Sunday, June 4, 2017

Opportunity and God's Will

June 4,2017 The members of Park church voted today to move forward on a ministry opportunity in Cassadaga, the village just north of us that hasn't had a formal Christian witness in the community in the past year. The Catholic Church closed about four years ago, and the Baptist church that had been in the community for over a hundred years, had ceased operation a couple years ago. There are no guarantees here; we hope to succeed, but could fail. Faith is like that; we examine a situation, then do our best to make proper decisions about it. Often when Christians make decisions such as this, the decision to move ahead or not is couched in the language of God's will. "It is God's will that we do such and such," people say, whether speaking of new ministry opportunities, whom to marry, what college to attend or job to take. The problem with such language is that it sets up impossible scenarios, or pits people of good will against each other, instead of allowing people to simply make the best decision they can without worrying about such cosmic consequences as God's eternal purposes. Here's how it works: If a young man is considering marriage, but makes the decision based on whether the young woman of his dreams is God's will for him, suppose they marry, but it is a disaster. So he concludes she wasn't God's will for him. Now the trouble begins. Not only did he "miss" God's will, he made it so she missed God's will, too. Not only that, the woman he should have married and the man she should have married have missed God's will, also. And the persons they married have ultimately missed God's will for them by default. It becomes a domino effect, with no end in sight. God's will is clearly spelled out in Scripture. It is moral, ethical, and spiritual, but not necessarily personal. When making decisions, we need to claim responsibility for our decisions. We do the best we can, but if our plans don't turn out well, it's not God's fault; maybe we just made a bad choice. I like how St. Luke states the issue in Acts 15, where even in deciding foundational doctrine for the Church, the most he was willing to say was that "it seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us..." So today we made a decision to move forward in ministry. All new opportunities have a certain measure of uncertainty, and there are no guarantees. It could prove to be a huge mistake, but even if it is, that is no indication of whether the venture was or was not God's will. It is his will for us to live in faith, with integrity, and in love towards one another. If we do that, whether in our present ministry, or in new opportunities, we will have discovered God's will. If we fail in these matters, even if the new venture is a smashing success, we will have failed. I am thankful tonight for our people who chose to step boldly into a new future. In the thirty-two years I served here, they never failed to do so. That's the kind of people God has raised up here. And I am thankful for those who see the future differently. They will help us keep our feet on the ground, even as we reach for the heavens.

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