A way of life that can change the world
I’ll venture to say that if I had asked you last Sunday to make a list of things you are thankful for, it might look a little different than it does today. If you lived through Hurricane Florence as many of us did, there was a palpable tension when we found out that Dorian had made a turn for us. Not that we would wish upon anyone what we experienced last year or what Dorian unleashed on the people of the Bahamas, but I doubt any of us really wanted to live through anything close to it again. So as dawn broke on Friday morning in New Bern, and people didn’t lose power at all or people who lost power for days last September were only out a few hours, we gave thanks. People who had lost so much last year had a few limbs down in their yard. That’s not to say it was a cake walk. That’s not to say I’d voluntarily sign up to do it all again in two weeks. But we have much for which to be thankful. And I would be remiss if I didn’t publically thank all those who showed up yesterday morning to clean up the church yard. Team work really did make the dream work. They made quick work of a messy situation. Pausing to give thanks in this moment allows us as a parish and civic community to move forward here as we, if we feel called, find ways to help those affected by Dorian.
Many Sundays you hear me say, “There is never a dull moment at Christ Church,” and as the fall kicks off in earnest next Sunday, we will see so much of what we do shift into high gear. Sunday school for children, youth, and adults. Mid-Week Bible & book studies. Third Sunday breakfast in the Harrison Center. Full choirs at both 8:45 and 11:00. Growing in Grace Afterschool Program. Pumpkins for the Pumpkin Patch arrive on September 28, and the opportunity to sign up for that outreach ministry is already available in the Reception Area and online. And Cookie Walk will be just around the corner, too. And then there are the things we do year-round like the 2nd and 4th Sunday Breakfasts at Religious Community Services, supply drives for Episcopal Farmworker Ministries, MERCI Clinic, and Interfaith Refugee Ministry. And I know I’ve missed some. There are over 60 different committees under eight commissions that help live out the mission of Christ Church. Those things I rattled off are how we carry out that mission, and we can talk at length about what their impact is both on us and on those we whom we serve.
But we always start with why. At Christ Church, we grow spiritually through worship, being together, and serving our community so we can go out into the world to love as God loves. That’s why we are here. That’s why we do what we do.
Jesus offered many invitations to follow him, to get on board with his message and his acts of compassion, healing, and devotion. And today’s Gospel reading reminds us that Jesus didn’t offer a partial membership. Words like this from Jesus are not always easy to hear or read. Jesus is echoing Moses’ words in Deuteronomy which would later be echoed by Joshua when the Hebrew people would enter the Promised Land. God wasn’t interested in the Israelites giving part of their devotion to God. After all, God had done so much for them and only asked for unwavering devotion in return. I’ll take you to a place that will be all yours, God said to the people. All I ask is for you to keep your eyes on me and do what I tell you to do because that is the way that leads to life. In the same way, Jesus doesn’t want half our time or just part of our devotion. Jesus wants following him to be a way of life that changes the world. And we can’t do that if it’s just a “when I can squeeze it in” kind of thing. Those who want to be healthier can’t make it about when it’s convenient or the food looks good. I mean, Yes, french fries are often better than a salad. And binge watching our new favorite show may sound better than getting in some exercise. But if we are making a commitment to live better, to re-doing our way of life so we can live more fully, it means we commit to the salad and going on walks.
The world continues to offer us french fries and bing-watching opportunities. And don’t get me wrong: I love french fries and if there’s a great podcast I’m into, I’ll binge-listen like it’s my job. But Jesus offers us way more than french fries and multiple episodes of tv and podcasts. Jesus invites us to be part of building up the Kingdom of God, to be peace-makers, healers, and advocates for those on the margins, and, in both words and deed, to be the light of Christ the world so desperately needs. But we can’t do any of that on a half-time basis. Our jobs as followers of Jesus is to work to live that life every day, even on the days when we’d rather not or it would be easier to take a break. But there is an opportunity every day to love the way God loves. And yes, it’s sometimes work. But the most rewarding moments in life rarely come easy.
So, here, at the beginning of September in Two Thousand and Nineteen, we have a chance to renew our commitment to a way of life that can change the world. Whether you have been a Christ Church since before you were born or you’re still trying to figure out where things are, we will continue to grow spiritually through worship, being together, and serving our community so we can go out into the world to love as God loves. Because that’s why we are here, and I’m incredibly thankful that you are a part of it.