Original Posting At http://bethquick.blogspot.com/2012/01/report-of-pastor-mark-114-20.html
Original Posting At http://bethquick.blogspot.com/2012/01/report-of-pastor-mark-114-20.html
Report of the Pastor
FiveHundred Twenty-Five Thousand Six Hundred Minutes. Five Hundred Twenty-FiveThousand Moments so dear. Five Hundred Twenty-Five Thousand Six HundredMinutes. How Do You Measure – Measure A Year? In Daylights – In Sunsets, InMidnights – In Cups of Coffee, In Inches – In Miles, In Laughter – In Strife,In – Five Hundred Twenty-Five Thousand Six Hundred Minutes. How Do You Measurea Year In The Life? How About Love? How About Love? How About Love? Measure InLove. Seasons of Love.
Youmight recognize these lyrics from the song Seasons of Love from the musical Rent. The words ask us how we can assessthe value of a year in our life. Is it just seconds and minutes, or more than that?Is it expressions of love? I have been wondering the same thing about our year hereat First United. How do we measure it? Like the song suggests, I hope what allof our actions add up to are expressions of love for God and one another. Youmay remember my January newsletter article for the Contact, where I talkedabout the concept of a Year in Review. At the end of 2011, you could find a lotof Best of 2011 lists – the top 10 movies or books or albums. A review ofimportant people and events. And I wondered what that would look like for our church.How would we characterize the life of our church in 2011? What was our yeartogether like? And where do we see ourselves going in 2012?
One ofthe many blessings we have here is that Cee Cee Andrew and some occasional helpersprovide us with beautiful photographs of church events. You can find these onour church facebook page, or on the digital picture frame after services, or inthe scrapbook Connie McEvers put together, or on the monitor before worshipbegins. I spent some time this month looking through the pictures to remind meof all the places we’ve been this year.
Hereis just a snippet: Our youth completed a challenge course, something they willdo again soon, and played laser tag with youth from Fayetteville and Manlius.From our church alone we are seeing 15-20 youth at some of these events, withyouth inviting other youth. They also threw Valentine, Halloween, and Christmasparties for our children. We celebrated Camp Sunday, and sent our young peopleto camps, retreats, and events. We were serious about mission and connecting topeople we serve. We followed up on a commitment to the people of Haiti – we hada special breakfast, donated money, collected items, and became participants inDress Our People – sewing clothing for the children of Haiti. We are seeing ourphysical church space transformed bit by bit, under the leadership ofself-proclaimed non-leader Cee Cee Andrew. We’ve seen our nursery go from dullto bursting with color, classrooms redecorated, walls painted, bathroom cleanedand refreshed, curtains hung, kitchen drawers cleaned and repaired, officesupplies and coffee hour supplies and kitchen supplies restocked through giftsand hours of service. We welcomed new members and celebrated baptisms, just aswe entrusted some of our family into God’s care. We added new bricks to ourbeautiful Memorial Garden. We put on a Mother’s Day breakfast. We CROP walked.We put on a fantastic carnival for the second year in a row, when I reallythought we couldn’t outdo our first attempt, and found our yard filled with somany happy smiling faces of children. We celebrated Laity Sunday. Our childrenread the scriptures throughout Advent. We gave out more food baskets than usualbecause we had received so much. We collected more shoeboxes than usual forOperation Christmas child. We actually ended the year, through a number ofsurprising happenings, with a small surplus. We filled up our giving tree withitems to help us in our ministry. We had an exceptionally successful cookiewalk. We touched people who really needed it while Christmas Caroling. We hadmission moments from community agencies with whom we partner, and during Lentwe heard from folks here who service in mission beyond the local church. We haveabout twenty people stepping into new roles this year, serving in new ways, innew areas. We had too many volunteers show up at once for the Rescue Mission,so they barely knew what to do with us. That is a year in our life, and it isjust, as I said, a small piece of our life together.
Thisyear we had four goals for our life together: increasing our emphasis in hands-onmission and justice experience, working to invite people to First United and betterwelcome visitors, understanding how our stewardship relates to our relationshipwith God, and experiencing enriching worship. All of these are meant to help usconsider and explore ways to deepen the role andrelevancy of the church and faith in their lives. Now, there are someways we can numerically measure some of these items. I can tell you how manyvisitors we had and how many new members we have, and how many folks increasedtheir pledges, and how many people participated in mission for how many hours,and how many people attended worship services or studies or our Lenten orAdvent groups. But what I have found most compelling are the stories behindsome of the numbers. For example, this year when we were serving at the RescueMission, the head cook complimented Nikole Metz as a really hard worker. And thehead cook is not known to hand out compliments very easily. But Nikole, and herbrothers, and the rest of the volunteers put their all into serving with asmile. That is just one story, but to me, they are the heart of the second andminutes and hours of our year together.
Thisweek at Parish Council, we had a lot of issues to deal with, a lot ofconversation that we will continue at our annual meeting after worship. I was talkingabout making sure that we know how to answer the question: Why do we want tocontinue to be here as a church? Why does it matter to us that we, FirstUnited, are here? And Paul Spero, in response, mentioned Jesus calling thedisciples to fish for people. What Paul probably didn’t realize is that that passageis today’s gospel lesson – when things like that happen, I consider that God atwork.
Today,our gospel lesson is full of a sense of immediacy and urgency. Our lesson opensstill in the first chapter of Mark. John the Baptist has just been arrested – asidefrom his unwelcome words to the religious leaders about repentance and thembeing a brood of vipers, John had also managed to upset King Herod by callinghim out publicly on his immoral actions. So John wound up in prison. The timewas ripe for Jesus to step in and continue and expand the work John had begun.He arrives in Galilee and beings to proclaim the good news. As he is passing bythe Sea of Galilee, he sees Simon and Andrew, fishermen, casting their nets.Jesus greets them with provocative words: “Follow me, and I will make you fishfor people.” And, we read, “immediately” they left their nets and followedJesus. Farther down the shore, Jesus sees James and John, the sons of Zebedee.And “immediately” he calls them, and they leave their father and the otherworkers, and follow him.
Sowhat’s all the rush about? What’s the significance of the repeated “immediately”in these texts? I think our answer has two parts. An immediate message and animmediate response. Remember, our passage begins with Jesus talking about thegood news. And what is the good news? We read that Jesus began teaching andpreaching right after John’s arrest, and here was his message, which Mark callsthe good news of God: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near;repent, and believe in the good news.” Jesus’ message of good news is that Godis immediately present in our lives.Instead of coming at a later time, instead of something we have to wait for,the time is already fulfilled – God is here, God is present – God’s reign,God’s will, is right here and right now. An immediate message.
Likewise,because of Jesus’ immediate message, there is a need for an immediate response.“Repent, and believe the news,” Jesus insists. Repent – change the direction ofyour life. And when? Now. Right now. And so when Jesus calls the disciples, hedoesn’t tell them to think it over. He doesn’t ask them to meet him later. Hedoesn’t ask for applications which he’ll review. He doesn’t negotiate termswith them, or revise his message to something they’re more willing to support.He says, “follow me.” And they do – immediately. An immediate message and animmediate response.
A fewweeks ago, I shared with you an excerpt from Richard Rohr’s book, Falling Upward. He wrote, ʺMerely tosurvive and preserve our life is a low-level instinct that we share with[animals], but it is not heroism in any classic sense. We were meant to thriveand not just survive. We are glad when someone survives, and that surely tooksome courage and effort. But what are you going to do with your now resurrectedlife? That is the heroic question.ʺ It is so tempting to focus on our survival.Our world is changing, and people place being part of a faith community in adifferent place than they once did. And in the midst of uncertainty about ourrole, it is tempting to bunker down and do everything we can to hold on to ourlittle piece. But the good news of Jesus Christ isn’t about a life where we arejust surviving. Jesus said he came to bring us abundant life. And God offers us that life right now. We may have tomake changes, significant ones, to do the ministry that Jesus calls us to. Wemay have to think anew about what it means to do ministry, to serve, to be inmission, to worship, to be a church. But some things don’t change: God calls usand offers us life, and is waiting for us to respond.
Over thenext several weeks, I will share more with you about where and how I think God iscalling us. And I want to hear from you – what would it mean for this communitynot to survive, but to thrive? What does that look like? What does that looklike in your life? Or for us, here? Immediately Jesus called them, andimmediately they left their nets and followed him. What will we do? Amen.