SCRIPTURE READING Isaiah 43:15-21
I am the Lord, your Holy One, the Creator of Israel, your King. Thus says the Lord, who makes a way in the sea, a path in the mighty waters, who brings out chariot and horse, army and warrior; they lie down, they cannot rise, they are extinguished, quenched like a wick: Do not remember the former things, or consider the things of old. I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert. The wild animals will honor me, the jackals and the ostriches; for I give water in the wilderness, rivers in the desert, to give drink to my chosen people,
the people whom I formed for myself so that they might declare my praise.
MESSAGE “What God is About to Do” Rev. James R. Renfrew, Pastor
“Do not remember the former things, or consider the things of old. I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.”
One thing I have noticed about people, I’ve even noticed it about myself – we all want the world to change for the better, but we don’t want to change anything about ourselves. Everyone else has to change, but not me, I’m fine the way I am. It’s like saying to God, “God please fix all of the knuckleheads out there, but leave me alone.”
But the truth is that we all need to change. Some of us could stand to have some big changes and others maybe smaller changes, but there’s not anyone I know, especially myself, that wouldn’t benefit from some changes, not just the knuckleheads, but me, too.
Starting in 2020 we are participating in a new effort among Presbyterian churches within our presbytery and far beyond. It is called the Vital Congregations Initiative, VCI for short, and we will be engaged with this project for the next two years. You could say that VCI is all about change, perhaps changing some things about our church, but I prefer the word “becoming”. Think about what we are and what we are becoming. VCI gets us thinking ahead a little more than we usually do, it gets us thinking about the new things that Isaiah mentioned, it gets us thinking about what God is going to do next.
After all, we don’t worship a dead God from the past, made of stone and stored in the barn; we worship a living God in the present who is leading us into the future. Those who killed Jesus on the cross intended us to be left with a dead God, but in the resurrection we follow a living God.
“Vital Congregations Initiative”. Let’s think about the key word, “vital”. What does vital mean? Hear are some definitions. Vital means full of life. Vital means essential. Vital means life-giving. Vital means something not to be missed. To be vital is to be about love, imagination, creativity, growth, rebirth, revival and, most of all, being ready for what God is about to do next.
As we proceed through the Annual Meeting this morning I encourage you to “keep score” as we go through the various reports, and as each presenter speaks. What are the things we do that give life, that give meaning, that offer healing and hope, that excite others? As we go through the report, put a big star or asterisk next to the things we do that sound vital to you, underline, highlight or circle the things that excite you about our church.
Better yet, if there is something vital that we could be doing, something new that hasn’t been discovered yet, please let us know.
We want our church to be vital. We can be successful, prosperous, and even well-attended, but it is vitality that should be at the heart of who we are and what we offer to the world. Without vitality we become the church that used to be.
Earlier in the service I told you about the church that used to be. It was a church that was no longer vital in the life of its community. Of course, the congregation existed, it had a building, it had people, it had a pastor, but the world around it hardly knew the church existed. It was still standing, but it had faded from view. It was no longer vital.
This was proven when a Presbytery consultant visited one night to discuss a strategy for the future. He went to the strip mall right across the street and, pretending to be lost, stopped into each of the ten stores to ask directions to the church. Not one person in those stores could tell him where the church was, the church that was in plain sight directly across the street!
At one time this particular church had been vital. It meant something, it was visible and active. It was a center of community activity during the Great Depression with Five Cent Community Dinners that drew hundreds, in the 1940’s it was a center of energetic support for those serving in the War, in the 1950’s children in the public school swarmed into the church on Wednesday afternoons for religious instruction, in the 1960’s there were active Scout troops, and in the 1970’s a Day Care Center. But by the time I arrived, even the parents who brought their children to the Day Care Center in the church knew nothing about the church. It was no longer vital. The congregation was invisible, even to the people who came into the building!
What makes a church vital, what makes a church visible, what makes it meaningful, what community need is it meeting, what dreams is it nourishing? What would be missing in our community if we were not here?
During the Lenten season we will begin spending time in Bible Study, family activities and post-worship discussions for the purpose of discerning and building upon what is vital about our ministry. We hope you will participate. “I am about to do a new thing”