Sermon New Roads
John 3: 3 – Unless you are born again you will not see the kingdom of God
I start with the old expression of “Two roads diverged in the woods and I took the one less travelled”. But I add in the more profound ending. “Now I don’t know where the heck I am” So often when people venture out on their own or are forced to journey on a new road they initially become lost.
I highlight three scenarios.
The first occurred when Jesus died. The disciples were absolutely lost. Some like Judas didn’t think he would be crucified but rather he would save himself and others in some type of end-of-world drama. He did come back for a while but eventually he left and the disciples had to rebuild their hopes and their lives. They realized that the change was permanent so they had to do what they could to carry on.
The second scenario occurs when someone we love deeply, dies or separates from us. We struggle with the sense of loss. We grieve. At first we wonder how we can ever carry on. How will our lives be complete without that person? After a while you realize that you are continuing to live. Each day happens. It may not be the way you want it but the morning comes every day and you are continuing with your life.
The third scenario is about the Covid impact. When Covid first started there were many abrupt changes, both social and personal. Suddenly we had to rearrange almost everything, from shopping to gathering to working. The church was thrown into a whole new reality as well. We couldn’t meet or sing or have coffee. At first it was confusion, but bit by bit things started to get sorted out. We began to realize like the other two scenarios, that some of the change may be permanent.
The church has been a very intricate part of our history and heritage. It started out with a few disciples but grew to be the largest institution in the world. Part of its power came from fear both of the after-life and of repercussions in this life. It has become so embedded in our history that many can’t imagine being without it.
The first thing that usually happens after a tragedy is that we want thing to return to the way they were. We want to return to “Normal”.
The disciples just wanted Jesus to come back and stay. So they could continue with the purpose that they had become part of.
When a loved one dies or leaves, we want them to return. To put life back to the way it was so “normalcy” could return.
When Covid hit and the church was suspended, most church-goers expressed that they would like it to return to the way it was.
There have been many meetings about “how to return to normal”
But after a while in all three scenarios, you realize that things are never going to return to “Normal”. That is when you start finding value in what you had.
The disciples related not just to the person of Jesus but to the message he had been trying to share.
With personal loss you start to recognize what a great gift that person was in your life. You may start to remember some of the love and joy they brought.
With the church, you start to understand the value of its leadership and companionship.
You don’t forget the past. The words and actions of Jesus: the love and laughter of the one you lost: the grandeur and the impact of the church.
But beyond reflecting on what was, you start to gain support in new places. The disciples found people who had been opposed to Jesus or possibly never exposed to the message suddenly became some of the greatest advocates.
In your personal life you find people who have been through the same situation and they now become friends and allies. There is an understanding that would have meant nothing to you before but now makes a strong connection..
The church is also finding like minds and support outside of the traditional doors. Groups are coming together, knowing that we have similar goals.
Recently I have had many more discussions with like-minded people from natural faiths, other faiths, spiritualism, environmentalists and many more.
For many years the church doors were closed from the inside. Who can remember asking a question of a church leader and being told that they shouldn’t ask? How many times was it answered with “It’s a mystery” Now the church doors are being closed partly from the outside, to old ideas and new ideas are having an impact.
As life grows in many directions we adapt. We find new support and friends. We find new information. The scripture says “Unless you are born again you won’t see the kingdom”. Maybe it is time for the church to be reborn.
Often the church gatherings are centered around food but we’ve come to a fork in road and there is no casserole. Everything is changing but we can still feed and be fed