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  • Writer's picturePastor Elaine

July 9th, 2023 ““Jesus said - come to me all you who are weary and carrying heavy burdens, and I "



And he went on to say take my yoke upon you and learn from me for I am gentle and my burden is light.


These last couple of verses from today’s Gospel reading are all about discipleship and might be some of the most beloved words that Jesus spoke.


These words are also paradoxical. We know from reading our scriptures that the work that Jesus and the disciples and apostles and generations of followers did and do is not easy nor light.


How are we to find rest in taking on God’s burden?


How can Jesus offer rest when he asks so much? The yoke is not light.


Sometimes we are exhausted not by the work we are called to do but by not even knowing where to start.


I feel like that about my basement!


How do people of faith get past feeling overwhelmed in order to take part in the work we are called to do?


How tired are you?

On a scale of 1 to 10 how tired are you?


PAUSE - if you are willing, share your number.


What heavy burdens are you carrying?


PAUSE

What could you let go of to be less weary and heavy laden?


Weariness can come from having nothing at all to do that truly matters.


Think about that for a second.


Weariness can come from having nothing at all to do that truly matters.


The easy yoke means having something to do, a purpose that demands your all and summons forth your best. It means work that is motivated by a passionate desire to see God’s kingdom realized.


Recently I pulled a book off the shelf that I had been assigned as part of the Dubrick Institute a few years ago. The book is called “Entering the World of the Small Church” by Anthony G. Pappas.


For over a year now a great deal of thought, energy and time has gone into what we have been calling Advent 2.0. There have been meetings - a lot of meetings. Because my mind has been focussed in this direction I keep seeing or reading things that seem to align with this process.


And that is where chapter 8 of “Entering the World of the Small Church” really resonated. Chapter 8 is Assessing Congregational Health. And it is probably a good idea for us to be doing!


Anthony Pappas says that congregational health is difficult to measure because for most congregations health is a relative reality. Ill health is easy to identify - good health may be more difficult.


Pappas give 3 reasons why it is important to consider congregational health.


The theological reason is that Jesus was spiritually healthy - as his body, congregations are called to incarnate his well - being. Churches are called by God to be sources of health for persons, families, communities and society.


A psychological reason is that sick Churches are hellish places to be. We should be experiencing little bits of heaven in our congregations.


And finally a sociological reason is that health begets health and sickness begets sickness.


Pappas believes that congregational health is the single most critical variable in predicting a Church’s future.


Chapter 8 of “Entering the Small Church” goes on to identify 5 areas of congregational health.


  1. Spiritual Vitality

  2. Calling

  3. Common life

  4. Mission

  5. Leadership


In each of these areas there are further questions or indicators, or assessment tools.

I have been thinking about how healthy we are according to these categories. I have also been wondering how relevant some of them might be after our pandemic experiences.


Pappas says that the primary measure of congregational health is spiritual vitality. He says that the unique capacity for the small Church to be God’s tribe is wasted unless the spirit of the living God incarnates it.


What about calling? Does the congregation have a clear sense of history, identity and hope?


And mission? What is God calling us to do in the community in the service of the kingdom? Where do the passion of the congregation and the opportunities in its context intersect?


Just as Christ came not to be served but to serve, no Body of Christ is healthy if its exclusive concern is its own well being. A Christian congregation is only healthy when it is serving, giving, caring and involved in needs outside of itself.


How healthy do you think we are? Please take some time to think about some of these categories.


How tired are you? What heavy burdens are you carrying? What could or would you like to put down?


Can we take the yoke and learn from Christ?


For we are weary and in need of rest.


AMEN












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