A few months ago, I joined our local Rotary chapter as their Spiritual Representative. Rotary is a 100 year old organization helping professional and business leaders serve their wider community. It’s a worldwide organization I knew of (and even received a college scholarship from) but one that was a bit of a mystery to me. Prior to my joining, I couldn’t tell you what Rotary did or why they existed. I didn’t know their history or who was attracted to the organization. I knew they existed because their meeting times were posted on signs marking the boundaries of towns. I knew they had a physical presence but I was unaware of what went on in their meeting spaces. It wasn’t until I was invited to participate in the group that I saw their commitment to service and the different projects they support. I’m still learning more about the organization, but I’m looking forward to bringing my Lutheran Christian perspective into a group looking for new ways to nurture our wider community.
At one of their recent meetings, one of the main topics was how to grow the Rotary group. They’re looking to increase membership, and I was surprised with how similar that conversation was to every conversation about membership held in a faith community. People shared their own experiences of the group and how it changed their lives. People also were hopeful the group would grow larger because they wanted others to have the same experiences as them. They also were honest that, a few decades ago, the group was larger, younger and full of a different kind of vitality. But they were also honest that the group wasn’t always welcoming to others. And folks lamented how hard it is for people to commit to things in our modern context.
Many times when conversations like this are held, a lot of energy is spent on wish-casting. We wish things were different, but we’re not sure how to make it so. We feel as if we don’t have the tools, insights or even the permission to make this wish come true. We hope other people with more suitable gifts can do what is needed to make our wish a reality. Our wish is a good wish because we want others to have the same experiences we had. If we felt loved, valued and included, we want others to have the same experience. It isn’t wrong to make wishes, yet we often don’t realize that we already have the gifts needed to invite others into the place that has given us so much grace. What we need is help seeing how that grace has manifested in our lives and how we can, just as we are, invite others to see that same grace also.
That’s one of the reasons why our ongoing sermon-series on cultivating our creative spirit will continue in July. Unlike other organizations, we want to invite others into a deeper relationship with the God who created them, lived and died for them, and will sustain them through all the joys and struggles of life. We can do that by nurturing our ability to see Jesus at work in our lives. Instead of inviting people into church, we can invite them to know Jesus who loves them right now. After we practice seeing Jesus all around us, we’ll move into a short series on joy and happiness (and how they’re not the same thing). My hope is once we near the start of our programming year we’ll move into a series on vocations: what they are, how many we have and how faith is meant for our everyday life. We can, together, learn to see Jesus a little more clearly and in our own particular ways invite others to see Jesus too.
I will seeya in the many different ways we are the church!