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November 12, 2017

Commitment Sunday

Isaiah 65:17-18

Luke 5:36-39

Rev. Kristen J. Kleiman

 

“Behold, I am making all things new”. Not my words. God’s words – as recorded in Revelations and in the prophet Isaiah, twice. From the 43rd chapter of Isaiah, “I am about to do a new thing” (Isaiah 43:19) and from our reading this morning, “For I am about to create new heavens and a new earth” (Isaiah 65:17)

God is continuously making all things new. God is continuously making us new. Renovare. God is continuously renovating us, spiritually renewing us, as individuals and as a community.

However, in the same way you don’t notice a child growing when you see them on a daily basis, often, we do not fully see the ways God is making us new. Sometimes, we need to get to the balcony.

 

In his book, Leadership on the Line, Ron Heifetz, a leadership lecturer at Harvard, uses the metaphor of going to the balcony as a way to get perspective. He writes that sometimes, we need to step out of the hustle and bustle of the dance floor and see the big picture from the balcony.

 

Today, we have not left the dance floor for the balcony however it is equally important for us to pause, step back from our ministries, and appreciate what we have accomplished together.

The most obvious being this beautiful renovation that we dreamed together, planned together, and financially supported together. This safety and accessibility renovation truly was about being united in ministry, every step of the way. It could not have been built without all of you supporting it.

That’s only one accomplishment of many though. Tonight, we begin hosting our second week of Family Promise; we are in the process of completing another successful annual stewardship drive where the majority of cards received are an increase in giving. And right after worship, we will share a wonderful meal at the Harvest Brunch. None of these things could have happened without all of you who have so generously volunteered your time.

We have a new organist/ choir director, an adult choir, a youth choir, a children’s choir, a youth tone chime choir, a bell choir, and a bell choir director, who keeps asking for more bells and more tone chimes because the choirs keep growing. None of these things could have happened without the grace of God and all of you.

And I can barely keep up with all of the ways our Outreach and Service committee is leading us as we transform this world with Christ’s love: Silver Lake scholarships, New Beginnings backpacks, fruits & vegetables for weekend backpacks; the First Fruits Garden for the soup kitchens; computers for children in India; cleft palate surgeries for children in 3rd world countries; support for the homeless of Bristol and for domestic violence survivors through Prudence Crandall; Easter baskets; Giving Tree gifts; and hats, mittens, and socks for Salvation Army clients. Not to mention the incredible ministry we do together with our United Church of Christ sister churches through our special offerings. None of these things could have happened without the grace of God and all of you.

 

Sometimes, it is really good to step back, get up to the balcony, and appreciate all we have accomplished together in Christ’s name.

And sometimes, it is really good to go to the balcony and consider “What’s Next? What new thing is God doing in our midst? What new thing is God calling us to participate in?”

 

New things can be scary. Even good new things, like a new baby or a new job, can be scary. We are not always excited for “the former things [to] not be remembered or come to mind.” (Isaiah 65:17). We often ask, “Why does everything have to be new all of the time? What’s so wrong with the former things?”

Well, there might be plenty wrong with them however we like the former things a lot. They are familiar; they are known; they are comfortable, and we aren’t so crazy about change and the “new”.

God is doing something new though. God is about to do a new thing. God is about to create new heavens and a new earth.

 

Wanted or not, worrisome or not, I am sorry to tell you that it is not our choice about whether the new will be happening. This is about what God is doing – and our choice is about whether we will cling to the former things, to the old wineskins, to the old garments, or about whether we will get on board with the new thing God’s spirit is doing.

That’s a difficult choice, and not everyone in our community will jump up with joy and say, “Yes, God is making all things new, and I cannot wait!”

And that is okay. The people who are more cautious; the people who are more considering of change; the people who really, really like the former things, will still be a member of this body of Christ. We will not leave them behind, however neither can we stay in the old with them.

God is making all things new. God is creating new heavens and a new earth.

 

And just the thought of it makes us anxious, which is another good reason to get to the balcony, because when we are afraid, it is really good to get some distance from our fear, really good to be able to step back, consider, and name it.

I call it “Following the Worry Train”. I ask myself, ‘What am I afraid of? What is the worst that could happen?’ and I just follow the line from worry to worry to worry. It helps me identify my real worry and deal with it.

 

Getting to the Balcony. We need to do it. We need the space to appreciate what we have accomplished. And we need the distance from our fear and worry so we can ponder, wonder, and dream. So we can ask the big questions, “What’s Next? What new thing is God doing in our midst? And how is God calling us to participate?”

 

On this Commitment Sunday, when we renew our commitment to our shared ministry of welcoming all in Christ’s love, nurturing all in Christ’s love, and going forth to transform the world, I invite you to take the heart you received coming in to worship and to write on it ‘what about our shared ministry specifically has your heart’. Adult choir? Children’s Ministry? Men’s Fellowship? Family Promise? Women’s Guild? What about our shared ministry has your heart?

And then, I invite you to take the cloud you received and write on it your dream for our shared ministry.

And when you have done both, I invite you to turn to your neighbor or a couple of people around you and to share what is written on your heart and on your cloud.

Thank you for your openness to God’s spirit. I invite you into a time of listening and discernment, a time when we can listen for God’s still speaking voice and determine if it is our dream calling us forward or our neighbor’s dream or some new dream not yet discerned. Let us be in a time of listening.