Day 1 Sunday July 28, 2013.
Spiritual Focus – CHOOSE LIFE
Today is a significant moment in the ongoing Journey God has put us in together. From my point of view today is the culmination of 18 months of living and learning with the people of St Petri and the Barossa.
I sensed when I arrived that this community wanted to move on from the difficulties they had experienced and had taken big steps to do this in Pr Robert’s special two years of life together.
The Church Council began to think about the need to seek the Lord on his specific direction for our community right from the beginning.
We share a longing to attempt to be more faithful and therefore effective in fulfilling the commission Jesus has given us.
We believe that the Holy Spirit has called and gathered us to;
- call people to repent and believe the gospel,
- to live in the grace of our baptism and call people to be baptise into the grace and love of God in Christ.
- We are called to be shaped and shape all kinds and ages of people into the ways of Christ – or in our words: To be a celebrating people sharing the love and hope of Jesus with everyone.
So, here we are. This is the beginning of an earnest conversation among ourselves and the Lord on his plans for our immediate future.
I am so very glad to be here today and I am very glad that you are hear and that we have such a vibrant and committed community of God’s people, along with such rich physical gifts or facilities and finances upon which to launch out into God’s future for this congregation.
I am reminded of Moses and Joshua and the account of the people of God after their time of hard testing in that long desert wandering as they faced the end of that part of their journey looking across the Jordan River into the land which was promised to them but not lived in by them yet.
We are looking across the Jordan and seeing a “promised land” of a revitalised congregation of people serving each other and this community in rich and varied ways.
We sense that through this loving and serving of people in Jesus’ name we will see what we long for –
- sinners finding forgiveness,
- the lonely finding belonging and love in Jesus and his church,
- the weary finding rest ,
- the cynical finding truth and faith,
- the angry finding rest and healing, the hungry finding real food and spiritual food,
- the wealthy finding meaning and purpose in their lives in Jesus, the hurt and conflicted finding that deep peace that only flows from the wounds of Jesus on that cross of peace and victory;
- our children learning Jesus’ way and loving their church community,
- our young people loving their church and serving the Lord, his people and strangers with fire in their hearts as they commit to their life’s work in young adulthood,
- our mid-lifers dealing with the complex issues they face in marriage, business, parenthood with confidence and the love of Jesus shaping their day, families being made strong, being healthy in every way, praising Jesus for their very lives,
- people connecting in ways that cross family lines, old stories and expectations,
- disaffected St Petri people finding new space, new people, the way to sing and pray and connect together in the community they once belonged to – coming home and finding the joy of Jesus again,
- our older folks marvelling at their grand kids and own children serving, praying, singing, sharing life in Jesus as we always hoped and prayed they would.
These are the “promised land” for us aren’t they?
- The promised land is not a land a but a people.
- People are our core business.
- Connecting people with Jesus is the Holy Spirit’s plan for us.
- Everything else serves this mission of God –
- buildings, car parks, church additions,
- Family centre, Cottage,
- Redeemer Lutheran School, new technology….. all to share the love and the hope of the crucified Jesus with everyone.
The people of old were called to live in their new promised land and that meant joy. But it also meant personal and community decision and discipline.
- Living in the promise of God’s grace always means living in the discipline and joy of faith.
- Living by faith takes decision and service and humility and a lot of love for each other.
As we now face a new promised land the Holy Spirit is calling us to live in God’s plans for us by faith – faith in Jesus and in the love of Jesus in ways we may have never done or experienced ever or for a while.
What is the focus of our faith to be as we cross this Jordan and enter the next 3-5 years?
Same as it was for God’s people back at their Jordan –
11 Now what I am commanding you today is not too difficult for you or beyond your reach. 12 It is not up in heaven, so that you have to ask, “Who will ascend into heaven to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?” 13 Nor is it beyond the sea, so that you have to ask, “Who will cross the sea to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?” 14 No, the word is very near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart so you may obey it.
15 See, I set before you today life and prosperity, death and destruction. 16 For I command you today to love the Lord your God, to walk in obedience to him, and to keep his commands, decrees and laws; then you will live and increase, and the Lord your God will bless you in the land you are entering to possess.
17 But if your heart turns away and you are not obedient, and if you are drawn away to bow down to other gods and worship them, 18 I declare to you this day that you will certainly be destroyed. You will not live long in the land you are crossing the Jordan to enter and possess.
19 This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live 20 and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the Lord is your life, and he will give you many years in the land he swore to give to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
“The Lord IS your life” says Moses as he departs the people.
The focus of all our ideas, plans, our mission, our very lives in these next 3 years is our God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Jesus IS our life. “Choose life!” says Joshua to an unsure people.
Jesus is the cornerstone of our plans, our hopes for our congregation’s mission and decisions, says St Peter (1Peter 2:4ff).
He is our prosperity and our peace in the new “land” he is giving us these next 3-5 years of life together in mission here.
If we turn to anything else as our hope for the promised land we long for, and “bow down to the gods” of mere outward show, signs of power, playing politics to have influence over each other or this town and etcthen our stay in the promised land will be short.
We will be much less than we can and want to be. For “unless the Lord builds the house, its builders build in vain” says king David (Ps 27).
After these next 3-5 years we might have fine looking house but an empty heart that has no joy and no faith.
On the other hand we might have great looking buildings and even different looking buildings and even be present in lots of buildings around this town as we gather for Word and prayer and togetherness and all might be full of people who know Jesus joy of our desiring and are learning to love each other and the stranger in our midst.
Friends, let’s make a covenant now with each other and with the Lord – to love him with all our heart, mind, strength and soul in this process. Let’s love him by seeking, asking and knocking on his door in his Word – the Living Bread from heaven.
Let’s love him by depending on him and praying with “shamelessness” (Luke 11:1-13).
And then let’s do.
And as we do, trust.
As Joshua trusted the Lord as the Lord gave the promised land to his people bit by bit with all the people’s mistakes and Joshua’s own weaknesses, let’s trust him for the conversation today and next week and the many more conversations we will have.
We are his spiritual building being built by his Spirit and he is calling us to commit to the new land he is giving us these next few years.
Father, Son and Holy spirit, fill this room with holy conversation and a deeper love for each other as we talk together about what we hearing from you. Help us hear clearly and speak carefully and freely so that this day is a day of learning, of mission, or seeing the promised land of a revitalised and faithful St Petri. Amen.