When I was 17 years old, three significant things happened to me. First, I graduated high school. Graduation is an exciting time. It’s one of those moments when we celebrate a milestone in education. I remember walking into the Thomas and Mack Center leading my class, not fully grasping the new chapter awaiting me in college, but very excited about the possibilities of what was coming next. Second, I had my first real job. I worked that summer, after graduation, at Calvin Crest Christian Conferences on the accommodations team. That’s a fancy name for we cleaned everything in the camp, from trash to toilets plus all the dishes every week could produce: I cleaned. Yes, there were some humbling moments, but I felt like I was standing on top of the world in that middle point between high school and something amazing. That something amazing was going to college. Lastly, I started as a freshman at Northwestern University when I was still 17. I turned 18 quickly after arriving, but my 17th year was a rollercoaster.
Why 17? When I was 17, I bridged high school to college. When I was 17, I had to put in some humbling and hard work in my first job. When I was 17, I started a new chapter in college. 2017 is going to be a bridge here for us, it’s going to take humbling and honest work, and I believe when we get to the end, we’re going to start a new chapter for us as a congregation. Our church has been poised for a change for some time now. It’s not been easy or as smooth as we’d always like, but we are changing.
We’ve been a congregation for 125 years. I think a lot of our neighbors wonder, what does the church, faith, or Jesus have to say about the time we live in now? We are going to have to bridge that divide as a church. We are going to put in some humbling work as we realize that the message we offer in faith needs to change in its delivery. We are going to embrace a new chapter of sharing Jesus’ love in our world where loneliness, isolation, and apathy rule. Again, our message does not change, but we are in a critical year where we need to bridge that gap between what we do here on a Sunday morning and how we live our lives during the rest of the week. We’re going to humble ourselves in situations where our gifts and talents are not the solution, but when we work in partnership with others, we can show that faith speaks life where there seems to be darkness.
I know these ideas seem like they will sit on the shelf as all of our good resolutions can at the turn of a New Year. But I ask you to join me in praying for change. My prayer is that we just take a moment to breathe in the Holy Spirit and say, here I am Lord, use me. God will use us. We have gifts and talents that Jesus right now wants to use to bless our community and change our world. Don’t believe me, then resolve this year to join us in worship and hold our leadership accountable to living into our three goals of balance, relationships, and sharing. We are going to strive for balance. We are going to give more space in worship to hear God’s voice. We are going to celebrate our amazing relationships here and invite others to be a part of the excitement. We are going to share the good news of Jesus to our world.
I invite you not to wait until Easter to be a part of our change and celebration. Join us for our congregational meeting on January 29th where we will begin to outline our 2017 plan. We are graduating this year. We’re going to work and serve together. We’re going to reaffirm that Jesus meets, engages, and loves us. 2017 is going to be awesome! Join us.