Tuesday, September 29, 2015

What’s next…

It’s been awhile since I’ve written a newsletter letter introducing an upcoming sermon series. I apologize profusely. I’m certain you’ve been waiting in agony.

The thing is, we’ve been choosing scriptures on a week-to-week basis since last May’s Stewardship Campaign. I had a summer series idea, talked about it with the Servant Leaders, even began pairing some Sundays with certain scriptures. But you can guess why I waited to start, right? All together now…”The building project.” That’s been the answer to most questions about my time and focus these past months. You know the joke about how every answer to a Children’s Moment question is “Jesus”? It’s like that, even for worship. I was awaiting confirmation about the direction of that project before starting any new sermon focus..

Then summer gave way to fall, the building project was delayed, and then- in the past couple weeks- it’s been suspended, perhaps indefinitely (which I shared in my weekly email newsletter; hit me up at pastor@plymouthcreek.org if you want to subscribe!). FYI, the Board continues to gather information about that decision’s consequences. We’re waiting for feedback from partners regarding the full amount of outstanding costs (like architect fees, etc.). We’ll share what we know when we know it. In the meantime, if you want to donate further to help offset those costs…well, we wouldn’t say no! Still, one result is the sermon series plan I’d been working on will remain on the shelf. After all, without that project we have nothing important any longer to focus our efforts, our dreams, our growth, right?

Wrong! Obviously. I’d be lying if I said that 18+ months of work we put into that venture didn’t leave behind an unpleasant taste with it not proceeding. I’d also be lying if I said I believed that was a waste of time, resources and dreams. I’m no aged spiritual sage. But some wisdom I picked up on early in my minister journey is that God’s pathways and plans rarely involve straight lines forward. They almost never follow clear blueprints that God provides ahead of time to inspect. Psalm 119:105 says, “Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet”; i.e. not a spotlight to my horizon!

Which is scary when we’re feeling uncertain, or wanting more control. More light God, please! But that also means that what seems sometimes like an “end”, may be something else entirely. What sounds like God’s “no”, might be another answer to a question we haven’t yet thought to ask.

In other words, God’s calling never ends. It changes. It adapts. It responds to our pitfalls and prizes. Constantly! But in the project that is “God’s Kingdom coming on Earth as in Heaven” – which is the project Jesus asked us to pray for and help make happen – there is no finale. There’s always new acts. Thus, the sermon series that will take us through Advent this year: There’s Always a Next; So What’s Next?! I mean for that to apply as much to your personal lives as our church’s direction.

Fortunately, our scriptures have many valuable ideas and stories that explore this theme. In some cases, the “next” was rest and healing. In other cases, people experienced new life. In still more cases, the issue was starting over, or ending well, or forgiveness, or following through on tough choices, or… The ultimate point being that our God has a vast, active imagination! Our God doesn’t leave us to flail when we’re needing new pathways and plans. God wants to help us create next chapters of hope and faith and grace.

Of course, high on our church’s agenda, now, is plotting such stories of “What’s next.” I know that’s also true for some of you, personally. So let’s discern and dream together, pray for faithfulness together, amen?! The alternative would be to stop hoping, lethargically sit around and wait for God’s voice to break through storm clouds of gloom and frustration gathering. But that sounds boring. Instead, we’ll be actively exploring this fall the wisdom of ancients who claimed that, with God, there’s always a next.
And they were right. After all, we’re here, praising God still.

Grace and Peace,

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