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Cross-Roads: Called to be Church in the World

Pentecost +14, Common Lectionary Year A

Matthew 16:13-24

©2017 Rev. Elisabeth R. Jones

Video of scripture and sermon HD

Audio file – scripture

Audio file – sermon

This is a defining moment. A cross roads,
this Caesarea Philippi moment.
Much has gone before it…
years of walking with Jesus
following his way,
listening to his stories,
witnessing his care, compassion, and his power to heal,
his ability even to walk on water!
Following Jesus in Galilee has been exciting!
When you live in a grey, harsh world,
where dreams of self-determination
are dashed by generations of Roman occupation,
when religion has become a tool to control
then following Jesus has been an amazing road trip!

This is a defining moment, a cross roads
because while it’s been good so far,
not everybody thinks so.
There are those who balk at change,
who think Jesus is just a hot-blooded radical,
those who believe the dignity of the divine should not be sullied
by the leaven of hope,
or Sabbath breaking healing,
or the crossing of foreign borders to share God’s goodness.
The implications of following Jesus are becoming stark,
costly.

This is a defining moment; a cross roads,
for us, Cedar Park United.
Like the disciples at Caesarea Philippi,
we can look back over our 100 year plus history
as a community of faith and say
“It’s been quite the road trip,”
It has been!
We’ve lived through a number of defining moments
that have shaped our DNA as a progressive,
life-affirming, open faith community.
In 2009 we articulated our Identity as a community
called by God to keep Jesus’ message relevant and real in a complex world.
Since 2012 we’ve lived into that vision
by living our logo
to feed spirits,
fulfill our God-calling, our purpose,
and to create a place where people who never imagined
they could, would feel at home.
God’s power in us has done infinitely more than we could ask or imagine!

But, why do I call this a defining moment for us?
A cross-roads?
First look out there.
The world is a mess.
Religion, ours, has become a tool to control,
to subjugate, to limit, to ration God’s grace.
The name Christian has become associated with racist bigotry
sexist and hegemonic idolatry,
such that many of us in here
don’t even want to own the label any more.
Nature is dealing apocalyptic blows right and left,
and the geo-political scene is fraught with tension
and outright death dealing violence.

For such a time as this,
we like the disciples in Caesarea Philippi are
are at a cross-roads:
do we follow the way of Jesus
offering limitless, care, healing, compassion,
welcome, love?
Or do we hunker down and ride out the storms?
Do we protect our little corner,
or do we dare greatly and share its blessings?

Because today is what it is, the beginning of my – our
Sabbatical, it feels like a defining moment in which we get
this three month long opportunity to ask ourselves individually, and collectively
Who are we?
Where are we going?
What path at this cross-roads shall we choose?
What is God calling us to be and do in this world,
in this moment, in this season of the world?

Now, I don’t know about you,
but I have never been inspired by calls to return to the safety of an imagined past,
nor enthused by a call to just be “adequate” or “good enough” at something.
I am inspired to invest myself, my resources
in a quest for excellence,
the striving for,
the working towards something of deep significance,
of transformative value in the world.

So, hear again, these words of Jesus, to disciples, then and now;
“You get to choose, this is your cross roads moment:
You can go home, go on with being regular,
or you can choose to follow me,
in this Way of the Dream of God,
but if you do, know I’m asking you to invest
the totality of your life in it.”

Now, that has my name on it!
I hope it inspires you!
That you hear in it God’s call to us
to live the Way of Jesus in a world that needs us to.
To choose a path,
a ministry, a mission,
a work of deep significance and transformative value,
striving in all we do, for purposeful excellence,
as we feed spirits,
and create a community of radical welcome.

Back in 2001, Jim Collins wrote a feisty book
called “Good to Great: Why some Companies make the leap and others don’t” [1]
In it he concluded after much research that the difference
between ‘okay’ organizations, and great ones
was
a) clarity about and passion for the core values
b) commitment to work hard at being great
c) and investing fully in resourcing what they were best at.

Isn’t that what Jesus was saying, that day, in Caesarea Philippi?
“Be clear, commit to following the Way, invest everything in it.”

Great in this context of the Gospel of Jesus Christ
and the Dream of God
is meaningful, purposeful, wholehearted [2] living,
that is also expansive and inclusive,
and inspirational and aspirational.
It is, drawing on Matthew 5, and from a sermon here back in Epiphany season,
about “receiving God’s invitation
with our name on it,
to become most fully, essentially, completely\
who we are as people of God at Cedar Park United.
for the love of God and the sake of the world.” [3]

I hear Jesus saying to us this defining moment of today:
be great (wholehearted) nd in caring community, even, especially when that is hard to do.
Be great (expansive)at feeding the hungry in body, providing stronger foundations for food security for vulnerable populations within and beyond our congregation.
Be excellent (inclusive)at creating spaces for deep connection and community, in a society that is fast losing such opportunities.
Be awesome (purposeful) at caring for everyone, Seniors, Shut-Ins, Families, Singles, LGBTQ and allies, children, youth.
And please, be the best you can be (passionate) at reaching out into a world where some are intent on limiting God’s love, with a clear, bold, lived message that God’s Dream is for all not just for some.

Be great (utterly you) at proclaiming the Gospel in ways that touch and transform the hearts, lives, minds.

That I can get excited about!

For decades now, I’ve had this little card stuffed into my prayer book:
It’s a quote from Joshua 24:
“Choose this day, whom you will serve. As for me, and my house,
we will serve the LORD, the HOLY One”

I pray for you, as I hope you’ll pray for me,
that as we go this Sabbatical time, this defining, refining time, cross roads time
that we will choose to follow Jesus,
to live the Dream of God,
as the People of Cedar Park United,
called to be church in the world,
for the sake of the world.

[1] Jim Collins Good to Great: Why some Companies make the leap and others don’t New York, HarperCOllins, 2001. Quoted in John Pentland, Fishing Tips: How Curiosity Transformed a Community of Faith. (Toronto: Edge, 2015), ix, 30-33.
[2] Brene Brown, Daring Greatly: How the Courage to be Vulnerable Transforms the Way we Live, Love, Parent, and Lead. (New York: Penguin, 2012)
[3] See Sermon preached Epiphany 7A “The Perfect Invitation” (Matthew 5:38-48)

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