The monthly Men and Word group has been reading through the book of Galatians. We’ve noted Paul’s intense frustration with the churches of Galatia. His observation seems to be that in the midst of the “present evil age,” these Galatian churches are somehow struggling to stay the course of faith. They have found it hard to live into the adventure and opportunity, the freedom and promise that living daily in the Spirit of Christ can bring. Are they not aware of Paul’s story and the way Jesus turned Paul's life upside down on the road to Damascus? Have they not seen the amazing things that happened, the miracles and healings, which took place as Jesus’ followers chose to live guided by his Spirit?
During this season of Lenten worship at Kern Road, our theme has been covenant: the promises of God. Last week was Noah. This week is Abraham. God promises Abraham offspring at 99 years old. How about that for adventure and opportunity? God remains connected, and Abraham’s offspring are many. God fulfills his promise to Abraham.
Paul, in his letter to the Galatians, declares that brothers and sisters living alive in the Spirit of Christ in the Galatian churches are, like Abraham’s son Isaac, children of promise. They are born of Sarah into freedom and aliveness in Christ. They are part of a new creation. They can live into the adventure and opportunity even in what Paul refers to as the “present evil age.”
I’ve had a number of conversations recently with discouraged people. Some are struggling with difficult health challenges, conflictual relationships, or life transitions. Still others are finding it depressing to live in this present age -- in our country’s polarizing political woes, gun violence, immigration policies, work pressures – and yes, some are discouraged by changes in the church, not only or specifically at Kern Road, but across the Christian church. Underlying the discouragement seems to be a fear --- where am I or where is our world headed and what can we do about it?
I just started reading a book called “Canoeing the Mountains” by Tod Bolsinger. Its focus is the changing church in the midst of the culture. It talks about being open to reframing our orientation as people of faith and as leaders during these present times. Much of its counsel reminds me of Paul’s words in Galatians and the promises of God. He challenges us to stay the course, which I take to mean staying connected to the Spirit of Christ and Christ’s call to live into God’s promise or dream for a new heaven and earth, and journeying into an unknown future as adventure and opportunity.
A number of years ago the congregation participated in a visioning process to identify the strengths and needs of the congregation. Now, after several staff transitions, numerous new attenders, and negotiating a new structure, it seems like a good time again to listen for God in our midst. What does it mean for us to stay the course, to affirm the promises of God, to live in freedom and continue to be light and hope in the midst of our region in this present age of change? What does it mean to open ourselves again to join together in adventure and opportunity in response to the Spirit of Christ moving in new ways at Kern Road? May this season of Lent be a time to personally ponder the ways of Christ in your heart so that each of us might experience the kind of freedom in Christ that Paul experienced even in the midst of this “present evil age.”
Note: This note from Pastor Dave Sutter originally appeared in the February 2018 edition of Kernels, our church's monthly electronic newsletter.