Monday, February 21, 2011

"A Joshua 1:9 Kind of Time"

 "Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9

This is my favorite Bible verse. It has really spoke to me during many times in my life and it has been kind of my mantra through my last few years of ministry. It was what I repeated over and over as I started seminary; every time I went before the district board for my interviews; for my first assignment away from my home church, throuh my first appointment as a solo pastor (did I mention that we had walls literally falling down because of ice damning on the roof) and of course as I came back to CUMC to serve my home congregation and step into the pain they were all experiencing with the loss of their pastor.

I found that it is an important step in our faith to trust God during times of transition, times of change. Together, we are facing such a time at CUMC. Pastor Dick has been with this congregation for 15 years and so this will be a change that will be felt. I would have to imagine that he is probably somewhat fearful  stepping into his new role but he knows that God is going with him and is even going ahead preparing the Dekalb District for him.

We need not fear because our God will not leave us, God is going ahead into this unknown future and laying groundwork for what is to come. For many, church is that one safe place that doesn't change. I was reminded by a very wise man :-) that God is the only One true constant we have. We, as the church will carry on worshipping God and living out the Great Commission to GO, making disciples for the transformation of the world.

We like the illusion of control, knowing what is going to happen next. We have the opportunity to live out the model of trusting God, even when it hurts, even when it's scary, even when we cannot fathom what that could be like. God has called us to be strong and courageous, to not be fearful because God is going with us. I find comfort and strength in this. I hope you can, too.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Sewing Seeds of Love

Luke 6:27-28,39 “But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you...Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven."

I was reflecting on this scripture for my sermon today. I have been brought back time and time again to what is going on in our community with the Rockford School District. I have felt very convicted by God to raise this up from the pulpit. I have been disturbed. I’ve been disturbed on what this is doing to our community. I am not speaking as one who is not affected. I moved my children here from one of the best school districts in the state. I am invested in this community, not only as a pastor but as a parent and a person who would like to see Rockford become better than what it has. I know what is going on is not easy. Children’s lives are at stake. Schools could close,  jobs will be cut, sports programs could change, people are mad. I get that. However, the level in which this has gone has been heartbreaking. I cannot tell you the times that I have been walking past a group of people or seen postings on facebook, that have said some downright horrible things. It is not reflective of what God has called us to be. The newspaper has had “cartoons” depicting some not so great things about the school board and especially Ms. Shefield. Some may feel she is the “enemy.” Jesus says to love our enemies. That does not mean agree with everything from another person, it does not mean sit back and don’t work towards justice or for what you believe is right. However, it is the spirit in which we do it. Whether you have children or grandchildren in the school district is not the point. We are called as Christians to care about our church, our community and our world.  The people of our community are at war. Be praying for our community, for its leaders, it teachers, its children , its parents, grandparents and mentors. Ask God how you individually and we as a church can help our community. It is a big problem, a lot of walls have been put up; people have torn each other down and quite frankly, stomped on each other. God has given us a message.
We are called to spread seeds of love in our community. A few weeks ago, we put planted some dirt and mustard seeds into a vase on the altar acknowledging that maybe it didn’t make sense to be planting anything in the dead of winter. But God is in charge of the harvest. Likewise, it may not seem like it would make a difference to plant a seed of love and tolerance into a community that is so divided. But if we chose to plant a seed of love to just one person who spreads it to another, who could spread it to another and another. What if you chose to talk about the message of loving everyone including our “enemies” in your every day conversations, what if  you sent into the newspaper an opinion of loving our enemies and maybe, just maybe, you too could sew a seed of love. What if you wrote a letter to Lavonne Shefield and other members of the school board letting them know that you are praying for them in this time of division. What if we offered as a church to do something to help our school district that they would otherwise have to pay for? What if we all talked with teachers or parents or members of the school board to see if there is something that we could do to help them out?
When we step out and speak Jesus’ words of love it can feel like “Can anyone even hear me??” Does anyone even care? Jesus felt the same way and had to keep preaching the message of love because it is a hard message to live out. Will you join in sharing it? Playing in the dirt and planting seeds is messy, so is the Christian life. But it IS the life we have been called to. The question now is, will you accept? 
Pastor Laura