Windsor Community United Methodist Church
Tuesday, December 10, 2013
Mike Turgeon “5 Practices of Fruitful Congregations: 8-29-10
Risk-taking Mission & Service”
When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?’ He said to him, ‘Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Feed my lambs.’ A second time he said to him, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me?’ He said to him, ‘Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Tend my sheep.’ He said to him the third time, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me?’ Peter felt hurt because he said to him the third time, ‘Do you love me?’ And he said to him, ‘Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Feed my sheep. John 21:15-17
I Comfort zones
I had a phone conversation with Genie Floyd this week, a well-loved former worshiper here. We were trying to find the best time for her to be here to play cello in worship. As we spoke she let me know that she found the best keys for her to play in are G, C, and D. She said this was her comfort zone.
I could relate to that. As someone who plays a rather mediocre amateur guitar, if you just stay in G, C and D, there are countless songs available and you don’t have to practice too much. But when I do venture into another key, I always come back to G, C and D with a fresh outlook on them. And when I do make attempts to expand my comfort zone, more keys makes me more able to play with others. It’s hardly easy, though. To go into new territory launches a battle against dreaded inertia.
Now, our comfort zones are all different, some are big, some are small; some get constructed with rigid borders, some are more flexible. The common denominator is our need to break out of our comfort zones so they don’t become comfort cells, as in spiritual jail cells.
It is a direct relationship between your comfort zone and inertia. How do the physicists say it? A body in motion...tends to...stay in motion...a body at rest...tends to...stay at rest.
We all know about routines and patterns. They’re how we go about the business of living our lives. But as useful as routines, habits and patterns are to us, they are not easy to change, even when changing them improves our lives and the lives of others.
I think we may be looking at a comfort zone issue here between Jesus and Peter. All four Gospels end like this--Jesus issuing some final instructions, not just to his apostles, but to you and me as well. In Matthew, Jesus exhorts,
“Go, and make disciples of all nations.” Mt. 28:19
There’s two endings in Mark. In one, Jesus says
“Proclaim the Good News to the whole creation.” Mark 16:15
In Luke, it’s
“...repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in my name.” Luke 24:47
What I find, though, is that only here in John, in this conversation with Peter, do I see an opportunity to accomplish all three of these tasks. Maybe it’s because of the way Jesus puts it here that sucks me in. Jesus makes the connection between loving him and acting on his behalf, by tending his lambs and feeding his sheep.
I find that when I am tending and feeding I’m turning myself into a disciple first and foremost; I’m proclaiming Good News with bread, water and justice by ministering in Jesus name to those in need; by tending and feeding I’m repenting of my selfishness by sharing with others.
Let’s face it, Jesus has endless ways to reach out to us, and there is a window or a door to him for everybody.
Maybe this passage speaks to me so well because it is so direct. Nothing like a direct message from God.
Ever wonder why it’s always Peter, the very one upon whom Christ will build his church, Peter who requires the most repeated instructions?
We have here a three-fold attempt on Jesus’ part to make sure that Peter is really getting it. “Simon, son of John, do you love me?”
Three times. Does this remind you of another conversation Peter had? About 3 chapters earlier, Peter is in the courtyard of the high priest, the night when Jesus was arrested. The woman gatekeeper, the police captain and a slave take turns asking Peter if he, too, is one of his disciples? All three to which Peter replies: “I am not.” Denial! More than just a river in Egypt.
The writer of John’s Gospel is, indeed, echoing Peter’s denial here. It’s hard to be more definitive than asking your question three times. According to Jesus‘ plan, Peter will leave his comfort zone, the only question is how much pushing and shoving will be necessary?
I’ll be honest, I get a little nervous when I encounter passages like this. I know to some of you it may look like I’m operating out of my comfort zone a lot, or easily, but do not be fooled. It is a constant effort to continue to go forward. If left to my own devices, I’d spend my mornings playing golf and my afternoons reading books. But Jesus won’t let me get away with that.
In 2005, a woman at my previous church, Kathy Eastman, stood up one Sunday and asked for prayers for a family in Tocopilla, Chile. It took me two months to even learn how to pronounce the name properly.
Kathy had participated in a
United Methodist Volunteers In Mission (UMVIM) trip to Chile the previous year. Her group helped build a church north of Santiago, the capital. Well, after the trip, she rented a truck and took a trip north, into the Atacama Dessert, the driest place on earth. No recorded rainfall ever.
As a teen-ager, Kathy and her brother, Bobby, lived in this little town of Tocopilla as Americans with their parents as her father, was there to build a power plant for the region. It had been more than 30 years since she had been there, and as she was walking through town, the owner of the auto parts store came up to her and said, “I spoke with your niece this niece this morning, she’ll be glad to see you.”
You could imagine her dumb-foundedness. A niece? This man must be a crazy person. The long and short of it is that when she left with her family at 17, no one knew that her 15-year-old brother had impregnated a local girl. The product of this tryst being a daughter, named Pamela, whom no one in the United States ever knew, until that fateful day.
Fast-forward to that Sunday morning in my Rohnert Park church. She was making her request for prayers in her attempt to have her family reconcile with this woman, the woman’s mother, the woman’s two kids, her own brother. She wanted us to pray that everyone could somehow get along, or get to know each other. She also mentioned that this little town, Tocopilla, had a United Methodist Church. To which I blurted out, let’s form a sister-church relationship.
The little church was in much need. No regular pastor had been there in a while, though a young couple now wanted to minister with the small, neighborhood congregation. A collection was taken to help pay their expenses to be there each week and hold a Sunday School for the local kids, to pray with the elderly men and women, to bring a pastoral presence as best as possible.
Before you knew it, we were sending suitcases full of school supplies, bibles in Espanol, and pen pal notes from our kids to theirs. Then people started pledging to get a full-time pastor...and within 6 months we equipped and sent an UMVIM team of our own to help this church re-do their electrical, their plumbing, to clean it and paint it, get it safe for the neighborhood.
In 2008, this region suffered a massive earthquake, every building in the town of Tocopilla suffered damage, except one, the Methodist Church. The church became recovery central.
III Is it really a risk when we have Christ?
What has been your biggest risk? Marriage? Career? Starting over in life? Recovery?
Individually our comfort zones are all different. Corporately, we must act together to expand our comfort zone.
What is Christ calling you to risk today?