Sunday, November 2, 2008

Sticking a Toe In

Here is what happens whenever I get near a lake, river or the ocean in the summer time. I walk confidently right up to the edge stopping just short of any actual encounter with the water, then I lift my leg high enough that I can hold my foot out over the water, I slowly put my foot down, toes first, until the barest possible fraction of my big toe submerges into the water.

At which point I declare it too cold and go back to the beach blanket.

The only way I can possibly get in the water is to jump off a dock, or down a slide, or just run and dive.

I was watching Gray’s Anatomy this week, for those who don’t watch the program it is about surgical interns and their professional and person lives. Now, they are always in or out of love with each other and this last week two of them who you would not expect to be together were trying to decide whether they were in love.

The guy turned to the girl and said, “I have to know you are all in – or else I am going to keep dating other women.”

So here is my question for you today. Are you “All In”?

It is a faith question; and it is a stewardship question. What is your commitment to Mount Royal? What is your sense of where this is heading? Are you ready to give your best so that we can work together to make this the best time in the life of this congregation?

It is not that there are no troubles – both inside and outside the church. We are having a financial meltdown all around us and here we are talking about how much money we need to run the church. There are lots of people in the pews and I keep telling you that we should change things – add more staff and programs – maybe even work towards building an addition.

Most of us would like the church to be safe and stable, a sanctuary from the troubles of the world and the chaos which surrounds us. We are afraid of change – but the world does change, it changes all the time, and we need to change with it.

Like it or not Mount Royal is now one of the largest United Churches in the Maritimes; we are in the top 10% of United Churches across the land – which are mostly rural and mostly under 100 people. As more churches close, as rural populations move into urban centres, we have to be there to welcome those people into our midst. If we are serious about acting out God’s intentions for us, we need to be proactive in terms of how we grow.

But we do have to grow. We have been blessed with all of these gifts and God expects us to use them.

We need to be willing to be “All In” in terms of the future that God has led us to.

Which is part of the reason behind our Celebration Sunday services; churches that manage to be the type of places that their members need are churches which offer a variety of programs, they are churches where a number of staff can interrelate to the needs of parishioners, they are the places where everybody can find a place.

In order to do that we have to be willing to do more than stick our toe in and see if it feels right.
When the Israelites got to the edge of the Promised Land they found their way blocked by a raging river. So they camped on the shore and Joshua, a new leader who was untested, went to ask God for help.

“Simple,” God says in the story, “Just pick up the Ark and walk into the river.”

Simple – just carry a hundred pound gold overlaid chest filled with stone tablets into the white-water and everything will be okay.

Too often we are looking at God in these stories when we are supposed to be looking at the people. The point is not that God stopped the water – we already know that according to the stories God can do that. The point is that the people picked up that ark and stepped into the river.

Nothing happened until their feet hit the water.

But as long as they were willing to wade into the river and as long as they were willing to trust God by standing there, God helped them get across.

I don’t see this as being any different from what we are asking of you; what God is asking of you. We don’t honestly know what next year is going to be like; most likely there will not be as much stress in the world as there is this fall, because we will have learned to adapt.

And who knows, our church might double in size or everyone might move west looking for cash. But we still have to make the first move. We have to pick up everything we have learned from God and wade out into the future certain that if we do so, God will go with us.

Most of us can afford to give a little but more money. Many of us can afford to give a little bit more time. All of us can afford to give a little bit more effort. Be positive, believe in Mount Royal, believe that God is with us, and support the ministry of this church in whatever way you can.

Great things are in store for us. Amen.