The story and message for today:
Count the Cost:
Abe and Zack wanted new skateboards. Abe knew he needed to save $90 and get his parents’ permission because they did not like skatkeboards. He started doing extra chores for neighbours and saved as much as he could. He also did extra stuff around home. In 3 months he had save enough to buy the skateboard, and his parents saw he was acting very responsibly. So they said “Yes”, and he was soon having a great deal of fun.
Zack asked, and asked, and asked his parents to buy him the skateboard, but they kept saying “no”. He did some jobs for neighbours, but spent the money on a movie and junk food. About a week after Abe got his skateboard, Zack said that didn’t really look like much fun, even though he did want to be riding a skateboard too.
Prayer: Loving God, please help us say “no”to our desires that prevent us from reaching our goals. Amen.
Hanamel offered Zeke his old Mercedes as a gift, and Zeke thought this was wonderful. He accepted the gift. A year later, as he tallied up all his extra costs, he realized he could not afford the Mercedes. What was he to do? He would lose face if he gave the car back, or gave it to someone else. He decided to put it up on blocks on a friend’s acreage, and told Hanamel he was saving it for his daughter.
We can be attracted to things without having counted their cost. Jesus was a charismatic speaker. His talk of the empire of heaven was very exciting. And people were drawn to him and his message. He knew what following him would cost, so he warned his listeners to take the time to count the cost of following him. His community did not need the bitterness and disappointment of followers not prepared to pay the cost. It was better for them to never join than to join and then become a drag on the community.
I prefer to be in real relationships with people. Every time I leave a position, be it teaching or ministry, leaving makes me sad. This is one of the costs I bear in choosing to begin new positions. It is a cost I choose to pay in my pursuit of service to God, and my pursuit of trying to be a positive difference in the world. There are many other costs associated with ministry and teaching, and I am well aware of these. However, t he rewards exceed the costs.
Congregational change generates many costs. Some members will leave because of the proposed changes. Some members will leave because not enough change is happening. Changes will require different participation from members, and this could be uncomfortable for them. And changes bring a variety of risks.
But the choice facing most congregations is that, if they don’t change, they will die. Death, other than itself, carries few costs. It is the easy way. Life is always costly, but worth the price paid.
This also applies to us as individuals. People seeking to become doctors pay a huge cost in time, effort, and money to get there; and then, once they succeed, demands for their time and attention pressure them constantly, along with the cost of patients not getting well, dying, or demanding solutions to their problems that are not appropriate.
I had a goal of getting back to my old weight of 185 pounds, or even my old, old weight of 175 pounds, but I have not paid the cost in terms in diet and exercise yet.
For us at St. Matthew’s, there are several potential costs. One is the time needed for members to think about what has been, what is, and what might be, and to make decisions about what they want or see what they need. It takes time to consider how we want St. Matthew’s to make a difference in the world, and, sometimes, when members take time to ask and answer these questions, they discover they are not where they want to be at all, and leave.
Another cost will be financial. Every home owner discovers there are costs to owning a home. Every building needs a combination of maintenance to keep what is there in good shape, and changes to make the building more useful for the changing needs of the people who use that building. We are facing both costs here at St. Matthew’s. Parts of our building are showing serious wear and tear, and, if we don’t address those, we will have bigger costs in the future. This building, like most older buildings, is not very energy efficient, and there would be a huge cost in making it more energy efficient.
With all of our stairs, it is not friendly to people with mobility issues, and there are a variety of solutions from costly to very costly to make the building friendlier for them. We need a sound system for those with severe hearing loss.
Each change we make will come with some costs, and we need to be honest with ourselves about those costs.
Enough about costs. Now, what are the payoffs?
If I weighed 175 pounds, my knees would feel better, and many things would be easier. Most doctors find great satisfaction in helping most of their patients have better lives.
Businesses that pay the cost of changes have a better shot at staying in business.
Congregations can receive many payoffs for making the right changes and paying the necessary costs.
There is the satisfaction of continuing to be a presence in the lives of their members. Even better, the right changes enrich the lives of the members, and bring new opportunities for joy, connections, and satisfaction. Ideally, many members experience a deeper, richer experience of God, and widen their circles of connections, because of well-chosen changes.
Once we are over the anxiety of new technologies, there is often great joy in using them. I know seniors who love PVRs that record the programs they want to watch, and then are able to fast forward through the commercials as they watch these programs. Many of the changes we are considering for St. Matthew’s could make life better for those involved. The changes to the nursery make it easier to consider its use as a space for a drop-in coffee time during office hours. Fun Fridays have been a boon to euchre players among others.
The Sunday Coffee House, or St. Mat’s Cafe, will provide an opportunity for people who like to listen to a variety of music in a sociable setting that is open to all ages. A second worship service will benefit people who find that time works better for them or want a different kind of worship experience. We hope to have new doors for the main entrance for the sanctuary that will be easier to use, and a lift in the sanctuary entrance.
But all these are little bits of what I hope will be your future. My hope is that you will succeed at becoming a centre for the communities in this area in many ways as well as a centre in Calgary for special ministries such as St. Mat’s Cafe and the traditional style of worship service. You have a beautiful light here in your ready acceptance and genuine welcoming of others and in your efforts to make this a better world for others. My hope is that your light will be visible to everyone in need of the love and caring that you offer, and that you will succeed at bringing different kinds of light into the lives of thousands.
May God bless you and keep you on the way to the future that awaits for you as you willingly pay the costs required in getting there. Amen.