September 30, 2018
Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost
Here at Seekers Church we’re in the middle of our annual season of recommitment. Today we will have the membership log available in the Skylight Room. It has the signatures of each person who has made their annual commitment to this community each year since 1976, when we began our life together as a separate family of faith. We will have the membership log available each Sunday until Recommitment Sunday on October 21st.
Last week, Marjory reflected on the importance of our annual recommitment. She said:
“REcommitment was another surprise. Wasn’t a one-time commitment good enough? But after a while, I realized that yearly recommitment helps me stay conscious of how my relationship with God and this community has evolved over time.”
We are fewer in number today because 14 of us are at Dayspring, reflecting in silence on God’s call on their lives as part of this community. I’m thankful that they have had such delightful autumn weather for their time in silence. Marjory continued:
“I keep a journal specifically for those recommitment reflections because it’s given me a glimpse of my own questions over time. It’s probably the only journal I will keep to the end. Here are some of the questions I’ve asked myself regularly:
What things have changed in my personal life this year? How does that affect my faith?
Where at Seekers do I feel restless? Bored? Excited? What does that suggest?
How about my mission group call? My role in the group? What am I learning?
Are there things I’d like to try? Experiment with? Who might encourage that?
Each year, I try to come to recommitment season with a beginner’s mind and an open heart. It’s a little like recommitting to a marriage. Things change. We change. Our needs shift. God keeps peeling away my preconceptions. And I keep growing.”
When Marjory said “And I keep growing,” I knew that was something I wanted to hold up for us today. And as I read and reflected on our lectionary scripture readings for this week I had an emerging sense of the importance of our recommitment season as an opportunity to acknowledge the sometimes slow journey into a new cycle of call, to keep listening and keep learning who God is calling me to be … now.
So here’s the bottom line from me today:
- This is a time to say “Yes,” again to discerning who I am in God’s Creation;
- Seekers is a safe place say “Yes” to lifelong learning and spiritual growth; and
- A commitment ritual can help with claiming a new stage of call.
THIS IS A TIME TO SAY “YES” AGAIN TO DISCERNING WHO I AM IN GOD’S CREATION
The Hebrew Scripture for this week shows us the Israelites, free at last, taking Moses to task because the Manna God is giving them to survive in freedom has become predictable, and boring.
Moses, fed up with the weight of the people he has led out of captivity in Egypt, unloads to God:
“Did I conceive all this people? Did I give birth to them, that you should say to me, ‘Carry them in your bosom, as a nurse carries a sucking child,’ to the land that you promised on oath to their ancestors? Where am I to get meat to give to all this people? For they come weeping to me and say, ‘Give us meat to eat!’ I am not able to carry all this people alone, for they are too heavy for me. (Numbers 11:12-14)
Moses will hang in there, faithfully leading the people God has given into his care through thick and thin (mostly thin, it turns out) until he gets them to the bank of the River Jordan. He doesn’t choose to change, and there’s nothing out there that pushes hard enough to change him.
When I take responsibility for what isn’t going right for others I’m in the boat with Moses: frustrated that I can’t solve their problems, and angry that God isn’t taking care of things “my way.” We want more, and better. Like those Israelites, we want our fill of leeks and garlic. We want the world to change, so it fits our sense of peace with justice.
A lot of the time, the changes that happen to me result from some outside force. A loved one has an accident or falls ill; we get sick or break a bone; we get reassigned, or our job goes away. But sometimes, we come to a point where we need to make the decisions about who we are and what we will carry. What needs to change is us, not the menu. Let me take it personally: sometimes, what needs to change is me.
In our call to be Church, we confess that “Seekers are not persons who have arrived, but persons who are intentionally on the way.” Our School for Christian Growth is one important source of support for that growth. Last Tuesday we had a full house for the first session of the school. I thought the Genesis class was lively and engaging, and I heard that the class on Meeting Jesus again was rich and lively as well. Thanks to all who make that possible.
I have some learning and growing to do myself. Four years ago, on the Sunday before our annual recommitment, I stood here and confessed that I had come to a threshold in my life. I was ready to step aside from my place on our Servant Leadership Team, a place I had held for 25 years.
I said then that I wondered how I could continue to mature (or grow old) in Seekers Church. I wondered what I could do to find a clearer understanding of my emerging place in Seekers. I thought the answer would come quickly once I took some restful time for discernment, but asked myself: “Can I claim it? I’m so busy I don’t know what I’m doing.” It was a moment of saying “Yes!” to a new sense of myself, but I knew then that I would need that time for discernment.
Well, it’s been four years, and I’m still not all that clear about who this new “me” is called by God to “be.” I need a safe place to continue my discernment, even in the midst of a lot of outside demands. I was surprised by how quickly after I stepped aside from the SLT I was loaded with needs from other places, like the Watkins, where we’ve had a huge increase in maintenance needs. Here’s an example. On Friday morning a tree in our side yard fell over, partially blocking one lane on 4th Street. One of our neighbors had called the city but I was worried about the traffic. So Marjory and I dug out our hand saws and spent half an hour cutting off the top of the tree and dragging it out of the street. By noon the city crew had come and cleaned up everything. If I’d waited, the city would have taken care of everything, but I was concerned about the traffic.
One recurring insight from this recent example is that I have a strong tendency to jump in as soon as some challenge emerges. I still need to learn more about turning from grumpy to grateful, and Seekers is a good, safe place to do that.
SEEKERS IS A SAFE PLACE FOR LIFELONG LEARNING AND SPIRITUAL GROWTH
For most of my life – at least for as long as I can remember – it’s been really important to me to be “helpful.” Time after time I’ve raised up the importance for my sense of self of being a good Boy Scout. When I can know that I’m being “trustworthy, loyal, helpful, …” I know, deep within, that I am being faithful. It’s interesting to see that being “faithful” is NOT an explicit part of the Scout oath:
On my honor, I will do my best
To do my duty to God and my country and to obey the Scout Law;
To help other people at all times;
To keep myself physically strong, mentally awake and morally straight.
A big part of how I see myself is that I can figure out how to fix it, and then do what it takes to get it done. That means, at least for me, that if I come across something that needs fixing, I should fix it. What else would a good Boy Scout do? Isn’t that what it means to “help other people at all times?”
I’ve known for a long time that I have a large “worry bag” somewhere inside, and feel responsible for things that are, in fact, not my responsibility. As I was thinking about this tendency to worry, I was reminded of a short conversation with God that came to me in the summer of 2001:
Let it be.
Let what be, O Lord?
The life I have for you. Let it be.
But there is so much to do…
I know. And you are not the first to pick it up. How do you think it got here? Others carried it before you.
I know, but…
And there are others here who need the exercise. Let it be.
I want you to give thanks.
Give thanks? For what?
I want you to give thanks for all that rich complexity you find yourself in.
I don’t understand.
I know, and that’s OK. You don’t have to understand to offer thanks. Do you understand a hot fudge sundae?
Well, usually there’s two or three scoops of ice…
LET IT BE!!
That’s better. I’ll be listening. Catch you later.
August 21, 2001
At some level I know I’m ready. But at another level I have to ask myself, “Who is this person who is ready to say ‘Yes’ to an unknown future?”
This seems to be about stage six in Marjory’s cycle of call – the stage of release … letting go of who I’ve been and what I’ve known my life to be about and letting myself be open to what God has in mind. I’m grateful that Seekers is a safe place where I can continue to learn how to trust God, and let it be.
A COMMITMENT RITUAL CAN HELP
How does all this focus on self-image relate to my recommitment to Christ through Seekers Church? As I think about our recommitment ritual, and the commitment I will make, I see that the act of making that statement in public is important for my own sense of support and accountability. Marjory and I will not be here on Recommitment Sunday because I will be attending a pilgrimage retreat she is leading in New Mexico that weekend. I do want to make my commitment with witnesses and will probably arrange to do that with Celebration Circle after I return from the desert.
A ritual like this will be a marker that I am standing on a threshold in the cycle of God’s call on my life. Little rituals like standing to make a public commitment may not seem like much, but I think they help us get our “salt” back.
As I was looking at the Gospel reading for this week I had a tiny, interesting epiphany. In Mark 9:50 we read: “Salt is good; but if salt has lost its saltiness, how can you season it? Have salt in yourselves and be at peace with one another.”
I wonder what it might mean to “have salt in yourselves?” In our parlance about call and commitment “salt in yourself” might well mean being grounded in God’s call. And as we move from stage to stage in living out the cycle of call, I think it helps to know where we stand, and to help others know where we stand as well.
This week we mark an important transition for Marcia Sprague as she retires from federal service in the Department of Education. We’ll be marking that with a small ritual today and walking with her as she discerns what is next. And we’ll be praying for Marcia and David as he recovers from his accident last night.
This is seems to be about stage six in Marjory’s cycle of call – the stage of release … letting go of who I’ve been and what I’ve known my life to be about, and chewing my way out of the worry bag, that inner, inflated sense of responsibility that has been my cocoon for several years, as I wait to discover who I am … today. I think I’m standing at the threshold of crossing the headwaters of the “Poison River,” moving from a time of release toward a time of resisting what is new and mysterious. I pray that naming my stagnation today will help me begin to let go and let God.
At the end of “Call to the Soul, Marjory reminds us that in facing this crossing, “(t)he danger is that we will try to do it alone, without community, without the ritual reminders that we are not gods.” (p. 168)
So once again, here’s the bottom line for me today, and I hope for you. I think this is a time to say “Yes,” again to discerning who I am in God’s Creation, and this recommitment season is a good opportunity for that. Given our commitment to say “Yes” to lifelong learning and spiritual growth, Seekers is a safe place to do that. And, for me at least, a commitment ritual can help with claiming a new stage of call.
I encourage you to reflect on how you are called to be on this spiritual journey with us. You might pick up the guide with Marjory’s questions and our commitment statements. Once you have decided to recommit and completed your preparation, please sign the membership log, which will be in the skylight room after worship. And as questions come up for you, bring them up at the School fir Christian Growth or ask one of the Stewards, who are listed on the “Who’s In Charge Around Here” handout in the rack outside the door. Thank God we’re in this together!
Now, let me end with a verse from Psalm 19, from this week’s lessons: “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.” (Psalm 19:14)