Where is God inviting us to new things?

Beloved St. John’s Community,

During a recent zoom call with our new Bishop-elect Craig Loya, and clergy and lay leaders from the Central Metro area of the Twin Cities, we were talking about how we were all dealing with this pandemic in the various faith communities we serve. We discerned that initial and technical challenges we face — How were we supposed to celebrate Holy Week and Easter without being together in our building? How can we be who we are without being able to celebrate Holy Communion together each week? How will we keep our doors open when everyone is losing income, jobs, and health? — need to be transformed into asking this single question:

Where is God inviting us to new things?

My friends, you are all struggling, as I am struggling. Things as they are are unrecognizable, even for those of us who have steady income, beloved family, a roof over our heads and food to eat and health. But we are living the next and unwritten chapter of the Great Story of the people of God in Christ. In our spiritual memory, our spiritual ancestors the Israelites were liberated from slavery—and then wandered the wilderness for forty years as they took a generation to unlearn slavery to empire and learn trust in the living God who provided for them, just enough bread for every day. Then, many hundreds of years later, after they had become established in Jerusalem as a kingdom of their own, their temple was destroyed and they were sent into exile by the Babylonians, where they had to learn how to live their faith without their building, their culture, their language or their land. The earliest followers of the Way of Jesus scattered from Jerusalem when the Jewish temple was again destroyed by the Romans, and they were sent into diaspora into the surrounding countries and indeed to four quarters of the compass. Through all these experiences the people of God learned how to continue to center their lives on faith that God is love, that God provides a way of life for us that transcends the power of empire and the power of death.

My point is that we have many examples in our Great Story of how people lived in difficult times similar to our own—and how they transformed suffering and scarcity into the faithful capacity to follow God’s leading to new life and generativity. So, again I ask:

Where is God inviting us to new things?

I see evidence of new things sprouting in many areas of our common life. We have incredibly rich conversations, deep spiritual connection, and mutual learning happening in the daily noonday and evening prayer services that are happening every weekday, and during the Sunday sermon discussion and coffee hour. The Justice & Service committee, and the Earth Matters team, are exploring how we can live into the new normal by offering love and support to our neighbors and our planet—including through radically exploring the question, How can we refuse to return to the way things were pre-pandemic? How can we allow the earth time to heal, change the way our society is structured so that it is no longer dependent on mass consumption of fossil fuels, and change the way we think entirely? And at St. John’s, we know that people are more important than our building. How is God calling us to shift the way we not only “do” church, but the way we understand church?

Where is God inviting us to new things?

Before the pandemic, during my first year with all of you, the Missional Leadership Team from St. John’s and I originally found ourselves identifying the following question as the central shift we felt God inviting us at St. John’s to make:

How can we experience Jesus’ Way of Love as a primary source of identity, purpose, and transformation? or, to put it another way: How can we deepen our lived connection with Jesus’ Way of Love?

These questions still feel central to what we are experiencing during these times, and each one of you has a central piece of the puzzle God’s Spirit is asking us to put together as a community.

I am asking each of you, individually, to make time to ponder these questions and share your lived engagement with these questions with each other. Please consider attending the sermon zoom discussion, Sunday coffee hour, or the noonday or evening prayer services during the week, and sharing your perspectives. Step by step, we will discern the future to which God is leading us, together.

Faithfully,
Lisa