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Stepping Into The Mystery, a sermon by Roger Lynn




I have stepped out of retirement (temporarily) to serve as the Interim Pastor for Veradale United Church of Christ in Spokane Valley, Washington for three months while their pastor is on sabbatical. I served this congregation as their Transitional Pastor for about a year and a half back in 2011 through 2013. Today (August 21, 2022) was my first Sunday back, and this is the sermon I preached. – – – – – – Stepping Into the Mystery Mark 1: 14-15 & Luke 9: 1-4 Roger Lynn August 21, 2022 First Sunday at Veradale UCC Just over ten years ago, I stood in this pulpit for the very first time and introduced myself to you. In that first sermon I shared some of my understanding of who God is, who we are, and who we are called to become. Some of what I said to you ten years ago was, “In this wonderful, amazing, abundant world in which we live, we are all connected – to God, to each other, to all that is. Everything is woven into the sacred fabric of God’s presence. There is no us and them – there is only us. There is only one reality – living fully in the presence of God. When we are in touch with this reality, then qualities of peace, joy, love, compassion, meaning, purpose all flow naturally. When we are not in touch with this reality, then our lives are based on unreality, and the untold suffering which results also flows naturally. We can live in fear and isolation, or we can live in trust and community – the choice is ours. Fear blocks faith. It blinds us to the truth of God’s presence, and locks us away in a prison of our own making. Trusting God, on the other hand, means stepping out beyond ourselves, beyond our fear, so that we can truly and fully experience the life-giving connection which we share with God, with each other, and with the world around us. It means taking risks. Truly faithful living will often be uncomfortable because it involves growing. Living on the edge can be an uncomfortable place to be. It is also when we are most fully alive. Faithful living is an adventure. Along the way, as we live into this adventure, it is critical that we remember who we are – beloved of God and bearers of Light for the world. In the words of Paul, we are children of Light, so live like children of Light. Shine! We have been abundantly blessed, and are thus in a position to be a blessing in return. This miracle is accomplished when we are most fully ourselves. We are, each one of us, unique agents of God’s love, and the world is waiting for us to share our gifts. That is how God is made manifest in the world. That is how the world is healed. The more we are in touch with the mysterious, sacred, wondrous, joyful presence of God, the more we become aware of reasons to celebrate. Not some simplistic, rose-colored glasses sort of celebration, but rather a complex, robust, and full-bodied celebration which encompasses the whole spectrum of who we are and what we experience – all our joy and all our grief. Over and over again in the Gospels, Jesus describes the reality of coming fully into the presence of God in terms of a party. And not just any party, but THE party – the party to which we are all invited – the party to which we are all called to do the inviting. So let the singing and dancing and weeping and laughing and loving begin.” And what I want to say to you now, in this moment, ten years after all those words were first spoken, is that they are all still true, and they are all still calling us to live into a profoundly powerful and connected life with each other and with God. Nineteen months later, as I was preparing to take my leave of you, I stood in this pulpit one final time (or so I thought – doesn’t God have a delightful sense of humor) and offered these words of farewell. “Choose Life! It is Life to which God is calling you – rich, full, abundant Life! And there are opportunities every day, every moment, for each of you individually and all of you collectively as a congregation, to choose how you will respond to God’s call. Moses spoke of the choice in terms of blessings or curses. He might just as easily have said light and darkness, or abundance and scarcity, or life and death. The truth of the matter is that there is only one reality – Life! Except when we choose to close our eyes and turn away and live as if we are on our own. Then we find ourselves disconnected from that which is most Real. We close ourselves off from the abundant life which is our Sacred birthright. So choose life! Not just once, but in every moment of your living! Choose life, so that you may truly Live! God is calling you into amazing new life, with a bold, new mission – a ministry of witness and service in this community and in the world. And it is a call to which you have already been responding in faithful and powerful ways. My prayer is simply that you will continue to heed the call and respond with your whole heart and soul. You are like the disciples when Jesus sent them out to preach the Good News and heal the sick. They could have hesitated – afraid that they didn’t know enough, didn’t have enough, were not enough. But Jesus cut that argument short with his instructions. He sent them out in pairs and he sent them out empty handed, as if to remind them that they are not alone and it isn’t about the equipment they have. I love the way “The Message” translation puts it. “Don’t load yourselves up with equipment. Keep it simple; you are the equipment.” (Luke 9:3) God is sending you out into the world on a mission of proclamation and service. You are called to share the good news that God is right here, right now, in the midst of us! You are called to share that message with your words, with your actions, and most importantly with your very being. Your identity statement offers you a road map as you seek to continue “Worshiping God in Christ – Welcoming All – Working for Justice and Peace.” It is who you are already. It is what you do already. And your ability to continue living into this mission isn’t about being big enough, or strong enough, or rich enough, or smart enough, or even faithful enough. It is about daring to take the risk of being fully who you are, fully who God created you to be, in partnership with the God who is always right here with you. Don’t worry about what you can’t do. God isn’t calling you because of the gifts you don’t have. God is calling you because of the gifts you do have. And those gifts are abundant. Pay attention to what you can do, what you are called to do, what you are equipped and empowered by God’s ever-present Spirit to do. Pay attention to who you are, because you are a gift of God and there are people in the world who need exactly what you have to offer. Choose Life!” And what I want to say to you now, in this moment, all these years after those words were first spoken, is that they are all still true, and they are all still calling us to live into a profoundly powerful and connected life with each other and with God. When I first arrived on your doorstep, I came to be your transitional pastor to help you get ready to call a new pastor. You did that and she’s still here. Well done! So this time, as I arrive at your doorstep once again, I come to help you get ready for what comes next when Pastor Gen returns from her sabbatical. I anticipate it being a rich and fruitful time of discovery and growth, and I can say that in full confidence because I know that we won’t be on our own. We are surrounded by rich and abundant resources to help us make the most of this time we have been given. We have God and we have each other. Many of you I already know. Some of you I don’t know yet. But whether I know you well or only barely, I know enough to be confident, because I know that each of you are a beloved child of God. And that, all by itself, is enough. All that is required is that we be bold enough to open ourselves to the fullness of that reality. So, in this moment, here at the beginning of this adventure, I invite you to join me in being bold. May God’s Light shine forth in us and through us, so that we might truly Live for God in this community and in the world. Amen. *webmasters note* you can find more blogs from Roger Lynn at rogerlynn.com

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