What fitbit is Teaching Me about Life & the Church

Pick up Your Pallet and Walk

Sermon by Rev. Steven McClelland on John 5: 1- 9. Focus on how walking will not only heal you but put you in touch with God on a daily basis. Check out Rasaan Bourke & The Choir as they sing – Order My Steps. They rocked the house!

My daughters gave Dotty and me fitbits for Christmas. For an obsessive compulsive like me it’s great, because it measures your vertical and horizontal distance traveled. It measures your miles, your sleep, your calorie intake and calories burned. It keeps track of your weight. In short it is an amazing tool that helps me stay motivated.

What I love about this is the discipline it has brought into my life and what discipline is teaching me about life.

If you think about it walking is very Biblical. The Israelites walked for 40 years in the dessert. Jesus walked with his disciples throughout the entire Galilee, down to Jerusalem, up to Nazareth and back down again. Paul walked as he set up churches throughout the Mediterranean.

Walking is the oldest form of human locomotion. As my seminary professor – Kosuke Koyama, liked to say to us. It is the speed at which God moves. Why you might wonder and his answer was always the same. Because that is the speed at which a human moves. God he would tell us is not in a hurry. He is the creator of time and has as much of it as he needs, but we don’t.

So I walk, why because it is the way to find God and myself. It is a discipline that involves all of my senses. I feel the cold, the wind, and the warmth. I feel my body react to hills and plains. When I walk with Dotty I love the helps she gives me when I don’t want to walk. I love the thoughts that come to me from beyond me.

In this way walking is probably one of the greatest spiritual disciplines you can engage in. In fact it’s the prescription given by Jesus to a man who has been sitting by troubled waters for over 30 years. “Get up, pick up your pallet and walk.” When you walk you are healing your body. You are giving your heart and circulatory system oxygen. You are toning your muscles and losing weight. And you are clearing your head out.

Soren Kierkegaard – the author who in college got me thinking about pursuing a calling in ministry. He is one of the great Christian existentialists who said the following on walking: “Above all do not lose your desire to walk. Every day I walk myself into a state of well-being and walk away from every illness. I have walked myself into my best thoughts and I know of no thought so burdensome that one cannot walk away from it. But sitting still, and the more one sits still, the closer one comes to feeling ill… if one keeps on walking everything will be all right.

I have a neighbor who has been battling cancer and one of the things she does is walk every day. In this way she stays alive. I have another friend who walks and hikes and trains for his eventual attempt at walking the entire Appalachian Trail upon his retirement – A walk over two thousand miles.

I do my best thinking and planning when I’m walking. The rhythm of walking generates a kind of rhythm of thinking, and the passage through landscapes stimulates the passage through a series of thoughts. This creates an interesting consonance between ones internal world and one’s external passage through it. New thoughts come as new landscapes emerge and you see patterns that connect things together. Walking on a treadmill cannot do this for you. You must get outside and walk.

And what has come to me regarding our church and its future is this:

I believe it possible for us to be a church known for excellence in the following areas: That we become known as the church that offers amazing hospitality to new people. That we are the church that offers excellent music and worship, and that we are known as the church that transforms human beings – making them into nothing less than mature, wise, loving human beings who can train others.

In this way we will grow by attraction and not in any other way. It means that we will need to set up a structure that can help us get ready for growth. We will need shepherds whose responsibility will be to help new members through their first year of membership by inviting them to events, making sure they are feeling included and wanted.

Second we will need small groups whose focus will be to study God’s word to see what it means to be a person who manifests the fruits of the spirit as Paul articulates them. To learn how to cultivate wisdom, to grow in insight and knowledge into the ways of the world, to be taught about faith so we can walk in faith and to learn how to testify to what that faith is teaching us about life, hope, loss and love.

And as we do this we will be constantly asking ourselves is this helping people grow in discipleship? Are people becoming more giving, more loving, more confident, and more peaceful? Are they becoming wise?

We will need feedback loops to hear where and how we can improve things in worship, in mission, in Christian Education and in Stewardship and Hospitality. Where are we expending too much energy on things that don’t work and does what we are doing help disciple people in the way and walk of Christ? And last but not least we will all need to walk through our neighborhoods. Why because it’s important to see the area in which you live. It’s important to see people and you never know when the Holy Spirit will be at work and bring you into a conversation or situation at could transform you or your neighbor’s life in a positive way.

Walking is the great adventure, the first meditation. Walking will bring your spirit and body into balance. When I walk I experience every emotion, every possibility. Walking literally opens up the world. Walking is healing but here is why we need each other. The more I walk the more I need the help or incentive of others who are walking too.

So fitbit like the church provides me with a way to compete and cooperate in community. It helps to motivate me, challenge me, and change me. I love competing with my sister in law because she helps me achieve my daily goals and then some. The church is like that – we come together to be revitalized, challenged, changed and then we go and walk through life and we need each other to do this.

The church is many things but its greatest gift to humanity is the witness of its members, to God’s healing power at work in our own lives. We want to be the church that does nothing less than transform immature people into mature ones.

Because as Jesus tells us: “Truly, truly, I say to you, (you) who believe in me will also do the works that I do; and (you) will do greater works than these…” (John 14: 12) Herein lies the power to change. Herein lies the power to be healed.  Amen


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