If at first it is not clear…keep listening!
September 25, 2022
Scriptures: Jeremiah 32:1-3a, 6-8, 1 Timothy 6:6-12
Our reading from Jeremiah today caught my eye, and my curiosity. And perhaps it is not what was actually intended by the passage, but the way I received it was that Jeremiah felt he had heard a message, a call from the Lord. Now admittedly, this was not a small request he felt he was given, in fact, going out and buying a piece of land solely on the word you ‘felt you had received from the Spirit of God’, seems like quite the ask!
And it seems that, as least for a moment, the magnitude of what he felt he was asked to do was pondered by Jeremiah himself as well. We know that because the next sentence in our reading reveals that in fact, Jeremiah’s cousin did come and ask him to do just what he felt he had been asked by the Lord, and that this confirmed for him the truth of what he felt he had received from the Lord. For it is then that we hear Jeremiah say directly, ‘then I knew that this was the word of the Lord’.
…then I knew…
My friends, I think that we are somewhat isolated from the magnitude of all that we feel the Lord has asked of our little community of faith, and of how hard we are trying to fulfill every bit of that call and purpose. We just do it, that’s all. People here just fill in where there is a need, and end up spending themselves quite fully trying to keep up with what the church leadership believes are the whispers of the Holy Spirit. To be sure, we don’t always get it right, we don’t always succeed, but that does not seem to keep us from getting back up and going at it one more time.
Fortunately, we have a most patient and forgiving God. And as Jesemiah found out, our God is not only patient, but persistent as well. Making sure that if at first we hesitate and perhaps have a moment of doubt, then the message and call will be repeated more clearly…and, as often as is needed to get us on board with whatever next steps we are asked to take.
And perhaps on occasion, we should allow ourselves to take a moment to feel good about what this little band of believers seems capable of, because it is a good and holy work…and because it is supported and provided for by the Lord himself. Over the years here, we have found that if you give the Lord an inch…he will take the whole thing! And this is important, the Lord will continue to work at what he has asked of us until it is not only his heart’s desire, but ours as well.
On Monday morning I was reminded very gently by the Holy Spirit, that this whole exercise of being a church within this community is God’s affair, God’s project…we, are just those blessed to be able to walk alongside the Lord and be a part of putting God’s purpose into action.
When I awoke on Monday morning, after spending so much of myself over the course of two days before, and at least the week before that getting ready for a two day bar-b-q, I was tempted to think that the whole weekend spent bar-b-queing chicken was in fact a bust…because I was only looking at the numbers of dollars spent, the amount of chicken sold, and the amount of work put into doing all of that. But very, very shortly thereafter, the Spirit reminded me that it most surely was not a bust whatsoever, and in fact was everything the Spirit had called for! For in fact, a life truly lived in faith is never ever about ‘making enough money to pay all of the expenses’, but rather, about being faithful in all things, both great and small. About saying ‘Yes Lord’ to all the Lord asks of us as a body. And that is important, for it is not just about what we feel asked to do personally, but rather what the Spirit is asking us to do all together, as a united front in the quest to lift up and live out the love of our Lord.
All weekend, I felt so blessed to have so many come out to work alongside of me…all working so hard to do everything in our power to show all those there that we were something unusual and different…that we were a community of folks working together to make a difference, as we offered a kind-hearted welcome to all who stopped by our table.
Rob was there all day Saturday and is always so helpful and so willing to step right in and give his all. He truly is a joy to work beside and we had a good mix of fun alongside of all the work from early morning until late on Saturday night. And then on Sunday, Rob had to be away and was not able to join us. But I felt so grateful when Heather and Eddie showed up and pitched right in. And over the next 6 plus hours, I felt so blessed to have Eddie there working along beside me…willingly standing by in the incredible heat of the grill and the heat of the afternoon, offering to do whatever needed to be done as we worked to keep up with the orders.
We had time to talk and to share, and at one point, reflecting on all that we try to accomplish as a community of faith here within our community, Eddie turned and said to me, ‘I think you can do more…I don’t know how, but I think you can’. And you know, I think he is right…although I too have no idea what the Spirit may ask of us going forward. The important thing though is to be both ready, and willing to listen for that still small voice within that calls us into ever deeper service of the Lord.
So, on Monday morning the Spirit reminded me that what we do is done in service of the Lord, and that supporting the ministry in terms of what we need in order to do all that we do, is actually the responsibility of the Lord. What was important last weekend, was that we were there, there in the middle of all the music, fun, laughter, and dancing…as a faith community…there sharing, showing, and literally extending the love of our Lord in all we said and did.
And then on Tuesday morning I went to the Rotary meeting and listened as those there bemoaned the fact that the weekend was not all they had hoped it would be…was not as well attended as had been hoped…and how it did not bring in as much money as the event had in the past. And I realized that my little ‘Spiritual Correction’ on Monday was actually preparation for that Tuesday morning meeting! Towards the end of the meeting there was an opportunity for a quick recap, a round-robin of reflections by those there, quick comments on how the weekend went, with the request that all input be positive and not negative. And it was sort of positive, even though so many still voiced a desire that it would have been more.
And when it came to be my turn, I shared what I had just been reminded of the day before. I told them that we in our booth felt very blessed to be there, and to have had so many opportunities to share who we were and what we were all about. I told them that we felt extremely blessed to have worked alongside of Tommy Stevens, who along with his wife Marianne own Iron and Wine Restaurant here in town. Tommy was so impressed with all we were doing, and how hard we worked, and how much we felt called to push through on our Soup Kitchen project. I shared with the Rotary Club how at some point on Sunday afternoon, Tommy had offered to host a pig roast at his restaurant as a fundraiser to benefit the kitchen.
And then I shared the most important lesson I had learned from the Spirit just 24 hours earlier. I reminded those who were so concerned about ‘how much money they didn’t make’…and as a result, how much less they felt they could do for our community…that what they had done in offering two days of free music and communal gathering space, was wonderful in its own right. I told them that after living in Patterson for over 50 years, the recent events they had offered to the community had gone a long way towards giving our town a sense of identity and purpose. An event like last weekend went a long way towards making them glad to be a Patterson resident.
And then I shared with them what we have learned here, and that is, that it is not about what you get, but rather, about what you were able to give! And that, is such an important thing to remember…for the Rotary Club…and for everyone of us here.
I know that our ‘walk’ as a community of faith, is not towards a single destination, not to a place where we can say we have ‘finally arrived’, but rather an ongoing journey towards a greater awareness of our calling and purpose in bringing about the real presence and experience of the ‘kingdom of God’.
So yes, Eddie, I agree with you..I too think we can do more…and I too have no idea what that is, or what that means! But if you all are willing, I am sure the path will open up before us as we continue to step out in faith. So thank you all for walking this crazy, buzy, and quite different path with me…I am truly blessed to be here with you…