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Only workers, not master builders

This is a poem/prayer for missionaries by Bishop Ken Untener of Saginaw. As we continue on the missional journey, may it give us helpful perspective:

It helps now and then to step back and take the long view

The Kingdom is not only beyond our efforts, it is even beyond our vision

We accomplish in our lifetime only a tiny fraction of the magnificent enterprise that is God’s Work

Nothing we do is complete, which is a way of saying that the Kingdom always lies beyond us

No statement says all that could be said

No prayer fully expresses our faith

No confession brings perfection

No pastoral visit brings wholeness

No program accomplishes the Church’s Mission

No set of goals and objectives includes everything

This is what we’re about–

We plant seeds that one day will grow

We water seeds already planted knowing that they hold future promise

We lay foundations that will need further development

We provide yeast that produces far beyond our capabilities

We cannot do everything and there is a sense of liberation in realizing that. It enables us to do something and to do it very well. It may be incomplete but it is a beginning, a step along the way, an opportunity for the Lord’s grace to enter and do the rest.

We may never see the end results, but that is the difference between the master builder and the workers. We are the workers. We are prophets of a future not our own.

Things God is teaching me along the way

from KrisAnne, missional minister

For more than a year now, I have been spending regular time in the community near my home– frequenting a local business, praying at the firehouse with other pastors and neighbors, walking the streets, tutoring at my children’s school. Below are a few things I have learned during these months. I share them because I believe in the power of this life rhythm: practice and reflect, practice and reflect. It is formational, actually it is transformational. It creates the space for God to shape me, change me, grow me into Christ-likeness. This practice also helps me see where and how God is at work through me to touch the lives of others with grace, hope and love. Change is coming… slowly, surely… God restores.

So here are a few themes that have emerged, and I hope you will find them helpful:

Sidewalks enable a sense of community. It is easier to walk dogs and to push babies in strollers when there is an intentional walking place like a sidewalk. We can walk for exercise or leisure on sidewalks. We can stop our walking, to chat with one another as we pass by. When sidewalks aren’t there, it is not as easy to connect with neighbors. We aren’t as likely to walk our streets and greet each other. We simply aren’t as “present,” rather, we are more likely to be in our backyards which are more private and secluded. And that is ok– I love my backyard! But as I have spent time in the community, I have noticed the absense of people. There is a certain emptiness here that I have not observed in neighborhoods where there are sidewalks. It seems like this community is more of a place to pass through, than a place to dwell. Geographically, it is a major intersection, and it is on the edge of three townships. It has the feeling of being fringe; being a bit forgotten and neglected. I often ask myself as I am there, “What would reconciliation and restoration, wholeness and health, look like for this community? Does it look like sidewalks, a playground, a park, a farmer’s market?”

Spiritual conversation can happen anywhere. At a local business where I have spent a significant amount of time, I have met some new friends. They have been surprisingly open to talking about everything from their kids’ artwork, to family members’ struggles with cancer, to broken relationships, to tragic deaths and questions of faith and spirituality. Their stories are a gift of trust, so I treat their words with honor. I offer to pray about the situation, and then make the effort to follow up when I see them again. My hope is that this communicates love, God’s love. One new friend has talked to me repeatedly about free will. He often says, “It is all about what we choose to do with our lives, with our thoughts. We create this reality we live in.” He believes we all have something in common as human beings, unique from the animals or the rest of nature. To me, it sounded very much like Genesis 1 and 2– God created humankind in His image, male and female, and made them stewards of creation. My friend and I were speaking the language of theology and I am not even sure he was aware of that. In that moment, I did not respond by talking about my faith or theology. Perhaps I could have… I don’t know how he would have received that. Maybe this was a missed opportunity, and I can pray for more opportunities to speak hope and truth into his life.

It is good to go with a friend. I have not taken this journey into my community alone. I am not sure I would have had the courage to start the journey or the courage to stick with it had it not been for my partnership with Sandy. We walk together, we pray, we encourage each other when we feel anxious or doubtful. We share our observations and our reactions to different conversations we have with the people we meet. This partnership has been powerfully formative for both of us. It seems that in God’s wise provision, when I am struggling with doubt and anxiety, she is full of courage. And when she has been low, I have been courageous. When I have been at a loss for how to respond to someone, she has had just the right words, and I have spoken when she has been silent. More than that, because Sandy and I see things from different points of view, when we talk about our experiences in the community, we learn from each other. She will often comment on things I did not even notice and I will share things with her that perhaps she did not see or hear. This is the gift of the Body of Christ!

What has God taught you “along the way” as you have practiced missional living in your community? Is there a particular place you are drawn to spend time at, in prayer or in conversation with people? Do you have wishes, hopes, dreams for your neighborhood; or a neighborhood close to you? Could you commit to praying about those wishes and those places and people? Could you commit to spending regular time there, even if it is a small amount of time once a week or a longer time once a month?

Widening & Deepening the Journey

from KrisAnne, missional minister

At our congregational meeting in February, we spoke about leaders being people who equip the congregation for ministry and mission. We are all the Body of Christ, with a role to play in sharing God’s Love with one another and with those outside the church walls.

Recently, what this has looked like for the missional journey, is two sessions of a mentoring group, in which I have encouraged and equipped participants to try some experiments. We have learned to pray in new ways for people in our lives, and we have deepened relationships with friends, neighbors and co-workers. On May 11, we will work alongside the broader community to raise funds for the Berry family, who experienced a great tragedy on Thanksgiving Eve last year. There was a terrible car accident right outside our church building on Route 611. A little girl lost her life, and her grandmother is living with a brain injury as a result of the accident. Coming alongside the community during times like these– being Jesus’ hands and feet outside the church walls– is a big part of what it means to be missional.

As our congregation continues to experience God’s transformation, our hope is to broaden participation in the missional journey even more. I (KrisAnne) see my role as providing opportunities to engage in missional work, but also supporting, resourcing and encouraging what is already going on in the congregation. I am open to hearing your stories of risk, success, struggle, and even your ongoing questions related to missional living and praying.
In May, June and July, we will be prayer walking in various places around our community during the Sunday School hour. Anyone who wishes to may join the prayer walking, adults and children alike! You don’t have to have previously been in the mentoring group in order to join this missional expression.

There will be two training sessions in April (21st and 28th during the Sunday School hour) with Sandy Landes and myself in the sanctuary. Even if you do not plan on being part of the summer prayer-walking, you are welcome to attend the training sessions. These sessions could give you some valuable tools as you take walks on your own during nice weather… we can all walk and pray anywhere, any time!

Simple personal missional practices (feel free to use them or to develop your own personal practices):

1. Ask God who you can pray for regularly, and how to pray for them. This may be a co-worker, neighbor, your children’s friends and their families, someone you have regular contact with. It may be someone you have known for a long time, but God prompts you to pray for them in a new way. Trust that God will show you who and will show you how to pray for them.

2. Commit to a PLACE and to regular prayer there. This may be a certain street where you frequently walk, a park where you go to walk or relax, your neighborhood school, employees or customers at places you go regularly (your bank, post office, a diner or WaWa, etc.) . Pray specifically for the people there, for God’s blessing to rest on them and again, ask God how you can pray for them specifically.

3. When God reveals how you could reach out to someone, take action. God may prompt you to ask about their lives, to notice their demeanor and let them know you care, to offer a smile or a word of encouragement. This takes courage. It is a risk. We trust God when we lean into risk, and we grow in faith and trust the more we do this.

4. Continue to practice and notice the results. Keep a journal or some note cards to track what you are learning, how you are growing, how your relationships with these people are changing, what God is doing in you and through you. If you are not comfortable writing, perhaps you can find a partner to practice these things with. The two of you can talk together about your experiences, and that can be a way to notice growth.