Today and next Sunday, right after second service, in Fellowship Hall, with refreshments being served, we are going to have, just until noon, what I have dubbed, a couple of “Church Chats.” I am calling these “Church Chats” because, 1.) I was taught church events named with alteration sound more appealing and draw bigger crowds, and 2.) because it’s important for us as a church to chat about being church.
It is important for us to discuss thoughts and ideas about how we as a church can share with others who we are and what God is doing here at First Christian. It is an important time to help us all get on the same page about being Church as we look to kick-off a new year in the life of our church come September.
Conversations such as these, particularly in our world and culture today, is an imperative. It is an imperative because we live in a world and a culture today that is filled with people who are searching and seeking.
People are searching and seeking for…a path forward, assurance of tomorrow, renewed health, the “one”, money, success, power, opportunity, hope, a better today, a bright future, passion, a break, their shot, love, happiness, respect, equality, safety, contentment, the easy way out—or whatever it is they want or need. We all are searching and seeking something. We may know exactly what it is we are seeking, or we may not.
A blogger whose name I don’t know, wrote, “I feel like I’m searching for something that I do not know, like there’s a missing part in my life. I’ve gotten bored with all that’s around me. I’ve lost my passion. I have everything I need, but I am still searching for something, but don’t know what.”
By its very definition, “searching” denotes that something is missing.
By its very definition, “seeking” denotes that something is not yet present.
Another word that comes into play when using the terms “searching” and “seeking” is the word “lost.” And all of these words were at the core of Jesus’ ministry, and are summed up in Luke 19:10 when Jesus said, “The Son of Man came to seek out and to save the lost.”
That is the heart of the Gospel—the Good News of Jesus Christ.
Our world and culture today is “searching” and “seeking”, and we are doing so because so many are lost.
Like the blogger who has everything but is still missing something and still searching for something, so many of us are lost in this same endless cycle where we search and seek for that which is missing only to keep coming up with that which does not satisfy or fulfill, that which does not bring about what we want or need.
So what do we do about this? What can the church do about this? What will we do about this?! That’s what we are going to talk about in our “Church Chats.”
But first…a little more context.
In our text for today we encounter the prophet Ezekiel who is speaking on behalf of God to the people of Israel at the beginning of the Babylonian Exile—the time when Jerusalem had been overthrown, the temple destroyed, and the cessation of the Davidic monarchy.
It was an unthinkable time for God’s chosen people, where the people were unquestionably lost, and asking why—Why did this happen to us? Why are we in exile?
And Ezekiel gives God’s answer to them…and it’s pretty pointed.
Ezekiel explains that the place they are in is the result of the people only taking care of themselves. They did not take care of the sheep or the flock.
Ezekiel tells them God said, “You have not healed the sick, bound up the wounded, or searched for the strays. And because you have not searched for the strays my people have been scattered on all the high hills and have become food for the wild animals.”
God’s words and Ezekiel’s prophecy is as true and relevant today as it was when he first shared it.
And it’s true because the Church today finds itself in a period of exile where churches are being destroyed by declining attendance and irrelevancy, and the faith itself is being overthrown by Christians who present a picture of the faith to the non-religious and nominally religious that does not include Christ. It is a picture of exclusion and judgement; a picture of unwelcome and hypocrisy.
As a result, the children of God who do not yet know they are children of God have become food for the wild animals that is the endless searching and seeking for that which will give their life what is missing: meaning, purpose, passion, hope, peace, joy, and love.
Which is why we as a church must be intentional about sharing, and furthering, the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Good News of Jesus Christ, the one who came to “seek out and save the lost.”
And that’s what we are going to chat about—because even though we are offering ministries for the lost—we have to be intentional enough, and brave enough, to look deeper at what we offer and how we offer it.
We have to ask ourselves, “Are we searching for and seeking the strays who have been scattered to today’s wild animals”?
Now this doesn’t have to be a hard or long, drawn out conversation, because truthfully we have all the pieces, we have the personnel, we have all the tools, and we are doing a lot of the work already.
But there is one key part we still have to do.
Theologian, professor, preacher, and author Lovett Weems of Wesley Theological Seminary and the Lewis Leadership Center spoke to a conference and said, “We (the mainline Protestant Church) have an approach to the Gospel that really matters. We have an approach to the Gospel that would reach 21st century people. We have a great approach to the Gospel that will make a difference—if we could only remember it.”
He’s so right, isn’t he?
We, the Church, came to know the Good News of Jesus. We embraced it. We accepted it. We owned it. We got it Jesus. Thank you!
But then something happened—we forgot. And it’s understandable because it happens to all of us—we all end up with a bit of amnesia.
How many of us have walked from one room in our homes to another room with the intent to do something in that next room only to go… Wait. Why did I come in here!?
How aggravating is that, right!?
And do it a few times and we start to freak out a bit—“Oh my, am I losing my mind? Do I have early onset of Alzheimer’s?!”
No. It’s just part of being human. But it’s why we need to write things down. It’s why we have to remind ourselves. It’s why we have to stay vigilant and intentional.
And it’s why we are having these Church Chats.
We, the mainline Protestant Church, have forgotten how the Gospel works—we have to remind ourselves how Jesus himself worked and ministered.
Jesus didn’t just hang out in the synagogue with the religious leaders and teachers—and even when he did he challenged their approach to faith in God.
Most of the time Jesus went searching and seeking the lost—the sinners, the outcasts, the broken, the infirmed, those who had been pushed to the margin—and he said to them, “Good news…you have been found. You are loved. You are a holy and beloved child of God.”
And it’s this approach to the Gospel that we need to remember and then share with the lost who are searching and seeking.
So let’s chat about this.
Today and next Sunday, right after second service, in Fellowship Hall, with refreshments being served, we are going to have, just until noon, what I have dubbed, a couple of “Church Chats.”
I hope you will take the time to attend one of these chats, or both if you want, so that we as a church can remember our approach to the Gospel, unify ourselves within God’s vision to share the Gospel, and then together continue our work to search for, and seek out, the lost. Amen.