May 12, 2013 – 7th Sunday in Easter – Pr. Todd Nelsen

“Circles of Faith”
John 17:20-26
May 12, 2013
Rev. Todd Nelsen, guest minister

Sisters and brothers in Christ, grace and peace to you from the one who was, and is, and is to come; the Alpha and the Omega; the sign of God’s great love to us, Jesus, who is the Christ. Amen.

Mom had one other saying that I’ll always remember. She often said it when we were traveling on a long trip. I’m the oldest of three, I have two younger sisters. And if you can imagine, we’re riding in the back of the station wagon. Remember those things, station wagons? For those of you who don’t, they’re like a mini-van, but shorter. We were riding in the back of the station wagon, on a long trip up to the lake, and I can remember that eventually I would poke one of my sisters, and she would poke me, and we would poke each other, and pretty soon we got down to simply annoying each other. My Dad had a great way of dealing with this. He would simply reach up to his ear and turn down his hearing aide, so he didn’t have to listen to the bickering that was occurring way back in the back of the station wagon. That left Mom to deal with it all. And Mom would eventually turn around and say, “I wish you guys would just get along. I wish you guys would just – get – along!”

I can’t tell you how many times she said that to my sisters and I, because we were constantly picking on each other, or annoying each other, or touching each other. She even said it to us when we were together at Thanksgiving, or Christmas, or Easter, and we’re arguing about one thing or the other. “I wish you guys would just get along.”

Today is a very important day in the life of the church. It is a transitional day, this 7th Sunday of Easter.We move from the empty tomb and the promise of resurrection, into the promise of the Spirit coming to us at Pentecost, that we will hear next week. And in this kind of “pause” day, Jesus prays for his followers. And he prays that he wishes we would all just get along. He prays to the Father that we would be one, that we would know the oneness that he has with the Father, the love, the intimacy that Jesus has with God the Father. He wishes that we would have it with him, and that we would have it with each other. And so, in John, he prays that we would have a sense of unity, a sense of oneness, a sense of being together, because it’s really important in our life together. It’s really important in our life together as the Body of Christ.

Not only is Jesus praying for his immediate disciples, but he was praying for those people that they would share the  work God did, that they would have a sense of oneness in the next circle beyond the disciples.

And then, he was even praying it for the world, that we might have a sense of oneness, a sense of wholeness, a sense of knowing forgiveness and grace and love and mercy together as people of God.

“I wish you would all just get along,” it seems as if Jesus is praying. But he prays so that we would know his love, forgiveness and grace, and so that we would know his complete joy.

Today is an exciting day in the life of Circle of Faith Parish. By the way, I love that name, Circle of Faith Parish, because how we proclaim the gospel occurs in circles. When we hear in the book of Revelation that God is the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End, we hear of a circle, something that is complete and whole. And so, now, as three congregations “in a line” (referring to being in a line along the “Welcome Road”), you’ve chosen the name Circle of Faith. What a great name for your Parish, for together, you are whole, and wholly one.

And yet, I have one little suggestion. I would change your name just a little bit. You’re Circles of Faith. Not just because you are three congregations, each your own complete, unified circle, but because the promise of the Gospel flows out from this place. It flows out from St. Peter in Ceylon, it flows out from Trinity in Welcome, it flows out from Waverly in Trimont, in Circles. Like ripples and waves.

I love the fact that on the back of your bulletin this morning, you talk about Ripples of Joy coming from your Call Committee, as you are now going to be presented with the name of a Pastor that will surf the waves of God’s grace with you. That’s what sharing the Gospel is all about. It’s about Ripples of Faith, that flow from this place out into the community, out into God’s world. It’s about Ripples of Faith that started here at the baptismal font, where the Word of God was planted in you and then sprung forth from you, and flows out into members of your family, friends, and community, neighbors, strangers, enemies, and the world.

You see, God invites each one of us, as his disciples, to be part of Circles of Faith. Circles of Faith that start here at Waverly Lutheran Church, but then ripple out into the communities around you: Trimont, Truman, up to Madelia and beyond, throughout Martin County, and then into Watonwan County, and then into Brown County, to the ends of the earth. (Some people would say that Brown County is the end of the earth.I once lived in Martin County for a long time, over 3 years.)

But that’s what God invites us to do, to surf those waves of his grace, to bring his Good News out into a world. A world which the author of the book of Revelation identifies as one that is hurting, one that is hungry, and one that is thirsty. We live in a broken world, one that needs to be brought back and made whole. We live in a world in which people hunger for relationships, for acceptance, for understanding, for Good News. We live in a world in which people are thirsty to be forgiven, to be accepted as they are, to be told that they’re loved, that their sins are washed away. We live in a world in which people thirst for life, and love, and grace.

And as a member of this congregation, as a member of Circle of Faith Parish, you are invited to simply say, along with the author of life, “Come. Come you that are thirsty and drink from the well of salvation. Come you that are thirsty and have your thirst satisfied, because we worship one who makes us whole, who fills us and refreshes us: Jesus, the Christ.

It is an exciting time here at Waverly Lutheran, and at your sister congregations, Trinity and St. Peter, as together, being Circles of Faith, you are inviting a new pastor that will surf those waves of God’s grace with you. Oh, how envious I am of the awesome things that God has planned for you. Oh, how envious I am of how you will ride those waves of God’s grace, with a new beginning, making new circles, having rippling effects that flow out into the world.

And so, my friends, this week I pray that God will use you to be a circle of faith and a ripple of hope and a refreshing drink of the water of life for those you encounter. In the name of Jesus, who sends us all out into Circles of Faith, promising us unity, not only that we would all get along, but that we would be one with him, and the Father, and the Spirit, and with each other. Amen.

May the peace of God that passes all understanding guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus, our Lord. Amen.