TO STAY SALTY // Sara Wolbrecht // September 27, 2015 // Numbers 11, Mark 9: 38-50
Good morning friends, it is a joy to be with you again. I have not been here in worship for months, as I have spent most Sunday mornings finishing my own sermons for our evening worship at Salt House. And I am so glad to be with you – and I bring love and deep appreciation from Salt House. Today is a chance for us to share, clarify, and celebrate about what God is doing at Salt House, and also listen together for what God might be saying to us about what’s happening at our satellite congregation.
But before we get into it, I want to share with you two questions. I have learned that there are two questions central to the life of following Jesus. Two questions that I only learned a few years ago. Two questions, that if you’re willing to live with them, daily, they are two questions that can lead to transformation in us and in our world. These are the two questions that we ask at Salt House every week as we make space to listen to what God has said in the sermon and what God is saying in our lives. And I named these two questions here, at HSLC in a sermon in January. These two questions are: What is God saying to me? What am I going to do about it?
We could spend a week talking about what it means to hear God, how we do it, what it means. Not to mention how we then respond to what we’ve heard. But for today, I invite you to enter into the next few minutes asking God to speak to you in this time we share. Ok?
So let’s talk a bit about Salt House – and celebrate what has been happening. Here’s a quick look back at what Salt House is and why I am even here – for those who may be newer to HSLC. – but also for all of us to remember our story of who we are here at HSLC – it is always good to remember our story.
Trinity Lutheran Church in the South Rose Hill neighborhood of Kirkland, made the painful, prayerful and also Kingdom of God filled decision to donate their property to us here at HSLC in 2013. You all prayerfully considered whether to receive it, said yes, and then teams of people began to listen for God about what that place could be. Beautiful visions bubbled up out of that discourse. And the final decision was made to make a worshipping community that would target millennials. Emerging adults. Young adults. Because, young adults are all but absent from churches – especially from churches with inclusive theology. And we know that Jesus is in the business of making space for those who are absent. And so you called me to be the pastor as we together embarked on this mission to reach out to and provide a place for young adults on the Eastside to connect with God, to find community, to discover the life of Jesus and become the Beloved of God as they have been made to be.
That was your vision. Now today, we are almost six months into having a 5:30pm Sunday evening worship service. Let me describe some of the life that is taking shape from your vision.
In worship, we are led by a band of great musicians (including my husband, Jason, so I may be biased about the music). In these past months we have sung non-Christian secular tunes, ancient hymns, popular Christian praise tunes of today and the last decade. We’ve used video clips, pictures, music videos. We had a bonfire on Pentecost. We have lit candles, prayed for our world, written our own prayers on maps, on mirrors, on paper. Named who Jesus is on chalkboards. As experiments in prayer we have grabbed hold of wheat seeds, smooth rocks, we’ve dipped our hands in water. We have made space for reflection, for confession, for breathing deeply in the rare quiet moments we have together.
We have come back to Jesus’ table every week, for freshly baked bread and wine and juice that remind us that good and sacred things happen when we eat together. And we’ve shared food in dinner together after church on the first and third Sundays each month. We have prayer ministers available to pray after worship. We have preached our way, going section by section through Mark’s gospel, using interactive sermons and always asking together what God is saying to us in the text and in our lives, and then asking what we will do in response. We have also heard some of our young adults speak to us about their own stories and the signs of life of what God is up to.
That has been our life in worship – a bit about what that has looked like. And if you look around the room on any given Sunday, you will see 30-60 people. Among them you will see a good group of young adults in their 20s and 30s. Like two brothers John and Ryan who grew up at a Lutheran church in Edmonds. Also Briana who grew up in a church Renton and is in her fourth year as an elementary school teacher. Like Sean who you will hear from in a few minutes. Many of our young people are single, there some who are married, some with young children. Like Riley and Leslie who live down the street from Salt House and decided to check out this new church with their two young sons, and they have stuck around.
You will see wonderful young adults in worship – and most of our leadership team is made up of young adults, too. In worship, you will also see folks of all ages at Salt House like Joan and Beverly, a pair of friends in their early 70s who faithfully sit in the second row, and bring a crock-pot filled with good things to our potlucks. There’s also Tim from down the street who has served as a Baptist youth leader for decades, but needed a fresh place to call home.
…As you look around in worship on a Sunday, and see the diversity of people, one might wonder why that’s the case, when we try to build a church community for young adults, why would people of all ages show up? Well, whenever we are a part of what God is doing, there are always surprises, yes? And also, whenever God is up to something, people want to be a part of it – even and especially if they don’t fit the “target.” Because they want to be a part of what God is up to.
And we’ve seen God up to something – you can feel it when we’re together. And I have begun to see those signs of life, that reveal how God is coming alive for our young people. As one in our community weathers an ugly divorce, it is her time at Salt House that led her to the support she needs. As one in our community comes to terms with the effects of pornography exposure as he grew up as a teenager, he has a place to hear again and again that he is loved and accepted, and heal through the good news of the gospel. As one in our community hears that she, too, is the Beloved of God – feeling it deep in her bones for the first time in her life – she has courage to seek counseling to undue the painful patterns of her childhood.
I thank God for those signs of life and so many more at Salt House! People of all ages are drawn to what God is up to. And I name it here, with great intentionality, because I have heard some whispers about how folks have wondered if they are “too old” to come. But, that doesn’t sound like the radical, inclusive gospel of Jesus that we know, right?
All people are welcome, all ages, at Salt House to join in what God is up to as we focus on reaching millennials. Our mission at Salt House has become more laser-focused on engaging millennials in relationship. We’ve always been targeting young adults, that’s always been our mission, but we’re very excited about this distinction now to become world class at relationships. Connections, weaving people together, as authentic relationships are nurtured. This means holding relationships as the core value for designing what we do, from how we worship, to how we welcome people and follow up with them, to the fun activities we do, to the small group ministry we’ll kick off in two weeks, all with the unique preferences and needs of young adults in mind.
And it is fun work to do – So yes, this past Sunday when there was a 5:30pm Seahawks game, we moved the chairs and pews out of the sanctuary to make room for tables, and buffet tables, and beer, and Skittles, and Football Bingo cards so that we could watch the game together, with a short worship service at halftime. Because relationships are nurtured while we hang during a game. And for the 50 of us there, it was awesome. We design what we do with millennials in mind.
So yes, people of all ages are a part of this mission. And if you feel excited about that focus, and about what worship and life and following Jesus looks like at Salt House – then dive in.
…And you may have questions about this, like: Does it work to welcome people of all ages to engage in this focus on young adults? Will the older adults “scare away” the young adults? We don’t know. But it sure feels like the gospel to try it this way.
And ALL of this very much connects us to our reading from Numbers 11. Let’s look at those connections. Moses is whining. Moses is fatigued, exhausted, overwhelmed by the needs and complaints of all the Israelites as they travel together hoping for the Promised Land. And Moses asks God for help. And God does this beautiful thing. He tells Moses to gather 70 elders in the tent, Moses does that and God takes some of the power of the Spirit that is on Moses and puts that power on the 70. And God says – Moses, they will share the burden of the people with you so that you will not have to carry it alone. I love that.
Throughout scripture we see God’s movement in this way – always to care for His people (God loves us and is for us), and always to spread out the Holy Spirit on to as many people as possible so that as many people as possible can be involved in the work and life of God. God is always equipping people in this way, for action and inviting us into what God is up to in the world.
Friends, that is also our reality here with Trinity Lutheran and Holy Spirit and Salt House. The Spirit of God has been poured out over all of us – not just me, not just the Church Council or the young adults, not just a unique few. But on all of us. We are all like the 70, and we, together, every one of us, have been given the Spirit for the sake of the young adults on the Eastside.
Now, frankly, you may not have been looking for God to do that to you. Like some of the Elders, the 70 who went to the tent and received the Spirit, they may not have wanted the responsibility to care for the whiny group of Israelites. But God called them together to do it. And gave them the Spirit of God, what they needed, to do it.
And so it is for us, my friends. The Spirit of God has been given to YOU, to as many people as possible, to care for and carry the community at Salt House for this unique, finite season in the life of Holy Spirit Lutheran Church. A season where you, because you are here in this tent, you have received the Spirit, too. You may not have wanted it! But this has been given to you – Salt House is yours, as much as it is mine – it is ours, together with God. This Spirit invites you into the unique, special, sacred, and fabulously risky and unknown adventure we have in Salt House. No other church is doing something like this, which means there is no blueprint for us to follow, much like the Israelites had no map to lead them to the Promised Land. But we know that we have the Spirit of God, and that it is shared, spread out over all of us.
Our name “Salt House” comes from Jesus’ central teaching in the Sermon on the Mount where he names that we are called to be salt. Salt of the earth, and light for the world. And at Salt House, we’re trying to ground young adults in their identity as salt, so that we may together live as the salty, beloved people of God in the world.
And then, today’s gospel is the one other place where Jesus mentions salt. Love it. In the text after much teaching and correcting of the disciples, Jesus points out how salt becomes worthless if it loses its saltiness.
Friends, we need you to help us stay salty at Salt House. And there are many ways for you to help us stay salty. We do need people of all ages to come and join our mission – people who want to join in what God is doing and follow Jesus as they make Salt House home. We need people to step up and serve in big and small ways – thank you, thank you to all of you who have already done so much! We also need prayer, prayer, prayer – thank you, thank you to so many of you who continue to pray for us! You are a cherished gift!
And there are also others of us who believe in what we're doing, but don't feel called to join, we ask you to translate your belief to active support through the Salt House JOY! Campaign. And in the next three weeks, you’ll hear more about your chance to care for us through your financial pledge over the next three years. We know that it usually takes new churches three years to stand on their own. You can help carry us through these first years. Salt, as you know is a preservative, it preserves food, and makes it last longer. And we need your help to stay salty and to preserve us through these first years. A task that God has given each of us the Spirit to carry and accomplish together – the load is so easy when carried by so many.
I thank God for you, daily, for your willingness to call me to be the pastor of this grand experiment with God, and for your on-going generosity, love, joy, that continues to teach me so much about the generosity of God. Our God who is always with us, always for us, and pours out the Spirit generously on us so that we can be a part of the Kingdom of God in the world.
In a moment you’ll hear from Sean Mobley, one of our young adult leaders at Salt House. And as he comes up, I invite you to take a deep breath with me. And I’ll ask you the two questions again – what is God saying to you? Maybe about Salt House, maybe about a young adult in your own life? Maybe an invitation about how you can be like salt in some specific ways in your life, enhancing the flavors of God in the world?
Continue to ask this question over the next three weeks as we celebrate the Spirit that has been given to us to help carry Salt House for the sake of what God wants to do in the young people on the Eastside.
Let’s let Sean add some salt and flavor to this conversation as he shares more about his own journey.