reflecting on the journey
God has given us everything we need … each other!
Welcome to week eighty in the wilderness … Welcome to week eighty … It’s hard to believe we’ve been doing this, that long. It’s been seventy-nine weeks since we stepped into cyberspace. Proclaiming gospel, for the first time, in word and pixel! It’s been only one year, six months, seven days. Fells a lot longer than that. Welcome to week eighty … Truth be told, our journey, probably, began before covid and the pandemic. We could go back to the year before that. Back to when we sold the building and grounds. I wish I could say it was us trying to be more Christ-like. A foxes-have-dens, birds-have-nests kind of thing. It wasn’t. We just couldn’t afford to take care of it all, anymore. Or we could go back to 2002, to that first transformational ministries conference you sent me to in Dallas. Or our journey could have begun with the decision, before that, to celebrate holyCommunion weekly. Or, even, to the oilBust in the mid-Eighties and the migration of the oil companies to Houston that went with it. Whichever you choose, we’ve been on this journey for quite a while.
I joined you, though, just before that conference in Dallas, right at the start of my ministry here in Midland. That’s when we began changing in deliberate, intentional ways. And there was one piece of advice we were given, there at the beginning. A statement of faith, actually. We were told that each congregation had everything we needed! Each congregation has everything we need to change! To transform! To become! Each of us, all of us, had what we needed … to get the job done! We lacked nothing! We had it all! Of course, it’s called grace! God’s charity! God’s love! It’s what created us! It’s why we were saved! And it’s how we’re made new! By grace! For Christ’s sake! Through faith!
God doesn’t, just, ask us to do something and, then, steps back. Watching. Waiting. God primes us! God prepares for us! From the moment we left the mud pits – metaphorically speaking … from BEFORE we left the mud pits … god was there! Leading! Supporting! When we were trapped between Pharaoh and the sea, god was with us! Providing, as Luther says. Providing and protecting and preserving! Doing everything that needs done! Out of pure, fatherly, and divine goodness and mercy! A pillar of fire in the darkness! A column of smoke in the light! We have everything we need to make it! To get through! We lack nothing! Stop a moment and let that sink in! We have everything we need! We lack for nothing!
What we’ve been doing – what we are doing – isn’t about our commitment or our devotion. It’s about god’s big-hearted-and-open-handed-ness! What most people don’t understand is that this – ALL this – isn’t an end, but the beginning! The wilderness isn’t a place to go to die; a kind of church’s burial ground. It’s where we go to start over! To be born again! And that’s stayed with me! The proclamation! The promise! I don’t know how many times, over the years, I figured that this was “it.” Time to turn out the lights. Time to lock the doors. Back when we had lights and doors! But then, something would always happen to take us to the next leg of the journey. People would go, but people would come. Bank accounts would drain; but there was always enough. Call it manna. Water from the rock. Whatever. It just worked out. Step by step, from one oasis to the next. Ventures unending. Paths untrodden. Perils unknown. God with us every breath, every heartbeat of the way. We have had everything we needed! We have lacked for nothing!
For the longest time, I thought it meant the usual trinity – with a little ‘t’! Time. Talents. Treasure. The usual things we hear in sermons. But the more the miles piled up, the more I realized that wasn’t it. And if we were together, right now … inPerson … I’d tell you to look around! At the people sitting in front of you! At the people sitting beside you! Turn and look at the people behind you! Because they – they and you with them – are the gift god has given us! You – Y’ALL – are everything we need! You’re – we’re – how we know god’s here! That god’s with us!
It’s so easy – here in the wilderness – to develop a sort of Eeyore complex. You know what I mean. Winnie the Pooh’s donkey friend. Sad eyes. Drooping head. Pitiful voice. “Thanks for noticing …” “Things could be worse, but I’m not sure how …” “Wish I could say yes, but I can’t …” “ The sky’s fallen. Always knew it would …” We’re old. We’re few. And for decades, we’ve been told, “Youth are the future of the church.” And so, since we have no youth – my apologies to Emma and Declan – that means we have no future. Truth is, we’re the future of the church! You! Me! Together!
We lack for nothing! We have everything we need! And you – each of you, all of you – are how we know! Y’all are the gift! At this time! In this place! We don’t need to be bigger. We don’t need to be younger. We don’t need to do more, to give more. All we need is to be US! All we have to become is who we already are! And that’s enough! In fact, that’s more than enough! But the temptation is to look for more. Always look for more and watch. Always look for more and wait. Unless … Until … We circle the wagons and wait for the cavalry to come and rescue us. But my friends, there’s no cavalry. There’s no cavalry. There’s only you. Only us. We can’t hire more people from a congregation in the next county. We can’t rent another congregationCouncil from over the hill. There’s just you. Just us. But the good news … that’s all we need! That’s all we’ll ever need! Bottom line, we don’t need rescuing! We’re the ones doing the rescuing!
Two dozen? Three dozen people? The church began with less than that! Much less than that! What did Jesus say? “Where two or three are gathered …” This all began with no more than a handful who knew god loved them! Loved them with all god’s heart! Loved them with all god’s strength! Loved them with all god’s being! They knew god had their backs! And they depended on that! Staked their lives on it! And, you know, you and I don’t need any more than that! We don’t need experts to tell us what we need to do! We don’t need examples to follow! All we need … is US! Us and, of course, the god who calls us! Who calls us and inspires us and moves us! Every inch! Every foot! Every mile of the way! But then, that’s the lesson of the wilderness!
So, here we are. In the wilderness. One more week. Am I pessimistic? Gloomy? Depressed? Well, yes! At times! It all depends on the day! But then, I think of you! I see you! Even here! Even now! And I’m full of hope, full of promise! Full of believing! My friends, god has given us everything we need! God has given us … EACH OTHER!