Opportunity

Pastor Jeff Goodman

“…don’t worry about how to speak or what you will say, because what you can say will be given to you at that moment. You aren’t doing the talking, but the Spirit of my Father is doing the talking through you.” Matthew 10:19-20, Common English Bible. 


I’m tired. 


Not sleepy, but exhausted. Fatigued. “Big” tired. 


I’m guessing you are as well. 


It’s not just the shift in our lives – staying home, foraging periodically in the grocery store, learning to work remotely. It’s more than that. 


It’s the shift in our world. Increasingly visible division, injustice, and oppression are draining while we hope (and pray) that this visibility and our response leads to real, long-needed change in individuals and society. 


I’m weary. 


There are days I just want to focus on bringing order to some small part of my life. Walking Lola (the Cocker Spaniel) with Pam, installing new landscape lighting, upgrading the sound in the 4Runner. Small tasks where I have some control. 


But then… 


I am continually struck by the opportunity the church has in a fraying world. Seriously. Opportunity to grow, to try new things, to reach new people. Check this out. 


In May, Pastor Ed, Pastor Teer and I attended a Zoom lecture by Duke theologians Will Willimon and Stanley Hauerwas. Lectures on lectures delivered by Karl Barth in 1946 among the ruins of Bonn University. Barth’s lectures were collected in his work “Dogmatics in Outline,” a slim volume bursting with explorations of our Christian faith. I had not read any Barth since seminary, and in rediscovering his work I was struck by many things. But what hit me hardest was a seven-page chapter titled “Faith as Confession.”  


For Barth, this confession is our freedom to take responsibility for sharing our faith in and with the world, saying that “where confession is serious and clear, it must be fundamentally translatable into the speech… of the man and woman in the street, into the language of those who are not accustomed to reading scripture and singing hymns, but who possess a quite different vocabulary and quite different spheres of interest.”  


Barth goes on to say that we in the church have one task, “to make the Confession heard in the sphere of the world as well. Not now repeated in the language of Canaan, but in the quite sober, quite unedifying language which is spoken “out there.”” 


We literally can no longer sit in our church building, speaking church-speak and waiting for people to find us. This pandemic has driven the church out into the world. Sure, the online world, but the world none-the-less. I have seen churches take advantage of this transition to experiment, becoming more relatable, in many cases obviously trusting the Holy Spirit to guide them, to do the talking. We at Mount Olivet have taken this opportunity seriously, working together to build an online worship platform that engages not only our existing congregation, but people around the world. 


Looking around, that world desperately needs the church to show up. Disease, fear, oppression, exclusion, division, injustice surround us, and call for our response. Many times, we feel unprepared, we don’t know what to say, we haven’t done the work to learn about our neighbors, their trials, their needs. We don’t believe we are ready or adequate. We have never done this before. 


You and I will never be adequate.  


And yet… 


We are perfect for the job. As we humble ourselves, quiet our own thoughts and desires, listen to others and be open to the work of the Holy Spirit, we will be ready to take advantage of this opportunity. Because we’re not doing the talking, we’re just showing up.  


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