When I think of expeditions of discovery and exploration, my imagination goes quickly to remote corners of the globe. You discover places and things that are far away. Frozen tundras and civilizations hidden in rainforests. Ever since a child, I have been fascinated by stories and photos of the kind that you encounter in National Geographic or on the Discovery Channel. I have always been eager to learn about this planet and its peoples.
When the church traditionally talked about missionary work, it looked to places afar. We would send preachers, teachers, doctors to the other side of the earth to be missionaries of Jesus' love. Although this history has not always been reflective of that love, Lutherans learned that the model of accompaniment is able to produce much fruit and life-connections. We have as much to learn and receive in global partnerships as we have to teach and give. I am grateful for the relationships that we have at St. James with the Christians in Idunda. Over this summer, you will hear much about how we are planning to strengthen this network through visits to and from Tanzania. We have so much to learn from our African sisters and brothers.
For now, I want to focus on the needed missionary work outside our front door. Our neighborhood is a largely unexplored horizon when it comes to sharing the love of Jesus. Dramatic demographic changes are happening all around us. Major cultural expectations regarding church and religion have shifted. No longer is church attendance and membership a prized social value. The neighborhood has changed drastically since the days when the people built St. James in the early 1960's.
On this Thursday night, I am gathering a group of folks to begin a year-long expedition to learn about the hopes and dreams of those who live within a few miles of St. James. If you are inquisitive and like jigsaw puzzles - I could use you on my team. If you like to ask questions and talk with people you don't know - I could use you on my team. If you would like to see St. James engage its neighborhood in a new way - I could use you on my team. If you like to read National Geographic to learn about other cultures - I could use you on my team. If you daydream and wonder what God might be up to these days - I could use you on my team.
Thursday night - May 24 - 7:00 - 9:00 p.m. our expedition to Discover the Neighborhood begins. I hope to see you there.
AND... of course, I always look forward to seeing you in worship.