Adventure or Die.
This is one of my favourite stories in the Old Testament, and I have preached on this before, and normally it is about not expecting to see God in all the signs and wonders, in the earthquake and the fire, and the wind, but in the still, small voice, in the gentle whisper. But there is something different about this story that I want to talk about today.
This is the story of an adventurous journey, but Elijah did not know it was going to be a great adventure when he began. He was fleeing for his life, and he was on a death march. He did not even have the strength to go where he needed to go, but God gave him sustenance and rest and drove him to where he needed to go. TO a cave on his Holy Mountain, where he had given Moses the ten commandments, Mount Horeb
With my layman’s knowledge of psychology, I can hear the depression with which Elijah was struggling. And this is what gave it away: when the word of the Lord came to him to ask him what he was doing there, he said:
“I have been very zealous for the Lord God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, torn down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.”
And later when the word of the Lord came to him again, he replied word for word with exactly the same thing! Word for word!
There was a tape playing in his head, and it was on a loop, and it was going over and over. His thinking was all about himself.
When you have that happening, it is impossible to think outside of the tape, and to see your circumstances from a different perspective.
What we need is for some help from outside to change the narrative.
That’s why it can be so good to talk about your problems, to be asked questions, to have to look at them from different points of view, so that you can reframe your thinking, and start to see other possibilities.
Well, this happened to me at our recent Pastor’s conference.
This has been the narrative of the church for so long:
“ the churches are all dying! People are leaving the mainline denominations in droves, the percentage of people who call themselves Christians is decreasing rapidly, all the Pastors are old or retiring and we can’t get any new ones.”
Can you hear the echo of the words of Elijah?
And we wonder why we find it hard to get moving, to bring the movement of the gospel into our towns, to try new things:
I mean what is the use? Because: “ the churches are all dying! People are leaving the mainline denominations in droves, the percentage of people who call themselves Christians is decreasing rapidly, all the Pastors are old or retiring and we can’t get any new ones.”
Elijah was only concerned about himself, and his safety, his future. God took him from worrying about himself, showed him his power and his love, and just at the right time, sent him back to look outside of himself to the work God wanted him to do.
I truly believe that it is time for us and the wider church to reframe the narrative.
We spend so much time looking inward at ourselves, at our church and it’s future, of Christianity and it’s future. But we were not called into this ministry that we all share to preserve anything, that is the work of a museum. We were called to share the love of Jesus Christ, and his gospel Good news message with the world.
When was the last time we really spoke in here, about the world out there?
There is a quote I was told about ministry when I first began, almost 20 years ago, and it went like this: Love God, and love the people. And it doesn’t just mean the people inside your church.
I was speaking to another Pastor recently who asked me: Do you love Dalby? Because you sound like you do. And I had never thought about that before. And I said: “Yes, I think I do!” And he said “Good, because if you do, you will want to share the gospel of Jesus Christ with it”.
And so I have been walking around for the last few days saying to myself: “I love this town!” and it has changed the way I have seen the town.
So the question for you today is: do you love Dalby? Do you love the people of Dalby with all their issues, drug problems, unemployment, domestic violence and other issues? Do we love the young people who go to school here and wonder what their future will bring, and the elderly who have lived their lives here and contributed to making the town what it is? And those who have no idea if they have hope or a future at all?
Well that is your homework this week: Go out there and if you do not already, fall in love with this town. Wander through Thomas Jack Park, or walk along the creek, sit in the Dalby shoppingworld and watch the shoppers, the students, the mums and dads, children of God, all of them, whether they know it or not. People who need Jesus. Love the people, and the place.
Why should we love this town?
Well I made a discovery in the last week: this is not new for you. The answer is already there in your mission statement.
Hands up who knew you had a mission statement? I think we may have forgotten it somewhere. It was worked out in 2004, and it looks like this:
“Together sharing Christ’s love.”
The Long version says this: A Christ-Centred worshipping family, growing in Christ’s love, serving and reaching out to all people, drawing them to Christ.
James Tino, in the book: Meeting Ananias, says (Slide) It may happen that the body of Christ in a place would cease to draw or to send. When that happens, circulation ceases; the lifeblood pools and stagnates, and the body sickens or even dies. But it is not God who has died, it is the church in that place. For the church to be church, she must pulse with the heartbeat of God- both drawing the nations and sending her sons and daughters into all the world.
Listen again to the longer version of your mission statement: A Christ-Centred worshipping family, growing in Christ’s love, serving and reaching out to all people, drawing them to Christ.
Can you hear it? It pulses with the heartbeat of mission. But we have lost that a little. It is time to look outward again, to jumpstart the heart of mission here and look for ways to love our district and our town and every one of the people in it. It is time to be together sharing Christ’s love.
What is that mission statement again?
“Together sharing Christ’s love.”
That is our mission, should we choose to accept it. And if we don’t accept it, then turn out the lights, lock the doors, and go home, because we will not be being the church.
This is a God’s new call to a new adventure, or maybe it’s an old call to an old adventure long forgotten.
Adventure or die. This is the challenge to which the church is being called.
Oh, and by the way: It was his new call to a new mission, a new adventure that sent Elijah back into the world, out of the desert of his depression, and into radical action.
He anointed two kings, (in other words, he changed kingdoms, affected the course of history,) and then did the greatest thing in his ministry, he anointed Elisha to be his successor as prophet and the things Elisha did were amazing. You can read about them in the book of second kings.
We have an exciting future ahead. Uncharted waters, a great adventure.
Adventure or die. It’s not a threat, it’s a rallying cry. There is so much to do! I can’t wait to set out on the next part of our journey.