Sunday, June 09, 2013

Trust as a Community....

This week the Psalm reading in the lectionary was Psalm 146.  When I first read it I was seized by verses 3 and 5 which end up reminding us that we can/should trust in God.  Trust, I realized, is a key issue not only in the life of faith but also in life as part of a community.  And so I worked with the sermon title Whom Shall We Trust?

From the beginning of the week I knew that there were at least two possible sermons with that question.  Do we take it from a personal/individual basis or from a communal basis?  For a while I thought about doing both in one sermon but that was not a helpful path to follow.  I went with the individual basis.  For Children's Time I drew on my Camp experience and thought I would do some trust falls.  That "fell" flat when Scalliwag daughter was unable to just fall backward and let me catch her.  Then the sermon turned out to be this.

But still there is a part of me wanting to preach the communal side of the question.  As a community of faith do we choose to trust in God as we look to our future directions?  OR do we trust in marketing advice or demographic/sociological studies, or our own ideas?  Given what weekend this is it would have been a perfectly valid approach to take.

A Picture from the Inauguration of the United Church of Canada
Today is Anniversary Sunday in the United Church of Canada.  Tomorrow, June 10, marks our 88th anniversary as a denomination (and how stereotypically Canadian that we were birthed in a hockey arena?).  At present there is a Comprehensive Review Task Group working within the United Church to determine how best to be the church given our current challenges and our outlook into the future.

Theoretically "everything is on the table" with this review.  Major changes are in the air we are told.  Some of us hope these two statements to be true.  Some of us are also a little bit cynical and skeptical about what will come about.  Will it be truly transformative or will it be a fancy way of shuffling deck chairs on the Titanic?  Too often in the past we have been promised transformative stuff and have gotten deck chair shuffling.  Why is that????

I think there are two reasons.  And both are related to trust.  First, there is an alarming (though not really surprising) lack of trust within the church.  So when something major is suggested the lack of trust kicks in and submarines it.  Change rarely has a real chance because people are unwilling to take the risky step into the unknown and/or because they do not trust that the proposed changes are worth it.

At the same time, I am convinced that sometimes the changes are based not on trusting God and listening for a truly transformative answer but rather on institutional preservation.  Again not surprising.  The first thing institutions do is try to preserve themselves.  A normal human reaction.  But this is the church.   This is the body which regularly reminds ourselves that we are not here for ourselves.  This is the body that is called to die to new life, to be a resurrection people.  And so we get tweaking for survival rather than risk true transformation.  But God calls us to transformation.  Do we trust God?

Do we trust that maybe God is calling us to rethink who and how we are?  Do we trust that if we truly put "everything on the table" God can take those random ingredients and turn them into something wholly new?  Do we trust that God is at work in the church today?  OR are we relying on our own intelligence and understandings to find a way to survive?  I am hopeful enough to suggest that it is at best a combination of the two.  On my more cynical days I think that human intelligence and understandings trump trusting in God every day.  And that way we end up avoiding transformation--we end up not being the community God would have us be.

It is tempting to trust in ourselves and our own understandings.  WE can even (in fact we are quite good at it) convince ourselves that we are trusting and listening to God as we do it.  But that is not what Scripture calls us to do.  Admittedly it is hard to listen when we are in crisis, but we have also shown an inability to listen before the crisis.  I just hope we are able to get to the point of living on faith and trust.  If God wants this faith community to continue, if God wants us to truly be resurrection people, we need to do more than shuffle deck chairs.  We need to trust, we need to risk, we need to go beyond who we are.

May God help us to do so.


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