"Color Outside the Lines"

Proper 16 A 2014

When I was in kindergarten one day, I had a bright idea.

We were coloring in apples, four to a sheet.

We were going to cut them out and mount them on a paper apple tree on the wall

So I thought to myself, why fuss with coloring inside the lines?

I can do this a lot faster if I just color the whole paper red.

The other kids at my table saw what I was doing, thought it was a good idea, and did it, too.

But then Mrs. H, the teacher, came over and looked at my paper.

She did not see an ingenious solution to a problem;

she saw a mess.

“Take that to the trash can, and start again!” she said.

“And this time, stay inside the lines!”

Stay inside the lines.

It is a message we have all received at one time or another.

Follow the rules, keep your head down, do the tried and true.

Above all, don’t take a risk.

But this is not the advice that St. Paul gives in our second lesson for today.

“By the mercies of God, I appeal to you,

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”

He goes on to give examples about living in a counter cultural way:

looking honestly at yourself, not promoting yourself

using your gifts, not for your own gain, but to build up others.

If you read on in the passage, you’ll see that Paul also expects that Christians

to make peace with others, rather than protecting your territory

to care for the poor rather than looking the other way,

to welcome the stranger instead of being wary of them.

Don’t be conformed to the world’s habits, St Paul says—

Color outside the lines, and it will transform you.

Paul was indeed a person who lived outside the lines.

He was raised as a Pharisee—a sect of Judaism which focused on living out the law.

517 laws of scripture governed everything from when to wash your hands

to how to treat mold in your home to who you could eat with-- Paul was taught to keep them all.

But when he became a Christian he began to see how God’s good law could be twisted

into slavish rule following rather than loving devotion.

And so Paul stepped outside the lines and began to preach to non-Jews

and told them they didn’t have to keep the law in order to become Christians.

It caused a lot of conflict, but the Spirit’s work in Paul and others like him

transformed the church from a Jewish faith to a universal one.

Coloring outside the lines is increasingly important in this day and age.

The world is rapidly changing, and previous worship and giving patterns are up for grabs.

We can’t count on the next generation coming back to church when they have kids.

Church is no longer a given in people’s lives, and they often choose other things

sports, activities, meditation, or just one morning to sit and have a leisurely cup of coffee.

As a church we need to color in new places and new ways to connect with a culture

that has shifted away from the forms we were used to.

It makes me think of Peace Community Church which I attended in college.

They use the passage

“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”

as their motto and call their newsletter, “Outside the Lines.”

They are always thinking outside the box on ways to connect with the community and serve.

For example, they are situated in a small town, but students make up a good part of the population.

So they developed a thriving student ministry-- and the year I graduated, 4 of us went on to seminary.

Folks at Peace Church have made creative partnerships as well.

they don’t have many teens, so they organized a combined youth group with two other churches.

They formed relationships with the Peace Studies department at the college

and started Peace Potlucks where folks gathered to share information

and to organize for actions ranging from sponsoring tutoring in the local schools

to travelling to GA to demonstrate at the School for the Americas.

Most recently, a parishioner worked out a deal to house an organ for the music school,

which entailed a renovation of the sanctuary that the school paid for—

and the church now hosts recitals and functions as an auxiliary practice space.

The folks at Peace Church continue to look for the ‘in between’ spaces where they can meet others

form bonds, and find creative solutions to local and worldwide issues.

This week I have been thinking about coloring outside the lines here at OSLC.

Bonnie and I have been working on a brochure to hand out at the Waterfall Fest.

In doing the research, I was reminded that in my first three years we welcomed 60 new members.

These new members brought vitality to our congregation,

and the existing members welcomed their new ideas.

So a weekly Sunday school was born,

flute, bells, guitar, and baritone joined the organ

care teams were set up.

Between the reenergized older members and the excitement of the newcomers

We were coloring outside the lines all over the place.

Seems to me though, there is a danger in all this color—you can get used to it.

If you learn to color the whole page, the page itself can become a set new lines to stay inside of.

Sometimes I wonder if we have gotten comfortable with where we are coloring.

Have we expanded our ministry far enough, pushed the lines out far enough, that we feel done?

We still have a lot of people engaged; but our worship numbers are on averaging 55 instead of 70.

More significantly, after so much growth, we have not welcomed a new member in the past year.

I think it is important to think about those in between spaces again at this juncture.

The in between places are the places where creativity, partnership, experimentation happen.

If we are called to be transformed, then we need to keep changing, keep moving.

Remember what the bishop said at synod assembly?

From his visits with 183 churches of NES, 40 are failing, 40 are thriving,

and 100 are in the middle.

The thriving churches are the ones that continue to have an outward focus, a sense of adventure,

strong leadership, and a willingness to experiment.

In other words, they are the ones that are willing to keep on going outside the lines.

“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”

This is not a time to rest on our laurels, or to be comfortable with what we have.

God is working transformation in us, in this community that needs care and healing and justice.

We need to keep going outside the lines.

We need to keep opening ourselves to the next thing God is calling us to try.

We need to be willing to choose new colors, push the boundaries a little further, and get messy.

Children’s sermon

Have a bunch of rocks.

Anyone know any stories about the disciple Simon?

How about Peter?

They are the same guy. That’s because Jesus gives Simon a new name in today’s lesson.

Tell the story- Who do you say I am? Peter’s answer.

Peter comes from the Greek word, petra. Does anyone know what petra means?

Peter’s name is a play on the word Rock. He is called Rock and Jesus says on this Rock I will build my church. Later in scripture, the idea gets expanded to include all Christians to be the ‘rocks’ that build the church.

I learned a song as a kid about that: “I am the church.”

Second verse points out that the church is the people—we are the rocks that build the church.

Give out rocks as a reminder.


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