“The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” So Jesus tells Nicodemus in the third chapter of John.
Boy, have we experienced some wind in Rochester this year! Some are still recovering from the epic windstorm in March, which caused many to lose power, several trees to fall, and huge waves on the lake. As I listened to the wind roar outside, I was studying this text from John, and, couldn’t help but wonder: is this how the Spirit moves also in us? Not only in our physical world, moving with the power to topple trees and rip apart roofs – but also in our hearts, moving with the power to topple old ways of being and rip apart wrongly-held ideas?
I think sometimes it does. Sometimes God needs to come through our lives and shift the “way we’ve always done it,” to help us think outside of our bubbles, to view the world differently, to listen to God and the needs of our community and the world and to consider how we might respond.
That’s what “transformational ministry” is all about: listening to God and the movement of the Spirit, and responding. It’s about claiming the purpose of the church to share the Good News of Jesus in our neighborhoods and the world. Churches around the ELCA are focusing in on transformational ministry, helping congregations to engage in the Three Great Listenings: listening to God, to one another, and to the world. But it doesn’t stop there – a part of transformational ministry is also to help congregations develop skills for leading their community into a healthier, vibrant, more sustainable future, for themselves and for the Church as a whole.
Bethlehem and St. Martin are taking a leap into transformational ministry, too. You may have noticed a large tree near the entry way for the sanctuary. The tree began with bare branches, just like the trees outside our window. As we made our way through Lent and now into the Easter season – the season in which we celebrate the new life Christ has won for us in his death and resurrection – we have seen our tree bud and blossom with hopes and dreams for ministry.
But just as our trees outside continue to grow and change as spring marches on, our tree is not done growing! You are invited to continue to add leaves to the tree as you feel moved (more is better!). The light green leaves are for telling us what you are already doing to serve your community outside of church (e.g. tutor at-risk kids, or volunteer at food pantry). Here we will see where your heart already lies. The dark green leaves are for sharing your deepest concerns and passions about the world, whether or not you are doing anything about it (e.g. health of the environment, people suffering from addictions, or refugees). This will show us how the Spirit is blowing anew in our hearts.
As we see our trees grow fuller with the Spirit’s movement in our individual lives, we will get a sense of how that same Spirit might be blowing in our congregational life, and how we might respond. Your input will be the basis for our council to set goals for the coming years, as we imagine how God is moving this congregation into the future.
I’m eager to see this growth, sisters and brothers in Christ! May we listen carefully to the movement of the Spirit, as we step forward in faith and mission together.