Scripture: Luke 13:10-17
Our friend Adam drives to the office like he does every morning. Over the past few years he has begun to notice some things that he found quite disturbing. On basically any given morning and afternoon while he drives down the exit ramp toward the coffee shop he sees someone standing there asking for help. At first he was concerned but then as they became familiar he stopped looking. But something changed, the people asking for assistance were showing up in others places as well, and they were not always single individuals but families. He pulled into the coffee shop, and sitting near the edge of the lot was a van, the van was filled completely with boxes and standing outside it was a woman with a couple of kids. They were not begging for money but there was something about the situation that made him think. They were not exactly the stereotypical image of homelessness; the woman walked the children to the corner where they met a school bus. She turned to the face the buildings behind her, and sighed. Adam could see the stress rising as the woman’s jaw tightened. She turned to the van pulled out a folder, locked the doors, and began to walk toward the strip mall.
Adam exited his own car and began to walk to the coffee shop, as he neared the door the woman was walking to the same door. He opened the door and allowed the woman to enter in front of him. She went to the counter and ordered a small plain coffee, and taking a seat at a table with a discarded newspaper. Adam ordered his drink and sat down to enjoy the brief morning ritual of java consumption. He observed the woman making a list of addresses and numbers. She opened her folder reading a paper inside and comparing it to her list. Adam could sense the frustration as the woman read over her resume and realized yet another potential job that her skills would not exactly fit. She groaned and let her head sink into her hands. At that point Adam rose and walked over and asked her if he could barrow a different section of the paper. His approach gave her a bit of a shock and as she jumped her arm spilled her coffee. Adam was embarrassed and asked if he could buy her another cup. She actually allowed him too. From there a conversation developed.
At this point he felt a bit awkward because he was sitting there talking to a stranger in the morning. But she opened up to him. She explained how she had been laid off a few years back, her husband was deployed overseas, and they recently lost their home. She had floated between temporary and part-time jobs but was unable to find something that was full-time and they needed some sort of income to be able to find a place to live. Adam had heard the story, or at least a story similar to it over and over. He had seen it in his community, but this was heartbreaking. She was trying very hard, doing everything she knew how to do to try to make ends meet while her husband was overseas. She talked about her kids and how proud she was of them. Adam enjoyed talking with her, and he really wanted to help.
It is a sad story. A story that has been told for several years, and one that is never easy to hear. We would like to think that this story is one that is not being told any longer but all too often it is. And often when we hear the story we are left in an awkward place, wondering if there is anything that we could do to help or thanking God that we are not the characters. The economic plight of America is one we hope we can soon stop talking about, but the stress it brings has weighed heavily on everyone’s shoulders. We can often feel overcome by it or we could just unplug and let it pass us by.
I bring it up because I believe this ties into the scene in today’s passage. Jesus goes into a synagogue to teach on the Sabbath, as he is accustomed to doing. In walks a woman who had a spirit that crippled her for eighteen years. She was so bad that it bent her over for years she was unable to straighten ups. There is no mention of anything else. No mention of family, just that she came into the synagogue. We do not even know if she was seeking Jesus out or if she just happened to be there, though I tend to believe that this woman came to this synagogue faithfully for eighteen years.
For eighteen years, a spirit had weighed down this woman. Have you ever thought about what type of spirit would weigh down a person till they were unable to stand upright? There are any numbers of stresses that can cause our shoulders to sag a bit. The passage says that there was a spiritual component binding her as well. Something about the struggle within and without was coming between her ability to freely worship.
Jesus saw her; he called her over and said, “Woman, you are set free from your ailment.” When he laid his hands on her, immediately she stood up straight and began praising God. It is hard to look past the amazing release of the woman’s bound back, but I want us to look a bit deeper than the healing. There is really no indication that this woman came to the place of worship to find Jesus. For eighteen years this woman was silently walking in and out of this place of worship. For eighteen years this woman passed in the shadows quietly carrying a burden. For eighteen years she was an unseen participant, never fully accepted, never fully respected, never really seen.
Jesus saw her. Healing begins when we are seen. This woman was hiding for eighteen years behind a false image of herself, she was carrying a burden that was too personal to share with the community, and it was binding her. She carried this for eighteen years. Slowly it ate away at the vertebrae of her back, slowly as she hid behind the false words saying that all was well in her house. The gravity of the stress too painful to share openly was slowly folding her in half, for eighteen years she was afraid yet longing to be seen. Jesus saw her. He saw the fear that kept her hiding in the shadow. He heard the weeping spirit that was being bound inside. He saw her and was moved to minister.
This caused a controversy in the community. The leader of the synagogue, the equivalent of the senior pastor, began to speak boldly about the law and how it was not right to work on the Sabbath day. He began to preach boldly that people should spend the other six days of the week seeking healing but to keep this seventh day devoted only to God. I speak harshly about the leader of the synagogue because I know the pressure placed upon his shoulders as well. Within his office he wields great power, the power to bind and loosen, the power to encourage and to shame. He holds power, but that power has a price no matter how this man uses the power given to him by God and the community he serves, it threatens to break him. By a word this man could sway the entire community one direction or the other. The leader might begin to think that he is the one that is moving the community, but a swaying community is like the pendulum of a clock it moves one direction but eventually it begins to come back. The leader is not the mover, makes sure that the clock is maintained.
Jesus too responds negatively to the leader. Calling him and all that were riled up by his passionate speech hypocrites! They are hypocrites because they forgot why they were there. They thought that they were force that moved the community, that they were the ones in control, but they too were just swaying one way then the other. They were hypocrites because the synagogue was meant to be a house of worship and prayer, a safe place where people could come before God and their community to seek help and release of the burdens in their lives. Yet for eighteen years these leaders lived and worked within this community and they failed to see this one woman who was bound by a spirit, a spirit that was literally folding her in on herself. For eighteen years this woman walked in and out never finding help but only finding more judgment and condemnation which only bent her down a bit more. These men were hypocrites because they spoke eloquently, yet when it came time to put words into action they failed to see the opportunities to share the love of God. You see it is easy to speak words of faith, but it is totally different to live words of faith.
Jesus says, “Does not each of you on the Sabbath untie his ox or his donkey from the manger, and lead it away to give it water?” Each of us will do what we need to do to keep our livelihoods. There are aspects of life, there are chores that we must do no matter what day it is. Tending livestock is a chore that must be done. My dad would never work on Sundays; he was very passionate about this. I remember one year during harvest it kept raining. There was so much mud and water in the fields that my dad had to purchase tire for our combine that were used in rice fields. It just kept raining, all week long it rained and then Sunday was a beautifully clear sunny day, and every other farmer in the community went out to cut wheat, but not my dad. My dad taught me to keep the day of worship holy, no matter what. But even my dad would make sure the livestock was cared for on Sundays. We would cut holes in the ice during the winter on Sunday just like every other day. In the summer we would make sure that the windmills were pumping properly so that the livestock would have what they needed. Was my dad a hypocrite? No, because life is sacred. If we are charged with the well-being of any creature, human or animal we must care for it every day.
Jesus says you hypocrites to these men, because they know full well that they would take care of their livestock, just like my father would, yet for eighteen years they let this woman, who had been part of their community, sit in bondage. They made no effort. They did not even see her. Jesus did though. He saw that she was struggling even to stand on her own two feet. He saw that there was emotional, spiritual, and physical pain that the rest of the community overlooked. He saw her and he was compassionate.
She quietly sat in worship for eighteen years, never wanting to be a burden to the community yet the weight of her stress was breaking her, causing her to even question if God actually loved her. She questioned because the very people with the power to help were the ones that withheld the grace that could have easily released her. What was her burden? We may never know, but we can speculate. What are the burdens of anyone in a community? Her burdens are probably the same burdens that each of us carry, we carry them on our shoulder hoping that some would see us and help.
Adam saw a woman living in a van with two kids. He saw her struggle, he saw her frustration, and he engaged her in conversation. Over a simple cup of coffee he listened to her story. What should he do next? There are countless things that he could do to help. He could ask to look at her resume, knowing that she was trying to find a job, he could even offer to help her rewrite her resume. He could offer her a job at his place of employment. He could look at her skills and experience and possibly point her in a different direction if he happened to know of any possibilities. He could at the very least make sure that she knew that someone in the community cared. Every day he came to this same coffee shop. He had never seen her before, but it is clear that she had always been there. They look at the names on the list together and he does one thing, he asks if he can pray with her and lets her know that if she needs to talk that he will be back the next morning.
Adam saw the woman, Jesus saw the woman, when everyone else failed to see. Jesus is not saying that we have to fix the problems of everyone we meet, but he does tell us that we should at least give them something to drink. As we enter into this time of open worship and holy expectancy let us each seek the Spirit of God and ask that our eyes will be open to see the bondage within ourselves and within our community, and ask how we can assist the spirit in releasing the ties so that all can drink from the refreshing springs of Christ.
Scripture: Luke 12:49-56
Friends above all else desire unity. We will table decisions for years waiting for unity within the meeting. This is one of our greatest strengths as well as one of greatest weaknesses. We work diligently to find unity in one way or the other, even where there is no clear view of unity on the horizon. For centuries Friends in America worked for the abolition of slavery. The quest to end slavery was championed by John Woolman. John worked his entire life sacrificing his career and livelihood for the cause, he would often be asked to write wills for people, yet if they owned any person he would refuse to write the document unless all humans were granted freedom. John went so far as refusing to consume any product or service that used exploited labor in any way. He would not eat sugar or wear any clothing that was dyed, because these products were largely produced under the thumb of slavery. John would travel throughout the colonies preaching and pleading that the Friends would not tolerate slavery in their meetings, for many years his message would fall on deaf ears because slavery in many areas was seen as a necessity. Sure many early American Friends who owned slaves treated them humanely, in many cases their slaves were treated as members of the family, but they did not have liberty. John’s cause eventually gained acceptance and he did eventually see universal acceptance among the American Friends, so he then took the quest to the heart of the slave trade, England, where he inspired others to take on the challenge of abolition and where John eventually died. John saw progress, but never resolution in the ministry he was divinely called to pursue, though among Friends even before the United States came into existence they championed freedom of all mankind.
There were other Friends that made great advances in areas that the culture at large rejected. Bayard Rustin, an African-American Quaker helped organize the push for civil rights, and was an advisor to Martin Luther King, Jr. Though we all may not agree with Mr. Rustin in every aspect of life, we can agree that in this issue Bayard was a hero and deserves respect. Without Bayard Rustin the march on Washington that made King famous and greatly advanced the civil rights cause would not have happened. Through the lives of Rustin and Woolman we see that it is difficult to pursue the right path in a culture that opposes what you stand for.
I bring these up because within the Religious Society of Friends there is a tension between doing the right things and maintaining unity. Woolman and Rustin both spent years pursuing radical changes in the world, changes that would bring about greater equality. This is one of our greatest testimonies though it has come at a great cost. Even today our testimony of equality has raised eyebrows among groups that do not accept female pastors, and many of us do not really know how to respond to the idea of a Friends School operating in Ramallah
, located in the West Bank area of Israel. When we look at the Society of Friends we take pride in our unity, integrity, and peace testimony but even among a people that takes great efforts to maintain unity we find areas where even peaceful people stand divided.
Which brings us to today’s passage. This passage is probably one of the most challenging passages of scripture. Jesus asks “Do you think that I have come to bring peace to the earth?” If we were to stop right there we would all answer YES! To be honest most people Israel would probably have said yes as well, the messiah was to be the prince of peace the unifier of the Jewish nation. But Jesus answered His own question in a very different way. He says, “No, I tell you, but rather division!” This is a very troubling statement. One must ask where is the prince of peace in this statement?
This is one of those difficult areas of scripture that many wish to quickly pass over because it does not fit nicely into the image we wish to project. Then there is the other side of the coin, some will latch onto this passage and use it to fuel the fire of justification of their agendas. But how then should we look at this passage? Does Jesus intend to purposely divide or is there something else?
Jesus walked the soils of Israel in a very troubled time; it was a time where the people of Israel were divided between thoughts of nationalism and submission. Even the very religion that seemingly held it together was caught in the middle of very divisive opinions that threatened the stability of the community. Each side of the issue wanted submission of the masses to their perspective. They were hoping that Jesus would bring unity and order between the two factions. There will not be unity among people who focus on being right instead of doing right.
Jesus says, “I came to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled!” This statement says, in essence, that the movement that Jesus came to start was not even on the radar of the community at that time. While the community was focused on themselves they failed to see where God was actually working. It was not in the temple but in the streets, not among the ruling class that God was moving but among the exploited and broken people marginalized by the ruling class because they did not fit into their agendas. The fire of the movement was not even kindled because the leaders that were in positions of making a difference were too focused on themselves than the people they were leading.
There is not unity among the power seekers because to have unity one must submit to the other. It sparks off a great show of lights and explosions but the fire never takes hold. It is like the parable of the sower and the seeds; some of the seeds fell on good ground, while others fell on rocky, hard, or weedy ground. When power seekers come to the table there is an initial flash of light but like the seeds that fell on the rocky soil springing up quickly, no real lasting growth occurs. This is why after centuries of struggle and conflict there is still no peace in the Middle East. For a fire to burn it must be kindled, built in such a way that when the sparks ignite it will continue to burn until there is resolution. The powers within Israel in the first century were throwing sparks quickly flashing flames but it was just pyrotechnics.
Jesus says, “Do you think that I have come to bring peace to the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division!” Division, this does not sound too good. This does not sound like the life I thought I was committing too when I began following the footsteps of Jesus. But in many ways that is just what happens. I am divided. One aspect of my personality wants one thing while another wants something totally different. Like the apostle Paul states in Romans 7: 15-20:
I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree that the law is good. But in fact it is no longer I that do it, but sin that dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells within me, that is in my flesh. I can will what is right, but I cannot do it. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I that do it, but sin that dwells with in me.
We are often caught in the middle of some battle within us between what we think is right and what we feel is right. We are caught justifying our actions to make ourselves feel like we follow diligently, but ultimately and if we are honest we find ourselves far from Christ. Divided. We strive to be right and in the process we slice our communities in half while we stand on principle forgetting why we gather in the first place.
Jesus goes on to say, “when you see a cloud rising in the west, you immediately say, ‘It is going to rain’; and so it happens. And when you see the south wind blowing, you say, ‘There will be scorching heat’; and it happens. You hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of earth and sky, but why do you not know how to interpret the present time?”
Can anyone else say ouch? We can interpret the appearance of earth and sky, but not the present time. Jesus in this statement is calling us out. He is saying we have wisdom of man but are ignorant. We have studied science, economics, societies, arts, and everything else yet we are still ignorant about what is important. We learn to interpret the things around us for our own gain, but we totally miss the point of why God gave us that intelligence in the first place. Why is it important to know how to determine when rain is about to come? We study meteorology so that we can prepare. But there is something deeper to it. If you had the knowledge that a storm was approaching do you have the obligation to share that information with others? The answer is always yes. What we have is to be shared. We are neglecting our community and not respecting or loving our neighbor if we do not encourage and share what we have with them. It is like knowing a tornado is approaching and not sharing a shelter with those who do not have one. We have a responsibility for those around us.
This is why Jesus divides. In our worldly wisdom we look after ourselves first. Sure we may put our children and spouses equally on our list of priorities, but the obligation to others seems to take a steep decline after that. Jesus divides, because in his view you would not go into the shelter until everyone in your community was safe from the storm. Jesus divides because unlike the kingdoms of the world, in his kingdom we do not stop laboring until everyone in the community is taken care of. Wait does this mean that Jesus is a socialist? Absolutely not! But in the same breath Jesus is not a capitalist either. Jesus is all about the community, the people around you. Jesus is not at all self-centered, but community centered. Jesus gladly laid down his life not for himself but for others and why did he do this? Because building relationships and a community is what the Kingdom of God is all about. If you are focused on your own needs you are not part of the kingdom. If you are focused on your own wants you have no place in the kingdom. If you are expecting someone else to take care of you, you are not part of the kingdom. If you think someone else should be doing something to help, you have no place in the kingdom. Jesus is dividing us all, because this is what the world is all about. We are divided because we have an idea about how the world should work and in our mind we are right, but if we were to really look at ourselves we would find that we are not even close to building a good fire that will truly change the world around us.
Jesus divides because in the division we will see the aspects of our community where our opinions fail. With John Woolman he saw that the Society of Friends said that all men were equal in the eyes of God, yet some men were bought and sold by others. There was a divide, and men were falling through division. That is where we find our ministry. Jesus divides to cause us to recognize where we ourselves fall short and where we must rely on God to bring resolution and unity, and then take a different approach. For Woolman it started by simply asking Friends who have a testimony that all men are equal, if they would free the men they held in bondage, and if they were unwilling then they would need to find a different scribe. It is in that divide where we are called to act, not just called to be activists but to contribute and live. It is in the divides where we see the injustices of our communities and where we are called to bring justice. It is in the divides where we begin to kindle the fires that will heat up actual bonding change.
We are a divided people, and I am ok with that. I am perfectly fine with people that do not see things from my point of view, because it shows me that there is a reason for us to be here and to have this meeting. If there was not a different point of view then that would mean that the world would be perfect and our work would be done. What are the things that we are dividing over and how would Jesus respond to the issues? Explore this in your own minds and hearts as we enter into this time of Holy expectancy and let us consider how Jesus would respond to the divisiveness of our community, would he pat us on the back and say to us to stand on our principles or would he call us hypocrites? It just might surprise you that where our strongest opinions are, may actually be the area that Jesus is calling us to serve and to bring justice and unity. Let us then explore what we are personally doing to bring and end to the injustices that have us so riled up.
Scripture: Luke 12:32-40
Our lives are often filled with choices. We are put into situations and we must figure out for ourselves which direction to go. These choices are often fall somewhere between bad, good, better, and best. The difficulty in this is figuring out which choice we want to commit to, is that we do not know exactly where the decisions will fall and how they will truly affect our current life. The spiritual art of discernment is difficult but probably the most rewarding discipline to develop.
The thing about the best decisions in life is that we know what we want in the end, it is the getting there is what is hard. Jesus says to the disciples, “Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” Have you ever really thought about that? It is the Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. Often we get caught in a web of trying. Trying, but trying what? We are trying to make things work all around us, trying to live right, trying to be right, trying to make our world a better place. In the process of all of our trying we can often lose sight of what is important, the pleasure of God giving us what we need and giving us what we truly desire.
Sin is often described as missing the mark, or falling short of the standard. We read through scripture and holy teachings trying to find the standard we should be aiming for, we strive to meet that standard and still miss the mark. “Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” We often miss the mark or sin because we are trying too hard in ourselves to catch hold of what God wants for us. In the story of the fall of humanity we tend to focus on the activity of Eve and Adam picking and eating the forbidden fruit, but if we were to examine this story closer that action was not the actual fall. The fall in many ways was a compound event that slowly crept up as they began to try to do things for themselves. To insure that they would not eat from the tree of knowledge, Adam changed the rules adding that not only should they not eat from it but also they should not touch the tree. They added rules, not from God but from their own mind. If only we keep away, as long as we stay so far away from the tree we can prevent the thought of sin. But in changing the rules they were not living in the pleasure of God, they were not living in the fullness of the Kingdom which then allowed another thought to enter their mind, again not from God but from human minds. They began to think that God did not desire the fullness of the Kingdom, and from that their mind became twisted to where the tree became more tempting because it was the one thing that was keeping them, in their mind, from enjoying the fullness of the Kingdom. The first sin was mankind’s attempt to reestablish their place in the Kingdom of God.
We sin, we try, and we miss the mark. We miss with all the good intentions, and we miss with blatant disregard of what we know is right. Do not fear, Jesus says, it is God’s good pleasure to give us the kingdom. The failure of our first parents removed us from the pleasure of God and set us on a course of constant attempts to gain access yet again. These constant attempts are the choices we are trying to discern, these attempts can bring us closer to the Kingdom or allow us to fall deeper into the shadows.
Do not fear, it is God’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. To begin we must develop an understanding of what the Kingdom is that God wants to give us. I know that it is a very abstract idea to think of so early in the morning, but the answer to that is deep within each of our hearts. This is why Scripture so often tells us to guard our hearts, because it is in the heart where our true selves reside. We guard our hearts, but we also fear our hearts. We fear our hearts because just as deep within we know that if we were to follow our hearts it would mean that we must totally give up the façade we build up around ourselves as we try to move through the courses of life. To follow our hearts would mean we would need to leave all the things we use to define our lives and turn them over for something much different.
Jesus tells his followers to sell their possessions and to give alms. This is the beginning of something greater. The world we live in demands possessions. These possessions are often the things that are used to define our lives. Our possessions are the things that we gain through our various forms of labor. Our education, our businesses, our houses, and our property are all possessions that we must sell and give as alms. The things we gain through our labor the possessions that we hold so close are the product of our hearts, the more they mean to us means that it is through those that our place in the kingdom will emerge. Our spouses and families, though we do not like to speak of them as possessions are products of the heart and things that we labor for earnestly. It is through our families that we often get the first glimpses of the kingdom. Take a moment and remember those precious memories: a mother’s kiss on the sleeping brow of a baby, the laugh of siblings as parents play on the floor, the pride of seeing the success of the graduate. All are glimpses into the kingdom all around us. We guard these possessions, we hold them tightly to our hearts, they bring us pleasure, but when we hold them too tightly these very things that once gave us a glimpse of the kingdom run the risk of pulling us away from our hopeful goal.
Sell all your possessions and give alms. When our possessions are used only for our own personal gain they distract our attention from the kingdom. Just as in the garden the one thing that connected us to God when used for personal gain can push us away. Jesus goes on to say for where your treasure is; there your heart will be also. If we treasure things for ourselves our hearts become trapped behind walls. These walls imprison our hearts keeping them from truly enjoying the pleasure kingdom as God created us to enjoy. We were made to be in community. We were made to share life with others to use the possessions we have to bring about a better world. To give what we have for mutual benefit and pleasure, but when our hearts are imprisioned behind walls of our own construction, we cannot enjoy the community in which we live. Instead we become bitter and fearful that the community will somehow sap the joy from our lives, and we withdraw deeper within the walls.
We fail when we turn from the community, we miss the mark when we neglect to use what God has given us to encourage others around us. We miss the mark when we put limits on other, when we hold tightly and try to control the world around us. But we experience God’s pleasure when we let loose and live. I encouraged us to remember the glimpses of the kingdom in our families. I would venture to say that the best memories that we have are in the areas where parents and children let loose and just lived free from the things that bind. Was it on vacation, eating with friends, or exploring the mysteries of the world around us? Most of our greatest memories are attached to the times we relinquished control in some way, where we encouraged others to lower the walls and let their hearts free.
These treasure cannot be taken away, they are permanently stored in the files of our lives. These glimpses of the kingdom are the very areas God wants us to sell our possessions to obtain. The sharing of life together in a community, encouraging each other, and releasing all we share life with to pursue their hearts desire is where the gates to the Kingdom are found. Jesus illustrates this by telling a parable. “Be dress for action and have your lamps lit; be like those who are waiting for their master to return from the wedding banquet, so that they may open the door for him as soon as he comes and knocks.” Share in the pleasure. Be ready to celebrate at a moments notice. It is those that are ready to share life with others that will have the benefit of seeing a glimpse of the kingdom.
When the early Friends promoted a life of simplicity is was to be ready to share what they have at a moment’s notice. Because of this simplicity in speech, dress, and life they could quickly accept others into the community and encourage them into a better life. Because of this simplicity they were able to convert the fruit of their labor to things that could benefit and extend the Kingdom of God in their communities. Last week I mentioned Cadbury, most of us know the name because of the chocolate eggs we receive in our Easter baskets. But what really made this man great is that he devoted his business to the betterment of the community. He built factories and around the factories he developed communities and built houses where the workers could live, but he did not only give them a place to live he also made sure that each unit would have a garden or a lawn. He did this so that the workers in his factories could raise their families and develop memories with their children. He sold what he had and gave alms, and by doing so his influence grew and years after his death, his legacy remains. In a time when robber barons sought to line their own pockets, this man gave himself and his company for the good of community. People throughout history have made sacrifices in the short term to open the gates to the Kingdom. Be ready because the hour is unexpected. We do not know when God will call us into action, but we can get ready now.
We can prepare, we can encourage, and we can release and pray for the moment when God calls us into action. But in our preparation we also must be free to move any direction we need to go. We are getting ready. For the past three years we have step by step let go of things that we once held close and have released them into God’s hands and we have seen glimpses of the kingdom. We have seen members from our meeting go into a mission field; to serve in the ways God has led them. Sure it is not in the traditional form but we have a direct connection to ministry in Ireland. We have seen our community come together as we have made improvements to our facilities: making it accessible and increasing the technology. Yes, these are small things, but they are gateways that are preparing us for our callings. We have increased our ministries and in doing so we have built relationships with people in our communities that we were unable to build just a short time ago. We are preparing ourselves, but where do we go from here? The answer is already in present in the hearts of everyone sitting here today. It is a faint but growing yearning bubbling up in our hearts. We see glimpses every now and then, like when our younger members have a desire to use their skills to benefit other. We see glimpses in our visions and our dreams at night. We see glimpses, are we ready for the next step?
We are all faced with choices, choices that could result in many varying degrees of blessing. We have all sat in these pews and wondered if everything that we do is in vain. But in three short years God has presented us with challenges and we have looked to Him and have seen glimpses of the Kingdom. Today as we enter into a time of open worship I encourage each of us to dream with God, to let down the walls around our hearts and just let God dream with our hearts. There is something there, something that has been building deep down in our souls, something that we have pushed to the background saying that it is too big or too crazy for us, but I ask what is it? God is calling us use all that we have and to give the profits of our possessions to open the gates of the Kingdom, now is the time tighten our belts and to step out in faith, and to chase after the Spirit. We have prepared now is the time for us to begin to walk. Now is the time to become the people God has been calling us to become; a people loving God, embracing the Holy Spirit, and living the love of Christ with others.