Deserted
Lamentations 1:1-6 and 2 Timothy 1:1-14

A couple of weeks ago I preached about fear, or at least not giving in to fear but living in faith.  Our readings today also allude to fear and the tears that come with it.  Our first reading describes a lonely city that was once full of people but which now lies desolate and empty, a proud and honoured place reduced to tears.  Our second reading has Paul remembering the tears of his ‘beloved child’ Timothy and his longing to see him filled with joy.

As your pastor I too long to see you filled with joy!  I may be wrong but I sense tears among you because of a perceived emptiness of our cities, our buildings, our church.  I have often reflected on the sentiment among us that we aren’t what we always were.  I also sense that it’s not just us here in outer eastern Melbourne but in the church worldwide that this is happening. 

We look back to the glory days when our pews were full and the majority of our workmates were Christians.  We lament the slow leakage of people from our churches.  We bemoan the rise of culture and sport and that they have taken the attention of our loved ones and drawn them away from worship.  We weep at the absence of our children and grand-children and we are beside ourselves with fear not knowing what the future holds for them or the church.

Our district of the Lutheran Church of Australia has been meeting in these past days under the theme ‘Into the Future with Christ’.  The wider LCA and also our district are focussing not on what has happened in the past and what we have lost, but rather focussing on putting Christ at the centre of all that we do and say, and looking forward in hope and faith to what he will do through us by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Are we to live in fear and be stifled by it or will we stand firm in the face of adversity and sing out in joy at what the Lord has given us?  Like Paul with young Timothy, I am reminded of YOUR sincere faith and for this reason I remind you to rekindle the gift of God that is within you…for God did not give us a spirit of cowardice, but rather a spirit of power and of love and of self-discipline.

Our district and our entire synod are focussed on finding ways forward, using God’s gifts to us wisely and well.  We have just elected our church leaders for the coming synodical term.  We need to show faith in them and support them, we need to admonish them to live out their lives in faith, hope and love, and we need to follow suit, by putting Christ at the centre of our ministry here in this place that we are called to be.

We are about to enter into our own new term with some new church council members once we elect them at the upcoming Annual General Meeting.  Will we continue to look to the past and what once was, or will we take the time to hand things over to God, seek his guidance for us and will for our lives and how we will fulfil his mission in this place?  Will we become known as a place, “Where love comes to life?”

Will we wipe away the tears and move forward in joy, no matter what the circumstances, seeking out the lost, caring for the sick, the injured, the elderly and those struggling to make ends meet? 

Will we hold firm to the sound teaching of the Word, not relying on our own good works but according to God’s purpose and grace for our lives?  Will we guard the good treasure of faith entrusted to us with the help of the Holy Spirit living in us?

It is difficult to do that with just an hour or so on a Sunday morning.  There is so much grabbing at our attention, even when we are here on Sunday.  To hold firm to the sound teaching of God we need to know what that teaching is.  We retain very little of what we hear especially when we are distracted by worries and fears.  In order to reflect on God’s word it would be great if we could take it like a daily dose of medicine, even just a teaspoonful at a time, to nurture us, to begin our day with, to use as a guide throughout our day.  I want to encourage you all to dust off your bibles, and use the daily reading guide that is in our News each week.  Let Christ be at the centre of your day by beginning it with his Word for your day.

Maybe you could subscribe to a daily email devotional to take the hard work out of it if need be, get it delivered to your desktop, laptop or smartphone.  Take the time to read it and reflect on what it might be saying to you at this time and place in your life.  You might be surprised at how much God’s word speaks to your throughout your day.

I urge you from the depths of my very being, to pray each day, remember our congregation and its needs, lift them up before God, seek his guidance and support for our mission and ministry to this community.  Pray for your leadership team, our Pastoral Assistants, Pastors, Lay Worker, Administrator, Care and Contact Assistants, pray for the protection of the Holy Spirit and his guidance for all of us as we wipe away the tears and live our lives in faith.
Even faith the size of a mustard seed has incredible power beyond our wildest imaginations.  Imagine a mulberry tree being uprooted and planted in the sea, hard to imagine I know the mulberry pie wouldn’t taste good afterward, but that is the bizarre analogy given by Jesus to his apostles.  Our faith is not measured by size, there is no shades of grey, no colours it is either there or it is not.  God has given us faith, faith in him, we don’t understand how, but we do understand why.  In order that you and I might be saved and have eternal life, and that we might take that faith and share it with the whole world, so that all people might believe and be baptised.

That is our mission, not to count bottoms on seats for reports at AGM’s, or to sit here or at home weeping at what used to be, but to go and make disciples of all nations, Baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit and teaching them to obey everything that God has commanded, so that they too might guard the good treasure entrusted to them and follow suit as they too are saved by him through his holy calling.

Amen