Joining God Making Disciples - Theme for the year 2017/18

Coffee shop encounter.

     You’re sitting in the coffee shop with friends, talking, laughing, each sipping a drink uniquely you.  You’re in one of those booths with your backs to the window, and you notice a person you recognize a few tables over.  “Hey, look,” you nod, interrupting your friends.  “It’s him.  He’s right over there.”  Your friends now turn to look too.  “What’s he doing?” they ask.  “We should join him,” you respond, already shuffling along the booth, making your way out.  “Ya, totally!” affirm your friends, reaching for their beverages.

Is it possible to recognize God... and detect what He is doing?  Like this?  Can you imagine joining Him?

     “We have to frame our lives around questions about God’s actions in our neighborhoods and how to join with God in these places”, as Alan Roxburgh, an internationally respected author, consultant, professor and priest points out in his book, Joining God.  God is both “sending and participating,” Roxburgh observes.

 It is important to remember who is the primary cause and sustainer of life.  God, and He is a missionary. 

What if the Worship Service Was a Time of Awakening Imagination?

    I wonder how our worship service can stimulate or awaken our imagination to the beautiful reality of God’s active presence and our joining Him in His mission.  I am convinced of the absolute necessity of developing or rediscovering our imaginative intelligence.  Our imaginations are essential in comprehending and relating to our Creator.  Images projected on the screens of our imagination fill the gap between the abstract (spiritual / theological) and concrete, connecting the two in comprehendible, often deeply personal, meaningful ways.  I wonder if, when Jesus said, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind” (Matthew 22:37), imagination was understood as a component part of this list, even while He invoked it?

Building a Bonfire

    I was reminded again this summer, how people are naturally drawn to sitting around a bonfire in the evening, telling stories, laughing, singing and even sharing creative (and usually decadent) food together.  Our worship service is a lot like a bonfire.  This coming year we will build a bonfire by placing certain pieces of wood together.  Our theme last year was, “Make Disciples,” based on Matthew 28:18-20.  This year our theme is “Joining God Making Disciples.  Implied within this phrase is, a) the belief God is already active in our lives; b) we can recognize God; and c) we can detect or discern what He is doing.

    Our first mini-series, entitled “I Am. A Promise,” will help us to recognize God.  We will explore God’s covenants in the Old and New Testament, emphasizing God’s initiative, particularly juxtaposed to our own, and His desire for community and communion, in contrast to our inclination towards individualism.  The main series for the year will be working through a section of the book of Acts, starting with chapter sixteen.  Here we will continue looking for and discussing God’s character and actions, striving to discern His invitation to join Him.  We envision "being open with God and each other as we gather."

    Another major log in this bonfire is part extension and part variation on what we have initiated last year.  We will designate certain worship services for commissioning congregants who desire to join God in their everyday lives, where they study, work, live and play.  This is congruous with another aspect of our vision, “to be missionaries where we live and around the world as we go.”  We will communicate in advance and allow congregants the opportunity to ‘opt in.’   We will also create space during these particular worship services, to hear stories from congregants.  We will create space for reflecting and discerning, allowing people to give expression to their experiences. 

Starting a Bonfire       

     To start a bonfire, it is a good idea to light many corners of the underlying paper.  There are rhythms here at SEMC already in place, like the paper under the kindling and wood.  Our pastoral team will continue discussing imagination, discerning God’s agency and joining Him.  Our Sunday School teachers will be encouraged to create space for listening, imagination and the allowance for reflection by children and adults alike.  Our Life Groups will be encouraged to do the same, and in particular to open space for stories and reflection.  These are all different edges of the existing rhythm we hope to light, through nudging, invitation and encouragement, in the hopes of igniting a bonfire.

Fanning the Flames

     We also hope to fan the flames through preaching.  Our sermons will orbit Jesus and His love, and abandon the melody wherein we are the center, and worship, text or God are useful orbs revolving around us, in our universe.  We hope to discern and paint images through words as we preach and pray.  We aspire to bring forward the prominence of God in our preaching, like a poet or bard, painting pictures with words, funding the imagination of hearers with images and scenes of our Creator, King, and Gardener of the galaxy.

            I hope many will be drawn to the glow and warmth of this bonfire, and come ‘round, under the stars, in awe,
telling stories, singing songs, joining God making disciples.

            Expectation, hope and purpose have sparked. 
What will the outcome be?  What does God have in store for us? For our community? 
I can only imagine.