June 26, 2016 / TRANSITIONS / Sara Wolbrecht / Ecclesiastes 3:1-8
Friends, I’m calling this Sunday Transition Week, because we are going to be engaging with this theme of transition in at least two ways as we talk about our lives and the life of Salt House. And since this is such a week of transition, I invite us each to stop and consider:
When in my life have I lived through transition? Pick one time. Remember it. When have been the times of great change. Some of those times are obvious – it’s anytime we move. Anytime a relationship ends or begins. Anytime a job change happens. Anytime we finish a Netflix binge with no episodes left to watch. Change. Transition.
Twelve years ago today this happened... (photo). A time of transition as Jason and I began our married life together – so good.
The longer we live, the more we begin to realize that change is central to our rhythm of life. Transition. And scripture, the narrative of God, absolutely supports this understanding of our existence, that it is ever changing. And also helps us gain insight into how to embrace this reality – how to find consistency in the chaos, peace in the unknown, hope in the face of change. And one way that scripture does this is in naming how there are seasons for all things. Times for all the things we live through. Perhaps the best known place where this is named is in Ecclesiastes 3. I want to use this as a way to frame our discussion today, mindful of the transitions we all live through, and remembering our God who is with us in all of these seasons.
A great way to always hear this text is to read it slowly, you can pull out your bulletin insert and read along and even circle the words that describe the season we are in now – and to think about the deeper meanings of these words – a time to be born and a time to let die – that can be quite literal, and also describe so many things we live through between our birth and our death – that are new beginnings and ending.
Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 (NIV)
There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens:
a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.
We find a certain comfort in seeing all of these seasons listed out. Knowing that it isn’t abnormal to experience grief, death, times of uprooting. It’s also a sort of reality check, too. Hey – is this a season, now, of peace, well watch out – that means there’s gonna be some war at some time, too. Feeling a lot of laughter? Savor it, savor it. For the tears come, too. There’s this inherent reminder that we experience the spectrum of life. And in this is the radical affirmation, that all those experiences from those we would name as negative or unwanted, to those that we really enjoy – all of it has a natural place in the flow of the life of God.
We have been in a flow, a season of transition for the last three months here at Salt House, embarking on a journey to define Salt House Version 2. We are still a new church. And we have the privilege of looking back on our first year and asking, ok, now that we’ve been around a little bit, what’s happening, let’s listen for God – and we’ve set about on the task to collaborate and develop a new vision statement to address who we are and what we do.
So that is what we’re up to – I’m going to remind us of that journey. Beginning at Easter, we spent half of this three months, 6 weeks positioning our time here in worship strategically and prayerfully as a part of this process. We asked questions like: in what moment here at Salt House did we feel most fully ourselves and encouraged to become who God designed us to be? What do we do here that facilitates that growth and deepening? There were other experiences, meetings and prayers and conversations.
After the first six weeks, on May 15th, a certain focus emerged as we pulled together the themes and language from what y’all were saying. We distributed a draft of those insights. And the overwhelming thing we heard, was that Salt House is…
Salt House: community in a life of transition
We come with strengths: love, hope, creativity, grounded in this time & place. We come in the midst of change: transitions, imbalance, anonymity. We choose to be in community together, even when we fail each other: authentic, connected, healing, learning with persistence. We strive to invite and embrace the missing: the disconnected, learning to reach out. We choose to make a difference for those in need: serve generously, risk failing.
That’s the draft version of the language for it, but we get the idea. The key being this phrase: community in a life of transition. And as we look around at who is in this community, we are people in transition. As we look beyond our walls to what the needs are in our community – that is who we see, too. People in a life of transition. Whether fresh out of college, changing jobs, getting married, moving, going back to school, having kids, sending kids to college, dealing with difficult family dynamics and illness, dealing with addiction, depression, pain. It’s all of us.
I feel so energized with this focus, for it really resonates with what I believe God wants to do here in and through the community of Salt House.
So then, after this began to take form, then the last six weeks, since May 15th, we have two teams who dove into the work of prayerfully discerning what this focus might look like in two areas.
Come+Thrive and Go. If you’ve been around Salt House then you know that we use those three words to unpack the dynamic nature of how Jesus balanced the three great loves of his life, his three primary relationships – and that we are invited to imitate that way of life, to make time for, to balance the three primary kinds of relationships in our lives. First, spending time with God, who says, Come, and see. To pay attention to how we thrive in community – we need our people, where we’re cared for, we have fun, we are challenged and grow in relationship with others. And finally that relationship where we go, in a lifestyle of service, as we’re present with people who are in need, present with people who pull us out of our comfort zone. The three great loves Jesus shows us.
Our two teams, then have used these lenses. I did not attend any of these meetings – it was all led by and contributed to by all y’all. For which I am so stinking grateful and excited for us to hear what has come up.
In fact, if you were able to attend any of the meetings, if you made time to listen and contribute at any of these meetings over the last six weeks, would please stand so we can thank you? Thank you – we are so, so grateful for your work on behalf of all of us. Last week we talked about how where we spend our time, treasure and talent – our hearts, our lives move in that direction. Thank you for spending your life on what God is doing at Salt House.
These teams, then, have asked what does it begin to look like for us to be a community in a life of transition. How does our identity flow out into our action. The who we are, intentionally informing the what we do.
We’re going to hear from those teams today – and I am thrilled to say that we are on track – that what we heard in the first six weeks is reinforced in the thoughts that developed out of these groups. And it’s awesome to hear.
And when I say we’re going to hear from them, I don’t want us to shift into just “listening mode.” This isn’t going to be a presentation, it is a conversation. Imagine that you are the only one hearing this, that it is being spoken to you, for you. And if that were actually the case, what would it be like if you just sat there and said and did nothing? Awkward. Socially awkward to not respond. So my friends, let’s not be socially awkward today, and to combat the awkward, I want us to each own our part in the conversation, and respond.
And the place to speak those responses, questions, affirmations – will be onto the post-it notes we have distributed. We’ll have time for about two questions after each team, so if you have a question that you think would help others, too, then we’ll have time for that. But otherwise, we want to hear what you are thinking, we want to hear what God is saying to us which is something we each can help listen for and write down. (Get pens, post-its), Four ways to frame your response, are in these areas:
2. Specific YAY!
Alright. Let’s begin our conversation. Two questions? Time to sing, write, pray. As we each consider, what excites us, energizes us about this? What questions, affirmations, ideas, concerns do we have….
Come + Thrive, Go Team Reports
One more sign of gratitude for these folks. So – your Post-its. Please hang on to them, continue to write them – I know you want to know what to do! During Communion, we’ll bring those forward.
In all things, we hold ourselves here at Salt House as a work in progress, really, always in transition which is most certainly true with how we now move forward with the work our groups have done. In the next month we’ll move toward developing plans. We are all invited into the continuing work – YOU are invited. Did anything come up for you? Any hot emotion going? That may be a sign to step up and into some of the work we’re doing – please consider. As we go on through the process, we’ll make known other ways to be involved – pay attention to how you might step in and help birth what God is doing in and through us here and Salt House.
As we close our time I want to take a moment more to look back on the last few weeks, and then to look forward to the weeks of summer coming up – and share with us how excited I am for what is coming.
I already mentioned this morning – last week, we reached the culmination of our Generous Lives series – a series where we spent four weeks tackling the cultural story of scarcity – all the ways in which we are told what we have is not enough – that even we are not enough. We examined how we change that story – to let our lives become the Jesus story of generosity, becoming an unlimited resource.
And last week, we named the paradigm that we can give where we want our heart to go. That how we spend our resources: our money/treasure, our time, our talent/gifts – where we place those things is actually where our heart will follow. That with every act and habit of generosity, we actually are changed, we become generous, joyous people whose hearts align with the heart of God. That is what God does in us. God changes our story as God changes us to live generous lives for our sake and the sake of the world.
Last week we created a way to live-into this reality, a way to place our hearts where we want to go by intentionally committing to ways to be generous at Salt House. And we want to be sure everyone who considers themselves a part of this community has a chance to live into that generosity. So – if you were not here last week, we filled out commitment cards, making specific intentions to be generous. And these cards are available at the table over here – during Communion or after worship, please, please, make the time to look over ways to be generous at Salt House – whether affirming what you already do, or stepping into new ways to give your time, treasure and talent. Don’t miss this chance.
So that’s looking back. And now – looking forward. Friends we have spent the morning so far in this space, really, of naming what God has been saying to us – this question that we hold as central to our life of faith, always asking: what is God saying to me/us, and what am I going to do about it? And our team leaders and folks who joined the teams have been faithfully doing that work these past weeks – asking the two questions.
And I think it’s time for us, individually to make some room to reflect on our own lives, too. My friends, I want to hear what God has said to you. Here’s why I’m asking. Because. Next Sunday, July 3rd, we’ll kick off our next sermons series – which I’m stoked for.
It’s called Living in the FLOW. Looking at the ways in which our lives follow the rhythms of God. Particularly during this summer season, when we’re outside, on vacation, taking time to play – what does it look and feel like to be tapped into God’s flow that is happening all around us? As we go through this series, I want to share stories of when we have been in the flow of God. Which means: we need your stories. When, my friends, have you felt like you were in the flow of God? Like those times when you heard something from God or maybe the times when we felt aware of God’s care for us, maybe when we have felt like we were in a place of incredible gratitude – like everything was aligned, we were in our zone. Maybe at a time when we chose to give generously. Maybe the flow of God happened during the time of transition we thought of earlier.
I want to gather up those stories, those moments. Which means I need your response. So yes, this is a final way in which you can write on your post it. If you are willing, please write a one-sentence recap (or more if needed) of what that time looked like, what happened. And include your name so I can follow up with you. Thank you, thank you, for taking the time.
I am thrilled to explore together this summer this reality of there being this flow of God – and to ask questions about what it is, what it means, and how we live it. And to see that in so many ways, this will be an expansion on what we’ve covered in our generous lives series – that our generous, loving Father, our God who throughout time has moved toward us and invited us into a life of connection with God and others, our God who became one of us and showed us what life can be like. Our God who gives us more than we can ever ask or imagine, even and especially through the times of transition in our lives. This continues to be an exciting season for us at Salt House, as we see our vision and mission taking form, as the life of Jesus leads us into our next chapter as a community in a life of transition.