Going Where God is Calling: Going and Growing

November 15, 2020 Pastor: Rev. Matt Wilcox Series: Going Where God is Calling - Stewardship 2021

Topic: Growth Scripture: Matthew 28:16–28:20, 1 Samuel 10:1–10:8

We’ve all heard a familiar reflection at one time or another: It’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey. In fact, sometimes you even see this mantra adorned on bumper stickers, t-shirts, and decorative wall hangings for our living rooms or hallways. There is some truth within this idea that resonates with many of us. Part of it, I believe, is because we’ve lived this experience out. Whether it’s a particularly challenging or rich season of life, a certain family vacation, or even a significant life transition, when we look back we see how it was going from one point to the next that really helped us grow in a way we hadn’t expected. We also see this reality played out in countless films. For our purposes and knowing we have some littles and some students that are hearing this message, I’ll use Finding Nemo as an example.

I think we’d be hard-pressed to find someone who hasn’t heard of, let alone seen, Finding Nemo. Pixar really knocked it out of the park when they made that film. The gorgeous ocean imagery, the forgetful but delightful Dory, the nervous father figure in Marlin the clownfish. Honestly, if you somehow haven’t seen this movie, I feel a pastoral obligation to tell you to watch it. But the premise is fairly simple. A father has to travel throughout the ocean to try and find his lost son, Nemo after he’s captured by a diver. The reason for the journey Marlin embarks on is simple, moving, and urgent. He has to find his son. That’s the destination. The journey is what makes the movie.

Forging a friendship with a most forgetful fish, encountering rehabbing sharks and fields of jellyfish, even cruising the Eastern Australian Current with a bunch of sea turtles… the nervous and over-cautious clownfish goes through something of a personal transformation as he journeys to rescue his only son. And just like every other film or story, we know that highlights the importance of the journey, the most meaningful and moving moments happen as a result of the Going and Growing.

There is a remarkable moment in the Old Testament that displays the presence and power of God when a servant of the Most High is willing to embark on such a journey. It’s a moment in the life of Saul. Not the Saul who would go on to be renamed Paul and pen most of the New Testament. No, this Saul was actually the first king to rule over the nation of God’s people. While the ending of Saul’s story is more tragic than anything else, Saul’s experience did not begin that way. We come into Saul’s story shortly after his anointing to become king. We’re in 1 Samuel 10:1-8.

Saul receives this incredible new calling. He is about to step into a new and uncharted position of leadership charged with leading God’s people into the next chapter of their identity. Alongside other called travelers and even prophets echoing sounds of music and inspiration, Saul is sent forward. And in that faithful act of moving onward to where God is calling, Saul is promised a transformation. “The Spirit of the Lord will come powerfully upon you and you will be changed into a different person.” Those are words saturated with a holy gravity. And just as a butterfly instinctively knows to fly after its transformation, Saul is told to go and do that which instinctively comes to him because the Lord will be with him. In this early, eager, and unprecedented chapter of Saul’s life, the Lord offers new hope and inspiration to Saul. It comes with incredible promise and remarkable participation in the Lord’s work among God’s people. By embarking forward, Saul resolves himself to an entwined and powerful synergy that is found equally in his Going and Growing. As he goes, we will grow. As he grows, he will continue going forward. In both, Saul embodies and fulfills the Lord’s plan for his life and he ventures forward to where God is calling.

Saul’s journey is much like our own as a church. We are nearing the end of our stewardship season and this message series; Going Where God is Calling. Our focus, in both this series and in our dreaming and planning for 2021, is to ensure we are doing just that: Going Where God is Calling. We have already looked at two spaces we must journey toward together as a family of faith. Two weeks ago, we explored our calling to spaces of mission, service, and compassion. Last week, Rev. Kathy Mitchell reminded us that we are called to intimate spaces of worship as God’s people. This week, we discover another destination God is calling us to discover and it is shockingly familiar to Saul’s experience. If we are going to be Going Where is Calling then we will inevitably be called to spaces of discipleship and transformation.

This destination of discipleship is not merely an effort to follow in the footsteps of Israel’s first king. To seek to discover and foster discipleship is to literally obey the direction and command of Jesus Christ. We heard it earlier this morning. Commonly called The Great Commission, these are the words of Jesus Himself: “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” Our Savior calls us to go out and to make disciples, to bring others into the family of faith, and show them the heart of our God.

As a church, this has long been a practice of faithfulness for us. From the earliest days of Playmates Preschool to the countless small groups that have gathered in homes to the Sunday school classes of all ages, First Pres has always sought to foster spaces where others can grow in their faith regardless of their age or place in life. For every gathering of eager children, curious teens, and inquisitive adults, there have been leaders, teachers, and facilitators who have stepped forward to create and inspire opportunities for discussion and growth. So many moments fostered within the folds of our fellowship have inspired others, from children to adults, to be Going and Growing in their identity as followers of Christ.

Preparing to venture into a brand-new year of ministry and presence, it is critical we continue to seek out ways to embark on our own Saul-like journeys of discipleship. That is what 12 seemingly random and unremarkable people did when they followed an unknown rabbi around the countryside. Those 12 followers left behind their fishing nets, government positions, and their comfort zones and were rewarded with the unbelievable opportunity to see miracles worked they could never have dreamed of before. They heard compelling stories and lessons spoken, saw loaves multiplied, and the dead literally return to life. All because they committed to Going and Growing with Jesus Christ. We possess the same opportunity; we need only embark on that journey together.

Just as Saul was transformed in his very obedience to the Lord’s call, so too can we find our own identity and faith sparked and kindled by listening for where it is God is calling us. This will look different for all of us as seek out this specific destination and as we faithfully discern what it looks like to be Going Where God is Calling. Many of our leaders are searching out these spaces. Ann and Juliette are forming a new and exciting space of discipleship for some of our kids and students who find themselves in one of those periods of transition we likely remember. Impact 56 will be a specific ministry effort geared for our students who are in 5th and 6th grade, that odd and exciting time when they are transitioning from being a kid and enter into the new world of adolescence. We want to see new adult small groups formed so that everyone in our church has the chance to be forged and blessed within an environment of friendship, fellowship, and faith formation.

Our adult discipleship committee continues to seek to create spaces for dialogue and exploration in areas such as social justice, biblical studies, theology, and more. Whether these opportunities take place back in the Great Hall, around a coffee table, or over ZOOM, there is a desire to ensure that we as a church are growing in our understanding of our God, our neighbors, and our calling. The recent months have interrupted our ability to be side by side with one another but there is nothing that should interrupt our ability to grow together.

Discipleship also possesses an innate urgency of invitation. As we take our own journeys of pursuing and becoming more like Christ, there should bubble up within us an undeniable and electric desire to introduce others to the Savior we love so much. Personally, I am praying that we see more baptisms in 2021 than we can recall from any other year. And not just infant baptisms! I want our church to a place where adults are welcomed into this family faith and initiated into the covenantal love of our Creator. Really, I want 2021 to be a year of transformation similar to what we witnessed in Saul’s life.

As we voyage forward in this season of dreaming and stewardship, I want us to be willingly and passionately committing ourselves to be Going Where God is Calling. I want us to listen, both individually and as a collective family of faith, for the voice of the Holy Spirit. I want us to hear the voice of the One who knows us, chooses us, loves us, and calls us and I want us to go. And as we do, I want to bear witness to the transformation that will take place. In each of you, in myself, in our church. As we arrive at new opportunities of celebration and new moments of somber reflection, I want us to find that our hands and hearts and voices are already busy doing the work God has set us to. And all of that, all of what God is calling us to become, begins with us being willing to be like Saul and the first disciples. It means us being willing to get Going and Growing.

Let’s pray.

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