Yeah, Sometimes, This Thing Called Faith is Difficult

John 6:56-69

Well, friends. Welcome back into this place.  This time last week we were in the midst of a new and different experience as we worshipped with our friends from Epworth…. at Epworth. Over the 4+ years I’ve been pastor here, we’ve worshipped with other congregations—St. John’s Lutheran, Druid Hills Baptist, and even Epworth. Each one of those experiences have been here. In this place.

Also, we’ve been living with the idea of this community of faith being in new, renewed, or reconfigured place for over a year an a half, and since last November, have tasked a group lead us in that work when we had our called charge conference last year to adopt our Planning Committee Report.

That’s a lot. We as a church have thought, dreamed, discussed.

But last Sunday was different. Last Sunday made all of this real. And it did so in a way that took many by surprise.

Emotions welled up. Anxieties appeared. Questions rose.

But that’s not all.

Space for possibilities were created, energy was palpable, and permission to ask “What if….” These were all present too.

And you know what? That all okay. That’s all natural. Hopes, anxieties, and everything in between are part of our natural, human  response to new possibilities.

Reflecting on today’s Gospel Lesson, I think that for many of us, when we think about the community of faith gathering, hearing the word and responding, we think of Acts chapter 2 and the first Pentecost. Someone stands up, preaches, and thousands of people join the church on one day. That sounds enticing. It sounds easy. And there’s plenty of folk selling their latest book wanting you to think that they did something very similar, when in all honest truth, most of that was circumstantial mixed in with a little hard work.

But friends, while we know there’s joy in our work and life as church, we also know that the script doesn’t always work out that way.

Sometimes, faithful church work is hard, difficult—like when we surprise ourselves with feelings and emotions that we did not expect, or when change scares us when we let ourselves think that change means that we might get lost in the shuffle, might get forgotten.

In times like these, the Wesley Covenant Prayer, with it’s affirming of being put to use or put aside, being given all things or being placed in poverty, being placed in a  posture of greatness or of meekness… in the midst of all this we are still God’s and God is still God. That’s helpful.

But for me, I think it is essential to simply recognize and name that faithful discipleship—the kind that does not veer away from difficult, complex questions—isn’t easy work. Its real life. Its messy. Its incarnational. Its the life Jesus calls us into.

This life that Jesus calls us into transforms us, not just once, but continually in process over a lifetime. And that means sometimes we have good days when we feel we could take on the gates of hell. There’s other days when we wonder if God is even there or exists. And there’s countless number of days that are somewhere in between.

But you know what?

Even on the days when anxieties are real, even the days when it seems impossible to believe, God is still God, God abides…. abides ever so closely to us to be present without smothering us…. not so much waiting for us to have a good day or for the bad days to subside, but simply because God is God and God loves each one of us. Yes, God loves you.

Y’all, I know that the season our church is in is not easy. It might be exciting, it might be scary. It might be somewhere in between… or both. But however you describe it, its not easy. And it is nothing we can turn our face away from, wishing it weren’t reality. But this is what Jesus has called this community of faith, in this season, to be about.

We’re wrestling with big questions of identity, mission, core values. We’re not simply talking about color of carpet or who didn’t turn out the lights last night. We’re not even talking about something as simple as how to fix the air conditioner.

We’re trying to be the best stewards of all we have received, from God and from those who cam before us, and trying out best to pass it on to those who will be living out their faith in community long after you and I are gone from this earth.

And in times like this, I can think nothing better than the closing back and forth:

Jesus asked the Disciples, “Do you also wish to go away?”

Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.”

May we have the grace to see that we have this need to be nowhere but near the one who has the words of eternal life, the Holy One of God, in the good days, the difficult days ,and all those in between let us be near to God.
Amen.