8/1/2010 -- The Rev. Anne-Marie Jeffery -- 10th Sunday after Pentecost

posted Sep 8, 2010, 1:19 PM by Unknown user   [ updated Sep 8, 2010, 1:36 PM by Terry Brady ]

Text: Luke 12:13-21

What in God’s name is going on here? (Pause ) OK let me say that a little differently. What is going on here that is being done in the name of God?  Sounds a little different doesn’t it, when it is put that way?  I borrowed the opening sentence from a sermon that another interim minister[1] preaches when he comes to a new congregation.  He says he begins with this question because it gets at the heart of what a congregation needs to be asking as they live into the interim period between rectors. This includes questions such as - Where is God at work in your midst? Where do you find God? Where do you see God acting in your life and in the lives of your parish family?  Or in other words; “What in God's name is going on here?”  I am sure that as you ponder these questions, many things are going through your mind.   Perhaps you are thinking about what attracted you here in the first place or maybe whatever it is that keeps you here. God’s Spirit is in this place and I think everyone of you can tell a piece of the story of how that happens.

            However asking the question of what is going on here in God’s name involves some risk. It means that you have to be willing to look at the answers to this question, and to consider that while there are many places where the answer is yes - God is at work here, that there are also places where the answer is ‘not so much’. And it is hard to look at those places because sometimes because they are things we are comfortable with, things that are known and things that have worked in the past. And yet we know if we find those places where God’s spirit is at work among us and focus on them, we will be OK no matter what happens.

            I was intrigued that this morning’s gospel was about holding on to money and possessions.  It is a common theme in Luke’s gospel – watch out for money. It will get you in trouble.  The story we heard was one that would make most investment bankers jump for joy at least until the end.  A man, a very rich man, who has done very well in his life, has had a bumper crop. There is no room in his barns because they are already full. What a problem to have!   His worries over what to do and comes up with the solution of building bigger barns. Once that is done, all his needs will be met and his soul will be happy. The only problem is that he is about to die and that all that he has stored up will be left behind. Now, I don’t think the point of this story is that we should not invest our money and prepare for retirement. Good stewardship of our resources is important. To me the message is to be careful of our human tendency to hold on so tightly to what we have that we miss an opportunity to participate in the work of God that leads to true wellness of our souls.

            We also need to remember that possessions are not the only things we hold on to. We hold on to what we do and how we do it especially if it is at church.  Holding on can get in the way of really listening to the answer of whether God is still calling us to do a particular ministry. Now, often the answer to whether we should continue to do this ministry or that ministry is yes, but we can only discern that if we are holding on lightly, if we are truly ready to let go of what we might hold most dear. If you find all this talk about letting go and figuring out what ministries that are being done in God’s name unsettling, that’s OK.  Asking these questions can lead to feeling uncomfortable and that is part of the work that a congregation does in the interim period between rectors.  It is a wonderful opportunity because by asking what is the work being done in God’s name, the better you can define the kind of rector you are looking for to lead you in your next phase of ministry.

            I want to share with you a song that was used in a meditation during my interim training, because it captures much of what happens in the interim period especially when we ask questions that may be unsettling. The song, Transformation by Fran McKendree, gives a great description of transition zones by comparing them to that period of time where one lets go of one trapeze bar and reaches for the next that is swinging toward you. I see the transition zone having many of the same qualities and interim period between rectors. This is what the song says - it remains that the transition zones in our lives are incredibly rich places. They should be honored... Even savored.   With all the pain and fear and feelings of being out of control that can accompany transition, they are still the most alive, growth-filled, passionate, expansive moments of our lives. And so, transformation of fear may have nothing to do with making fear go away but rather giving ourselves permission to hang out in the transition between trapeze bars.”

            These in-between times are full of much potential and of many gifts as you discover what next you as a congregation are being called to. Know that in this time things won’t be quite as they were before. See what gifts are there for us in this transition.  I am excited to walk with you through this time and I know that the Holy Spirit is among us and guiding us.  My prayer is that we be given the grace and courage to ask the questions. Where is God at work in our midst? Where do we find God? Where do we see God acting in our life and in the lives of those around us?  Or in other words…What in God's name is going on here?” 

[1] Article, What in God's Name is Going on Here? Rev. Robert J. Voyle, http://www.transitionalministry.org/resources.html#what