Friday, October 23, 2009

You, you got what I need…

My mother recently reminded me of a childhood experience that I figured you’d appreciate. When I was in sixth grade, I had a rough go of things. Academically, everything was fine (well, except handwriting, which has remained at first grade levels). But otherwise, my school just wasn’t working out. And the prospect of continuing in that school system loomed darkly. Many children in America, of course, expect only bad things their local schools. Too many. But one of the privileges of my life was that my family had the option of enrolling me somewhere new, which they did. It was a God-send. I’d wanted out, and was grateful that Mom and Dad fulfilled that desire.

Fast forward five years, and I’d encountered more turmoil at school. So I wanted out again, and found a program that would let me skip my last year of high school, and get a head start on college. This time, Mom and Dad said, “No.” They didn’t do what I wanted. They said that I needed to stick around, and finish what I’d started. I wasn’t happy at the time. But in retrospect, it was the right decision. The program was expensive. I needed to learn important lessons by staying the course. Fortunately, Mom and Dad understood that what the family needed and what I needed outweighed what I wanted, this time around.

I think God works like that; God looks at people and communities and assesses what our needs are versus our wants. Where those conflict, count on God to implore that we sacrifice our wants for our and our neighbors’ needs. Where those match up, you’ve found what religious sages call, “Vocation.” You might imagine this process of ‘matching up’ wants with needs is entirely natural, no spiritual input needed; a matter of personal introspection coupled with clear-eyed evaluation of the world around you. But religious truth suggests there’s more involved- namely, God’s evaluation and God’s ‘call.’ We religious folk contend that God puts in God’s two cents about which wants and needs are appropriate or complimentary, and that God’s two cents are more valuable than ours. For God sees to the heart of things better than we ever could. So we’d do ourselves well to continually discern what God sees, to listen for what God’s ‘calling’ us to hear, and put those divine suggestions into practice.

What’s true for individuals, in this case, is also true for groups. All groups (families, churches, neighborhoods) have wants and needs, including the need to set priorities or seek creative solutions. Sometimes, we do this very well. Other times, we neglect needs because we’re too concerned with fulfilling our wants. Usually, it’s a mix of both. So regularly evaluating where we’re at, in terms of hearing God’s ideas about our community’s wants and needs, just makes good sense.

The Church Board believes this, and wants all Plymouth Creekers to help out. I asked them a question recently, which I’d been asked by a leader in our denomination, and that I found myself greatly excited to answer. That question was, “Why does your church need to exist?” Provocative, eh? So the Board discussed this, discovered some great insights, and decided we wanted everyone’s input. Thus, last Sunday, and again this Sunday, we’re asking worshippers to write down their best answers to this question, and place them in the Offering Plate (or email me!). You could describe how your needs are met, or how you meet others needs through church, or needs in our community that PCCC uniquely fills. Whatever you see, whatever ‘call’ you’ve discerned, let us know. We’ve persisted thirty years now and counting, i.e. God sees needs we help meet. And the Board wants to hear everyone’s impressions about what those are. In fact, if we’re going to do a good job leading our church forward, we need to hear those impressions. For God doesn’t just call out to one person or another in a church. God is still speaking to all of us. Hopefully, in this way and many more, we can share with each other what we’re hearing. Plymouth needs it.

Grace and Peace,