As I look out on what may be the last days of green leaves and grassy hills for a while, I am aware that as the fall approaches we are looking towards an interesting year ahead. With new conversation circles starting up, maternity leave changes coming in December and all of the unknowable changes that may come with the changing seasons there is much to look forward to and to prepare for.
What are your routines of preparation? Do you have a way of clearing out your gardens, saving the last of your vegetables, and setting up for the winter that will come? How do these routines mirror the practices of faith and preparation you use as we enter into the end of the church and look towards the advent season of new beginnings? Sometimes this routine is simply taking time to look around and see what is already happening.
I was recently invited to attend a community roundtable discussion at United on Whyte, the new United Church that was formed after 4 area United Churches decided to merge into one congregation. They invited local congregation leaders and community organizations to be in conversation about the needs of our community. It was an energizing and informative morning.
Did you know that many of the agencies that work to provide food, safety, resources and support to us and our neighbours could use places to connect with clients and neighbours?
Did you know that there are many ways to support the important work that is happening in our community with resources we have on hand?
Do you know that we are already doing some of this work through our partnership with WECAN, the neighbour centre, and the interfaith centre?
We have been prepared for service in our communities and as we see these opportunities I pray we are encouraged to take them!
What does it mean to Follow Jesus? As Christians this question should be a regular one that we are asking and addressing in our lives. After all following is about movement and when we are moving we have to pay attention to our surroundings as they change. We wouldn’t suggest that the driver of the car, we are riding in, not look both ways before turning left or not to keep their eyes open for stop signs and pedestrians, right? I wonder if we haven’t gotten so used to hearing the words “Follow Jesus” that we have forgotten that it reflects action and engagement.
So, just in case, I thought I would take some time to think about what I mean when I say I am a follower of Jesus. Maybe this simple exercise will help you to think about your own discipleship too. Here is what I did.
I sat down and made a list for myself in response to these two questions:
Where do I see the movement of Jesus in my community (not just EMC)?
Where do I see my daily life intersecting with Jesus’ movement in the community?
I realized, that while I saw some ways, that Jesus was working, I also became aware that I hadn’t spent much time actually looking for Jesus out there. The intersections between my daily routines and Jesus’ routine were fewer than I would like. It is like I had been driving my car but without ever seeing where I had been. I am a firm believer that it is always a good idea to check in with yourself once in a while. It can be a helpful way to keep your focus on God in your life and a gentle reminder of routines that may divert our attention from God’s call to be disciples.
So as I was thinking about what it means for me to follow Jesus, it seems the first step is to spend some more time looking around for where Jesus is on the move and going there to join him. You wanna come too? I would love some company.
Check out the work of Greg Finke, who is the author of “Joining Jesus on His Mission.” https://dwelling114.org/
Early in the morning, when it’s the kind of quiet that invites reflection, the women arrived at the tomb. They carried questions about how they would move the stone and do the work that they needed to do. They were prepared. However, when they arrived at the tomb the task had changed. Isn’t it often like that for us—we prepare for the work we intend to do but then Jesus has a different plan?
What do we do when our preparation seems useless in the face of the new challenge set before us?
I like to know what to expect and how things will work. But as I consider the women who come upon the tomb—open to the world and filled with an astonishing message, I can appreciate their hesitancy to speak of it to anyone. I mean, who would believe that one who was dead is alive again? And do we?
What if Jesus has a new plan for the Church? What if we have come to the tomb ready and willing to do what we know how to do and Jesus has some other idea? How does our celebration and remembrance of this Holy Week and Easter Morning prepare us for this unexpected news?
I believe that it prepares us by showing us that others have gone before us. They have also experienced the upheaval and astonishing realities of new life in Christ. Preparation is overrated—we only need to be ready to follow and the rest of what we need to know or to do or to say will come to us along the way with Jesus as our guide. We are invited to an empty tomb to remember and go into the world to look for life and find Jesus there.
“We can look at Lent as a time of death and dryness. Or, we can dream – as riverbeds do – and prepare for rain that will fill us with new life, courage and strength.” @CrumbyPrayers *this is a dried out riverbed near Medora ND at 106 degrees. -Rev. Brian Dixon
(photo and tweet credit to Rev. Brian Dixon @crumbyprayers)
Preachers are always on the lookout for good metaphors. Things that our congregations can easily pictures in their minds and hopefully make connections from those pictures the God’s work and movement in the world. I think that is why Jesus used so many parables. The point of teaching is not to sound smarter than everyone else in the room, the point of teaching is to help people learn.
This is why I shared the thought by Rev. Brian Dixon, a Moravian pastor in Minnesota. In two short sentences he sparked my imagination. I have to be honest I have never thought about a dry riverbed. It just wasn’t on my radar. But it makes sense. Dry ground that is cracked and broken–it looks like nothing can help. How will it ever be able to more than it is? The answer is water. Refreshing, renewing, running water.
What is the “water” that refreshes you in the dry and broken spells of life?
How are we open to receive the renewal that comes naturally through God’s love and movement through the world?
Are you preparing for the rains?
I am just waiting for facebook friends and acquaintances to start sharing their new year’s resolutions. The new year for many of us is a good place to start again. We may look back on this year and wish we ate better, spent more time with loved ones, or less time on our phones and computers…the list goes on. When we look back what effect does it have on how we move forward? For some, it provides the motivation to begin a new routine to work towards a different reality for 2018 and for others the effect is guilt or regret that we didn’t do better but nothing seems to change in the future.
You may know which choice I think is more life giving, but in case you don’t, I am all for trying a new routine. I believe that Jesus in all his ministry was a promoter of new beginnings. He didn’t say we had to wait for a calendar year to change but he did frequently invite people to turn a different way, to make a different choice, to live into the live of God’s making not their own. It is easy to read in the bible about fishermen leaving their nets, about a young rich ruler that isn’t quite ready, or about women who witness the world changing at the entrance of a tomb and think “wow, those are great stories about extraordinary times.” And without thinking too much about how that invitation has also be offered to me, I go about my day, letting transformation pass me by.
However, there are days when I hear Jesus’ invitation clearly, as a call to me, to leave whatever I am doing to follow. Even if what I am doing is something that has helped me become a more faithful disciple of Christ. The good things we do and the ways we practice our faith can be stumbling blocks if they keep us from answering God’s call to new life. A call that changes as the world changes around us…as we change.
Where are you these days? Do you feel open to God’s call? Are you waiting for Jesus’ next invitation? What if Jesus have turned a corner ahead of us? Are we willing to turn too?
As the new year comes into view I pray that we will all reflect on what the past has taught us and look with hope to what the future brings us into.