Story and Message for Cross Connections 2017 04 06
Cross Connections April 6, 2017
Story: St. Matthew’s Resurrection Tree
During the Christmas break in 2013, the family across the street from the church moved. They chose to donate their tropical tree to St, Matthew’s on a day when the temperature was close to -20C. The tree was outside for a little while before it was moved into the hall outside my office and the leaves all froze. The trunk of the tree slowly shriveled, starting at the tip. We watered the tree hoping it would recover, but for the next month it kept shrivelling until the top 2/3 of the tree were withered. Upon Dave Ferguson’s suggestion, I cut off the trunk below the shrivelled part of the tree and kept watering it. Easter Sunday new shoots appeared on the trunk, and we moved it into the sanctuary. It has not grown any taller yet, but it is a very healthy bushy plant.
At the Crossroads
When Jesus heard about the illness of Lazarus, he was at a crossroads. He could stay where he was, and be safe, or he could leave for Bethany on a path that he knew would probably lead to his death. He chose to leave for Bethany.
A few years ago, St. Andrew’s was at a crossroads with several options.
One choice was to go into great debt to fix the building and become building rich and ministry poor.
Another choice was to sell the building and look for a less costly place to continue as the same kind of congregation.
A third choice would be to close as a congregation, sell the building, and bless the members as they made their choices about which congregation each wanted to join.
St. Andrew’s chose a fourth way, to find a partner congregation for Sunday worship, sell the building to provide a fund for enhancing ministry in south Calgary, and find a place to rent as a base for the rest of its work and life as a congregation as it sought to develop ministry beyond the walls, to become a different kind of church.
I doubt most of the stories in the Gospel of John as having historical accuracy, but all of them point to the reality of the experiences of the members of his congregation. The story of the raising of Lazarus illustrated the power of God to bring life to someone who appears dead.
When the authorities executed Jesus, they believed they had killed the movement he led. Between that time, when there were probably fewer than 100 people in the movement, and when John wrote his gospel, the movement had grown to number in the thousands or tens of thousands. In a time when neither the religious authorities or the empire had much hope to offer to people, the Followers of the Way had hope to offer to those who had nothing, to those who hungered for a better society, to those who wanted to be part of something that felt exciting and important, and especially to those who wanted to feel God’s love in their lives.
Today we live in a world where governments make promises they do not keep; where the business world offers hope and delivers disappointments and deceit; and where we are kept continuously informed about current and impending threats to our well-being. Our society isolates people creating loneliness and steadily offers the myth that we are powerless as individuals.
Today we have an opportunity to offer real hope to countless people, to offer opportunities for connections, to offer ways to make a difference in this world, and to support efforts to build a better world based on love and God’s foolish wisdom. The road ahead has challenges and there will be bumps and bruises on the way to real life.
We are assured by the story of Lazarus and many examples of God’s power to make the impossible happen. Together, let’s journey on this road. Amen.