September 11, 2016 / HERE WE ARE, HERE WE GO / Sara Wolbrecht + Others / Romans 12:6-8
Finish the phrase for me would you? The grass is always greener…on the other side.
This is a sentiment that has been around for a loooong time – I have a fun memory of this sentiment with Jason in our first year of marriage, we drove out to the Point Reyes lighthouse north of San Francisco, past a number of farms and fields, and there was this cow who had gotten out of it’s fence – and it was just going to town on this usually untouched grass along the road. To which Jason captions without missing a beat: Hey! The grass really IS greener on the other side! And we laughed.
There are many ways in which we consciously and subconsciously hold this sentiment as true – ways in which we ultimately stay restless with what we have and with who we are. One of the classic ways for women that this plays out is with our hair – have you noticed how women always wish for what they didn’t have: women with straight hair wish they had curly hair and vice versa, thin hair folks wished they had thick. Thick haired women are tired of paying to get it thinned out at the salon. The grass is always greener, right?
So the way I want us to engage with this sentiment (that the grass is always greener), is in how it pertains to the gifts, skills, and opportunities that we see in others compared to ourselves. Oh, how I wish I was as funny and playful as Jimmy Fallon, right? Oh, I wish I had the wisdom and poetry of Maya Angelou. And those are some big-deal examples. It’s not just famous folks – this plays out more often as we witness the success of our co-workers, colleagues, friends, and even family members. Who here hasn’t wanted to be known as the fun one in a group of friends? Or the compassionate or brilliant? Those small waves of: man, I wish I had that, or could do that thing like they do…
Do you know what I’m talking about? I want us to run with this a little bit. And as we do, I invite you to stay in touch with this in a very personal and direct way, holding the question of: where are my “the grass is greener” areas in my life? Ultimately, where do we experience envy – and to be really open and honest about that today, ok?
As you may have heard, and may guess, scripture, the Bible, speaks quite a bit about this in different ways. In Proverbs, the Prophets, in Jesus’ teaching. And perhaps no place else is it more frequent than in the apostle Paul’s writings. Paul in the years following Jesus’ death, Paul is the main guy. He is helping to start churches in various cities, places where folks can come and start to live this life of Jesus – because the good news of Jesus spreads so rapidly, like wildfire. He’s also intentionally mentoring other leaders. And Paul is in a town for a while, trains up leaders, then moves on to other cities. But even in his absence he is so good at staying in touch with those communities from a distance – and he does it through letters. Most of the New Testament consists of Paul’s letters to these new communities. Which is fabulous, because we get essentially eavesdrop on what was happening in those places as the life of Jesus grows exponentially throughout the Roman Empire.
And what we see, many times, is Paul addressing envy. And the way he does it is to come back again and again is making these lists of gifts. Talents. And he says over and over again – God has given each of you unique ways to be in this world – be who you are! Don’t try to be someone else!
Our reading for today is one of those places – Romans 12. So – a letter to the new Christians in the city of Rome. And we’ll pick it up right after Paul has used another familiar image – the image of the Body of Christ. That all who follow Jesus are like the parts of Christ’s body, you’re an ear, I’m an eye-ball. That together, we make this whole, and that each piece is needed for the body to function.
This is a very limited, finite list. But again, hold this as words spoken into our own places and times and moments of “the grass is greener.”
Romans 12:4-8 (The Message)
So since we find ourselves fashioned into all these excellently formed and marvelously functioning parts in Christ’s body, let’s just go ahead and be what we were made to be, without enviously or pridefully comparing ourselves with each other, or trying to be something we aren’t.
If you preach, just preach God’s Message, nothing else; if you help, just help, don’t take over; if you teach, stick to your teaching; if you give encouraging guidance, be careful that you don’t get bossy; if you’re put in charge, don’t manipulate; if you’re called to give aid to people in distress, keep your eyes open and be quick to respond; if you work with the disadvantaged, don’t let yourself get irritated with them or depressed by them. Keep a smile on your face.
We hear it in there, yes, the BE WHO YOU ARE! Don’t want someone else’s life. To say what Paul is saying here in another way, I want to use a quote as our bottom line for today. Jesus, the apostle Paul, throughout scripture we ultimately hear this:
Celebrate what God has given others, leverage what God has given you. – Andy Stanley (leave on screen for a loooong time).
Guess what? We can’t change who we are, the gifts we have – oh, we can most certainly grow and learn. But the best posture we can take in this life is to leverage what God has given us. Ladies with curly hair: leverage those locks.
And I invite us to hear this speaking into the very real ways in which we struggle with the comparison trap. Envy. Longing for what we don’t have. Longing for someone else’s life. Please continue to hold it in that way.
And yet what I want to with the rest of our time is take this incredible word and apply it to us as a church. As Salt House. As a body of particular people with particular gifts in this particular place.
Here’s the thing: we are still a new, intimate community. And it would be very easy for us to play the comparison game – wait, we don’t have 100 kids here every Sunday with a bouncy house like the church that meets across the street at the high school. Or whatever.
But oh my goodness. There is so much we do have, that God has given us here – in this building we have, in all of you and the folks that make up this community, in the opportunities we have to be a very real presence in this neighborhood and this city for the sake of the Kingdom of God.
And so today, this time we have, I want us to hear about how, as we enter into the fall season, the beautiful ways we’re leveraging what God has given us here at Salt House. And we’ll do that by hearing from eight areas of ministry (which is also a finite list – there is so much more we could say). And in each you’ll hear at least two things: first, an update, information about what is happening in those areas. And then also an invitation: ways you can find out more and even step into these things that we sense God doing here.
And so I would invite you to be ready to take notes, to pay attention to any nudges about what you might get involved in. How might you leverage who you are as a part of Salt House leveraging who we are and what we have? Because we are new, intimate community – and how we leverage what God has given us as a community? Is through all of us leveraging what God has given us individually.
I’m so excited for us to rip through these updates – I think like me, you will feel energized and blessed and challenged on the other side. We’ll have folks pop up quickly and we’ll save applause for the end – ok?
Ok! Our first three reports are all about stuff that happens on Sunday mornings as community connecting with each other and with God. Let’s start with a talk about worship, from Jason Bendickson.
Sunday Worship at Salt House
Salt House Kids
Renee Connor & Michelle Beebe
Our next report is our ministry with and for children during worship on Sundays, what we call Salt House Kids. Renee Connor & Michelle Beebe head up this ministry, and they are with our kids now, which is why I’ll do the update on their behalf.
We want our kids to learn about Jesus in a way that is fun, relevant, and easy for them to understand. On Sundays, Salt House Kids hosts 5-7 kids on average, ages 2-7 years old. In that time there is bible story, craft, lots of play. Beginning today, Michelle and Renee are staffing and planning to provide for the group to split in two, offering a teaching time with elementary school kids when there is that need. So we’re positioned for growth and to accommodate more kids coming in.
Salt House Kids is hugely made possible by volunteers. If you’re able to help periodically on Sundays – by being in the room, by planning games or crafts – there are many ways to be involved – let them or me know. We do train and background check all our volunteers who work with kids.
Also, when it comes to kids: I hope it is obvious – kids of all ages are always welcome in worship at Salt House – and we especially structure the first Sunday of the month to include kids – you’ll notice that each month. But all are always welceom
Heading into the fall, we’re poised to continue to ask questions and experiment and discover how to best serve our kids and families – and we’d love your help if you feel that nudge.
Next up is Nancy Wessman to talk to us about Meals at Salt House (come up). When we started this community what was held as a central piece of our identity was sharing food together. God has encouraged us to leverage FOOD. Jesus did it, we should do it. Nancy, in her generosity of spirit and her incredible knack for hospitality, has been the lead of this ministry, and is always looking for more cooks in the kitchen.
Please hear this: meals happen here not because of Nancy working alone, but because of all of us to take time and takes turns stepping up to make food, to set up and clean up – and yes, to show up authentically when we sit down at the table together. Thank you all for all the ways in which we’ve made room together for good and sacred things to happen when we eat together. And thank you, Nancy.
Next up, we’ll shift to talk about one of the primary ways in which we build community outside of Sunday morning. From me.
Thrive Groups are small groups of folks who gather regularly to study, pray, listen to what God is saying, and be encouragers for one another. At Salt House we believe life happens in circles, not rows. Like having meals together, life happens when we gather – and not just on Sundays, which is limiting to how much we can grow with each other. Thrive Groups are one way in which those circles are formed, where life deepens.
So to be transparent about my own process this week: up until Wednesday of this week I was sculpting the plan for what Thrive groups to launch here for the fall. But then through conversation and prayer it all changed. Like it does – thanks a lot, God. It became quite obvious: we’re not ready to launch thrive groups right now, because there is work to be done to prepare the leadership for our groups. As well as the formation of leadership of our wider church. And so we will launch thrive groups in January – which feels like an eternity form now. But here’s the thing: there is so much good work to do between then and now. It is so clear that the thing God is inviting us to pay attention to, to invest in, to grow in: is the development of our leadership here at Salt House. That feels so right for us. And so this fall, there are other ways for us to connect in community.
First, we’ll have meals and pub nights and other events this fall – next week’s G’Bye Summer BBQ being the first. Show up at those times of community. Leverage those times as times to form meaningful connections.
Second, we’ll have an opportunity to commit to our Text &Txt practice. What that is: a daily bible reading and devotion, and then sending a one-sentence reflection text message to a few others (get it? Text and text). A beautiful way to connect with God and others. We’ll have sign-ups in two weeks.
And finally, um, frankly, y’all have the absolute power to build community here. Even though we’re not launching a formal program, reach out to others, form your own group for the season, or make time for the three meal challenge each week – where we commit to having at least three meals, coffees, beers with others (outside of those we live with) each week.
This was a really, really hard call for me to make this week, but I feel great peace and excitement that we’re being faithful to doing the slow, intentional work to be ready to leverage what God has given us.
For those who are interested in holding a leadership role – like the folks we’re hearing from tonight, as well as our Thrive Group leaders, reach out to me if you haven’t heard from me yet – we’ll get the leadership development group started the first week of October.
Having talked a bit about what’s happening on Sundays and in groups, let’s turn our gaze OUT, beyond our walls to how God is leveraging what we have and who we are.
Here’s Kristin Trace with our next update in this vein. Perhaps the most poignant way in which we are leveraging what God has given us is in the use of our unfinished basement. Almost a year ago we voted unanimously to partner with Holy Family Catholic Church and Catholic Community Services to transform our lower level in to a Day Center for families experiencing homelessness.
New Bethlehem Project
Our next update is also in an area of how we leverage the physical space we have. This past spring we had two visioning teams that met, our Come/Thrive Team, and our GO Team. And the one of the action items that came out of that time from the GO Team, was to explore developing a community garden on our land. To benefit us, to involve our neighbors, maybe even high school students, and absolutely to use that produce to bless our guests in the day center. But there were huge questions about who could lead it, how it would happen.
On a Sunday morning in mid-July Levi and Kaylee Bilderback visited Salt House. And after worship I invited them to grab some chard from our planter boxes, and as we stood around the boxes together, they said they really enjoyed worship and wanted to come back, and they asked about who had planted the boxes. It was actually set up by Le, a woman form our parent congregation, Holy Spirit Lutheran – and as we got talking I said, well, actually we don’t really have the people-power to sustain something like this, but we’re hoping to expand what we’re doing to potentially have a community garden in some form.
And then, it was one of those moments where things got silent and intense and Levi looks at me and says, “I have been looking for a church to do community gardening with.” And then the heavens opened and angels sang.
Levi grew up in a family of gardeners, he’s interned in community gardens. And they want to help lead this effort (unfortunately they couldn’t be here today). Levi and Kaylee are also super busy, so they need others to be a part of dreaming and planning this over the fall and winter to be ready to plant. The hope is to make this educational, to host classes on gardening and even cooking – and the potential is awesome for how we can grow community and food, together.
Consider how you might be a part of the Salt House Community Garden. Exciting, exciting stuff – stay tuned for the group that will form around the community garden.
Next up we have Kris Moor (come up) with an idea that also concerns our land, as well as meeting the very real needs in our community. An idea, most of us have not yet heard about: a Little Free Panty.
Little Free Pantry
Thank you Kris. Next up is Kim Saunders. You may remember that as we celebrated our one-year anniversary at the end of March, we also kicked off an intentional three months of listening to who we are and who we want to become – that’s why we had the Come-Thrive and GO visioning teams. Also part of WHY we started those teams was because another big opportunity came up for us. Whether we might sell or long-term lease some of our land. A huge decision that is still in the works. Kim is going to update us.
Long-Term Use of the Salt House Property: considering 24-hour shelter & supportive housing options
Thank you to all of our folks for sharing (applause!) – isn’t is awesome to hear what God is doing, how we’re partnering with God to leverage what we’ve been given? And this is only SOME of it, right? This is a finite list. There is so much good stuff coming up for us.
Here’s the thing: we need you to make this happen. The only way these dreams become reality is when we have the people power, the prayer-power, the power of God power. We need you.
Let’s go back to where we started. Finish the sentence for me: The grass is always greener… There’s another way to finish this sentence. Maybe you’ve heard it. And I think it is defining for us to hold it as we head into the fall, together. You see, we have influence on how that grass becomes green – whether we’re talking about ourselves, or yes, especially as we talk about how green the grass is here at Salt House. Today, we name that the grass is always greener, where? …where we water it.
As we head into the fall together, here as a community of people who belong to God and each and the world, how are you going to water the grass? How will you leverage what God has given you? After all we’ve heard today, I am so stinking excited to see what God will do with what we have. Let’s hold that question and pray…
God, we pause now to listen, to pray, to be in this moment with you where you see us fully as we are – as uniquely gifted and equipped folks who have the potential to leverage what we’ve been given for the sake of impacting our world with your love, grace, radical acceptance, healing, and transformation. As we sing and pray now, speak to us – as individuals, into those places where we hurt and find ourselves longing for greener grass. And as community – about what that might look like today and in the weeks and months to come as we live into the life of Jesus as community, together…