Luke 13 and Jeremiah 1 Called and Equipped August 21, 2016
Intro, to receive a call from God is an experience of awe and wonder, as well as a major disruption in your life. 41 years ago a young man was starting his junior year of college. He was struggling with what he was going to do with his life. During his sophomore year he learned his Plan A was not going to work. During the first semester of his junior year he discovered his plan B was not going to work either. He did not have plan C.
The young man’s roommate his junior year, was a friend from his church. His friend was certain of what God had for him to do and he worked on his plan. His roommate knew he was called to the ordained ministry. The young man and his roommate had many conversations about faith and calling. Sometime that academic year another young man entered the picture. The first young man did not know him.
That man was a senior He also knew he was called to ordained ministry. He had applied to and was accepted at Princeton Seminary. He said wouldn’t it be nice if all three of us were at Princeton together. The struggling young man was floored by that statement. No one other than his roommate knew of the struggle that was going on within him. The roommate never told the other young man anything about it.
The young man did not know what to do or who to talk to. Finally he and his roommate talked about it. He reluctantly discerned that God was calling him also. The story went on through his senior year of college.
He explored that idea on his own. He looked at what the requirements for Ordination were. It scared the life out of him. Seminary education included learning Greek and Hebrew. It also included appearing regularly before Candidates committee of the Presbytery who would judge his fitness and progress. Then there was the Presbytery examination at the time of Ordination. It scared him. He even begged God to call him to service that did not require ordination. God would have none of it. This is your call. I will equip you and get you through said God. In the midst of the process God disrupted the young man’s plans again. This time is was about where and how he was going to serve.
God’s ideas were different than what he had planned. When his first call came he jumped in with both feet, with a trust that appeared to some to border on foolish. It was not easy for him. God equipped that young man, doing for him what he did for the young Jeremiah. Once God did that a faithful ministry was born.
Tran. God is calling Milner Memorial to a ministry that God wants done by you. Jesus has touched you to enable you to stand up straight and look all around you instead of being bent over and having a limited range of vision. God is calling you. How will you respond?
1, In the Old Testament lesson we have the introduction of, and the call of Jeremiah the prophet. This call comes at a crossroads in the life of Judah. Her time to repent and change is past. She is about to fall to Babylon. Jeremiah is called to in the words of God “to pluck up and pull down, to destroy and overthrow, and to build and to plant.”
Jeremiah protests that he is too young and ill equipped. I do not know how to speak he says. God has heard this one many times before when God has called people who did not want to be called. God comes back with that your youth is no excuse. You will go where I send you and you will speak what I command you. God has used this before and it is effective. In a gesture God touches his mouth and says I have put the words in your mouth. Go to it. The challenge for Jeremiah is what those words call for.
Jeremiah’s call is to pluck up, pull down, destroy, overthrow, plant and build. What that means is that he has the unenviable and some might say treasonous task to proclaim that the time of repentance has past, the kingdom is going to fall, they will be carried off into exile where they will sit for a long time, and then be restored.
Jeremiah will have to speak for God against the prophets that the King employs to tell him that everything is good; God loves them and will never let that happen, for they are the chosen ones. Jeremiah answers God’s call.
He is ridiculed, imprisoned, and asked to do something that really looked stupid. He was asked to invest in the redemption of family land as the Babylonians were about to defeat Judah. That was Jeremiahs call and he responded with reluctance but carried it out with courage, trusting that God would be faithful and supply him with the resources necessary to do the work.
Tran. God removed the challenges that Jeremiah put forth and equipped him for his call. For you to answer God’s call God must remove from you whatever might hinder your vision and response.
II, Chapter 13 in Luke’s gospel talks a great deal about repentance. We think repentance only in terms of sin that we must turn away from. We think of it as concrete acts. Repentance means turning away from something and turning toward something. Repentance means seeing and living in new ways.
Jesus goes on to talk about there is generous time to repent but at some point the time to repent will be over and judgment will come. In the story of the healing of the women in the synagogue, Jesus also shows us that part of repentance is a new way of understanding our community life and our priorities.
In a moving story, Jesus goes to the synagogue to worship and he sees a woman who is bent over unable to stand upright. This was a long term problem for her. She learned how to live with her physical problem. There she is in the synagogue at services bent over. Jesus goes up to her, lays hands on her, and declares that she is free from her infirmity.
She stands up straight and praises God. Who wouldn’t? The congregation is rejoicing with her but not everyone is joyful. The leader is standing close by with his arms clenched, his face getting red and he cries out. Why on the Sabbath? You have violated the sanctity of the Sabbath. She has been troubled 18 years what’s another day? What’s another day is easy for him to say. He is not living bent over and in pain. Jesus addresses his concern.
Jesus says that it is fine on the Sabbath to feed and water the animals to keep them healthy. This woman is a daughter of Abraham, should not she receive the same consideration as the animals. Seeing the women healed, the people knew that something new was happening. They were ready for it. This story of the women’s healing along with the story of Jeremiah’s call can give us a lens through which to view and talk about what is going on here at Milner.
This story and the calling of Jeremiah give us a lens to look at this time as a time of preparation for Milner to answer God’s new call for her. The story of the women’s healing is a story of restoration where like the women, you are healed and enabled to see all around you instead of with the limited vision of being bent over by the weight of your concerns.
God has awakened you to new possibilities for ministry but you are bent over with concern and worries. Jesus sees you struggling with who you are, who you will be and what will you do. By touching you Jesus frees you to look around and fully embrace who you are, what you are, and who you will become. You have become free to enter that wonderful scary process of listening for God’s call, instead of being chained to your limited vision before Jesus touched to you. You now have a wider vision that sees possibilities and dreams dreams, that need to be sorted through and tested before God. Like Jeremiah you have some doubts about your abilities to do what God is calling you to do.
You want to say we can’t do that. We are too old, too small; we don’t have money, energy or time. We lack skills and gifts or any other reason you can think of that I have not mentioned. Jeremiah tried that, Moses did, Isaiah did, the spies of Israel did and God did not accept their reasons and challenged every one of them and prevailed. They repented and trusted God to equip them for what God called them to do. Remember that God said to young Jeremiah that I will give you the words. God does the same for you. God will give you all that you need to answer the call that is yours. First you must prepare.
In chapter 13 Jesus tells the story of fig tree that is having trouble producing fruit. The owner says cut it down. The gardener says to the owner let me have one more year. I will work the soil around it, I will fertilize it properly. Then after that if it does not produce I will cut it down. This is your time of preparation for bearing the fruit that God desires you to bear. It is a time of loosening your soil so that the breath of the Spirit can breathe the life into you for bearing fruit. It is a time of letting God water you so that you push your roots deeper and deeper in Jesus. Then you will bear fruit. You will be able to answer the call that God has placed on you.
During this time of preparation you will work on plucking up and pulling down. The work that Jeremiah had to do was to pluck up and pull down the weeds that had grown up around Judah that were choking out their faithfulness to God.
Jeremiah had to pluck up the notion that they were doing just fine. From the King to the high priest and down to the lowest person in the entire kingdom, their pride that they were the chosen of God had to go. That pride turned into arrogance. That arrogance convinced them they could do what they wished to and God would not be bothered. They were about to find out the hard way that was not the case.
They needed to repent of their ways of false worship, self-congratulating, and believing that no matter what everything would be fine. Jeremiah had to pull down the notion that offering the sacrifices in a shoddy way, and going to the festivals without living out what they professed was going to bring them down. The people Jeremiah was working with were like the women that Jesus healed.
When the people went into exile they decided that God had abandoned them for good. Life would never be the same. Their faith would never be the same. They may have let go of any belief in God. They had limited vision as they were bent over and weighed down by their circumstances. They had limited vision so they could not fully see what was going on.
Jeremiah had to pluck up the idea that God had given up on them even when they were being led down the road to Babylon. God had not given up on them. The time of exile would be a time of preparation for what they would do next when God restored them to their land.
This is a time of plucking and pulling up for you. Now is the time when God is working with you to pluck up your sense of inadequacy and fear, so you can do what God has next for you. You know that you are aging, that you have small numbers and a large facility to maintain. You know that your neighborhoods have changed over the years. You may think that God is finished with you. In this time between pastors, God is plucking up those weeds that are choking out your faith and stunting your hope. Removing the weeds needs to be done so you to be properly nourished to produce the fruit God desires of you. It is when you are fed and watered by God’s grace that you produce fruit.
During this time God is pulling down whatever walls that you may perceive are keeping you in and others out. During this time God is removing the doors that only open in and replacing them with doors that open out. God is laying his healing hands on you to give you renewed sight and hearing as you are no longer stooping in fear and pain but straightened up and looking around. You praise God for that by looking for opportunity and hearing and responding to cries for help, rather than seeing and hearing nothing and pretending that all is well. I will leave it to each of you to think about how God is at work in each of you and in the congregation as a whole.
Con, Time will tell what God has for you to do. Time will tell what kind of fruit you will bear. Time will tell what you will plant and build up. Rest assured God knows what you need and will provide. In the fullness of time you will know as you do the work of listening, pruning, loosening the soil and feeding your souls.
Now is your time of preparation. Be diligent, be open, be willing to let go of some things and ways and embrace others. It is hard work. Let God work in you individually and as a congregation, so that you can answer the call God has for you and so build up the kingdom of God in this part of the world.
Luke 12:49-59 The messy business of transformation August 14, 2016
Intro. Out at Snow Camp North Carolina, a small community about 15 miles south of Burlington, there is an outdoor drama theater. They have two plays that they do in the summer. One is about the Quaker involvement in the Underground Railroad before and during the Civil War. The other is called “Sword of Peace”. I saw this show last summer.
It is about the experience of the Quaker community there during the Revolutionary War. Quakers as you know are pacifist. They will not fight nor will they use weapons against a fellow human being. As part of their Christian faith, they try to live as neighbors to anyone. The story is set in Snow Camp a Quaker community. It takes place in 1781 in the waning days of the Revolutionary war. For the most part the war had stayed far away. The challenge for the Quaker community was should we take up arms in the cause of the revolution and independence.
During the time of the story, General Nathaniel Greene, who was a practicing Quaker, until he took up arms and was disfellowshiped by his community, was leading the Americans on a strategic retreat from the British. This kept drawing the British further and further from their supply sources and ultimately led to the British surrender at Yorktown Virginia.
In the course of this retreat Green’s forces and the British fought the Battle at Guilford Court House. The Americans were defeated and their retreat took them through Snow Camp. The British Commander, Colonel Tarlton left his most seriously wounded men in the care of the Quakers who took them in without hesitation.
The Quaker young men in the community had to decide what to do. Do they join the fight, take up arms, disavow pacifism and non violence and be disfellowshipped, or would they remain true to their religious convictions and not fight. As you can imagine the community and families were deeply divided and torn apart. The play is all about dealing with that challenge.
The divisions were real and heartbreaking. You could see the hurt and heartbreak on both sides as decisions were being made. That is what tough decisions about change bring. Not only does the immediate issue have to be decided. It also has long term consequences for the community life and faith. This seems to be what Jesus is speaking about in Luke’s gospel.
Trans. What Luke is doing, as he penned this story about Jesus, speaking in a way that is very disconcerting in the least or frightening at the most, is telling us that to live in the way of the Kingdom of God brings about challenge and division. It does so because the way of the Kingdom of God challenges the status quo in our lives, our church and our society. How are we going to deal with these troubling words?
We can respond to these words in a couple of ways. We can think about all of the other comforting, affirming things that Jesus said and chalk this up to a bad day that Jesus had or we can take the challenge of Jesus words and wrestle with them. I would prefer the easy way and believe that Jesus just had a bad day, but my call as a preacher is to help us wrestle with the text and listen for a word from God. In wrestling with the text we must keep in mind that the Kingdom of God always challenges the status quo.
1, Jesus’ mission and ministry proclaims that the Kingdom of God has come and is here. This means changes are going to come. The kingdom of God will overcome and disrupt the Kingdom’s of this world. It does not start with Jesus.
It starts when God disrupts the retirement of a man named Abram and his wife Sara. This couple has made their money and now it was time to settle in to enjoy whatever time they had left, enjoying the fruits of their labors. God comes to Abram and creates a great big interruption. God calls them to leave their home and go to a land that God would give them and then they would become a blessing to the whole earth. Talk about upset and challenging the status quo.
Can you imagine the conversations that must have taken place between Abram and Sarai about how to respond to this disruption? Would they go or stay? Is it worth the trouble? Should we tell God to bother someone younger? Extend that out to their families and their neighbors. They could remain settled and comfortable but be unfaithful or they could disrupt everything in their lives, be ridiculed by those who knew and loved them, and be faithful. They decided to be faithful and answer God’s call. As you know living with their decision was not easy. It had many challenges. They prevailed and God was faithful to what God had promised.
The same thing held true with the prophets. They had to decide to remain as they were and ignore Gods call on them or would they follow God’s call and be ridiculed by those who thought they were nuts. I think they also had to deal with fallout from their families as their messages could bring danger and disrepute on their families as they were disrupters of the status quo. Jesus faced the same thing with his family.
They wanted him to tone it down. From the time he stayed behind teaching in the temple when he was 12, through the time when his hometown congregation wanted to toss him off a cliff after a sermon he preached, his words and his actions created trouble and division. The kingdom of God will always be challenging the status quo and making people very nervous.
The story goes on through Paul and his journeys and through all of history of the church as we have been called upon to follow the ways of the kingdom of God and challenge the ways of the status quo. The trouble with challenging the status quo is that change means that there are new ways of doing things, new ways of understanding power and position, and welcoming people who have been previously excluded. Understanding this we need to remember that conflict and division are a natural consequence of change and transformation. Power shifts will always bring division and conflict. New ways of doing things and welcoming new people always disrupt the system that we grow so comfortable with. Look at Jesus’ ministry as an example.
B, All of Jesus ministry sought to bring a power shift from the ways of the Pharisees and Sadducees understanding of how to live and practice the faith, back to the way that God wished the faith to be practiced.
The change Jesus wanted to see with the Pharisees was to have them have some sense about and compassion about how they practiced the faith. “I desire mercy not sacrifice” is something that Jesus reminded them constantly about. Jesus wanted them to be more forgiving of people who had difficulties being as precise as they were in their obedience to the law. It is not about how particular you are about tithing your spice cabinet or anything else you own. It is about how particular you are in loving your neighbor and seeking justice. To the Sadducees is challenge was to have no other God before me as they had aligned themselves with the power and prestige of Rome rather than with the Lord of the Universe.
They were the one who sold their faith for political power and privilege. It is no wonder that Jesus’ message of the Kingdom of God angered each side so much. Change and new life bring new ways. Some will embrace the ways and some will fight against them. That brings us to you. Trans. Your congregation has made a conscious decision to work toward transforming your congregation so that something new will be born. That means you desire to turn toward a new way of being Milner Memorial Presbyterian Church and you are willing to turn away from the old way. That is a courageous decision. It is also one that will not be easy to implement and it could get messy.
2, Turning toward a new way can bring division. The turning brings disruption to the system. The challenge in transformation comes in changing the system of the congregation. By nature all systems whether they are organizations, our lives, or our bodies, like balance and abhor change. If any of you have ever tried to quit smoking or drinking, you know the challenges. Our friends in the 12 step meetings that you host know this truth and they sum it up in the aphorism “one day at a time.”
Even though a change is desired it is constant struggle not to resume the old familiar behaviors. Each day is a new day in the struggle as the system wants to resist the change and go back to the settled ways. The same is true if you have tried to change your eating habits or lose weight.
You have to fight the urge to resume the old ways because that is what our system wants to do. This is what we know and are comfortable with. So we fight it. Some days we resist the urge to stray off our new found path and other days those two donuts with our coffee in the morning and the hot fudge Sundae for desert win the battle. Just like bodies the congregation is a system that has its way of doing things and it resists anything that wants to change the system.
One of the biggest changes that transforming congregations must make is that of turning their focus from inward to outward. Yes isn’t that what Jesus calls us to? Yes, but what does that mean. One of the changes that needs to for a congregation to turn their attention outward is that they make a conscious decision that the pastoral leadership needs to spend more time out in the community, meeting and working with people who are not part of the congregation than they spend working with the members of the congregation. It means that rather than the pastoral leadership doing all the work of caring for the membership, others must be encouraged and trained to exercise their gifts for the ministry of caring. This might look like the Elders and members taking a lead role in visiting the homebound the sick and other members of the congregation instead of the Pastor doing all of it. That major change has the possibility of disruption and conflict.
Another shift might be a change in how the Session sees and does their work. Historically Sessions have liked to keep a tight rein on what the congregation does. They have become parodied as body’s who enjoy saying no to everything rather than giving permission for members to exercise their calling and work on creating new ministries. To let go of power is not easy. Some may want to keep that power and are willing to fight to keep it rather than being willing to share it with others. Letting go of control over all the ministries allows the Elders to serve as the Spiritual Leaders of the congregation along with the Pastor and less as the Board of Directors. Sometimes the challenge comes when the church starts to grow and receives new members.
The challenge of growth is that new people bring new ideas. The new ideas are different from the old ways. Those that are vested in the old ways may not be willing to give up control and allow things to be done in new ways. As you know from your ministry information form, “the old ways of doing business of a church no longer apply”. That is easy to say but hard to live. New ways are unfamiliar and may be uncomfortable and disconcerting.
The fact that you know that and have said it says to me, you are willing to take the risks of division and conflict, the mess and the challenges, in order to be transformed and re-born. The last section of our texts speaks to that challenge.
3, When the conflicts happen and the mess breaks out, remember that forgiveness, reconciliation and healing are possible in Jesus. In this messy process of transformation you can be sure that hurt, confusion, and anger will come. We can pray it will be kept to a minimum but it will happen. Then it behooves us to remember that in Christ we are brothers and sisters in the household of God. The challenge is being willing to own up to your role in the disagreement and seek to be forgiven as well as to forgive.
You are in this together. Your desire is for Milner to be the congregation that God desires her to be, doing the work that God desires her to do. By holding on to this tightly it, it allows you to listen to the others concerns.
Listening allows you to hear something that you have not considered before or you are challenged to re-think something. When you cannot agree, you need to disagree peacefully and focus on what you can agree on, which is probably more than you imagine. Trust Christ through the Holy Spirit to work with you to bring reconciliation.
Con, You have chosen to follow God down a very challenging road. Know that the road will be long; it will have pitfalls that will cause pain. It will bring out your fears as well as your joys. Rest assured that the one who so graphically warned about division and conflict in the family is the same one who loves us enough to go to the cross and die for us. Jesus is the one who will lead you through the process, encouraging you along the way, healing the wounds and hurts, and leading you to become the congregation that he desires you to be.
Where your treasure is so is your heart. Luke. 12:22-33 August 7, 2016
Intro: I will never forget the beat up old baseball glove my dad had and used when I was a little boy. It was dark leather that was dried out a bit. It had been repaired by him many times. It really was an antique. It was a glove from the early days of baseball where gloves did not flex. It probably belonged to him and his brother in the late 20’s or early 30’s. He was still using it in the 60’s to play softball. The reason that he used it was he wanted me to have a proper glove to play baseball.
The day came when my dad could get a new glove. He and I went to the store and we picked one out. Usually the father helps the son pick out his first new glove. I got to help my dad. He broke in that new glove and used it until he could no longer play softball. With moving a couple times and me moving away, that old battered glove and his newer one disappeared. I would love to have them for what they symbolize to me but that is not what is important. What I do have is the memory of and the treasure of the lessons that those gloves taught me such as putting others first. While I was thinking about those gloves I thought about another treasure. This time it was a fishing trip. My dad promised to take me and a friend fishing one Saturday. I don’t know how it happened but the day we were to go was the day after my dad had several teeth pulled. I knew we were going to postpone the trip. That was very disappointing. Saturday came and he took us. I know he was uncomfortable all that day but he did not say anything. It was not until years later that I understood what he had done.
He kept his word to me and my friend even though he would have rather stayed home. He decided that his discomfort was not enough to allow him break faith with me and my friend. The treasure that I took from that and still hold close is that one keeps ones word even if it is uncomfortable or costly.
Those are two incidents that happened in a boy’s life that became treasures for all of his life. They became those lessons that one remembers as guiding principles when there are difficult decisions to make.
In chapter 12 Luke is teaching us about how to be faithful disciples of Jesus. In this particular section, Jesus talks of our relationship to our possessions. Just prior to our text for today, Jesus tells the parable of the man who is a very successful farmer. He did so well he decided that he would tear down smaller barns and build big barns and live the rest of his life in ease. Remember what happens to him? He dies right after he starts to execute his plan. All his posse ions and great dreams did not change the fact that someday he was going to die. Then Jesus starts to address the disciples about their worries and fears.
“Don’t worry about your life” Jesus says. He goes on to say that it is the Father’s good pleasure to provide for you, giving you the kingdom. Don’t be anxious. Don’t get caught up in possessions and wealth. Why? Jesus says where your treasure is there is where your heart is. Trans: Today Luke is going to help us take a look at our lives and ask ourselves what we treasure so we can see where our hearts are.
I What do we treasure? It is not an easy question to answer. It’s not easy because we have to confront ourselves with truth that we really do not want to hear. We might answer I treasure a large comfortable house in a nice neighborhood.
You acquire it and everything is right with the world. Then the reality starts to set in. This dream is costly. It takes a great deal of time and resources to keep it up. Soon it becomes the driving force in everything you do. You start looking around and asking what I have gotten myself into. Anxiety starts to set in. Your worry keeps you up. This is not what you bargained for. You realize that what you really wanted was a comfortable place to live that did not control you.
Maybe what you treasure is money and well performing investment portfolio. You work hard and long hours doing something that you may or may not enjoy. You miss opportunities with your family because of the demands of your work. You scrimp and save to build that portfolio up and by the time you feel comfortable with it, it is too late to enjoy the fruits of your labor. Then as you get older you started to realize that what you thought you treasured and worked for was not satisfying and it started you to thinking. You ask yourself what do I really treasure. When we reach that point in life when we rethink what we have done and what we have learned, we may find that what we treasure is not possessions or money, what we treasure are qualities of life. We realize that what we really treasure are qualities like compassion, mercy, grace, giving of one’s self, keeping ones word, thinking of others first sharing you time with family and friends. These treasures can never be taken away from us. They cannot be destroyed or damaged. Let me share one of the ways I learned this truth.
Many years ago Bill and Shirley lost their house in a fire. They lost everything. Bill had things that his father had made such as a handmade bed, dough bowls and wooden candle sticks. Shirley lost table clothes, placemats, and a quilt her mother had made. Pictures were burnt up and letters were destroyed. It was sad. All they could do was cry. The irreplaceable items were gone forever. For Bill and Shirley it seemed that there life was an ash heap like their house and everything in it.
Their neighbors and family reached out to them offering them a place to stay, until they could rent someplace. They helped them get replacement furniture and clothes. They fed them. What the community did was to help them start over.
About a year later in their new house Bob and Shirley reflected about the last year of their lives. Bob said I was devastated after our house burned. Everything that I treasured was in that house. It was all destroyed. I thought why. Why did I have to lose all those things that meant so much to me? I had to ask myself why I felt like that as my thinking caught me off guard. What I lost was things. What I did not lose was what was behind those things that I learned over the years.
I may not have my father’s woodwork any more but I do have the lessons he taught about patience, encouragement, and listening. I have the memory of the joy he got giving his creations away to friends and neighbors. I can still hear his voice encouraging me to learn how to use the tools. He was patient with me as he worked beside me when he could have done the job faster and better without me. I can still see the joy that he had when someone opened what he gave them and they realized he had made it for them. I remember his joy when he was able to give a large dough bowl to an auction that was to raise funds for a struggling family and that bowl was bid up to $1000 dollars. What I had was the values he taught me and that I have tried to use in my own life. In the aftermath I have been reminded of the values of community, friendship, sharing and caring for neighbors in need. Shirley told me similar story.
Shirley spoke about the pictures and letters that were gone. That hurt and made her angry. She felt cut off from her past without them. With time she realized that while she had lost a physical connection she had in her memory and imprinted upon her soul the people in those pictures and the stories in those letters. She thought of all the hours her mother and grandmother worked on the quilt, the table cloths and the place mats. She remembered as a little girl, the older women of the neighborhood gathering to create these wonderful works of art. What was more important was how those women supported each other in their daily life. They had community that stood with them in times of trouble. They could pick each other’s brains to solve problems. They could laugh together and cry together. Shirley said that rubbed off on her. All her adult life she worked to create community of sharing among friends and neighbors.
Each of you has stories like this about what you treasure that has nothing to do with material possessions, but have everything to do with how you live your life. So I ask you to review what you truly treasure so that you can do a check up on your heart. My guess is that you treasure love, kindness, patience, putting others first, sharing, valuing someone. I also want us to review what we value as a congregation of followers of Jesus.
At the Session meeting last Monday night we approved the Ministry Information Form. This form describes who you are and describes what the congregation wants and needs from an interim Pastor. Let me share with you what jumped out at me that indicate to me what you treasure and where your heart is. The first thing is the quotation from 2Corinthians 3:12 “Since we have such a hope we are very bold” You value hope. Since you quoted scripture your hope is not just a wishful thinking type hope that with enough of it you can change anything. It is hope that is based on your faith in Jesus Christ and the new life promised in his resurrection. This hope is based on what God will do and not what you have to create yourselves. This hope does not mean you are going to be able to just sit back and let God do the work. This hope is similar to the statement that has been around for a long time that says pray as if all depends upon God, work as if all depends upon you.
The Second quality you treasure is providing care and compassion for the community. You are people who value sharing, welcoming, providing, and inviting. You realize that the gifts God has given to the congregation are not gifts to be hoarded but to be used in love to bear witness to the good news of God’s grace and mercy through Jesus Christ. I see this in you in the way you make use of your biggest resource, your property.
The third quality you treasure is faith. You have the conviction that God is not finished with you even though you are a small aging group of people. You may be small in numbers but I sense a big heart that trusts that God has something more for you to do. You just are not quite sure what that may be. This leads to back to the treasures of faith and hope. You have the faith that there is a ministry to do and a person who will lead you in that ministry. That faith has led you to say we “our faith is very large and our determination to transform is great.” You know this process will not be easy, yet you treasure the challenge to be faithful and to serve the Lord. You say with conviction that God is not finished with us yet.
The challenge will come in living out the treasure that is in your heart. That is no surprise. That is the story of faithfulness for all. That is the story of discipleship. Trusting in Jesus to lead us in the way we should go. Being willing to let go of what we think we treasure to use what we really treasure, to receive the kingdom and all of its gifts and invite others to receive the blessings of the Kingdom. That is where you heart is. May God make it so.