Just Walk Across The Room: Before and After

Sunday’s Scripture ~ Luke 19:1-10

This week lay and clergy delegates of the Florida Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church will descend on Lakeland for our Annual Conference.  In year’s past Annual Conference has been the corporate, if you will, business meeting of the church.  While the conference will use this time to conduct the business of the church, we are also making a tangible turn this year to have a greater focus on ministry celebration under our theme of Becoming Disciples.

This year I had the opportunity to serve on the Annual Conference Worship Design Team and write liturgy for the worship services.  From opening to closing worship we focused our liturgical eyes on becoming and in being a people that are becoming, we recognize both who and where we have been and who and where we are headed, but have not yet arrived.

(Caution: Annual Conference Spoiler!!!)

This is the Call to Worship for the Opening Worship Service on Thursday:

Our God who is perfect invites us to this space
We who are imperfect humbly respond and rejoice.
We come broken…
Seeking to be made whole.
We come unfinished…
Seeking to be brought to Christian perfection.
We recognize this time of holy conferencing as a moment in our journey of Christian service.
We celebrate the ministry of all believers gathered in this space and beyond.
We are children of God who come to be renewed in our call.
Refresh us, revive us, O God, in this time of becoming.

Who and where we have been.  Who and where we are headed.



In our Scripture passage this week Zaccheaus is on the path to becoming.  Who and where has he been?  Greedy, cheating, thieving tax collector.  Who and where is he headed?  Honesty, restitution, reconciliation, aware of Christ’s saving power.

Luke 19 is the only time we hear of wee Zaccheaus.  Jesus tells us that he came “to seek out and save the lost” – Zaccheaus fits that description – and then the story ends (Lk 19:10).  We don’t know for sure if Zaccheaus went on to do what he shouted from the top of the sycamore tree, but I believe he did.  Saying that he would repay those he cheated was a public affirmation as well as confession – that he was leaving who he was – his before – and becoming more of the person Christ desired him to be  after Christ changed his entire world.

We are all on this path of becoming – recognizing who and where we were before and how we are becoming after Christ’s impact – and continued impact – on our lives.  These paths lead us in telling our stories to others as we “walk across the room.”  Our own stories of becoming are ways for us to connect with others that are questioning or discerning their stories.  And our own stories of becoming are a humble reminder that we are not there yet.  That we still have work to do.  That we are going onto perfection.

That we are becoming.

(And…Annual Conference Spoiler #2!!)

Prayer:  In creation God pronounced humanity good, and together with all creation, very good.  Shortly after creation humanity disobeyed God’s will through our sin.  Humanity fell from the image in which we are created – the Image of God.  Our God did not leave us fallen.  God immediately set us on a path towards recovering our created image, a path of becoming.  Together with Scriptural witnesses we continue our becoming.

Like Joshua we become as we declare that for our houses – our individual residences, our local churches, our annual conference – we will serve The Lord.
Like Ezekiel we become as we anticipate God rattling our dry bones into revitalized life.
Like the woman bent double we become as Christ enables us to stand.
Like Lazarus we become as Christ raises us up to return to service.
Like Judas we become as we hear Jesus call us friend even though we betray and flee.
Like the women at the empty tomb we become as we will run from this place, in a manner of continual becoming, as witnesses of our Jesus who gifts eternal life.
Like Stephen we become as we face great risk to defend the name and ministry of our Christ.
Like Lydia we become as The Lord opens our hearts and leads us in hospitality.
Like Peter we become as we await our commission, “feed my lambs, care for my sheep, feed my sheep.”
And as we continue becoming disciples we more heartily and humbly proclaim, “Yes Lord. You know I do. You know I will.”