How is your new year looking so far? Are you expecting much? We are not victims to our past. We are not destined to merely repeat last year, this year. We can choose a different, more hopeful future. Want to find out how 2018 can be different? Read on, and here’s a hint: Expect more.
They arrived at Bethsaida. Some people brought a sightless man and begged Jesus to give him a healing touch. Taking him by the hand, he led him out of the village. He put spit in the man’s eyes, laid hands on him, and asked, “Do you see anything?” He looked up. “I see men. They look like walking trees.” So Jesus laid hands on his eyes again. The man looked hard and realized that he had recovered perfect sight, saw everything in bright, twenty-twenty focus. Jesus sent him straight home, telling him, “Don’t enter the village.” (Mark 8.22-26)
Someone shared a brochure they picked up at a church they had recently visited when out of town. (I really appreciate learning how other communities of faith communicate their mission and message, so keep sharing your experiences when you are away!)
The brochure is entitled, What to Expect During Your Visit. It was intended to be read by the ﬁrst-time visitor and previewed what a normal, regular order of worship looked like, how the service would be conducted, the pastor’s theology, and a brief description of church groups. It sounded so complete. (Incidentally, it was not a Presbyterian church.)
I wondered though, how many people only experienced what that brochure described should be expected? As if that brochure was the bar to be met. Nothing more or less. We have produced our own Welcome to Cold Spring Church brochure and I am reviewing it with different eyes now.
We do want everyone, especially our first-time guests, to feel safe and not be caught off guard or made to feel uncomfortable. That is why I try to help aclimate guests during my Welcome each week as worship begins. But I wonder if our worship is too regimented, regular, and maybe a bit too predictable. It might be better if more surprises were experienced! That is, if worshippers expected MORE from God, and we experienced MORE in worship, wouldn’t we more likely be more energized as God’s creativity and wonder were released?!
The story above from the Gospel of Mark about the man who could not see tells what on the surface looks like a failed miracle of Jesus. But it actually tells the story of expectations being exceeded.
The man’s friends expected that Jesus would heal the condition of blindness. Imagine like in a post office you line up to see Jesus. Next. Next. And so on. Jesus will heal you. Next, please.
As if that was the man’s only need, the man’s vision circumstance, could Jesus possibly care about. But surprisingly, what we learn is that Jesus cared about the man’s entire life experience not just his vision challenges. Jesus took the man out of town, where otherwise-abled people gathered (those we thoughtlessly refer to as the disabled). Jesus wanted the man to experience something other than same old shame and rejection. Using his own saliva as a healing balm, Jesus placed his hands on the man’s eyes, asking him if he could see.
Yes!, the man exclaimed. The now-sighted man reported that he saw people upside down! Seeing upside down was better than not seeing at all, right? Maybe they should leave well enough alone. They expected that he would see after being with Jesus. Good enough, then! Maybe they should just go back to town with the little they got.
But thankfully, they waited, they managed to expect more. They recognized in that moment of increasing clarity that Jesus not only could, but would do much more than they at ﬁrst imagined. At the Master’s Second Touch, all was well, and Jesus reminded him, there is no need to go back to that village begging! Jesus exceeded the expectations, and I believe, he wants to exceed ours, and our community’s expectations, as well.
What do we expect in our congregation’s worship and ministry? I suggest, not nearly enough! God’s transforming Spirit is urging us to go beyond incremental and incomplete blessings to receive the empowering Second Touch to be that real, new, community of Christ’s disciples. Come on! We have already found we can dream again. We have increased our energy. We have increased our financial giving. We have experienced healing and hope and I don;t think God is out of blessings. Do you?
Our 303 year old mission, should we fully embrace it, is to deliver spiritual and other resources through our community of faith to our community at large that transforms our neighbor’s lives in the name of Jesus Christ. What do you expect?!
In 2018, our leadership and caring teams, groups, teams, staff, and individuals just like you all have an opportunity to expect more of Christ and of each other. Imagine how our greater Cold Spring area neighbors could experience God is new ways, more relevant and effective ways? How could seniors be energized by hope? How can younger people grow and connect to serve and learn so that more and more people experience the abundant life like that man did, like Jesus continues to offer to us today?
During the past year you may be in a better place, but look carefully. You may see, but are “people walking upside down.”? Well, pay attention, because the Master’s Second Touch is on the way for a new, healthy, and abundant year. Get involved a bit more. Give a bit more. Engage a bit more. Serve a bit more.
Cold Spring Church: Energizing Spirits. Transforming Lives. Expecting More.
Let’s not settle for a new year, but an expect more year. I can’t wait to see what emerges…