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Can We Rise Again?

Scripture - 1 John 1:5-2:2

We say we are an Easter people, but after a year of living with the unimaginable impacts of COVID-19 & uncertainty about the future, a pertinent question for all churches, including Shiloh, is: Can we rise again?

Having just completed the 40 days of apostleship known as Lent, we have been focused on expanding our faith from believing in Jesus to believing like Jesus. Today I want to focus on one of Jesus’ most important beliefs: Jesus believed that he would rise again. In other words, Jesus believed in possibility.

Several times in the Gospels, Jesus confided to his disciples that things were going to get very dark, indeed, very bleak. However, the light would dawn again. Jesus told them: The Son of Man will be delivered into human hands. They will kill him. Three days after he is killed, he will rise up (Mark 9:31).

Not only did Jesus believe in possibility for himself, but he also believed it for his disciples. He told them that, even though they would all scatter once he was threatened, he would still be there for them. But after I’m raised up, I will go before you to Galilee (Mark 14:28). Indeed, he met them on the path as they headed back to Galilee.

Now, in this season of Easter, is the time to grow your faith in a positive future. In President Biden's speech to the country on March 11, he talked about the possibility of this Independence Day also being a day of "independence from this virus." He acknowledged the nation's losses & turned our attention toward hope. He offered our country the possibility of a more truthful, more compassionate, & healthier future if we take steps to make it happen.

In this same light of possibility, we as church members can, & need, to take the soulful steps to co-creating miracles with God. We can rebound from a most challenging year to the possibility of a healthier & more impactful community of faith if we take steps to make it happen.

As your soul makes room for this new level of belief in possibility, I invite & encourage you to use the DARE model to embrace & embody this belief. It is adapted from Dream Like Jesus: Deepen Your Faith and Bring the Impossible to Life by Rebekah Simon-Peter. This 4-step model invites you to use your holy imagination to call forth something new into being.

Step 1: DREAM. Begin to dream now of what a positive future will look like. Focus on your future habits, gratitude, family life, & our congregational structure.

- What changes are you willing to make in your life to develop new habits? Or remove old bad habits?

- How can you show more gratitude to God? How can you express that gratitude to others?

- What might need to change in your family life? Your leisure times?

- What might need to change in Shiloh? In your involvement & commitment in Shiloh?

Consider how the pandemic will bear good fruit for the state of medicine, community services, & the earth's health. Allow the Holy Spirit to shape your vision & guide your thoughts. Invite the Holy Spirit in on a daily basis. Arrange your day so that you have time alone with God to listen. This is an essential step in daring to dream & believe like Jesus.

Step 2: ALIGN: Bring yourself into alignment with God by receiving divine courage, comfort, & confidence to dare to dream. This must be requested! Matthew 7:7-8: Ask, & you will receive. Search, & you will find. Knock, & the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives. Ask to bring your life into alignment with God’s will with holy courage, holy comfort, & holy confidence. Then invite others into your dream of a new future by sharing it out loud. Speaking your God-given dream takes courage, but speaking it also makes it more real. One caution: do not share your sacred dream with naysayers whose only interest is in doom & gloom. You know who they are!

Step 3: REALIZE: We have realized just how precious our human connections are. Over the past year, we have attended online birthday parties, family reunions, meetings, & visits with friends. We have joined in long-distance celebrations that, if they had been in person, we might not have been able to attend. Technology has allowed us to enjoy a connection to family & friends that we may have been missing. I dream that we will continue our precious new habit of getting together with far-away loved ones & homebound church members online.

Step 4: EXPAND: Watch how one good idea expands into others. As you share your vision with others & they share their vision with you, watch how your spirits rise, buoyed on the life-giving stream of possibility. To broaden your dream even more, collage, paint, or draw it. Engaging in this level of imagination is not wasted. Nor is it pie in the sky. This expression of possibility is co-creation with God. It begins to make the vision concrete & helps others to see your vision.

Receiving input from others, hone your vision until you are convinced that it is God-given. If it is, it will be in harmony with others. The point of these steps is to identify where God is calling us to go.

And resist the temptation to repeat the loudest vision offered. Or the safest or easiest vision. Instead, make it a point to note that Christ is Risen. And that we, too, will rise again. Because we will!

I know it has not been easy this past year to maintain a strong belief in possibility in the face of devastating loss of life & hardship for so many. That is why I am inviting you to join me in DARE-ing to dream like Jesus.

Your handout is in 3 parts: FAITH. Our faith helps us face the tough realities in our life, & our faith gives us hope to make the changes needed. What are the tough realities about our church property?

Church property consists of both promises & problems. In what ways does our property allow for God’s promises? In what ways is it a problem to your vision?

Second, MISSIONARY SPIRIT. A missionary spirit means moving out into the community. How do you want me spending my time? What events do we hold here at Shiloh that welcome & draw in the community?

A missionary spirit must be flexible. Are our church spaces flexible & shared? What is holding us back from being more flexible?

Finally, MOVING AWAY FROM ALWAYS. List things our church always does – but you don’t know why we do them.

Are there some things we always do that we do not need to do anymore? Are there things we always do that can be changed or modified?

Together we can learn the life-giving miracles that renewal can bring to you and our congregation. Together, we can rise again.

Look around. Everyone here is a brother or sister to you. Everyone here is a part of this fellowship. Everyone here has a gift to give. Everyone here has a need to be met. Look around. What gift might you use? What might you ask for? With whom may you share your vision? Let us reflect & pray as we recognize that we are one family of God, one fellowship of love in Christ Jesus. Amen.

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