Going Forward

Acts 1: 21-26    Rev. Dr. Galen E. Russell III

John 17: 6-19   May 13, 2018

“… I speak these things in the world so that they may have my joy made complete in themselves.”

Prayer:  Holy God, may we come to you with willing and listening hearts as we face the journey ahead.  Amen.

Wasn’t it just a few months ago that we had elections?  Wasn’t it just a few months ago that every other ad on TV was an “I approve this message” ad?  But, like a bad penny, they’re baaaaaack!  And, with a vengeance, too.  I kid you not, on Friday morning, the ads on the news were all mid-term election ads… five or six of them in a row… and almost every one was an attack ad on other candidates running for Congress, or State Legislature, or Governor.  Really made me appreciate the quieter months of December through March when we aren’t subject to such bitter words and accusations from those who would be our so-called public servants.

 Today’s Christian Scripture reading from Acts, the church’s first history book, is timely in the sense that here we read about the church’s first election.  The twelve disciples, now turned apostles were down by one because Judas, by this time, was dead and gone, and the remaining eleven apostles felt they needed to find someone to replace him in order to go forward.

And, I feel fairly certain that Justus and Matthias didn’t run any attack ads against each other, let alone start campaigning to win the vote of the others.  Heck, they didn’t even voteThey cast lots, which is roughly equivalent to the randomly selected Pennsylvania lottery ping pong balls that are blown around in the big hopper.  What they probably did was write a J and an M on two stones and rolled them around in a bowel, and the first stone to fall out represented God’s choice for Judas’ successor.

And, that’s the difference.  It was God’s choice.  For the apostles, casting lots was a common method used to determine the will of God.  It was not just a random selection, a luck of the draw because prayer permeated the whole process.  The apostles called upon God to show them who would take the place of Judas in this ministry and apostleship as they prepared to go forward.

Because when God is called upon, when prayer is used to open ourselves to the will of God, it’s not a magic formula, it’s not pretend or make believe.  Prayer doesn’t manipulate results or disrupt cause and effect.

 What prayer does is re-establishes our connection with God.  It’s a conscious decision on our part to decide to re-connect with God… we have some little thing in our inner personal faith down deep that says, maybe, just maybe, God is here, in the moment, present, listening, active, engaging with us…and so we pray.

 And maybe, just maybe, God reconnects with us.  As we reach to God, we find that God continuously is reaching to us.  Right then, the two might meet?  Like the amazing fresco Michelangelo painted in the Sistine Chapel.  God and Adam, the human being, reach to each other, and  perhaps through prayer the gap between the fingers can be closed?  I think through prayer, we might align with God’s vision for the future, wisdom, and insight.

So, I encourage you…when you go to the polls on Tuesday this week, may I suggest that you reconnect with God before you vote?  Pray that God’s choices are those whom are elected, and pray that God’s will is aligned with the work those people will do as we go forward from here in our nation, state, and our local communities.

 Near the conclusion of Jesus’ ministry, the gospel of John tells us that Jesus spent much time in prayer.  He was mindful of the transition that was coming.  He was concerned about going forward.  About how the disciples would do as they embraced their new role as apostles.  About how they would need protection from the evil that existed in the world, so that they would be able to continue on sharing the truth about God despite of the resistance.

 I believe that the prayer Jesus offered on behalf of his disciples he continues to pray on our behalf, too.  In other words, Jesus is praying for us!  How about that!  He prays that we may be one with God as he is one with God.  That we may be one with each other as he is one with us.  That we would have the same kind of relationship with God that he had with God.  The same kind that gave him profound joy.  He

prayed that the same joy he knew with God would be made complete in us… especially as we are mindful of the transitions that are coming our way as we go forward from here.

 With Pastor Fred’s upcoming departure in a little over a month, I encourage all of us to reconnect with God in prayer as we go forward.  Pray with gratitude on your heart for the ministry you’ve done together with him.  Pray that Fred may continue to know the profound joy that Jesus had in his relationship with God, and that joy may be made more complete in him.  Pray that Fred and Kara continue to be  aligned with God in their oneness with Christ as they go forward from here to serve Christ in Gettysburg.  Pray that all which has happened here in Christ’s name through Fred’s ministry may be sanctified by God, celebrated, and honored!  For it is good and right to do so.  Please stay tuned for the date/time when we will celebrate! Hope this next week we will know!

I suggest we also pray that we connect with God so that we might align with God’s vision for our future, trusting in God’s wisdom and insight.  We go forward, aligned with God through prayer, believing that our ministry will adjust… believing that we will discern who will be the people to help us move through these transitions—could be volunteers, could be an interim associate pastor, could be a discernment team that helps us evaluate our ministry positions.  Could be all of the above. We go forward believing that the initiatives we’ve started will continue to progress, that youth, confirmation, outreach programs will have abundant life… believing that the new members of our church, whom we welcome today, are wonderful examples of the energy of the Spirit which is with us now, blessing us, sanctifying us and synchronizing our next steps with God as we go forward.

Because, and, here’s the good news… all of us go forward—Pastor Fred, me, Consistory, our church staff, all of us as Christ Church, we all go forward into our new chapters knowing that Christ’s love and joy made complete in us is stronger than any of our transitions.  Nothing is powerful enough to nullify the promise that God binds us together in love—not transitions, not death, not endings, not beginnings.

That’s the promise.  Christ’s love and joy made complete in us is stronger than anything life throws at us.  He is here with the power of reconciliation for all people.  He is here in the person you don’t know sitting next to you.  He is here in our mom’s, our families, our relationships. He is here in our healthiness and our brokenness. He is here in our successes and our failures. He is here in our sinfulness and our forgiveness.  He is here in our church, loving his church that is going forward into something new and beautiful.

 So, for Christ’s sake and for the sake of our church, let’s reconnect often with God in prayer as we go forward.  Amen