How would you describe a good year for TLC?
What would you lift up as evidence of a good year for us?
Is it a good year if we take in more money then we spend?
Is it a good year if we welcome more disciples then we lose?
Is it a good year if our ministries of Sunday School and choirs and adult forums continue as they have?
On this weekend when we hold our Annual congregational meeting it is a good time to reflect on what would you say makes for a good year?
Let me suggest that your assessment of what makes for a good year may reveal what primary image you may hold for the church.
Do you see the church primarily as a financial institution where the bottom line and sound investment matter most?
Do you understand the church primarily as a club interested in increasing membership in paramount?
Perhaps you see TLC as a volunteer organization with a mandate to continue the basics in religious life –
Christian education, sacramental training, spiritual disciplines ?
Or perhaps some combination of those and other metrics?
What is your image of a healthy church?
There is a story in the OT of a man who needed healing.1
He was a person of wealth and power. His name was Naaman.
Through a young servant girl taken in a raid into Israel,
Naaman learned about a prophet who could heal his disease.
When Naaman finally contacted Elisha the prophet, he was told by Elisha’s messenger to take a bath seven times in the Jordan River.
Naaman was insulted that Elisha did not speak to him directly.
He also felt there were cleaner rives in his own community for bathing.
Naaman’ s search for a cure brought him face to face with the boundaries of his comfort zone.
If he was to receive this gift of healing, he would have to cross national, ethnic and social class lines.
Naaman was fortunate to have wise servants traveling with him.
His servants convinced him to follow Elisha’s instructions.
Naaman risked coming out of his comfort zone and received God’s healing.
Although we may be tempted to think it’s a good year at Trinity when we take in more than we spent, welcome more new disciples than we lose, continue many of our basic ministry opportunities.
I want to suggest a better image of our congregation, a more helpful evaluation of our ministry, is not as a financially healthy institution but as a wounded healer, not a museum of all that is sacred and moral but a vibrant center of Christian mission and witness, not as a safe place from risk but a safe place to risk.
In today’s Gospel story we hear an unclean spirit ask
What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth?
Right before Jesus sends him kicking and screaming out of the man.
What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Is the question to ask as we look back over 2017 and look forward to 2018.
we consider all that we are about, all that we do,
We must also ask ourselves What does Jesus have to do with this?
It is reflecting on that question that we come to appreciate the ways we may be possessed, the ways we may be obstacles to God at work in the world, the ways we are in need of healing.
What is your image, your definition of church?
do you think of the church primarily as a safe place from risk or a safe place to risk?
Here are some ways we risked in 2017.
We risked creating a baptism ministry that involves baptism sponsors and guides to welcome families at this special moment.
We risked changing FEAST to TLC Dinner together in an effort to make it more hospitable for members and visitors.
We risked seeking participation over perfection.
We risked wearing yellows shirt to show our neighbors about GWOH.
We risked gathering in a small groups with others to study and care.
We risked taking faith home, so we could talk with our children about things that matter.
We risked welcoming another refuge family.
We risked experimenting with a new Sunday morning schedule.
We risked acting on the recommendations of the Shared Vision Way Point Team
and created a new Vision statement, now on our lobby wall.
We risked moving forward with the Leadership W P Team’s plan to restructure our laity, council, staff, and clergy to align with our mission & core values.
You may think of other risks we took…
A few years back I went to a huge water slide park in Wisconsin.
We stood in line to go down the biggest and newest slide right away, because we knew the lines would get longer as the day went by.
The higher we got, the more foolish our idea seemed to me.
Finally we were at the very top.
The teenage lifeguard was motioning for me to get into the water and go down the steep tube.
All of a sudden, I was not sure I wanted to do it.
I was scared. I didn’t know why.
I guess I would be out of control.
And it had been years since I had been on a big water slide.
The life guard looked at me and said, Come on…… let’s go.
And I jumped in the cold water and started my journey.
At first I was screaming…scared…fighting being out of control…
Flipping, turning suddenly….
And then I remembered that I was safe in a tube…
And my screams of fear turned to screams of joy.
Would everyone please turn and face one other person…
If you don’t already know, find out that person’s first name…
Now, each of you take a turn, in remembrance of their baptism make the sign of the cross on the other’s forehead and say their name you are a child of God. … you are a child of God
As God calls us to slide in the channels of grace into God’s future,
As God calls us to risk stepping out of our comfort zones
As God seeks to heal us from all has nothing to do with Jesus of Nazareth,
our fears and anxieties will slip away as we remember that
we float in the baptismal waters of our God’s love
that we are children of the Holy One of God.
In the meantime, maybe we could start by screaming…. AMEN!
At first in fear…then in hope…and finally in joy.
Our Lord Jesus is calling us to “come and follow”
So what are we waiting for? Let’s go….
Let all of God’s children say, Amen.
first in fear…then in hope…and finally in joy.
(fear) Amen. (hope) Amen. (joy) Amen.
1 The Evangelizing Church: A Lutheran Contribution, edited by Richard H. Bliese, Craig Van Gelder, Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress, 2005.