Potential Energy

I must admit that growing up, I was a bit of a science nerd. What can you expect from the girl who wanted to be a meteorologist? But I think the best part of science were the experiments – the hands on exploration of concepts. Because I saw it happen, I believed it. Because I was able to be a part of it happening, I learned it. It was the combination of not just hearing the words spoken, or reading them in a book… but actually doing it… that helped these concepts to be not just in my head, but also in my heart.
And I realized… faith is much the same way. Unless we are actively practicing our faith as we are learning about it… unless we are out there loving people and helping folks and praying and seeking God – then all of the stuff that we read in the bible or hear in a sermon are just words. But when we have hands on learning… when we have the chance to apply what we hear and read to our daily lives… then anything is possible.

Will you pray with me?

First off this morning – to engage you with more than just your ears, I want to give you a visual demonstration of this thing we are going to talk about this morning: Potential Energy!

Already the children have helped to explain some of these concepts to us… but I thought that Wiley E. Coyote might be able to help as well:

Well, there we have it, energy that is stored up in something – whether it is an object or a person – is POWERFUL. Just like a mousetrap that is spring loaded – or an actual coiled spring- all that energy is there, just … waiting… for the right…. Moment… to… SNAP – to release! To let all of that bundled up and constrained potential energy loose!

Well, I look around this morning and I see a whole lot of potential energy. I see a whole lot of bodies waiting… sitting… storing up… a whole lot of energy that can be released on this world!
{Well, inside… the energy is inside… Sheesh – some of you look like you are ready for naps already! Let’s make sure none of that energy goes to waste! }

The apostle Paul looked out on the communities he ministered to, also, and made a similar statement. Especially in our epistle for today. Today, we start to explore Paul’s letter to the church in Corinth… a church full of potential energy for the future.

“To the church of God that is Corinth,” he writes, “to those called to be saints… Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

“I give thanks to my God always for you… not because of anything that you have done – but because of the grace of God that has been giving you in Christ Jesus. And you have been enriched in every way by the Spirit of God, but especially in speech, in knowledge and in testimony.”

Paul starts out this letter with some praise, with some encouragement, with a reminder – that God has blessed them, God has equipped them, God has stored up in them a whole lot of potential energy and resources and talents and spirit… This is a church FILLED with the potential to truly set their city on fire with the love of God.

In particular, God has blessed them with three spiritual strengths. They have been gifted with speech, knowledge and testimony. They are a community that knows how to share their faith with words. They aren’t afraid to tell other people about God and maybe more importantly, they know what they are talking about. They have been taught well.

They have been blessed with speech, knowledge, and testimony. Are they using them to their full potential? Is all of that stored up blessing being used to its fullest extent? We’ll talk more about this in the coming weeks – but it is pretty safe to say that the answer is, no. They have everything they need… but much of their blessing is still waiting to be unleashed.

I was asked this week, if Paul were writing a letter to this community, gathered here on Sunday mornings, what three things would be lifted up as our spiritual strengths? What has God gifted and blessed this particular community with?

I have to admit… it didn’t take me very long to answer this question. And that is because as a community, we have done some work to discover who we are.

Back on October 31st… just two and a half months ago… we gathered as a community downstairs for worship. We broke bread with one another, we sang, we told stories. And we celebrated with one another who God has called us to be. We celebrated the things that have brought us together to this moment.

“The Family Meal 2” painting by De More
And if I had to pick out the three things I saw as our strongest gifts out of that Celebration of the Past they would be food, fellowship, and openness.

We are a church that has often brought people together around food.  Whether it is a funeral supper or feeding RAGBRAI riders, a potluck or a progressive dinner… meals are one of our greatest passions and strengths!

We also have a strong fellowship with one another.  We meet in small groups during the week, we take time to be with one another after weekly worship, we are a community and a family.

We are also open in many way.  We often talk about how our communion table is open to all who wish to come.  We have been open to going and serving in new ways – like when we answered the call to clean up after flash flooding in other communities and took with us folks who were not connected with our church.  We are open to new people and to going to new places.

To heck with Paul… I’m writing a letter to you this morning and I say that “ I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that has been given you in Christ Jesus, for in every way you have been enriched in him, in your desire to break bread with others around the table, for the fellowship that you form through study and prayer, and for your openness to whomever the Holy Spirit sends your way… and wherever the Holy Spirit sends you.”
Now, we could have some debate on other fantastic and amazing gifts God has blessed this church with. Contrary to popular opinion, there are many. This church is so gifted, you can’t breathe without drawing in some Holy Spirit. All around us are financial resources, resources of time, a beautiful space with a roof that doesn’t leak anymore… people who can paint, people who can sing, people who can sew, people who can build things with their hands, people who garden and farm, people who can use computers, people who pray… people who love God and want to serve him and who have all come together to this place.
I look at that collage and I see amazing huge potential.
Lots and lots and lots of potential energy stored up. The Holy Spirit flowing within this church just waiting to be released onto the world!
I do not, for a minute, want to suggest that there isn’t some kinetic energy going on here as well… In so many ways, we are out in the world, living out our faith… the potential energy is being turned into kinetic energy and we are active! We serve all over the place, we respond when there are needs, we care for one another.

But…

Like the Corinthians we also have some obstacles in our way. We have some things that hang us up and get us stuck so that we can’t move.

Over the next couple of weeks, we are going to hang out with these Corinthians. We are going to learn about their troubles and their problems and think about whether or not they are things that get in the way of our ministry too. Think about ways of removing these obstacles so that all of that potential energy stored up inside of us can be unleashed on the world.
But, I think another reason why our potential energy sometimes doesn’t get unleashed is that we aren’t sure where to use it. We aren’t always sure what the needs are. We don’t know where our gifts and talents and strengths are needed.
For the next month and a half, as a part of our “Come to the Table” journey – we are going to be listening. We are going to open our ears to folks in the community as they come and share with us the ministries they are engaged in. The first one of this is right after church today, as Terri Schutterlee from the Iowa County Food Bank shares with us what they are doing to help fight hunger right here in Marengo and how we are and can continue to be a part of their work. We want to invite you to especially stay after worship on these Sundays to have a cup of coffee and a treat and to ask questions about what more we can do.
There is so much potential here. And when this energy gets unleashed… when we figure out exactly what God wants to do with us… world – you better watch out!

Amen and Amen.

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