May 22, 2022

Sixth Sunday of Easter, The Rev. Jodi Houge

Today’s scripture readings: Acts 16:9-15; John 14:23-29

So the Apostle Paul has a fever dream about going to Macedonia and he follows it and goes. But then he gets there with his whole crew and doesn’t know what to do. So they wait for the next step to be revealed.

They just wait.

And eventually end up down by the river at prayer meeting organized and run by some local women. Including a local business woman named Lydia, who dealt in high end fashion.

When she encountered the story of Jesus through Paul, something happened to her. Whatever Paul told her about Jesus led to not only Lydia being baptized, but her whole household. And she extended hospitality to Paul and his group. Meaning, she took them all into her own house and fed them.

Scripture says, “Lydia prevailed upon them.”

When you think about this story, they way things happen sounds so slippery and illusive and maybe a little bit pathetic. It’s hard to measure. If this is how the church grows and this if how God moves and gets things done in the world, we are all screwed.

But actually, it is how the Spirit moves.
And it’s how the Spirit does all the beautiful things, seemingly out of dust.

Over at Humble Walk,
It begins like this: have you ever considered starting a church here, in our neighborhood?
What if we invited local artists to lead worship once a month?
What if we spent an entire weekend fixing up homes in the neighborhood?
What if we sang old school hymns in a bar?
What if we invited those fire dancers from the Renaissance Festival on the lawn on Pentecost and invited everyone?
What if we sat down in the middle of the street and had a potluck with all of God’s people?
What if we trusted?
What if we trusted God to move us through dreams and visions?
What if we trusted that there is enough money to do everything we are being called to do?
What if we trusted the dreamers in this room?

The trust takes so much practice.

Every time Humble Walk gathers for worship, we share Milestones. Milestones are anything big or small that has happened in your life that you would like to stand up in public and share. Maybe you lost a tooth, or lost a job. Grew a tooth, grew a job. Maybe you started medication for depression. Maybe you had a birthday. Maybe someone you loved died.

Near the end of worship service, our people line up to tell us about these moments and they take a small stone from a pile and place it in a jar of milestones.

A number of years ago, a man we knew as Dr Lee stood up and asked for financial help. This was a first and it immediately made me anxious. Because if I’m honest, it felt out of control and a bit too needy and who know where this would lead? What sort of precedent this would set. Now would everyone just feel emboldened to ask for money?

Because I knew that the kind-hearted folks sitting there would slip him money.
But also, I trust God and I trust my congregation and I have never been control of any of it anyway.

You know what did happen? Dr Lee got up every single Sunday for years and expressed his giant gratitude for being welcomed into the community and would say, “Like James Brown said I need some help. I can’t do it alone.” And the folks who had money to share, shared.

So I guess what happened was exactly what I was afraid of. God’s people felt emboldened to ask for help and then people shared. Terrifying stuff!

Let me say that again for the people in the back. I was afraid that people would ask for help and it would lead to sharing.

It seems like the pandemic was financially good for a few folks who already had strong portfolios, but for a church of working gig artists it was disastrous. So early in 2020 we

formed a small team of folks who were entrusted to give away 10 percent of our offering back to anyone in the community who needed help buying groceries or tending to basic needs. It felt wrong to have church money in the bank when folks were struggling to buy groceries. And 10 percent is biblical.

It was also a teeeeeny bit anxiety producing for me. Because, after 14 years of planting this church, we finally had a $5000 cushion in the bank and who knows how long this pandemic would last and would my folks just have to stop giving altogether?

I guess what happened was exactly what I was afraid of. Some folks had to stop giving altogether because they lost all employment. But others were able to give more and somehow, we are able to continue to give 10 percent of all offering back to the community in the form of grocery gift cards. And some mental health care. And we still have $5000 in the bank.

Dr Lee died last year. He was a man short on resource and big on personality and we loved him. His legacy is that he taught us how to ask for help. And in doing so, it creates trust within the community because you stop pretending for a hot second that you can do things on your own. Humble Walk is working to create a culture where it’s okay to be needy. It’s okay to ask for help. It’s okay to give help. It’s okay to receive help. None of these things are moral failures or uncouth. These are things that make us human. And they build trust.

Trust is at the center of all of it.

Because even though it’s hard to believe, God trusts us. God has trusted God’s people from the beginning with the most precious things. God trusts us with bread, wine, water, stories that lead to freedom. God trusts us with creating things and spaces. With resources. With people. With ideas.

God trusted Paul and Lydia. God trusts this church to follow the tug of the Spirit. So go dream your dreams. Pay attention to your visions. I suspect there is something bubbling within you that could be a word for Gloria Dei. Sure, it may make you anxious. God’s people have been anxious since the beginning of time. If anything is the new normal its anxiety. When that anxiety arrives, say, “Welcome, what have you to teach me?” But do not let it stop you.

Because you have a river to get to. And some folks to pray with
And dreams to dream.
And the rest is out of control.