Forward Looking

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The Pas                       Lent 2

Year B

25 February 2018

 

Genesis 17:1-7, 15-16

Psalm 22:22-30 pg 730

Mark 8:31-38

 

God of Sarah and Abraham, long ago you embraced your people in covenant and promised them your blessing. strengthen us in faith, so that, with your followers in every age, we may proclaim our deliverance in Jesus Christ to generations yet unborn. Amen.

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 “17 When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to him and said, ‘I am God Almighty; walk before me faithfully and be blameless. Then I will make my covenant between me and you and will greatly increase your numbers.’” (Gen 17:1-2)

 

This is the promise, the covenant that God made with Abram after he had been in the holy land for almost 25 years.

 

At this point, Abram has already left the comforts and security of home, at the age of 75, on the promise of becoming a great nation. He’s had a son with his wife’s slave Hagar, and still clings to the promise that his wife, Sarai.

 

For almost 25, or so years, Abram has wandered to and fro throughout the land that God has promised to him and to his descendants (plural), and now, at the age of 99, still without a legitimate son, God comes to him, again and reiterates his promise to Abram, and calls for Abram’s righteous action on God’s behalf. And for us, today, this is significant, as today, we discuss the business of our AGM, as we, like Abram, see where God has taken us from and to what it is that God is leading us.

 

Over and over again, from chapters 12 through today’s passage, we see God coming and declaring that Abram will be great, that he will be a nation, and God does the same with each one of us, and especially with us as a community of faith. Over, and over again, Abram/Abraham is tested. God tests his willingness, our willingness to follow where God leads, and how God leads us, leads Abram/Abraham is repeatedly put under God’s microscope.

 

And each time Abram/Abraham comes out the other side a little stronger in his trust of God, in his faith that with God all things are possible, and through God all of God’s promises will come to pass, and in this Abram is our example, he is our mentor, our forebear in faith.

 

Over and over again, we, like Abram, lament of our situation in the town, of our finances, of our maturing membership. We lament that we don’t have younger faces amongst us, that we don’t have the younger members to help, to lift that barge and tote that bail. But, perhaps the younger members aren’t here because they see that we want them to heft burdens, to carry on practices, and worship patterns with which they’re not familiar.

 

We’ve come to realize that attendance at worship, on a Sunday morning, becomes challenging the more activities one adds to our and their respective schedules. And because of that, we’ve come to glorify the past, we’ve romanticized that people would willingly attend worship on both Sunday morning and Sunday evening.

 

We’ve come to look back at our past with that romantic eye of how wonderful it was when we had full pews, when we had willing hands to help out, when this and that fell just right and we were ‘a prosperous faith community.’

 

Well, I hate to say it, but the romantic eye constantly fibs to us.

 

Yes, we had worship more than once per Sunday and today we still do. We continue to worship twice on Sundays, we have regular gatherings throughout the week, and we add in seasonal worship opportunities in Lent, as well. We leave the door open to bring worship to those who are unable to come to us, such as our monthly worship at St Paul’s, and the door is always open to those in the High-rise, or Pine view, but we leave it to them to tell us how we can best serve them.

 

Yes, we had many hands to do much of the work, and to be frank, we still have many hands to do much of the work. At the same time, we are still in need of the help of many hands. We are constantly in need of volunteers to help us to keep the hall clean, to take out the garbage and recycling. We are always open to those who wish to help with Vestry, Altar Guild, Lay Readers, Lectors, Greeters, Accompanists, and those to help with the maintenance of the building and the property, and the list goes on, in this regard.

 

I am immensely grateful for the ideas that have come to life in our midst to see to the ongoing aid of the ministries of Christ church. I am also immensely grateful for those who heed God’s call in their lives to be of service, not just as lay readers, but even those who mow the lawns, and who sweep the floors. We all benefit from the service of those who are behind the scenes, as well as those who stand in front of the church. And we all benefit when God’s spirit moves amongst us touching our hearts and encouraging ideas and encouraging us to step into places that might be a little uncomfortable, but where we grow in our efforts, as Abram grows, as Sarai grows, as their faith grows in God’s service.

 

At the same time, we’ve been, and continue to be a prosperous faith-based community, here in The Pas, and this also hasn’t changed, so all I can say is that our romantic vision of the past is pulling he wool over our eyes and leading us down quite a thorny garden path.

 

Personally, I’d rather we don’t return to the ‘glory days’ of our past, for example, days when we heated by wood. Today, we’d have to acquire the wood, we’d have to pay for it, and pay someone to split it. Then we’d have to trust me, or the wardens, or the Lay Readers, or any combination of the above, to come out extra early on Sundays, and on the weekdays when we don’t want the indoor plumbing to freeze, to keep fires burning in the church and in the hall, not to mention the upkeep to the stoves, and the chimney’s that would be an ongoing task for the church.

 

Now, considering such a scenario, our insurance rates would skyrocket because to be quite honest, insurance companies hate the idea of open flames, especially in a building that is 122 years old, and not occupied 24/7.

 

So, since looking backward isn’t going to serve us, in any way that will be positive, how can we then, look forward?

 

When God comes to Abram in today’s passage, he’s not encouraging him to pull up stakes and return to Ur where he can be ‘that guy who followed God,’ and look where it brought him? – back to where he started!

 

When we, like Abram, choose to follow God, we are never brought back to where we started, and if we are, then we are not the same persons we were when we left. But that doesn’t mean the needs of the community change. At the most the way we approach the needs of the community adjust to who we’ve grown into under God’s loving hand.

 

However, we still need to find ways to inspire those my age or younger to come out, to make Christ Church their home, and to help us to find ways to serve them, in Christ’s name. is there something we could be doing? Doing differently?

 

We still need to find ways to continue to be relevant in the community around us, not just today, but into the future as well; especially with the reality that we are increasingly becoming relevant only to a remnant of society. But looking at the bible, God does great things with the remnants of society, when we’re open to God’s leadership through the Holy Spirit.

 

In September, I had a chance to attend the Stewardship Conference in Saskatoon. It pointed out that every church needs to work on stewardship, there isn’t a church in the Anglican Church that is doing all that they could in regard to Stewardship. At the same time, it was revealed that it takes a strong population base to maintain one church in the community, whether the population overtly attends it, or not.

 

Well, we have more than one church in The Pas and OCN. So that means that demographics will, at some point take over and those church communities that are not living into their stewardship promises, those who are not reaching out to the community, in relevant ways, and hoping the community will reach back to them, will, at some point, not survive.

 

Yet, like Abram, we still have God’s promises to us. We still have the testimony of the early church, urging us to faithfulness, and to service in God’s name, and most especially, we have the teachings of Christ, and we have his actions on our behalf that open to us the gates of the kingdom of heaven.

 

Too often, we, like the disciples, like Peter, in today’s gospel, look only at the immediate concerns, the all too human concerns instead of attempting to determine what it is God needs from each one of us, at this time in our lives. God has plans for us, for our lives, for this congregation, and we need to be open to listening to the Holy Spirit and finding God’s way, from this point into the future. (Mk 8:32-33)

 

Well, looking at Christ Church from God’s view, yet through our eyes: We’ve been here, on the banks of the Saskatchewan River, since before the community put down roots. We’ve encouraged and continue to encourage and guide those who wish to follow where God leads, into and through the priesthood. We continue to minister to all those around us, according to their needs, without imposing our will on their lives, but at the same time encouraging them to open their hearts to God’s love and guidance through the Holy Spirit. We continue to be open to the working of the Holy Spirit in and for our lives, at the individual level, as well as at the congregational level, for our faith, and for the life of Christ Church.

 

What we need to do, today, is find ways to continue to maintain what we’ve been entrusted, the property, the buildings, and how to use them to best continue to meet the needs of the community both within our walls, and in the wider community, not just for today, but for the next 122 years because like Abram, God tells us “the Lord appeared to him and said, ‘I am God Almighty; walk before me faithfully and be blameless. Then I will make my covenant between me and you and will greatly increase your numbers.’” (Gen 17:1b-2)

 

Amen.

About pastorrebeccagraham

A Lutheran minister serving an Anglican parish in Northern Ontario.
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