On January, 26, 2013, our founding pastor, The Rev. Rob Weber, gathered this community together for a “State of the Church” address. So this gathering is the continuation of a conversation that began at our birth and has continued since then, this gathering serves as a way to remind, maybe recalibrate, our life together.
And Jesus said to them, “Follow me and I will make you fish for people.” Mark 1:17 (NRSV)
If you are joining us online or on Ellerbe Road for the first, second, or third time I am glad that you are here today. Our goal each weekend is that you hear a “word from the Lord.” I promise that although this weekend is not typical for us that indeed it is part of what it means for us to be a community of faith. In fact being here today means that God sent you this way, and that you get the opportunity to hear clearly what God seems to be “up to” among us.
What a great opportunity for God to stir your spirit about being part of what will become a movement in this city and beyond! For as Rob told us in 2003 we are indeed here to “become a community [that] follows God where God is leading.” This weekend is key to that becoming.
2014 was a year of change . . . As I have said to you already, I totally understand, 2014 was a year of loss and grief for me and my family also, but it is my prayer that we have begun the process of healing, of seeing possibility in the midst of our questions and of uncertainty. More importantly for me that we do not pay attention to the voices that tell us that somehow all these changes are the evidence of something “wrong” with us, with our ministry, with our call.
Change and transition, although at times difficult, are essential to our life of faith. The hope of the Good News of Jesus Christ tells us that there is new life on the other side of difficulty, struggle, and pain. In fact the great spiritual writers remind us that only through struggle do we grow in God’s love.
Here we are reminded of Saul who on his way to persecute the church he experiences a blinding light where the Risen Lord was found. At that moment he is transformed, he experiences a change of heart and life! In the days that followed he in the midst of his blindness is shown a new way, a way that will propel him as one of the great missionaries of the good news of change. Difficulty, struggle, and change turned to God’s purpose, turned towards new life!
The one thing that has not changed is the need that our community has for Jesus Christ. The south side of Shreveport has grown and will continue to grow in the next decade. Demographic information tells us that there will be steady growth in population, significant growth in families with children, and that those living around us and coming our way are highly educated, affluent, professional, and show a uncharacteristically low religiosity.
We are in the midst of a people that are hungering, looking for ways to make a difference, yet for a variety of reasons have not connected with the church as a place where they can grow spiritually in a way that makes a difference in the world.
The mission field around us matches the reason why we were planted in this community over 20 years ago: seekers who are hungering to become servants. People, you and I, who recognize that their lives need restoration even if they cannot name why or how, a people hungering for a different kind of community that pushes them spiritually, intellectually, and socially. Today we are, as theologian Frederich Buechner reminds us, at a place “where our deep gladness meets the world’s need” we are in our place of calling, of vocation.
In today’s scripture Jesus calls everyday people to join him in God’s mission: to “fish for people.” Jesus calls his disciples not just to follow, but that in the following, they are able to find salvation. That they be transformed into a different people, a people that go and engage others in the work of the kingdom. It is this call, a very specific call, to tell others to turn their lives and hearts – to change their actions – to be transformed! That becomes the impetus, the cornerstone of the mission: marching orders to the healing, reconciling, and transforming work of God in the world!
Next- A Generation of Missionaries: Our Call from the Beginning
*At the beginning of our time together I spoke to you about three of the lenses that have influenced my life. I do plan on writing about those as a separate post at a later time.