Monday, November 01, 2010

Sunday Sermon- "In the Hood for Good"

One part of this sermon was not included in the written version.  Daniel and I are in the midst of adding on to our house. During the summer, we had an old and sick maple tree chopped down.  Daniel had found a business called "Wood in the Hood," which takes urban felled trees and make them into something.  In our case, we made them into a hardwood floor found in our bedroom- a reminder that God can take what seems old and useless and by the Spirit, make it into something of use for God.

“In the Hood for Good”

Joel 2:23-32, Luke 18:9-14
October 24, 2010
First Christian Church
Minneapolis, MN

I will pour out my spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions.

This phrase has been rattling around my head for the last few months. It comes from the book of Joel. Shortly after Jesus ascending into heaven, his apostle Peter uses this passage on the day of Pentecost to explain the outpouring of the Spirit on what was to become the Church.

For whatever reason, this passage comes to mind whenever I think about this congregation. The passage talks about old men, or maybe old people and the young. When I look at this congregation, I happen to see a lot of old(er) people . I think about what the prophet Joel has to say about the old folks and how they will dream dreams. The prophet doesn’t have a picture of senior citizens living out their golden years in ease. No, the Holy Spirit will be poured out, causing these elders to dream what they had not dreamed before.

It’s funny that the prophet sees old people in the way he does. It’s funny because we don’t see the grey hairs in the same way: we see them as a problem.

One of the issues facing our church and countless others within our denomination and throughout Mainline Protestantism is the graying of our churches. Fewer younger folks are coming to church and our churches are getting older and greyer. We wonder what will happen to the church as we get near to retirement, or we enter or later stages of life. Church leaders want to find someway to reach out to younger folks and we try to find ways to be relevant and hip.

In doing so, we start to see older folks as a problem. You guys aren’t hip. Some of you don’t know how to use Facebook, let alone Twitter. You don’t like the new hymns.

So, we kind of write you off and wait for you all to die off so that we can on to the business of ministry.

But Joel also talks about young men having visions. That gets me thinking about our children and youth. They might be few in number, but they make a large impact in the life of our church. But the thing is, as much as we want to have younger folks, we- meaning the larger church- don’t want them too young. We don’t know how to deal with kids especially in worship. We think they say cute things, but why in the world should we take them seriously? They don’t have a degree or anything. Maybe once the church gets back on its feet, we will concentrate on kids, but until then, they are best seen and definitely not heard.

It is so easy to look at ourselves and see the grey hair coupled with the little ones and wonder how in God’s name can we have a future? How can this little church be transformed with nothing but old people and a few kids?

The background of this passage is that the Israelites had just faced a catastrophe. A plague of locusts had basically denuded the land leave devastation in its wake. There was very little left and the people were starving. It’s in the midst of this that the prophet comes out with this crazy notion that somehow there will be restoration. He believes hope will have the last word.

It wasn’t too long ago, that Bob preached about all the major events that have happened to this community over the last decade or so. But he also talked about the movement of the Spirit taking place in this church.

The passage says that the Spirit will be poured out on all flesh. Everyone would bathe in the refreshing waters of the Spirit. And just for emphasis, the prophet wanted to let us know that it might be poured out on people we don’t expect, on people we tend to discount. Old people. Young people.

That’s kind of the way it is with ministry when it is led by the Spirit. You will never know where you end up or who will lead you there.

I’m not going to give examples of the people I’ve seen both young and old who are leading this church, empowered by the Spirit- I don’t want to embarrass them. But I do want you to allow yourselves to start seeing things through the eyes of the Spirit in the way Joel did. He was able to see hope where there was none.

In the last year or so, I’ve seen people of all ages, but especially the very young and very old who are showing this church that there is still life left in us, that God is not through with us. The Spirit is being poured out here at 22nd and First, my friends.

I will pour out my spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions.

God give us the eyes to see it. Thanks be to God. Amen.

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