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 Sermon – Pent 11, yr c, 2022   Some 10 years ago or so, whilst I was working on a church merger in West Kildonan. I hear that some discussions about a similar project was taking place in St. James.  At the time it sounded like the churches in St. James were concerned about the possibility of decreased attendance, lowered revenue and what the church might look like down the road.   There were a number of people advocating that the St. James/ Portage West Churches get together and figure out a way to be viable long term. The committee met a few times, but never really got off the ground.  The word I recall going around were that the churches would be fine. ‘closures? Not likely! We’ve always been fine’, ‘mergers?! Over my dead body!’, changes in mission and ministry? No way.  Increased giving?  Why not cut our giving to the diocese? Or reduce the priest’s salary? Sufficed to say there was no major action at that time. Fast forward to today and the church of St. James, St. Mary’s and St. Stephen’s /St. Bede’s are each operating in survival mode with less than half time, some even quarter time clergy.  They are out of options and have perhaps 2 years of funding.  Perhaps those voices 10 years ago could be called prophetic, which would be apt because a prophet generally is called to say what people do not want to hear…and say it loudly. A prophet is called and commissioned, speaking God’s words and calling God’s people to repentance and change.  But that prophet often requires some …shall we say…persuasion.   We read that the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah and said; "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations."             Then Jeremiah said…Ah!!!!!!!!!!!!! Good God!  No, not me! After all true prophets are not all that popular, even Jesus if we recall got his home town so angry that they tried to toss him off a cliff.  And for those who read Jeremiah you’ll see he didn’t fair much better.  Prophets speak God’s word to a people who don’t want to hear what God has to say.  That includes us. There may be words spoken in our midst that we do not want to hear.  There are examples and precedents being set by our neighbouring parishes, and we may or may not like what we are seeing.  My question for you is this:  what would their journey look like if they had listened to those prophetic voices years ago?              The discussions when churches are threatened by decline often fall around the topics mentioned in our reading from Jeremiah today.  Discussions around plucking up and pulling down, around destroying and over throwing, around building and planting, and we, like Jeremiah are afraid.              Unfortunately fear causes us to act in less than helpful ways.  I have experienced conversations around church mergers and closures for many years and the tendency is for churches, for us, to batten down the hatches…save every penny…hoard every item…and focus on surviving exactly the way we are until it is no longer our problem to deal with.  Then to get bitter, angry, resentful and blame whosoever the poor person is who is forced to tell us the bad news that we’ve run out of time.              Whether it comes from a prophetic person, or committee or whatnot we still fear the words that Jeremiah was called to preach. “See, today I appoint you…to pluck up and to pull down, to destroy and to overthrow to build and to plant.”             But what is it that we fear?  In Jeremiah’s time Jeremiah was called to speak to a people who had strayed from God and worshiped other deities.  God’s word to Jeremiah was to tell the people that they would be overthrown and destroyed by foreign powers.  To pull down the high places of worship and build up their relationship with God.  So what is it that we are called to pull down and to build up?             For our neighbouring churches, they are having to pull down the parishes they know and love, perhaps even the buildings.  For some it indeed might feel like they are being destroyed by powers they are unable to stop, but they have a choice.  The call Jeremiah received was “…to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant.”.  The people of Jeremiah’s time may have been overthrown but they were not abandoned nor were they utterly destroyed, there remained people to build up once more.  The churches in the St. James area face the same choice…do they wait to be overthrown, destroyed utterly?  Or do they stick together and build something new.  We at St. Andrew’s have been observing this process, very much aware that it is one we may soon find ourselves facing and I hope that we are, prayerfully, watching and learning.              So far the discussions have revolved around building.  They have been discussing how to live out God’s mission in new ways.  Despite the fact that they may be pulling down decades of history, comfort, and familiarity…even though this process may mean giving up much that is loved and treasured.  So far the discussion is how to keep the people of the church living out the mission of God as a church.             The conversation is still new.  There have been less then half a dozen meetings, but for some of our neighbours the time is short.             Their conversations and the paths they are walking may be a prophetic call to us.  A foretaste of what is to come.  So even though we have more time and resources than our neighbours, we should be paying very close attention to what God is doing in their parishes and with their people.  Our call is already being sounded, prophets will be raised in our midst and we have to be ready and open to hear God’s call to us.             What are the things, the habits, the comforts that God is calling us to pull down?  Those places that keep us distracted and distant from God and God’s mission.  And What are those new endeavours that God is calling us to build up?  The areas that bring us closer to God, and of benefit to our communities and in line with God’s mission?             These are the questions we need to be asking now.  These are the words we are needing to pray.  What are we being called to pull down and what are we being called to build up?   Oh God of our ancestors, you planted           St Andrew’s in the heart of St James for a purpose. You led each of us to this time and place. Now, God, guide our hearts to live your plan for us. Break through the barriers in us and in our church so your Spirit can flow through us as the creek flows. As we do your work to change lives, may your will thunder forth in our church. In the name of Jesus, we pray. Amen