Filled to the Brim with Hope!

Today, I am filled to the brim with hope!

I am in a church body with a beautiful rich tradition that is rapidly hurdling towards its demise.   And yet, I am experiencing joy!   While a significant section of clergy in my Synod are sadly seeking to maintain a spirit-un-led life , I am encouraged!

This happiness flows from spending 3 days at the Best Practices Conference in Phoenix, Arizona.    On the campus of Christ Lutheran Church, I engaged with more than a few of the 850 in attendance.   With gratitude I networked with folks who are in awe of how God is moving in marvelously messy means.

The generous leaders spent their time encouraging servant-hood.  The focus of these “successful” visionaries were locked in on how to equip and release people to live out their calling with boldness.  The topics were numerous, the focus singular:  sharing the good news of Jesus!

No checks for honorariums were cut.  No travel expense vouchers were handed out.  All of the 70 + workshops were hosted by servants wanting to both teach and grow—on their own dime.  It only gets better:

The generous congregation of Christ Lutheran fed 3 meals a day for 3 days to all in attendance.

No fees for shuttles to hotels.

Free pop, water, fruit, ice cream, snacks, and water without an offering basket in site.

Joyful Spirit-led worship led by volunteers who were glad to lead and love.

The huddles between workshops were filled with phrases like “I never knew that.”  “It was good to hear that even ___________ struggles with….”  Preposterous posturing was put aside for phrases such as:  “How can I care  … pray  … serve … support … encourage you?”

This week I was blessed with a picture of “church” the way that it is supposed to be.  Tomorrow, I head back to a creative congregation doing amazing ministry with renewed courage and focused intent to love God and love my neighbor…even more!

The “1”

I am blessed with an abundance of people that God has put in my life.  These include people within my family, within my church and within my life as a whole.  Every single one of them is important to God and ought to be more important to me.

Last Wednesday the C.R.E.W. met at my home.   We briefly referenced the story of the Shepherd and the Sheep.  In this passage we hear of the Shepherd who leaves the 99 sheep for the one.

He left the 99 that were found to find the one that was lost.  That’s a concept in and of itself that really isn’t conventional wisdom.  Who would leave 99 perfectly good sheep to go after one that is somewhere in the hills, maybe even one that wandered off itself.

Let’s face it, we love hanging around with the “found”…with our peeps…the ones that are just like us…that accept us and look just like us…that know our language, our likes and dislikes.  I’m comfortable with my people…the found, just like me.  But I have forgotten that I haven’t always been found.  In fact, just being considered “found” means that I once wasn’t…I once was lost.

The interesting thing about this parable (and the one that follows about the woman who swept her house clean to find that one lost coin) is that the statistics are wrong.  99% is where we want to put our energy.  No one thinks of a dime, when they have a dollar.  This is what we are taught and how we end up living our life.  But it all comes back around when we realize that the lost sheep is us..we were the 1%.  The lost coin is us, just worth a fraction.

As church folk we become such a tight knit group and become comfortable.  They are all around us.  We don’t have to get down on our hands and knees and sweep the whole living room clean to find that coin.  We don’t have to journey that far out of town to find those sheep who are lost and caught up in briar patches.  There they are.

The bottom line for me on this is that I need more of the heart of the Father.  My heart needs to break with the things that break the heart of God…that’s the lost.  He loves the found and cares for us deeply, but He longs for the lost to become found.