Perseverance With a Passion

Today's sermon title is "Perseverance with a Passion." I was tempted not to preach on that because I had come up with that title back in September when I was writing articles for the October Herald. And having just come back from vacation, I wanted to share some of my insights with you, and then I realized that it all came together anyway under that title. The Holy Spirit never ceases to amaze me. I don't know why I get amazed, really. After all, it's no more than what one should expect from the Holy Spirit.

Every year as I turn another year older in celebrating a birthday, I pray about my year past and my year ahead. I read Scripture seeking the auspices for my year ahead. I looked at my past year here at Trinity and saw that membership was up and giving was up, which, actually has been the case since even in the first half year I was here. That's not something you'll hear from a Stewardship Board, however. They don't celebrate those kinds of things. They just keep focusing on what they see as lack, setting budgets out of a sense of lack instead of the abundance with which the Lord has blessed the congregation, and they do that in part because they anticipate the response of the congregation to be one that will focus on lack rather than abundance, which is a shame because I'm not sure they, or the congregation are able to see and appreciate the abundance we have to celebrate.

When I picked up my mail yesterday, which the post office had held for the past 11 days while I was gone, I was overwhelmed to find I had received over a hundred cards and even a number of gifts, combinations of birthday greetings and words of appreciation for my ministry here.

I'm very grateful for such an effusion of expression about my ministry, but it is really OUR ministry. I do my part and you do your part. It works that way. Some times I do your part as well as mine, but it's really not your fault. In some cases you don't know that something is your part to do, and added to that, even if you know it's your part, you haven't done it before and don't know how to do it. Unfortunately, when I arrived and started doing what three pastoral staff had been doing, I discovered that they had been doing many things that YOU all should have been doing. That wasn't really fair to you since it robbed you all of the joy of doing the work of the Lord as Lay Ministers. It robbed you of your enthusiasm and passion for working for the Lord.

As I looked at my ministry here with you I realized that I was trying to change you and that has been wasted energy on my part. In the Gospel lesson today, often the focus is on the woman's perseverance in trying to change the judge's mind, and that finally happens. So, it seems to say if we persist, we can change God's mind.

But that misses the point of the story. She wasn't trying to change the judge's mind. She was working on accomplishing something. In the course of her doing that, the judge appears to change his mind. But he didn't have a choice, really. She worked at what she wanted to accomplish with such passion that he didn't have any choice but to grant it to her.

Truly, when you work to accomplish something which is just and fair, that creates so much good energy that those who would oppose it are swept up in the passion and go along with it.

It was a wonderful recognition for me on vacation to see that in my ministry here I only had to do my part and let the Holy Spirit do its part and you would all do your part. I don't have to expend my energy to change you. That's not my calling. My calling is to present to you the limitless possibilities and opportunities available to you through the power of God working in your lives. It is my ministry to help you see that and take hold of it for your lives. It is my ministry to support you in anything you wish to accomplish.

It is my ministry to celebrate who you are and help you see the incredible way you and this church have been blessed and continue to be blessed. It is my ministry to help you see and focus on the abundance there is here so that you can step out and work for the Lord in confidence and assurance that even if you take a risk, God will walk with you every step of the way. It isn't that God assures you that what you risk for the Lord will come to fruition the way you intend, but it DOES assure you that whatever you risk will not be wasted.

And, actually, that's what being a Christian in service to the Lord is all about-taking risks. When you take a risk for the Lord, you are letting God, the Holy Spirit, guide you, because you know that you can't accomplish it on your own. If you could, you wouldn't call it a "risk."

I've said it many times in sermons and in Bible studies, that what Jesus is teaching is a new way of thinking, a spiritual way of thinking. He asks us to "think outside the box." He asks us to take risks for the Gospel; to take risks for the sake of the world, take risks for the sake of this congregation of gathered believers.

So, we're in ministry together here whether you're a member or friend of Trinity or a visitor. Visitors aren't really visitors anyway unless they aren't part of any congregation anywhere. If you're part of a congregation somewhere then God's house is your home wherever you go. For those who have no home congregation God's house is always your house, a place where you are welcome, a place where God would love to have you make your home.

I'm not going to use my energy to change you, only present you with opportunity after opportunity to work for the Lord. And I'm going to show you over and over how blessed you have been and how God continues to bless you and how much abundance there is here and how much more awaits you and I'm going to say it and say it and say it and the power of the Holy Spirit will keep my passion alive and on fire, and will keep alive the passion that is already manifest in so many of you who have been swept up in the passion of believing, then at some point, if you haven't been swept up int he passion, you will wonder how you could have held out as long as you did!! And more so, why you even held out at all!?

Be like the woman in our Gospel story. The focus is not on the change, the end result, but on the process. The process is what brings about any change because of what is accomplished.

Whatever you want to accomplish for the Lord, persevere, and persevere with passion.


Read more sermons by Pastor Brie