Over these last few days, with other Lutheran leaders from New England, Ross and I heard from Brian McLaren, a former pastor and author of many books, most recently We Make the Road by Walking. It was a reminder, once more, that the world around us is changing in remarkable ways, and that New England is a laboratory for some of this work, because it is about ten years ahead of the rest of the county in trends like urban living, and problems like increasing homelessness, a gap between the rich and poor, and of course, declining affiliation with religious institutions. And yet, we were reminded, that there is hope, both because the Church has been empowered by the Holy Spirit to do this new work in an ever changing world, but also the promise, that we hear this week in our reading from tiny book of the prophet Zephaniah, that God is also at work on this project of restoration and renewal of the cosmos, the world, and each one of us.
And I’m sure that God, who’s at work for the restoration and renewal of a world groaning in pain, would rejoice at the first steps towards something better seen in this week’s agreement between President Obama and President Xi Jinping of China in addressing climate change. People of faith may disagree over how best to address such a crisis, but should not be timid in our attempts to agree on the problem and work together to solve it. Working together, like the United States and China, with people whom we may have little agreement with on much else.
One of the symptoms of this exhaustion of creation is the exhaustion of you and I. Have you noticed? Noticed the increasing demands from work, from the lives of our kids, from a world that demands more and more and more. We are a tired people, much like the creation we live in, from the constant harvest of our time, energy, and resources. Then we are surprise when we hear, as often as we can, about this God of rest and abundance. We hear of this God who invites us to rest in the promises of Jesus, the presence of the Holy Spirit, and the community of faith. And it is this God, the source of all that is, that is full of the kind abundance, surprise, and rest we need.
That’s where we’re heading together. We are talking about stewardship over the next few weeks, and moving us into an attitude of abundance. We are talking about giving thanks, reminding ourselves of joy. And we are getting ready to practice the sort of rest that we, and our creation need, as we try some new liturgy in Advent (more on that later!). New England is a laboratory, and St. Paul is trying to lean into this work of a God of abundance, rest, surprise, and joy.
So when you think of joining us for worship, or for how much money you might commit to our life and work together, or for whether you have the energy to just get on up in the morning. Remember, in a world filled with anxiety, exhaustion, and scarcity, that there is always rest and abundance to be found in the God who is revealed in Jesus. Let’s be that kind of a community, that kind of a people, leaning into God’s restoration and renewal of all things.
You’ll be surprised at what might happen.