1 Corinthians 1:10-18; Matthew 4:12-23
January 27, 2002
This is the call of the prophets in all times and place.
In this morning's reading this is the call of John the Baptizer and the call of Jesus. It is the call which continues to ring down to you and to me. It is the call which you and I are to carry forward.
This call to change our life is a call to change from what Isaiah calls darkness to a new way of being in and being light itself.
As we gather here this morning we are called to be different than we have been. The difference we are called to is to get back to our source of life.
One way to put this is that earlier we traveled to the church lounge. There we dedicated its being refurbished.
The lounge is still the lounge. It is still 24 feet wide and 30 feet long and 10 feet tall. It still has 11 windows and a double door. It still houses our library and the choir still uses the piano there to tune up on a Sunday morning.
But, it had grown dingy over its life. The ceiling was gray. The walls were an indeterminate dirty color. The floor had a carpet good for its time but now out-of-date. The drapes were past cleaning for fear they would fall apart. The furniture was the kind that you now only see in garage sales or on the side of the street waiting to be picked up.
Lounges are to be welcoming places and ours had become a catch-all from left-over Sunday School material, AV equipment, napkins sales and just not picked up material.
As you were able to see we have made some dramatic differences -- new paint on ceiling and walls and registers; new carpet; new furniture; moving things out.
The shape of the room hasn't changed, but it is a much more inviting place to be.
The question before us now is how we will use the lounge to good use in welcoming folks. How might the lounge be part of our congregational work to "fish for people?"
If we take this image of renewal of the lounge and begin to apply it to ourselves a key question for us to look at is -- what is the purpose to our life for today and the near future?
Are we called to simply keep on being the same? I think the basic answer is, "No." To keep simply keep on is to accumulate increasingly dirty space that gets out of date and out of sight.
The complaint of the prophets and Jesus when they use the word "Repent" is that people have fallen into the trap that once good behaviors and habits have grown into behaviors and habits that are no longer productive. Another way to put it is that people have not kept up with the changes life brings and are living lives which are as out-dated as some furniture.
Like it or not, our GOD is a living GOD. This means that GOD moves forward and being who we are we keep trying to get GOD to stay the way GOD was before.
Put in GOD terms: we are created in the image of a Living GOD and are asked to keep moving on, not to get stuck doing the same things over and over. As a hymn writer once put it, "New occasions teach new duties, time makes ancient truth uncouth."
Put in Lounge terms: we each have some givens like length of years and width of experience and height of relationships. We can let them get us into a rut or we can repent and choose again to be highly involved with the risks of making new meaning out of old material.
This is basically what we are looking for when we use and hear the word "Repent." We have been caught sloughing off and have become out-of-date with our relationships to those around us and with GOD -- we have settled for yesterday's good, rather than today's good.
For those who think that religion is basically a set of rules and the game of life is to see how closely one can come to not having any penalties called against one, this business of repentance seems like it doesn't apply to themselves.
For those who know that religion is basically a set of relationships with GOD and with neighbors, we know there is only one rule -- Love GOD with all your heart and mind and strength and love your neighbors as you love yourself. And the way in which we express this love changes as time and events change. We are in a constant process of refurbishing our lives.
Even as well done as the renewing of the lounge has gone, we know it will have to be done in another generation. We will have grown used to the new look and it will fade into the background as a way to remind ourselves that it is to be used to fish for people, as a place to bring GOD and people together.
I am pleased that there has been a minimum of hassle with this redecoration. It would have been real easy to get into tussles about who has the real insight about how the lounge should look and what activities it should facilitate.
We could have argued more about should we have gotten the pad under the carpet? It makes it easier for the choir to stand for practice it makes it harder to move tables and chairs for meetings.
We could have argued more about the window treatment. With drapes we could have closed them all from one place, with the blinds we have to go to each one.
We could have argued more about how quiet a new air conditioner still to come should be. Are we looking to cool things a quickly as possible or as quietly as possible?
This would be like Paul recognizing the church so easily gets into arguments of "I'm for the pastor," "I'm against the pastor," "I'm for drapes," "I'm for blinds," "I'm for traditional hymns," "I'm for contemporary praise songs," which are like the church of his day arguing for Paul or Apollos or Peter or Christ.
Repentance means we are looking for the basics not the frills and being willing to change the decoration of our lives.
We are looking for the Lounge to be part of our attempt to grow. We will use it for study space and for conversation with visitors. We will keep it up so it is useful today and tomorrow.
We are looking for you to be part of our attempt to grow. May you reorder your life, repent, choose again for a different approach to inviting people, choose again to put energy into inviting, choose again to look to the basic of loving God and neighbors and not get hung up on the old ways of doing that.
Let us pray.
Copyright 2002. Wesley White, Pastor of St. Luke's United Methodist Church. 1022 Caledonia Street, La Crosse, WI 54603.