by Pastor Leah Rosso
If you've ever been to the Boundary waters, than you know that maps are extremely important. So many of us don't look at maps anymore, except when our GPS is showing us to move along the blue line. But in the Boundary Waters, maps are necessary. And things look different when you're in a canoe looking for the opening to a portage than they do on the map when it looks so obvious. One year I remember finding the portage- the trail that leads to the next lake, but when we'd gone farther than we thought we thought we would need to- hiking while carrying everything we'd brought on our backs including our canoes- we came to an enormous mud pit. The first person stepped in and sunk down to their waist. And then we realized that we were now hiking what the map had shown to be a river. We had followed the map correctly, but it had been a dry year and no map could've told us that the river we were going to canoe down was now just a really deep mud path. We had to make a decision- keep going somehow or turn around.
I think the disciples must've felt that way a lot. Jesus calls them and they immediately follow, but do they have any idea of what they are signing up for? Did they think they were leaving their jobs for a day or a week instead of a lifetime? They most certainly thought Jesus was going to be with them for more than the 3 years they got before his death and resurrection. I can imagine that they often must've wondered why the life they were living- the call they were trying to follow- looked so different from the map they felt they had been given. Jesus taught them many things- left them with parables and the ritual of breaking bread and gifts of healing and leadership. But using those gifts looks totally different on a day to day basis when they're doing their best to figure it all out.
When I was a teenager I went to a camp called Mountain TOP as part of our Confirmation program. It was the type of camp where you go out and paint houses, mow lawns, etc. during the day and then come back for camp in the evening. On Thursday evening of that week I went to worship as we usually had at night, but I experienced something different than before. The only thing I remember about worship is a song that was played by Michael Card. The words were, “To hear with my heart, to see with my soul, to be guided by a hand I cannot know; to trust in a way that I cannot see, that’s what faith must be.” I went out into the thick Tennessee air and looked up at the stars and I was overwhelmed by the Holy Spirit. I didn’t know what was happening exactly, but I remember saying yes to God. It wasn't the first time I had committed to following Christ, and it wouldn't be the last, but it was significant to me because I had no idea what it would look like. It was not my call to ministry. It was not specific. But I knew that day that I would spend my life trying to figure out what it means to follow.
I have often found that following Jesus can be disorienting. It's not necessarily instinctual. Forgiving someone seventy times seven times, as Jesus instructed Peter, is not exactly what I always feel like doing. Praying for guidance instead if forging ahead may not always be what we want to do. Reaching out to the stranger and welcoming those we perceive to be our enemies is difficult on a good day, let alone when we're facing illness or a loved one's death or a major transition in our lives. And yet Jesus still calls us. He calls us just like he did those first disciples. And if we don't immediately follow, he calls again. And again. And again.
Shane Claiborne and Jonathan Wilson Hartgrove are two men who started intentional communities to try to figure out how to follow Jesus. And in a book they wrote together about prayer, they said that when times are really difficult and they are feeling despair they pray to God, "Why don't you do something?” And it is then that they hear a gentle whisper respond, ”I did do something. I made you."
Claiborne and Hartgrove are not dismissing the power of prayer or how God works in our lives- quite the opposite. They are taking seriously the call Jesus has placed upon them to follow in every aspect of their lives.
In 1 Samuel we are told that visions were rare in those days. I've never noticed that line in this passage before this past week. But here we have a story about a young boy who is called by a God and we are told that visions were rare in those days and it makes me wonder. Were visions rare because God had stopped speaking? Or were visions rare because the people had stopped listening? Would people say the same thing today? The Bible is fairly clear all the way through that God will work within a community to bring people to God-- first Abraham's descendants, then the Israelites, then the church-- but are we listening? Are we following God's call? Do we realize what we are called to?
Do the people of St. Cloud and the surrounding communities know that God has a vision for this community? Would those unfamiliar with Jesus' teachings right here in our neighborhood say that the church here in town is working to include everyone, to make sure no one has to live on the street, to make sure that all children are loved and fed and have dignity? Do the people outside of this church have any idea of who Jesus is by the work that we're doing?
I truly believe that God is giving us visions of God sized dreams for this community all the time. I believe that we here at First are making a tremendous difference and can multiply that exponentially if we have the courage to say yes to Christ. The Church Council met at a leadership retreat on Saturday and talked about what it will look like to follow God’s dreams in this place and in this community. Many of you followed God’s vision out here to Sartell, but this is not the ending. This is just a glimpse of the beginning of all that God is dreaming for us if we just have the courage to say yes.
How will you say yes today? How will you say yes tomorrow? As Mary Oliver once wrote, ""Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild & precious life?" This is your life. How will you say yes?