"Bringing Change & Renewal" - January 10th, 2021
Updated: Jan 14, 2021
"The Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words."
- Romans 8:26
Message of Stewardship from Herb Gore
How are your New Year's resolutions going?
According to surveys, around 50% of us make a New Year's resolution or several New Year's resolutions. But those same studies also show that by January 12th, the number of people following those resolutions has begun to drop off.
Then by the middle of February, 80% have fallen by the wayside. Only 8% are still keeping their New Year's resolutions by the end of the year.
Some studies have shown of those people who do keep their resolutions, that one of the main characteristics is they tend to be realistic rather than aspirational resolutions, and that they can be measured incrementally.
So in other words, rather than setting the goal:
“I am going to have the body of a Greek God by this time next year!”
I can say: “I will lose weight and lose it incrementally! I will set realistic goals based on my amount of exercise, and by my age and physical condition."
We often make resolutions regarding our spiritual life, and one of the aspects that I would like to talk about now is our contributions to the church.
We often think “I'm giving all I can.” or “I don't have anything to give.” God is totally understanding of the fact that we are in financial hard times right now. But he's also aware of the fact that there is a great deal that we can sometimes do. So I would suggest that most of us can begin to resolve to give a little or even a little more. Not a great deal but enough so that we can accommodate the works that we would like to see accomplished during this year at the church.
I would ask each of us to remember...let's see what we can do and let's see how we can do it a little bit better.
"Now John was clothed with camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. He proclaimed, 'The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals. I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.'"
- Mark 1:6-8
Pastor Michael's Sermon - January 20th, 2021
The other day I saw a woman staring into a baby carriage and she was looking at another woman's baby and they were both smiling, and, well I assumed they were smiling but they of course have their masks on so I'm not a hundred percent sure...
The woman was looking into the carriage and was asking all the typical questions.
“Oh, how old is he? What's his name?”
And she was pretty much just gushing about how cute she thought the baby was. And then just before she walked away, she said this to baby's mother, “Don't you wish that they could just stay that size?”
Now, of course, that's a pretty common wish for people to have about babies. That they'll just stay babies. So I've heard it said of course many times. But that day it got me thinking about things staying the same, or rather how nothing really does!
Everything is changing all of the time! Personal items that we own change, especially tech items. It seems that the minute we start using a cell phone or a new laptop, it is already outdated.
Clothing styles change, music changes, the way that we shop changes.
This past year, we saw our whole lives change. The way we do almost everything changed.
Our bodies change. Beards turn white.
Really, there isn't anything around us that isn't going through some kind of change. Even if it happens to be going so slowly that we don't really notice it.
Now today's scripture speaks about something that doesn't necessarily bring about change very slowly at all. And that's baptism.
I was baptized over at our other campus, at Church of the Valley, and there's something that I remember about it very vividly. When I came up out of the water
and I saw all those who were gathered around me and I received their energy, at that moment, I had a feeling of instant renewal. I really did feel changed instantly.
Baptism is something that can bring on an instant change in us and when we return to in-person worship, I encourage any one of you who have not been baptized to think about it. Think about being baptized. Come and talk to me about it Let's do it! Let's bring on that renewal!
Now, of course, it's wonderful to have our church family around us with all of that energy when we come up out of the water, and the briskness of the water as we emerge from it can be very rejuvenating. But I tell you, and as all of you know who have been baptized, these are not the things that bring on the renewal. Those gathered and the water itself are not what bring on that immediate newness. It is indeed the presence of the Holy Spirit.
As John the Baptist says in today's scripture, through Jesus Christ we are baptized with the Holy Spirit. It is the Holy Spirit that brings on that change.
But the Holy Spirit is not done with us once we've been baptized. No, the Spirit continues to work on us throughout our lives. Of course, even if you haven't been baptized, the Holy Spirit is working within you!
Each and every day we are all being changed through the Spirit. Actually, let me rephrase that each and every day the Spirit is working to make a change within us. I say it that way because we need to be working with the Holy Spirit to make a change. We need to be aware of the work that is being done within us and we need to act upon that work. So first we need to stay connected to the Spirit within us!
Now, I said earlier that when I was baptized I was very aware of the presence of the Spirit. But when it's a regular day and when we are trying to get our errands done,
and we're fighting traffic, and dinner needs to be put on the table, really feeling the presence of the Holy Spirit can be a little bit more difficult.
But really it shouldn't be! I believe that the present of the Spirit is as rich within us at 3:30PM on a Tuesday as it is when we rise from the waters of our baptism.
This week, I was driving over to the office over at Church of the Valley and I was at a stoplight and there was one car in front of me. Now, I was waiting to make a right turn and the car in front of me was waiting to just go straight ahead. Now, finally the red light turned green, but the car in front of me didn't move.
I gave it a second and then I realized that the woman who was driving was not really paying attention. As a matter of fact, she was looking at her phone. So I gave her the polite “toot-toot” - you know “toot-toot” - the polite one in which we all know simply means, “Excuse me? Excuse me?” As opposed to the big, long, loud honking, which we all know means “Get out of my way!” or something worse.
So as I said, I gave her the polite “toot-toot” and without hesitation she gave me,
well, let's just say a one-finger salute. And then she pulled slightly forward and slammed on her brakes. And then she pulled slightly forward again and slammed on her brakes again. I think it was pretty clear she was messing with me.
Finally, she was far enough ahead that I could make my right turn, which I don't think she expected that I was going to do, and as I looked into the mirror I could see that she had stopped in the intersection and it looked like she was actually thinking about following me.
But the other car started honking and of course they were giving her the long and loud honk, and so finally she pulled away.
Now, my immediate response in my mind was to get defensive.
I began to think “How in the world did I deserve that?” and a feeling of anger began to slightly build up within me, but then suddenly I felt a wave of calm come over me. And my only thought was, “That poor woman.”
That poor woman, what heaviness must she be carrying around with her that
toot-toots of a horn could set off such anger and rage?
Clearly this was someone who was in need of prayer.
And so I prayed for her.
I really do believe that that wave of calm that came over me was the Holy Spirit working within me.
I could have ignored the work and spent the rest of the day resenting the woman,
but what good would that have done? And I'll be honest with you, there was a time when in a situation like that, I would have carried resentment around with me all day long and it would have affected each and everything that I did that day.
So the fact that it didn't happen this time reminds me that the work of the Holy Spirit really does change us. The Spirit is at work for change in every aspect of our lives and as individuals.
We need to be alert and tuned in to that change the Holy Spirit is attempting to bring to us so that we can allow ourselves to be led to the change, to be led to the renewal.
The Spirit does not only work within us as individuals. I believe that the Holy Spirit is working with in all of our communities as well. Clearly the Holy Spirit has guided this church and continues to guide this church. Enriching theology, deepening compassion, and strengthening the communities drive to serve others and to care for others.
The Holy Spirit also continues to work on bringing change to our world, working to make us into a world of peace, into a world that sees one another as an Earth community rather than individual interests divided by borders. And I believe that even though it hasn't felt like it lately, the Holy Spirit is working to provide change in the community of our country.
The division that has taken place over these past years, the hate whose head has risen from the shadows, the hands and the words that have fanned the division and the hate are in direct opposition to the work that the Spirit is doing within our national community.
We cannot have one hand on the Bible and the other hand with a fan inciting violence.
The behavior of that took place this past Wednesday at the Capitol
as Christians celebrated the day of the Epiphany was in direct opposition to the
work that the Spirit is doing within our national community.
The lack of racial equity that has taken place in this country and has been taking place in this country is in direct opposition to the work that the Spirit is doing within our national community.
At a time when we continue to see black and brown people in this country killed by police officers at an alarming rate, as a country on Wednesday, we watched mobs of white rioters destroy property at the Capitol building and gain access to rooms throughout the building including the Senate chamber. Taking selfies of themselves and posting them on the internet and leaving the building, the vast majority, unscathed.
As many have pointed out by now you can bet if these rioters had been black
and brown people, the outcome would have been widely different.
We have got to do a better job. We have got to find a unity. We have got to find a way to see one another as God sees us. We've got to do a better job of getting out of the way of the work of the Holy Spirit and letting the Holy Spirit bring us change.
Change from hate, change from violence, change from fear that one side of us is out to get the other.
But it's not going to happen until we all acknowledge that the Spirit is working towards change.
Until we all acknowledge that the change is for the good of each of us.
Until we all acknowledge that change will not come until we work together with one another and with the Holy Spirit.
Feel the change within you. Feel how the Spirit is working. Feel the Spirit within our world, feel where the Spirit is leading.
May we all feel the Spirit within our country. And with the Holy Spirit, may a wave of calm come over us. May the Spirit bring us a peace in our minds, in our hearts, in our actions, and in our words. May the Holy Spirit bring us change.
Most Holy God, we thank you for the work that your Spirit is doing within us.
Help us to receive that work and allow that change. It's in your son's name we pray.