Beloved of God,
Well, we’re still here—in spite of the latest prediction of the world’s demise. (This one by Christian radio broadcaster Harold Camping.) What does that mean? Apparently, God’s plan for SHALOM isn’t complete, and God still has work for the church to do. Surprise, surprise.
Jesus promised the Spirit would be unleashed in the world. So, where do we look to find evidence of the Holy Spirit’s work with/through/and among God’s faithful people? The last month has provided some poignant and powerful examples. If you were in worship last Sunday, May 29th, you experienced one of them. Little Maeve, age 4, couldn’t contain herself when she heard the melody for a song she knew begin playing during communion. She skipped down the aisle to the Lord’s Table in her irrepressible way singing it, “Jesus loves me this I know.” And then, after we all had received a taste of that love, she piped up from the back corner of the nave—this time solo—singing the song which so filled her being that the rest of us couldn’t help but join in singing it once more! “Yes, Jesus loves me!…”
Worship on May 15th took us to the other end of the “youth” spectrum, with high school and middle school youth taking on many of the leadership roles within our worship service. Among them were seniors Elizabeth Menstell and Sofia Wagner who, with some help from freshman Lucille Bermes, delivered one powerful sermon on Good Shepherd Sunday. Who will soon forget Sofia’s image of God’s care for us, aptly illustrated by way of her own experience as the caretaker of a trio of flighty, hair-infesting chickens:
“You know what? Even if “the birds” (as we call them at my house) are misbehaving, I’m still going to take care of them. When I signed up for this, I knew what I was getting into. I knew that they wouldn’t always be so cute and innocent, but I’m still going to nurture and care for them…For me, that’s how God is. It’s easy to know that God loves good people… or innocent people… or godly people… but they aren’t the only ones. He’s still there when we mess up. And we’re going to mess up. We ARE messed up. He might not like what we do sometimes, but He’ll never turn away from us.”
Or Elizabeth, summarizing her journey toward choosing a college and preparing for life’s next adventure:
“Our favorite leader of the protestant revolution, Martin Luther, once said ‘I have held many things in my hands, and I have lost them all; but whatever I have placed in God’s hands, that I still possess.’ With…our future in our shepherd’s hands, green pastures are sure to be found. Whether those pastures are a university, the decision of public, private, or homeschool for our kids, a job, or an assisted-living residence, we can be sure that our lives can be secure with trust in God…We may not know where we are going or maybe even why, but our Good Shepherd does and it’s His voice that we are to follow. … With trust in our shepherd, this time does not have to be scary but can be exhilarating.” (To read the full text of the sermon on our website, follow this link.)
See what I mean? There are other signs, for sure, daily ones—if we only learn to recognize them. For often enough they come incognito—hidden—as God himself once came. Our task is not to make predictions about when it all will end, or to judge who will find joy and who will find sorrow on that day. Our task is to keep reminding each other and anyone else who will listen that God is not finished with us yet; that there is still time to love and forgive, to hope and to sing.
This month marks, for me, the 25th anniversary of ordination to Word and Sacrament ministry. There were many things that drew me to service in Christ’s church. First among them was the conviction that against the backdrop of harrowing need and profound brokenness, the world needed to hear—to experience—the healing presence of God-with-us. Through the years it’s been my privilege to bear that message, earthen vessel that I am. Over and again I’ve also been blessed to be on the receiving end from too many people to count. Whether in brief, fleeting moments or via broad, sustained ministries, the Spirit of God uses it—uses us—all, credentialed and uncredentialed—to get the word out that he’s in love with the world and determined to stick with us, come hell and high water; and by golly, we—chosen and precious, sinner and saint—ought to do the same.
With hope and gratitude,