Following God’s Path and Plan – Out…for the world
Matthew 25:31-46

Today is a difficult yet joyous day in the life of Outer Eastern Lutheran Church.  Today an era ends and another begins.  Today we thank God for his work in our community through our Lay Worker Christie Lange as we bid her farewell.  Many of us are lamenting that we are unable to continue to support the position that was created about three and a half years ago; we may even feel embarrassed that we have reached this point in our journey together.  We began with good intentions, then those intentions grew to trying to make the position full time, and gradually we’ve had to reach a decision not to renew the contract. 

It would be easy to lay blame and say we haven’t done enough or prayed enough or given enough to make the position sustainable, but many people have dug deep and given financially or of their time to keep this partnership going.  When we measure success or perhaps failure of a ministry we can’t help but look at in human terms, we want to keep score, we want to judge if things went well or could have gone better.  Only God can truly and truthfully do that, only God knows his complete purpose and plan for us and for Christie.

As we just heard in the parable of the sheep and the goats, the Lord will come and separate the sheep from the goats, he will look at our lives, our journeys and the fruit of our labour and make a call.  But what we are judged on, whether our lives have been a success or not, whether we have fulfilled God’s will and purpose for us doesn’t include the kind of criteria we would expect.  It’s not about bums on seats or financial giving; it is about what we have done for the least of these brothers and sisters.

Were they hungry and we gave them something to eat, were they thirsty and we gave them something to drink, were they a stranger and we invited them in, or needing clothes and we clothed them, sick or in prison and we visited them.  The focus here is on what we do to show love toward one another, not on how good we are or how wealthy we are or even how often we came to worship.

It’s interesting to note here that when the King is putting the sheep on the right and telling them they have done all these things, they are completely oblivious to the fact that they had done these things.  They had no idea that in doing these things for others they were doing them for him, they were perhaps even unaware that they were doing them at all.  They came as second nature, they were things that they just did for the sake of others, to be good neighbours and citizens.  No-one else was keeping score, but God knows.  God knows all things.  But he doesn’t keep score the way we do.

Over the last three years we’ve spent a lot of time looking at finances and bums on seats, we’ve contemplated how we are doing in life and ministry, yet as we’ve been doing all of that there has been a growth among us as disciples of Jesus Christ.
We’ve shared stories, we’ve been mentored, prayed for, loved one another, shared fellowship meals, studied God’s word, attended worship, we’ve come to know each other better and care for each other more and more. 

We probably haven’t even been aware that all those things were going on.  Many of you would be aware that something is different in your life, but may not be able to quantify the where or the how that took place, but as I look around and spend time with you all I can see the shift in how we all relate to each other and care for each other.  I can see people offering to use their gifts and talents to serve others and of course the church. 

It may have seemed strange that yesterday we had a fund-raiser in the form of a car boot sale.  Its initial purpose was to raise funds to meet budget so that we could afford to keep the lay worker position going, but as the fund-raising committee began to take shape they were looking to an ongoing need, for fellowship and working together for the building up of God’s kingdom and to provide opportunities to make connections with the community.

Two weeks ago I spoke about listening to God and his path and plan for us, then last week I talked about building relationships within the church, cords that are wound together for strength and protected by a sheath that is created through word and sacrament.  These two were looking up to God for guidance and in to the congregation for mutual care and support.  This week the focus in following God’s path and plan for this community is to look outward.  To the people that God has placed us in the midst of.

Yesterday at the car boot sale we had people come and make contact with our community, our congregation and our school who otherwise may never have even known we existed.  No one was keeping count of how many people came through the gate or what connection was made, we will probably never know if any seeds that may have been sown will ever cause them to come and grace us with their presence in worship. 

Only God can truly see and keep an account of what is going on in people’s lives.  Only you and God can reflect on the impact that having Christie here serving our community has had on you.  We’re not keeping a running tally or going to have a vote as to the relative success of her ministry.  We just need to give thanks and praise to God for bringing her to us, for sharing her with us for nearly three years, and as we send her out to a new role in a neighbouring congregation we do so with love and prayer, knowing that there is a time and season for everything under the sun and that God will continue to use Christie and each and every one of us for the building up of his kingdom and serving one another in ways that we may not even realise.

Thank you God for all of your goodness to us and that in all things you work for the good of those who love you.