Hearing the Call

Pastor Kim Gilliland
Epiphany 2
SCRIPTURE: 1 Corinthians 1: 1-9 and John 1: 35-42
“Come,” he replied, “and you will see.”
John 1: 39a (NIV)

THE ANNUAL MEETING

Over the next few weeks, I want to spend some time talking about out upcoming Annual Congregational Meeting and what we hope to achieve. My goal is to encourage you to come to that meeting and also to consider what role God is calling you to play in the ongoing ministry of this church. All of this has to be done in the light of Scripture which is our guide and our compass for ministry.

For those who haven’t been to an annual meeting at Cottam, you might be surprised by what happens. I know that annual meetings are known as pretty dreary affairs with people asking about little details in the budget and how money was spent. In fact, I’ve heard it said at other congregational meetings that the highlight of the meeting is the presentation of the budget. And that’s precisely why people don’t attend. The last thing they want to do is sit around after worship and quibble about dollars and cents.

We don’t do that for a couple of reasons. First, we’re in a pretty good financial position. Unlike a lot of other churches, we aren’t living hand to mouth hoping that our next fundraising dinner will make enough to pay our hydro bill. To be honest, there may have been a time when that was true in Cottam but it no longer is. I’m not saying that we’re flush with cash but you have been very generous with your tithes and the Church Board has been very responsible with way it uses that offering. And so we find ourselves not having to worry too much about where the funding comes from. That means that at our annual meeting we might spend ten or fifteen minutes talking about the budget because the focus of our annual meeting is not our money; it’s our mission

The largest part – and I would say the most important part – of the meeting will be the evaluation of our 2016 goals and the setting of the new goals and objectives for 2017. How did we do when it came to meeting our goals for 2016. What you will find is that we got some of them done, others are on their way and some still need some work. But that’s not unusual. Things often don’t go as we plan them and that’s okay.

2017 GOALS

So what are the proposed goals and objectives for 2017? The Church Board hasn’t quite made a final decision on it’s recommendations but I want to share with you the direction that seem to be going. First, we need to finish setting up the Visitation Committee. This is a group whose mission is to visit shut ins who are not longer able to get out to church. We did quite a bit of work in 2016 to put this into place. We know who needs to be visited and we have people who are willing to visit. What we have not done is get those two groups together. And to be honest, that is mostly on me. We need to have a meeting to get it all started and I just didn’t get it done. So, I need to get that done soon. That’s a goal and it’s not a difficult one.

Another goal is to continue to celebrate our 150th year as a congregation. It’s very convenient that the beginnings of Cottam United Church began in the same year as Confederation. It’s makes it easy to remember. The task group responsible for this year of celebration has been working hard and we’re pretty excited about some of the things we have planned. We’re also pretty excited about the Robert Burns dinner in two weeks but get your tickets because they’re going fast. Stay tuned for more.

The third short term goal is the one that I want to focus on today. If you recall, at our last annual meeting, we approved a new constitution and sent it off to Presbytery for it’s ratification. It took a while for them to understand what we were doing because our constitution does not look like a usual constitution. But in the end approve it they did and now we have the task of putting that new constitution in place. And quite frankly, that’s going to take some time and effort. But we will take the time and we will put in the effort because we want to do it right.

There are really two keys to this. First we have to keep reminding ourselves that we are operating in a different way. We no longer have an Official Board that is composed of the chairs of committees and representatives from the Session and Stewards. Rather we will have a Church Board, the members of which will be elected directly by the congregation at the annual meeting. These nine to twelve people are not there to represent other committees or groups in the church. They are simply there on behalf of the entire congregation representing different ideas and different needs. Hopefully, on the Church Board, we will have a good cross representation of congregational demographics.

The Church Board will meet five or six times a year. Although there may be more meeting initially as we get things set up. Each meeting should last about ninety minutes, two hours are the very outside because after that time people are no longer effective anyway. And the goal if the Church Board is very clear. It’s primary purpose is to set the strategic direction for the congregation. What needs need to be met in our community? What needs to happen around the church? Where can we reach out to others with the love of Christ? What is God calling us to do to fulfill the purpose for which he put us here? Those are the sorts of questions that the Church Board will be dealing with.

But what aren’t they going to do? That’s an equally important question. What they aren’t going to do is micro-manage the affairs of the congregation. They aren’t going to hear reports from all of the different committees on a regular basis because there really is not need to. First of all, the subject matter experts for the committee work is the committees themselves. They do all the leg work. They make the plans and create the programmes. They don’t need to report every month what they are doing because the Church Board does not need to re-discuss, rehash and rework what the Committees have already done. We simply trust them to do their work. In a congregation this size, that is easily done because it’s not difficult to see what’s happening. If people are not doing their jobs then it quickly becomes apparent and they need to be encouraged to get back on track. If they are doing their job then they are free to keep doing it. Why get in the way? So the Church Board will not be micro-managing anything.

What that means is that we need a particular kind of person on the Church Board. We don’t need managers. We need leaders. We need dreamers and people with vision. We need people who are willing and able to think outside the box in order to see what it is that God wants us to do.

In some ways, this is a scary task. That’s because we as people tend to like things to stay the same. We are very comfortable with doing the same old things in the same old ways whether or not those same things and those same ways still work or not. It’s not easy to think outside the box because we don’t want to upset people and we don’t want to inadvertently knock over anyone’s sacred cow. But we still have to float ideas and visions and see where they go.

That’s the fun part of this new Church Board. There is no idea that too far fetched to be considered. There is no vision that will be set aside without first being given a fair assessment. We want people who are willing to dream and are willing to point us in a new direction in order for us to see what God is calling us to do. That can be very challenging but it can also be a whole lot of fun. If that sounds like something you could latch onto, then maybe God is pulling at your heart strings and encouraging you to consider being on the Church Board.

The other thing about the new constitution is that it places terms on how long some one can sit on the Church Board. That means that it’s not a life sentence. The terms are between three and six years and then you get a break and let someone else dream the dreams and see the visions.

That’s the first key to this constitution, the make up and mission of the Church Board and what it is called to do. The second key has to do with the committees. Unlike traditional constitutions, this constitution does not give committees job descriptions, telling them what to do. Rather it gives them mission that they are expected to achieve. And as long as the committees work at their mission and stay within their parameters they can do whatever they want to without having to go back to the Church Board for every little modification. They just get the work done. An example would be the front steps and sidewalks that were replaced this year. The Property Committee was given that task to complete. It was given a budget and as long as it completed its task within its budget it could proceed. And it did it without the Church Board micro-managing the way it was done. Everything else works the same way. This allows committees to be creative and also think outside the box. It allows the Holy Spirit to live and move within the Church without being needlessly hindered by old ways and old ideas.

COME AND YOU WILL SEE

I’m exciting by this. It feels like a new start to a 150 year old congregation. And it reminds me of what happened when Jesus began his ministry. He too was looking for some very specific people. He too was not looking for managers. He was looking for leaders and dreamers and visionaries. Jesus was going to revolutionize the world and he needed creative people to help him.

We see that when he called his first disciples. In John 1:35-42 we read the story of Jesus doing just that. It tells the story of how John the Baptist and his disciples approached Jesus. They listened to what he had to say and then some of John’s disciples made the decision to follow Jesus. That was okay because remember that John was there to prepare the way for Jesus so if some of John’s disciples followed Jesus, that was perfectly alright. In fact, that’s probably what they were supposed to do.

Jesus saw what was happening and asked them what they wanted. They asked him where he was staying and he gave them a most interesting answer. In John 1:39 (NIV) he said, “Come and you will see.”

Come and you will see. Did you notice what he didn’t tell them? He didn’t tell them were he was staying even though that’s the question they asked him. He could have said, “I’m staying at the home of the tanner.” Or, “I’m staying with my cousin Zachariah.” Or, “I’m staying at the Holiday Inn down the street.” He didn’t say anything like that. He just said, “Come and you will see.”

What Jesus was doing was inviting them to embark with him on a grand adventure. He wasn’t going to tell them where they were going. He wasn’t going to tell them what they would be doing. He didn’t tell them what it might cost them or how it might change them. He simply said, “Come and you will see.” What they had to do was decide if they would follow. But please note this. They could not follow if they had not first heard Jesus’ invitation to come and see.

Jesus still offers us the same invitation. He invites us to come and see where he want us to go. He doesn’t tell us where. He doesn’t tell us how. He doesn’t tell us with whom. He simply asks us if we want to come and see.

My question for you is this: Are we open to that call? Are we as a community of faith called Cottam United Church open to hearing God’s call to us? Again, we don’t know what that call might be or where it will take us. We don’t know what it might cost or how we will get there. We don’t know how far we will have to step outside the box. But this I do know. God is not calling us to stay where we are. He didn’t say to the disciples, “Stay where you are and I will bring you what you need.” He never said that to anyone. He told them to come and see.

Following Jesus is all about moving from our comfortable position to the sometimes uncomfortable place where he wants us to be. The evidence that we have done that in the past is all around us. 150 years ago, when our Methodist ancestors carved this village out of the forest and then built the first Methodist Church down the street from here, they were doing something new and different. Over the years as two more buildings came and went and various amalgamations and changes to pastoral charge boundaries ensued, the people of this congregation continued to develop and change with the needs of the community around them. With time, the livery stable disappeared. Additions were made to the building. The pump organ was replaced by a pipe organ. Hymn books were replace with overhead projectors which were replaced by PowerPoint projections. The turkey supper came and went and may yet come back again. So many changes.

But in the midst of all of those changes, two things remained the same. The first thing is that people grew in faith and wisdom and the knowledge of the Lord. Each generation took seriously the challenge to make disciples of all nations and lay the foundations for the next generation of Christians. The second thing that remained the same is the message. Jesus Christ is the same today as he has always been and he will be the same tomorrow. His message of love and forgiveness never changes. It is still through him that we live and move and have our being. By his blood we are still saved and by his Spirit we are given the strength to go where he calls us to go. Everything else may change but those things must remain consistent if we are to be the people that God created us to be. Are we willing as a community to hear his voice to come and see?

And here’s my final question: Are you, as individuals, willing to hear his voice to come and see? Not only does Jesus call the church. He also calls the people within it. There are many things that need to be done. There are many challenges that need to be face. It order to do those things and face those challenges, we must have people who will be willing to step out in faith as the disciples did and hear Jesus command to come and see?

What is God calling you to do? What does Jesus want you to come and see? Is he leading you to work on a particular committee? We going to reprint all of the various committee missions and parameters in the Annual Report so you can see what they are. Is Jesus calling you to risk thinking outside the box and join the Church Board where you can share your dreams and visions of where you think God is calling us to go? What is your place? What does Jesus want you to come and see.

It’s not important to us if you are a member or not. It doesn’t matter if you’ve been around here all you life or just found your way to Cottam United Church in the last few years. You are part of this community and God has place for you.

We believe that God has great plans for our little church. We believe that God has blessed us in ministry and will continue to bless us as we walk in faith and answer his call to come and see. In faith, we will walk this road together.

PRAYERS OF THE PEOPLE

Almighty God, our Creator and our Saviour, we need you in our lives as surely as we need food, water and air. Give us the strength and courage to honestly and candidly examine and evaluate our actions, our decisions, and the motives behind each of them. We choose to give ourselves to you, everyday in every way. Help us to become more like you, not only in what we say and do, but also in what we think and feel. Thank you for your patience and compassion as we grow in faith.

We thank you for teaching us new things as we gather that remind us of your love and acceptance. May we not shy away from new ways of doing ministry but help us to always move forward with prayer and discernment. Teach us how to better be your people in our day and share your Good News in your way.

We lift up in prayer our American neighbours as they bid farewell to one president and welcome another. We pray for peace. We pray for unity. We pray for a return to stability and safety in that nation. Once again we are reminded of the power of your creation.

We pray also for Canadian soldiers stationed around the world, that they would be enabled to do their jobs for your Kingdom. May they be a blessing to those whom they are trying to protect. May they be protected under the wings of your angels.

We remember those who are sick or recovering from various illnesses and conditions, especially Millicent Wormald, Helen Upcott, Jacqui Seguin and Soham Lane. Touch them, O God, with your Healing Spirit that they may feel your love and strength. Be with those who care for them whether professionals, family members, neighbours or friends. Help us to truly appreciate all that others do to help us in times of need.

Heavenly Father, strengthen us and help us to be leaders in our homes, our communities, and our workplaces. May our lives be examples that will gather together all those who seek you. There are many around us who need to know you and grow in their spiritual walk. We offer ourselves as catalysts to bring about change in their lives. We lift all of our prayers to you in Jesus’ name. Amen.

WORSHIP RESOURCE PAGE

January 15, 2017 / Epiphany 2

SCRIPTURE

Psalm 40:1-11; Isaiah 49:1-7; John 1;29-42; 1 Corinthians 1:1-9

CALL TO WORSHIP

Wait upon the Lord.

Wait patiently for the appearing of our God.

Look with wonder upon the glory of our God.

Experience the joy of worship

PRAYER OF APPROACH

We delight, O God, in you for you are as far as the heavens and the distance stars but as near as a touch and the whisper of the wind. We come to proclaim your greatness to the ends of the earth. Your mercies cannot be numbered. Your grace is unfathomable. We come expectantly to worship. Open our ears to your word, our souls to your touch and our spirits to your Spirit.

PRAYER OF CONFESSION

Sacrifice and offering you do not require. You ask only that we walk in faith and follow your way. There are times when it is difficult to comply with your simple requests. Many forces pressure us. Many things tempt us. Many voices call our names. We confess that we do not always follow your Spirit. We turn from you and sin as though we had never experienced your Word. Forgive us the waywardness of our lives and draw us again into the riches of your love.

ASSURANCE OF PARDON

The shackles of sin may bind us but the love of God frees us. There is no sin too great, no wrong to deep that it can not be forgiven by our gracious God. Be assured that when we truly confess our sins, God forgives us and cleanses us from all unrighteousness.

DEDICATION OF OFFERING

Your work, O God, needs many hands. We offer ours to you asking that you would use them to the greater glory of your Kingdom. Our hands and feet, our times and talents, our creativity and wealth we give for your service.

COMMISSIONING

Go with gladness. Go with joy. Go with the assurance of God’s redeeming grace to share the Good News with those whom you may meet.

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