North Hill Christian Church
September 15, 2019
Genesis 8:1-15, 21:1-7
As we continue to ponder on the question of who we are as church, I invite us to consider our mission statement together just as the church board did so yesterday at our annual visioning and focusing meeting. We didn’t simply contemplate our mission statement as a nice fluffy statement about the mission of the church, but rather were invited to hear it as the reason for why we do all the ministries that we do together in this place. Why we gather together each week for worship and fellowship. Why we gather in times of study and service. Why we continue to publicly declare who we are in this place as disciples of Christ.
Let us speak together and hear the reason why we continue to seek to be church in this place. “We of North Hill Christian Church are a people responding to God’s call, building whole community reflecting Christ through our actions, and living into the reign of God.”
For this week I want to focus on one single section, “Responding to God’s call.” All that we are doing is in a response to who God has called us and continues to call us into being. We aren’t here in this place because some person somewhere decided to plant a church in this neighborhood. Instead God called those original founders of our congregation to plant this church here. Jenn and I didn’t just move here because Spokane sounded like a nice place to live. No, God called and led us here.
All that we do together here in this place is because God called us here, and we answered. Now, we may not have always answered the calling in the same way. There may have been times that we responded with great enthusiasm like Abraham, who picked up his whole life and followed where God led. While other times we may have questioned the sanity of where God has been leading. Or even gone as far as laughed at the thought of what God was saying is possible like Sarah.
Now we need some context for the texts that we have heard this morning. To start off, Abraham has already heard the promise of children in the previous chapters, and we can know that Sarah has also heard this promise. It has also already come to pass that Ishmael has been born and a sign of covenant has already been made between God and Abraham’s house, which included the circumcision of all the males in his house. It has already been stated multiple times that Sarah was going to bear a child, even in her advanced age. But now, we get a more immediate timeline of when this will come to pass.
Prior to the 18th chapter of Genesis, we hear of Sara making an end run around God’s plan. Trying to make sure that Abraham had a child even if it wasn’t with her. So she took God’s promise into her own hands in giving Hagar to Abraham. She tried to make the end result in her own way without fully trusting God to use her.
In the text from chapter 18, we hear of Abraham’s continued excitement and enthusiasm with hearing God’s calling and promise upon his life as he continues to welcome the messengers of God. On the other hand we have Sarah, who in overhearing the timeline and promise that she will bear a child within the year, simply laughs as it seems to be an absurd possibility.
There have been those ministries in the history of this church that we took on without question and with great excitement. There have also been those that we questioned how God would make this ministry possible. And then there are those ministries that we have tried to force through rather than listen for God’s leading.
One such ministry that we have recently approached with apprehension and questioning/laughter would be the XPLOR program. Prior to our first official year of being a part of this ministry, we had been talking and planning, and hearing God’s calling upon our congregation. We spent hours in meetings listening for how God is leading us here in Spokane. We spent time in conversation with different groups within our congregation and at Country Homes. The initial planning and discernment group even went through a questionnaire regarding the viability of this program. All before we got the call from the NBA (National Benevolent Association). But once we got that call and really started planning, there were those moments of questioning. Is God really leading us in this way. Are we able to do this? How is this even going to be possible? There is so much work to be done, we don’t know if we have the time or the energy to do it all. And yet, here we are beginning our second year in this program and remembering all that we have done, and looking forward to the possibilities in this new year.
A part of our identity here in this place is as people who are constantly listening and responding to God’s call upon our lives. It isn’t something that we did once and now are all done. Rather it is a constant state of listening and responding as our community changes. As our neighborhood changes, as we ourselves change, God calls us into new and different ministries.
This is a big task for us to do. But the biggest reminder out of our texts from this morning isn’t how Abraham jumped at the change to welcome the messengers, or how Sarah laughed. Not it is that God followed through in the divine covenant. A child was born to Abraham and Sarah, even though they were well on in age and thought it was impossible. God followed through and kept the promise.
Even when the calling that we hear seems to be absurd and impossible, we should always remember that if God is calling us, then God will make it possible for us to succeed in God’s own ways. Not by us forcing it but by listening and following where God leads us.