clarifying moment in the life of the church. Jesus’ followers, who seem uncertain and fearful in Luke’s Gospel and the other Gospels as well, now seem to understand clearly who Jesus is and what Jesus is about. They understand the mission of the church and the nature of the good news and they are able to articulate this good news in clear and distinct language that everyone can understand.

Clayton Schmitt recalls an experience of making pastoral rounds at a nursing home. He would visit a Russian woman who spoke virtually no English. When he first visited her he tried to indicate who he was by showing her his Bible and his homebound communion kit. She seemed to perceive that he was a priest or some such thing. She seemed grateful for his visit and presence and she stroked his hand and smiled at him.

In spite of their differences there were moments of crystalline communication. Those occurred during the liturgy for Holy Communion. Together they entered the shared language of the church. At the Lord’s Prayer they would recite together in English and Russian. No words were needed. He writes, “There was a 50 year difference in our ages. During most of our lives we would have been considered political enemies. Neither age, nor language, nor ideology divided us in those moments when the Holy Spirit drew us together in communion with one another and with Christ.” (Pulpit Resource)

There is clarity of language and message, but there is also clarity of purpose and mission. Peter, in his sermon, quotes from the prophet Joel, who speaks of a future time when the old and young alike will be given clarity about God’s dream and vision for our world. That was not only true for those early followers but it is true for us as well.

For individuals these are aha moments when we know what God is calling us to do. For the church this happens when the direction of the church comes into focus. All of those moments can be surprising and challenging but they come with a reassurance that God is guiding our path and God will be honored in the process and the outcome.

The last church I served came together as the result of a merger. Merging two distinct churches is never easy and the thought of it gives most us pause. I enjoyed hearing the story of the merger of St. Paul UMC and Mt. Juliet UMC. St. Paul was a growing church that had outgrown its property and could not expand at its location. They had begun to look for a place to move. Mt. Juliet UMC, not far away, was located on 25 acres of prime real estate on one of the busiest highways in middle Tennessee but it was struggling to pay bills and was looking for ways to reenergize the congregation. Both churches entered into a period of prayer and discernment.

One evening Bishop Ken Carder, in his wisdom, called the leaders of the two churches together and suggested that they consider a merger. Surprisingly, this idea seemed to be the answer to their prayers. When I arrived on the scene the merger was in its second year and the people, relocated to the expanded Mt. Juliet property, were a part of a growing and vital congregation.

Experiencing the call into pastoral ministry came to me after weeks of prayer and wondering. I was a quiet, introverted young man who could not imagine that pastoral ministry would fit my nature or my limited gifts. It was not what I wanted or expected but on a hot summer day, while working on my uncle’s farm, a moment of clarity came to me and I felt incredible peace. I knew I would need God’s help and I would have to fully rely on God for this to happen. That was about 40 years ago and I’m still here, still needing God’s help to stand here and to fulfill God’s call.

I had some quality time several years ago joining lay leaders in a church in a study Henri Nouwen’s book, In the Name of Jesus; Reflections on Christian Leadership. Nouwen was a Catholic priest and an academic. He taught at Harvard and was frequent speaker at conferences all over the world. His writings continued to be studied by people of all faiths. But he came to a time in his life when he knew that teaching others to serve was not God’s purpose. He felt confused and sought clarity of purpose. He wrote, “It was very hard for me to see clearly, and though I never spoke about hell or only jokingly so, I woke one day with the realization that I was living in a very dark place and that the term ‘burnout’ was a convenient psychological translation for spiritual death.

In the midst of this I kept praying, ‘Lord, show me where you want me to go and I will follow you, but please be clear and unambiguous about it!’ And God said, ‘Go and live among the poor in spirit, and they will heal you.’” (Pages 20-22)
And Nouwen went to live among adults who suffered from severe disabilities. It was not what he expected or what he wanted but it was a place where he came to know God more fully in the lives of these, the least of these.

I want us to hear this Pentecost message as a call to a season of prayer in the church. Our church will be embarking on a strategic planning process in the near future. We have not engaged this process for a decade and the last strategic planning phase yielded much fruit. Out of that process came a new building and expanded program and mission. Out of that process came an increased focus on children and youth, a front porch relationship with our community and a growing missional reach into the Edgehill neighborhood and across the ocean to the people of Malawi, Africa. Today, you will see some of the fruit of that process when our Open Door Singers come forward at the end of the service to be commissioned for their choir tour to Toronto, Canada.

We do not know what the outcome of the process will be but we do know that it must be guided by prayer and by the leading of the Holy Spirit, the same Spirit that guided the early disciples who met and prayed and waited in Jerusalem.

Prayer is the focus adjuster. We pray and trust that God will guide us. We pray and open ourselves to God’s dream and vision for us. We pray and we allow ourselves to become a vulnerable to something bigger than ourselves. Prayer reminds us that this is not about us but about God. Prayer reminds us that this work is not about my agenda or your agenda but God’s agenda. Prayer means that we don’t know the outcome but we trust God with the outcome.

Those early disciples were told to pray and wait. Waiting is the hard part. When I was praying about a call to ministry I gave God my timeline, “God, please let this be clear to my by July 31st.” It did not work out on my time line. But we will pray and we will wait and we will ask God to give us clear direction for the journey ahead.

Please join me in this season of prayer. Pray for our staff members, our church leaders, and pray of the various ministries of the church. Pray for persons who sit around you on Sunday and if you do not know them, introduce yourself and say, “I’m praying for you.” Pray for the people you know and love. Pray for the people who hold different opinions than you, or vote differently than you vote. And pray for yourself, that God will move you into a deeper relationship with the divine—that God will bless you and keep you and make God’s face to shine upon you, that God will be gracious and give you peace in knowing the path our journey together must take.



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