On this first Sunday in Advent I cannot hep but reminisce about what I've learned in the last three years at Christ and Trinity Lutheran.
Three years ago I first set foot in Sedalia, Missouri. Prior to my interview with the call committee, I had never even heard of Sedalia. It was indeed a call and the work of the Spirit. After being picked up at the airport, I drove an hour and a half with two members of the congregation and began to learn about these people and this community. Arriving in Sedalia when I stepped outside the vehicle at the Best Western Hotel, I immediately noticed a distinct, unfamiliar to me, smell - manure. It was Monday and the auction house across the street was in the middle of the cattle auction. Welcome to Missouri, I thought!
Three years ago, the congregation and I, could not have predicted how God would continue to work in our lives. I couldn't have predicted the depth of love, and grace, and forgiveness. I couldn't have predicted the maturing together into pastor and congregation.
I often look out into the congregation Sunday after Sunday and remember the first time I met the people as they visited the church. I have memories of awkward conversations, getting to know you questions, and the invite for a cup of coffee or tea to share stories. I remember the stories and the longings and the hope for community.
Almost 50 years ago, the ground was broken for the church building where we gather week after week. Talking with one of our older theologians, Iva, she shared about being at the land for the groundbreaking of this new church building. I imagine she could not predict how God would work in the lives of the people to come. Iva couldn't have predicted all the children, adults, families, widowers, and singles who would come together week after week and be formed into a community.
Could she have pictured the lives changed?
The forgiveness offered?
The reconciliation between families?
The lessons and songs and prayers and sermons?
The bread and wine freely given?
Each Sunday, I am in awe. I could not have predicted how God would bring such diverse and loving people into community. I could not have predicted the blessings and wholeness that has emerged.
And on this first Sunday in Advent, at the start of this time of waiting and preparation, I look forward with hope to what is to come. I look forward to the continued unexpected blessings. I look forward to the daily living and breathing and being in community. I look forward to the Spirit continually at work in the world. For when so much seems uncertain and so much fear resides among people and communities and countries, gathering week after week makes a difference. Singing songs, offering prayers, baptizing, loving, forgiving, eating, and drinking makes a difference.
And only God knows the fullness of such simple, yet radical, acts.
I don't know what the next months and years will hold. But each Sunday when I look out into the congregation, I am positive that I know who holds us all together in community.
I can not predict what will come, but I can, with confidence, trust in the One who has already come.