“Faith is the reality of what we hope for, the proof of what we do not see” (Hebrews 11:1) Tuesday evening I rode along with the DARE Officer – Officer Ethan – to a few of the 77 Nite to Unite gatherings in Moorhead. What I repeatedly heard was how good it felt to know your neighbors–even if you don’t know them all by name. What I saw were kids running up to Officer Ethan because they knew him from the DARE presentations in their schools. What I tasted was a pretty wide sampling of summer picnic fare. What I felt, especially after a weekend of with two tragic mass shootings, was gratitude for who we can be at our best. People were simply out being kind to each other–learning a bit about people they hadn’t met before and catching up with people they knew but may not see much. Because I was riding along with an officer, I also overheard people name things that were safety concerns in their neighborhood. It was good to see people at their best–caring for their little corner of the world, so to speak.
Sometimes, when the news is bad and bloody, we forget there is still good in the world. Our faith may falter and we may begin to doubt our best and kindest hopes still have a chance of becoming reality in this world. We may feel helpless to make changes–especially when our legislators each seem locked into their own viewpoints and unwilling work toward compromises. Unfortunately, it’s easy for me to become locked into my viewpoints as well. I once read that “faith in God is the willingness to exchange what we think we know for what is God trying show us.” I believe we need to support leaders who are willing to exchange their locked-in ideas for possible solutions that will involve compromise. I believe we need to choose leaders based on their ability work with others with varieties of viewpoints–in other words who are “good neighbors.” Put all the kernels of truth together and we may one day have a harvest of hope.
In the meantime, Tuesday evening reminded me what you and I can do in our little corners of the world to make the world a better place. We can be “good neighbors.” We can refuse to give up the hope that God is working for something better in this world. We may not see it yet. But, faith tells us there is a better day and a better way. You and I can vow to be a “good neighbor” to someone today. We can also pray God will help us exchange our broken ideas for God’s own ways. The world will be better for it. We will be better for it.
This morning, when I returned to the church after leading worship at Parkview Terrace and Moorhead Rehab Center, I was pleasantly surprised to see Vacation Bible School preparations underway. That the preparations were underway wasn’t the surprise. We’ve many faithful people investing their time for the mission. The pleasant surprise was that the retired adults who are focusing on the crafts were working with two of the youth to set things up. It warmed my heart to see them working together: visiting, laughing, building inter-generational relationships. How many times I’ve heard, “my grand-kids keep me young.” How many times I’ve heard one of the vital things youth need are older mentors and a support system beyond their peers. Not all retired adults have grandchildren, or live close to them. Not all young people get the chance to live near their grandparents, or have grandparents that are still living. But, imagine a world where family extended beyond blood-relatives. Imagine a world where people were continually adopting each other in a myriad of ways that blessed, nurtured and uplifted. One of the purposes of the Church is to create a community where we recognize we are all family as brothers and sisters of Jesus. “See what kind of love the Father has given to us in that we should be called God’s children, and that is what we are!” (1 John 3:1a) We are all God’s children–however many years we’ve lived on this earth. Still, it’s a privilege to glimpse signs of this truth.
Recently I was talking with a retired couple who both asked about the kids ministry at Grace. They also shared a few camp and VBS memories from their childhood. Over fifty years later, a half century, and they still remember the impact of events that adults created for them to have fun and learn about God’s love in Jesus. My heart is always warmed by such stories. In my own life I am also able to look back at events–weekends, camps, outings that adults of the church created to teach me how Jesus’ love can make all the difference in our lives, especially in times of struggle. More than that, I can still name the names of those adults, some of them now passed on to heaven’s shore. I usually don’t say, “Yee Haw!” when I think of them. But, I do get a grateful feeling, and am reminded each of us is called to pass the faith on in some way or another. VBS is one of those ways. I invite you to start praying now for VBS leaders and the kids who will attend. If you are crafty, enjoy teaching, like to creating snacks, enjoy leading kids in outdoor games, or are adept at giving first aid if needed please let Sarah Martin or Stephanie Grow know or me know, ASAP. If you’ve not helped before we need need time to do the obligatory Safe Sanctuary background check. And, the sooner we know the more it helps with planning.
Sunday, I’ll be sharing five things I’ve learned in the last 30 years of being a pastor. There’s way more than five things, however. So, let me share a sixth thing I’ve learned. Every church I’ve served has had quiet, silent, humble servants who bless their churches in more ways than most people notice–unless suddenly that person isn’t there. They prune bushes and trees. They replace batteries and light bulbs. They keep watch for those who need hearing assistance devices and make sure those devices are ready. They notice the recoil rope on the push mower is about to break and set to work making the repair. They chop ice away from the door, spray weeds in the parking lot, recycle the paper, and tend the flowers. They notice that person standing alone and quietly go to check on him or her. They send cards. They lift prayers. The list things they care for is long and important. But, in the Spirit of Micah 6:8 they walk humbly with God not seeking to draw attention to themselves. Sometimes they’re long-term members. Sometimes they’re are rather new to the congregation. I am humbled and grateful every time I glimpse one of them in action–or simply notice where they’ve been by the things that mysteriously get done. They remind me how much we need each other to be the church. Add in those who are willing–who just need to be asked or have a sign up sheet put out, and I’ve learned to appreciate the strong human desire to serve and make a difference. It’s real and it’s beautiful–and it has made me more humble and appreciative.
I invite you on the 14th to bring a thought to worship. I invite you to be thinking of one or two transformative things God has taught you about life over the years. You’ll have a chance to write down a sentence or two that will be be shared on future worship slides by completing the following sentence “Over the Years God has changed/blessed my life by teaching me….”