This preaching series is on telling stories. Previously, BEGINNING, LOVE, ORIGIN, FOOD, UGLY Stories were shared. Next is Wandering Stories. Laurence Gonzalez in his book “Deep Survival” says that “being lost is a universal human condition.” I would also add that it is a universal church condition. Every church has a moment in its history when it has lost its way, vision, sense of direction or purpose.
In my sermon, I shared how I always lose my keys. So I invited kids to help me find my “keys” that I had previously hid around the sanctuary. The “keys” were big paper keys with scripture on it. After they found them, we read the scripture on each key together. The scripture reminds us how we can depend on God.
Gonzalez found when interviewing those who survived being lost in the wilderness, he found that they followed two rules: 1) Be here now; and 2) Everything takes eight times as long as it’s supposed to. The people of Israel surely were familiar with that. I’m sure 40 years in the desert is more than eight times as long as they thought it would have taken. What God was trying to teach them was to be present, in the here and now. Become familiar with your environment. God does so by providing quail and manna for them, but only enough to eat for that one day. They are instructed not to hoard or save any of it. This daily provision is also a reminder to the people of Israel that God hears their complaints. Just like God heard them and liberated them from slavery, God continues to hear them now.
God is in the here and now. What Gonzalez came to discover is that “being lost is not a location; it is a transformation.” It is recalibrating our view of reality. As children of God, we cannot be doing the same ol’ thing as if we know where we are and where we are going by where we have been. Transformation requires fresh eyes, fresh ideas, but mostly requires acceptance that things are different. Transformation requires us to change our behavior and how we respond when our environment changes. No matter what technical fixes my husband tries by putting tracking devices on my key chains, I will continue to lose my keys unless I change my behavior and habits. The people of Israel also had to change their behavior where they accustom themselves to depend on God who hears them and keeps God’s promises and be ever present to the here and now.
A lot has happened at St. John’s in its 147 years. Many people have come and gone. Many things have changed, but what hasn’t changed is that God has always been here. Even during times when we have lost vision, sense of purpose, or sense of direction, God has been with us reminding us of why we exist. And it is important to remember why we, St. John’s, exist and how it leads us to transform into a faith community that God intends. Kevin Ford in “Transforming Church,” says every church needs transformation, whether healthy and vibrant or not. Without transformational change, churches become stagnant, complacent, irrelevant, or ineffective to stay focused on their mission and are on the path to dying.
Worshippers were invited to share a story of “I always lose my . . . ” If being lost is a universal human condition, being in community is a God condition. We may wander, but we wander together.
Some of the “I always lose my . . .” stories shared were:
- sleep . . . due to too much homework.
- patience with others and always myself.
- steadiness and peace when I either forget or refuse to be still
- memories of difficult events, and am jolted back to those memories instantly bringing me back to the feelings I had long ago, until I bury them again.
All Who Hunger, Gather Gladly
What Is the World Like
Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing