Sunday, September 26, 2010
FOLLOWERS . . . WORTH FOLLOWING - GORDON COSBY - HOW SERIOUS ARE YOU? By Cheri Holdridge & Kurt Young
Cheri had a little meltdown this week, with Kurt being totally clueless. Hardly news, we know. Cheri tries to take one day off per week, a Sabbath Day, again hardly a new concept. She tries to get away from work and take care of herself. But this week, she really needed to get out the Village weekly email, about the membership class, the new worship service, etc. One thing led to another, and she ended up working two or three hours, and getting all off center.
Cheri called her coach, Paul Nixon, who she had a coaching call with the next day and left him a message. It was supposed to be about what she needed advice on this time. And her issue was, “we’re going to have deal with me failing to take a day off”. Paul’s response, and we’re all going to get sick of this answer, is “How serious are you?”. How serious are you about taking that day off to center and care for yourself? Are you capable of letting go and doing that? Ouch, that hurt.
But, as Cheri said, people ask her all the time, how can I make this change in my life? She can now start with what Paul said, How serious are you? You can’t do this alone. But with God’s help, and serious commitment, you can do incredible things. Change, though, does not happen over night. It takes time. People think they can come to church, say a prayer, and everything in life will be fine. Growth doesn’t happen like that. Change doesn’t happen like that.
Jesus knew change took time, commitment, etc. But Jesus, yes, even the Son of God, perfect Jesus, got frustrated with how long it took and how hard it was. This week in worship we read one of those stories, Luke 9: 37-43 for those of you playing along at home. In the Message translation, Verse 41 says it all, Jesus says “what a generation! No sense of God! No focus to your lives! How many things to have I have to go over these thing? How much loner do I have to put up with this?”
Why didn’t they have focus their lives? Why did they keep coming to Jesus? These were his chosen, first followers. They had a firsthand experience of Jesus. It’s because they wanted a quick fix. Know anyone looking for a quick fix? They were not taking seriously what it meant to be a follower of Jesus. He did not come to simply work miracles and give them quick fixes. He came to show them a new wave of life and to invite them into the new way.
And, so it’s like taking a class to learn a new language or becoming an apprentice or an intern to learn a new skill from a master. We do not learn a new way in a moment, we learn step by step. And we make mistakes along the way. We learn from those mistakes.
If we are frustrated that we don’t feel close to God, that we are not sure what direction God wants us to take in our lives, and that we wish we felt God’s presence more closely in our lives, maybe we need to consider how much energy we are investing in this relationship with God. How serious are we? People say they want a sign, “just show me what to do”. How often do we talk to God? To God’s people? How often do you stop and listen?
During World War II, Gordon Cosby was a young pastor, assigned as a chaplain to the 101st Airborne Division. If you don’t know about them, check out the miniseries “Band of Brothers”, which is about a part of the 101st known as Easy Company. The 101st was an important part of most of the major battles of the war in Europe. The night before D-Day, they parachuted in the dark, behind enemy lines to pave the way for the next day. They were a key part of the Battle of Bulge, they liberated concentration camps, and they were the ones who eventually took the Eagle’s Nest, Hitler’s private retreat.
Gordon tells the story of an incident just a day or so after D-Day. He and the members of the 101st were trying to help Allied forces who were stuck relatively close to the beaches of Normandy still. Everyone knew a dangerous and bloody battle was coming that night. They needed to advance up a dangerous stretch of hedgerows. It was going to be costly, but it had to happen or many others would die.
Gordon was doing what a chaplain on the front lines does before something like this, he was going foxhole to foxhole, to give comfort to men who knew were possibly living their last hours on Earth. Doing this he had a life changing event.
He tells the story of jumping into one foxhole, where he met up and spoke with one young man. However, he says it was a story repeated again and again. These were men who grew up in mainline churches. They had gone from baptism to adulthood to Sunday school, youth groups, etc. But, this one young man stuck with him when he said “Chaplain, I don’t know this Jesus person you all are always talking about and I want to know more about him, cause in the next few hours, I have a feeling I’m going to meet him”. And, yes, the young man, along with several others did die that night, and in the months that followed.
These young men had been in an information based religious tradition. They were terrified because they had not gotten a spiritual foundation to deal with death as a transition, not an end. They had not gotten in touch with their own brokenness; been grateful for the undeserved love of God. So when they faced certain death, their faith experience came up short. Young Chaplain Cobsy came home and said to himself, we’ve got to do better.
We’ve got to help folks do this serious work better, so that when the really tough things in life happen, the death of a child, divorce, one’s own mortality come along, we have the spiritual depth to face these things. And so, he decided to start a new church. First, though, he came home and he prayed for fifteen years.
Then, he and his wife Mary started an ecumenical (no one denomination) church, The Church of the Saviour. They focused on being grounded in prayer and being connected to hurting people. They focused on the poor, people living on the edge, people who had been oppressed in one way or another. They started in the Adams Morgan Neighborhood, think of a rough, neighborhood on the edge.
And so, as the people began to pray and open their eyes to what God was showing them, they responded to God’s call to be in ministry with the poorest of poor, and those who had no voice in the poor neighborhoods of Washington, DC.
Over the years, the Church of the Saviour grew to the size of 200 people. But they decided that was too big. They wanted to focus on hands on ministry, not growth in the size of the church. So they split the ministries they created into individual churches. Jubilee Jobs is a program that helps people get their first job as they enter or re-enter the job market. And it is it’s own faith community. Jubilee Housing rehabs houses and apartments into affordable housing, and is a church itself. So too is Christ House, which provides respite care for the homeless and ill. And the Potter’s House, a coffee house and restaurant is another one of these communities, where our friend Mary Shapiro comes from, is a community and host to other communities.
Here is what impressed a group of us the most when we visited there years ago, two things. First, these small churches had created HUGE ministries that were changing the world. And EVERYONE is grounded in a personal prayer life. Not a single person bragged about how Jubilee Jobs had helped place tens of thousands of people into their first job or first one in a while. No, they were only overly proud of one thing, their prayer lives.
One man, who was a part of a new ministry for the homeless, told the story about he approached what would be a crazy year. He was already going to a monastery one day a week to pray. He was getting very busy with his new ministry. So, he decided he better find time to have an extra prayer day there.
We all want to get like this don’t we? Things get tough, and we want to be close to God, right. We get the idea of prayer and religion. The life of trusting God is one that doesn’t just pop up. Trust in God takes time. In both Cheri and Kurt’s lives the ability to stand firm, and calm and take big risks, and speaking truth to power, comes from months and years of daily experiences of trail and error in prayer.
Cheri has been going to see her spiritual director, Sister Breta in Fremont, about once a month since 1995. That’s a long time. In fact, she’s been seeing Sister Breta longer than Kurt. She didn’t make the decision to plant a new church for new people quickly. She needed a strong spiritual foundation. And even now, we have to work hard to keep ourselves in spiritual balance.
Do you want to know what God wants for your life? Do you want to know what God is calling to be and do? Do you want to live out the purpose that God put you on Earth to live? And we firmly believe we are all called to serve. Some of us do it with our day jobs, others with our volunteer hours, and still others do it simply by being themselves. But we all want to be of use to the world and others, right? Then what are doing to live into that future?
If you’re wondering/wandering, Cheri has some ideas:
1. Pray - talk to God and LISTEN! This isn’t just praying for stuff, this is taking the time to listen.
2. Find a spiritual guide, Sister Breta and Sister Sharon will be offering spiritual direction here at the Village. This is something you have to pay for, but it’s on a sliding scale.
3. Be a part of a spiritual community that will challenge you.
4. Take some risks, leave your comfort zone.
If you’re not a part of a faith community already where you can do this, consider joining us. We have services on Sunday at 10:30 AM and 12:30 PM and a growing number of connection groups where you can find some other spiritual guides. If you’re already part of the Village, and you start to feel an idea of how to serve coming on, but are not sure where to go, talk to Cheri. All of the Church of the Saviour’s ministries started with a person, centered in prayer, and dreaming of a way to serve God and their fellow humans.
Sunday, September 19, 2010
Anne Rice is a best selling author. She has about 200,000 friends on Facebook. She wrote the Vampire Chronicles series. She was once an atheist. Then she had a deep religious experience and became a devoted Catholic.
On July 29, 2010, Rice publicly renounced her dedication to her Roman Catholic faith, while remaining committed to Christ, on her Facebook page:
“For those who care, and I understand if you don't: Today I quit being a Christian. I'm out. I remain committed to Christ as always but not to being "Christian" or to being part of Christianity. It's simply impossible for me to "belong" to this quarrelsome, hostile, disputatious, and deservedly infamous group. For ten years, I've tried. I've failed. I'm an outsider. My conscience will allow nothing else.
"In the name of Christ, I refuse to be anti-gay. I refuse to be anti-feminist. I refuse to be anti-artificial birth control. I refuse to be anti-Democrat. I refuse to be anti-secular humanism. I refuse to be anti-science. I refuse to be anti-life. In the name of Christ, I quit Christianity and being Christian. Amen."
"My faith in Christ is central to my life. My conversion from a pessimistic atheist lost in a world I didn't understand, to an optimistic believer in a universe created and sustained by a loving God is crucial to me. But following Christ does not mean following His followers. Christ is infinitely more important than Christianity and always will be, no matter what Christianity is, has been, or might become."
She stated on her FaceBook page that she has been troubled by the Catholic church's stance on such topics as gay marriage, the sex abuse scandals and the ex-communication of Sister Margaret McBride, the hospital administrator of a Catholic hospital who approved the abortion that saved the life of a 27-year-old pregnant woman.
In a phone interview she said: "I believed for a long time that the differences, the quarrels among Christians didn't matter a lot for the individual, that you live your life and stay out of it. But then I began to realize that it wasn't an easy thing to do. I came to the conclusion that if I didn't make this declaration, I was going to lose my mind."
In an August 7, 2010 interview with the Los Angeles Times, she elaborated on her view regarding being a member of a Christian church: "I feel much more morally comfortable walking away from organized religion. I respect that there are all kinds of denominations and all kinds of churches, but it's the entire controversy, the entire conversation that I need to walk away from right now. In response to the question, "How do you follow Christ without a church?" Rice replied: "I think the basic ritual is simply prayer. It's talking to God, putting things in the hands of God, trusting that you're living in God's world and praying for God's guidance. And being absolutely faithful to the core principles of Jesus' teachings."
And she still loves Christ, but she came out this summer and publically said she can't call herself a Christian. She can no longer be associated with so much of what the institutional church represents. She can better follow Jesus without this broken institution.
Kurt can certainly empathize with Anne Rice. He grew up Roman Catholic, having attended Catholic School for six years of his life, being a choir boy and a peer minister. But, like Anne Rice, he found himself with a problem. As a Catholic, you have to believe that the Pope speaks for God on issues of faith and morals. But Kurt was disagreeing with the Pope on issues of the ordination of women, artificial birth control & artificial insemination, and the treatment of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender persons. He never stopped following Jesus, but it took years and two very special faith communities to get Kurt back into the doors of a part of one of these broken institutions called denominations.
So Kurt gets it, and we do too, don't we? Now, it remains to be seen, what Anne Rice will do. Will she actually DO something positive FOR Jesus and FOR the world? She's caused quite a stir as you can see if you "Google" Anne Rice and follow this story. We wish her well. She has made a bold statement.
Followers of Jesus for 2000 years have made the bold act of saying ENOUGH! We're not going to play church anymore! We're going to follow Jesus! But we're not going to do it THIS way anymore. Our church planting coach Paul Nixon, in one of his books, wrote that churches have to choose BOLD over mild. We are following the example of Jesus when we do something like what Anne Rice did.
Just look at what Jesus did in the scripture that we read today in our worship celebration. John 2:13-17 for those reading along at home. This is the story of Jesus overturning the tables at the temple one day. The Temple was the center of Jesus’ faith. It was the "holy of holies." and Jesus was visiting on one of the holiest of holy days. But read along here to see what happens:
13-14When the Passover Feast, celebrated each spring by the Jews, was about to take place, Jesus traveled up to Jerusalem. He found the Temple teeming with people selling cattle and sheep and doves. The loan sharks were also there in full strength.
15-17Jesus put together a whip out of strips of leather and chased them out of the Temple, stampeding the sheep and cattle, upending the tables of the loan sharks, spilling coins left and right. He told the dove merchants, "Get your things out of here! Stop turning my Father's house into a shopping mall!" That's when his disciples remembered the Scripture, "Zeal for your house consumes me."
The temple had become more a place of commerce than a place of prayer. Jesus had enough of this blasphemy and so he did something BOLD. He got angry. And he showed his righteous anger! He showed the people there that this was not honoring God.
Cheri told another story about someone who followed Jesus, and did something BOLD.
John Wesley. He was a young priest in Church of England in 1700's. But John had a problem. For him, church was too caught up in formality and ritual; wearing the right clothes; He was also in his head when it came to religion, he loved God, but with head, not his heart. But he was really in a good place in his life, a tutor at Oxford, everything going for him.
At a Prayer meeting on Aldersgate St; in London in 1738, he wrote in his journal: [I] "felt my heart strangely warmed". Suddenly, it wasn’t just a head thing, his heart was in it. And with that, he began to take Bold steps. At the time, preaching in the open air which was frowned upon by the church. But he started a revival movement within the Church of England, known as the Methodist movement. It was called that because its practitioners were very methodical in their prayer and study life.
In this movement, lay preachers, met in homes, eventually built chapels because homes were not big enough, they worked among the most needy and neglected in society; often preached outside coal mines as the miners got off work. They went into pubs, imagine preaching in a bar! (for those of you not in on the joke, the Village is a former bar & restaurant and the bar is very much still here). They started schools for poor children and orphans in London and other cities. They stressed a balance of disciplined prayer and good works in the world
As his lay preachers and participants moved to America and with the Revolutionary War, in 1784, he eventually made the decision to ordain preachers to send to America and this is what started the Methodist Church. THIS WAS A BOLD MOVE.
While he remained a clergy member of the Church of England until his death, he started a movement that now has 11 million members around the world. Methodism has schools, hospitals, a university in Africa, community centers, 300 hospitals, and dozens of bold new ventures like us, the Village Church. John Wesley, like Jesus, and like Anne Rice, saw a situation and said, "Enough, This has got to change. I can't take this anymore. This is not the way God wants things to be."
You see, institutions, like big church denominations, are simply instruments. They are tools to help us organize large groups of people to do good. At their best, that's what they do, and when they begin to fail us, then we need to let them go, or do something bold to change them.
Here at The Village we are connected to two institutions: The United Methodist Church and The United Church of Christ. The UMC was formed around the time of the American Revolution; the UCC has roots all the way back to the Mayflower. The UMC has about 11 million members; the UCC has a little over one million. Both have their strengths and their weaknesses. We are part of their strength. Both denominations have a national emphasis on planting new churches that are forward thinking and relevant. Both denominations are also dinosaurs. They are struggling into the 21st century. They need to be bold - but it's hard, because most of our local churches are aging and are in decline.
We have an opportunity here with the Village to be a spark, to ignite a fire in these dying institutions. Just like John Wesley shook things up in the Church of England. The Village Church and some other new church starts around the country have a chance to give new life to some struggling institutions. These two denominations, when they started, were vibrant and bold, just like we feel now. Really! Because here is the thing: we all come from the same root - from that rabble rouser Jesus who went into the temple in Jerusalem and turned over the tables when God's house of prayer had turned into a shopping center. PLEASE!
So, we thank Anne Rice for getting the world's attention that we can't do business as usual and call ourselves Christian. But we can still follow Jesus. Jesus was Bold. John Wesley was bold. And we, here at The Village, are bold too. So I'm ready to follow Jesus and be bold. How about you?
What are your dreams about how The Village will be bold? Cheri opened it up to those of us who are the Village on Sunday. And here’s some of what was shared:
It’s hard to consider that feeding hungry kids and taking care of orphans was bold in the 1700's or that we still need to do so today.
We need to be bold in protecting kids, both those waiting to be born through better health care and protection when they are born as well.
We need to be bold in giving a voice to those who do not have a voice, to those who are not heard but need to be.
We need to be welcoming and inviting to those who would not otherwise come into the doors of a church. To show them that there are places where all are welcomed and truly accepted.
How do you want to choose Bold over Mild? Is that boldness something Jesus would do? If so, and you can’t find a group of people to be bold with, consider joining us here at the Village. We’re choosing to follow Jesus boldly and change the world, starting with the corner of Monroe & Central.
Sunday, September 12, 2010
On Saturday, a couple hundred people from NW Ohio, walked in the 4th Annual “Out of the Darkness community Walk” at Olander Park. Most of those who participated had lost a loved one to suicide. There were about dozen of us from The Village, and among our group alone; we had at least 3 or 4 people who have lost family members to suicide. There were plenty of folks at the walk who have suffered severe depression, to the point of hospitalization, and folks who have tried to commit suicide themselves. I had the privilege of offering a prayer before the walk began. We gave thanks for the strength and sense of community of all the people gathered there, and for the hope represented by the folks who might have come close to giving up on life, but who are still here, and have found the light of God, shining strong through their darkness.
Have you ever experienced a “Dark Night of the Soul”? It’s an ancient spiritual metaphor, used by Aristotle, Thomas Aquinas, and later by 16th century poet and mystic St. John of the Cross. He wrote about the spiritual journey as a journey of the soul moving from the hardships of this physical life until we move to a point of spiritual maturity and union with God. We move from our dark night of the soul, where everything seems lost, to a place of brightness and light, where we feel the presence of God all around us, and we are filled with hope. It’s not a physical journey, but a journey of the soul.
Many who have gone through some sort of deep loss and come out on the other side to move forward in life in a hopeful way, know what I mean by a dark night of the soul. Or some of us, who have hit rock bottom with an addiction, and then been able to turn a corner and feel pretty successful about leaving the power of that addiction behind; well, you know what I mean about a dark night of the soul. It is possible to walk into the light – and claim that light. Now we all know it’s quite possible, at any moment, to slip back into the darkness, but it also a very real choice to hold onto the light.
The spiritual writer and teacher, Henri Nouwen, has been a guide for me, and for many people out of that darkness. Today, I would like to introduce him to you if you do not know him. And if you do, well, then, you can just use this time to reflect on what you know of a great spiritual teacher.
Henri Nouwen was a Catholic priest who lived from 1932 to 1996, much of his life in the United States and Canada, as a professor, and later a pastor with the L’Arche community for mentally handicapped and severely disabled persons in Toronto. He also suffered from clinical depression. One of his books, The Inner Voice of Love, chronicles a period in his life when he was going through deep depression. He agreed to publish his writings from this period, much later, after the fact, because his friends and colleagues urged him that we could learn from his ‘dark night of the soul.’ You see, Henri Nouwen’s gift was his authenticity – “being real.” He had an insight into the heart of God, that few other people have, and yet he struggled with his own sacred worth.
His writings, more than any other 20 century writer, have formed my personal theology. He calls me to believe, without a shadow of a doubt that we are all beloved children, of sacred worth. He taught me that I am God’s beloved child, and every one of you are a beloved child of God – and everyone out there in the world is too – and that is why I am so passionate about justice and equality and about ministries of healing for ALL of God’s children. And yet – Henri Nouwen, who taught me this, was deeply lonely, and often depressed.
We learned after his death, from his closest friends, that though he was a celibate priest, and chose to honor that tradition in his church; he was also gay, and struggled with that reality. He was a priest in a church that did not, and still does not accept homosexuality as a gift from God. And so he was conflicted. Undoubtedly that was a major trigger for his depression. I tell you this, because it’s an important piece of information for many of you. And because we know that depression is high and the suicide rate is high among LGBT persons in our world, because of the lack of understanding. We still have far to go. And it will take churches like The Village to help counteract the bad theology that has been the foundation of the oppression of gay folks for so long. Now, back to Nouwen’s story.
Henri Nouwen wrote and published 40 books on spirituality. We read them in pastoral care classes in seminary. He has been a life line for so many pastors and lay church leaders, who understand that we are all wounded, and that God loves us anyway. He even wrote a book called “Wounded Healer” which reminds us that we are all wounded, and that’s why we all need to come to church a be real and care for one another.
The Psalm we read for today, could easily have been written by Henri Nouwen or any one of the people who have read his books and been inspired, to crawl out of the darkness and reach toward the light of God.
But here is the most important thing I have learned from Henri Nouwen in all my years of reading his wonderful books, and learning from his life as a wounded healer. Are you ready?
I have learned to pray – and to stay in the conversation with God – and to listen to that voice of God inside me.
Listen to what Nouwen writes:
”Do you really want to be converted? Are you willing to be transformed? Or do you keep clutching your old ways of life with one hand while with the other you beg people to help you change? Conversion is certainly not something you can bring about yourself. It is not a question of will power. You have to trust the inner voice that shows the way." (from The Inner Voice of Love by Henri Nouwen).
Henri Nouwen, through his writings, taught me to pray, and to trust God. In my early years as a pastor, I read just about every one of his books. Often in the early morning, I would sit down with my coffee and my journal and one of Nouwen’s books for my morning devotional time. Perhaps because I have struggled with some depression in my own life, having a spiritual teacher who also suffered from depression was comforting to me. But Nouwen always finds a way out of the darkness and into the light of God. And so he helps me do that too.
Do you have a daily prayer routine? If you don’t, then I’d like to invite you to try it this week. There is nothing in my life that has been more important. If you’re in a “dark night of the soul” and need to find some light, I can’t think of a better way to begin that journey, than to take some time with God every day, just to sit and listen for what God might say to you. If you don’t have a clue how to start then give me a call and make an appointment and we’ll sit down and talk about it. Or talk to another wise friend around here. There are some experienced praying folks around here that can guide you. Or just pick up one of Henri Nouwen’s book at the library and start reading it.
You see have been doing this series on “Followers of Jesus Worth Following” so that we might learn from some great spiritual teachers. The example from Henri Nouwen is a simple one. Life is hard. We all struggle: even published authors who are admired around the world. He wrote a book about his clinical depression that is one of the most uplifting and inspiring books I have ever read – because he made the journey with God and he came out on the other side with God.
If you are in a “dark night of the soul” or even if you are just having a bad day, follow the lead of the writer of our Psalm for today, and from Henri Nouwen, pour out your heart to God, and listen. Seek the light of God – it’s there looking for you. God’s light is always brighter than our darkness.
Sunday, September 5, 2010
FOLLOWERS OF JESUS WORTH FOLLOWING: CHOOSING TO BE FOLLOWERS IS NOT EASY - By Cheri & Holdridge & Kurt Young
Dorothy Day’s friends where a group of fast-living, well-educated, intellectuals who did not want to be bound by anyone else’s rules. A common phrase among the men to their girlfriends was “no one is going to tie me down.” But they all drifted somewhat aimlessly. Dorothy was restless. She had a sense that she was meant to do something important with her life. But she needed some grounding. She needed a center-point from which to do the important work she would eventually do.
While living on Long Island, she stumbled upon a humble little ministry run by a Catholic nun. It was a feeding ministry, outside, in back of a Catholic church, where they made soup out of whatever folks could gather together each week. It was simple, but it made a difference to hungry people. And it was not just about the food, it was about the relationships that were formed. Dorothy Day started reading the Bible in that place, with those folks. And when her baby Tamar was born, she and her baby were baptized in that little church. She said “yes” to Jesus. She said “yes” to something beyond herself, and that made all the difference. She made a CHOICE to be a follower of Jesus.
Let’s look again at our scripture for today, from The Message Translation, John 6: 60-69 for those of you playing the home game:
60Many among his disciples heard this and said, "This is tough teaching, too tough to swallow."
61-65Jesus sensed that his disciples were having a hard time with this and said, "Does this throw you completely? What would happen if you saw the Son of Man ascending to where he came from? The Spirit can make life. Sheer muscle and willpower don't make anything happen. Every word I've spoken to you is a Spirit-word, and so it is life-making. But some of you are resisting, refusing to have any part in this." (Jesus knew from the start that some weren't going to risk themselves with him. He knew also who would betray him.) He went on to say, "This is why I told you earlier that no one is capable of coming to me on his own. You get to me only as a gift from the Father."
66-67After this a lot of his disciples left. They no longer wanted to be associated with him. Then Jesus gave the Twelve their chance: "Do you also want to leave?"
68-69Peter replied, "Master, to whom would we go? You have the words of real life, eternal life. We've already committed ourselves, confident that you are the Holy One of God."
Cheri said “yes” too, back when I was in the 5th grade, for Kurt it was 8th Grade and again at the age of 28.
And since then, there have been times in our lives when we have had to say “yes” over and over again, when my commitment has been tested. Cheri has those daily setbacks, doubt, fear, etc. Kurt left organized religion from the ages of 18 to 28. Others have left and wandered away from God, others still from Jesus. But like the disciples I think I have more or less said: “where would I go, Jesus? You are the Way of Life. We’ve already committed ourselves, we believe you are the Holy One of God.”BUT, that does not mean that we do not get discouraged. How about you?
When Cheri was at her last Church, after about 7 years there, she began to get a vision for what we are now experiencing as The Village Church. And she thought she could plant something like The Village out of that congregation. It was a 100 year old church, with a great legacy of doing justice, and taking risks. And I began to challenge that congregation to consider dying to much of what it had been in terms of location and ministry style, keeping those justice values, but going to the next level with some risk taking. .
We found ourselves in a predicament much like Jesus. Some of the folks just didn’t want to go forward with us in that vision. In fact, truth be told, NONE of them wanted to go with us. And the District Superintendent and the Methodist establishment didn’t want really think much of the idea either. But some other colleagues and the odd person here and there who had no church home – well, their eyes would light up when Cheri started going on about this idea Cheri had of a new sort of church she was calling The Village.
We had to choose – whether or not to live into God’s call for our lives. It meant leaving behind people we loved and a dream of what Central was and was to become and of Cheri serving Central to the end of her career. It meant leaving behind the safety and security of a church that had been our family, our children’s ONLY church home for their entire lives. But in the end, there was really no question – because the step forward into the unknown was LIFE-GIVING. And staying behind the in old and familiar, well, it had become death for Cheri and Kurt both. Their work there was done. It had been life giving. The work there was absolutely valuable for a season. But Cheri was done there. Now this story not a perfect metaphor for the scripture passage for today, no one betrayed Cheri and I. Quite the contrary, our friends sent us out with love and support. But we think it’s close enough for you to get Cheri’s point.
Friends, we all come to crossroads in our lives. We come to points where saying “yes” to Jesus means that we go one way and not the other. And not everyone will go with us. Sometimes even our friends or family will not go with us – and it’s hard to accept that. It does not seem fair – and that’s just one of those things we won’t understand in this life.
But here is the bottom line – THE CHOICE TO FOLLOW JESUS ALWAYS LEADS TO LIFE. Again, the choice to follow Jesus always leads to life. The disciples who chose to go forward with Jesus – they found LIFE! Abundant life! Dorothy Day, in stepping outside that crowd of intellectuals who looked down their noses at religion – and going to that little Catholic church and getting baptized with her baby, they looked down their noses at her, Dorothy Day chose LIFE. And so many people have benefitted from the ministry that came out of her life of service as a result. We chose to move on from one church, where our work was done, and step out on faith to plant a new church. We did not know what we were doing, and lots of folks tried to tell us we were crazy. And we are, but we are crazy for Jesus – so that’s ok. We chose LIFE and this church is giving LIFE and will give LIFE to so many hurting people who need the healing message of Jesus that they’re not finding somewhere else.
Friends, we will all face many choices in this life, sorry to break this to you. We will face choices to go against the status quo, what friends & family want us to do. Like Jesus, some of our friends will not go forward with us in the choices that we make, and that will be hard. But this is my prayer: that we will choose LIFE – choose to go the Way with God. It’s the risky way, but as Jesus’ disciples said, “Honestly, where else would we go?”
If you haven’t found where else you would go to find Jesus, to follow Jesus, join us at the Village, Sundays @ 10:30, and starting at October 3rd @ 12:30 PM. We’re following Jesus and changing the world at the corner of Central & Monroe in Toledo. Come find the trail head of the path with Jesus with us.