Today is the last day of MOPS for the year. I know that I've enjoyed getting to know many of you since I started coming to MOPS right after I moved here, just over a year ago.
Endings are bittersweet. We feel somewhat sad when something ends, partly because we've enjoyed it and partly because it is something that has filled our schedule and we are left wondering "now what?" Now what will we do on Thursday mornings. Now what will we do with the kids when school is out.
"Now what" is how countless people must have felt:
- When Adam & Eve left the garden, they must've thought, "now what?"
- When Noah & his family were on the ark, they must've thought, "now what?"
- When the Israelites crossed the Red Sea and were free from the Egyptians, they must've thought, "now what?"
- When Israel was exiled, and when they were able to return to their land, they must've thought, "now what?"
- When Jesus was dead, lying in the tomb, the disciples must've thought, "now what?"
- And when Jesus was raised from the dead, but then left again, people must've thought, "now what?"
Do you see the theme?
No matter how normal, ordinary, or average our everyday life is, we are all going to be faced with the question "now what?"
A lot of times, we like to think of the Bible as our go-to answer book. We look up in a topical index whatever problem we're facing and are given a verse or two to read and assume that is supposed to be the answer to our problem.
But that kind of makes the Bible fall flat, I think.
Instead of looking at it as a place to look up the answers, rather, we should look at it as a place to see the experiences of so many people before us who struggled, who feared, who doubted, who had questions, who lived ordinary lives. People who also have asked, "now what?"
We can look to it and realize that often, there are not final answers for us, and even if we do get answers, they are not always the same for everyone, and they take a lot of time to come. And while there are promises in the Bible, they are not exact. It doesn't tell us exactly what to do with every single step we take in our lives. For example, when I was in the process of moving here, I had to wonder, "now what?" God didn't tell me exactly what He wanted me to do here. He didn't tell me which church I would attend, if I would get a job, or what. But I firmly believe that opportunities that have opened up--over time--are due to His leading and prompting. And even though I can't look to the Bible to tell me exactly what I should do, I can look to it for some beautiful and life-giving promises and guidance:
I think of Jesus' words at the end of the gospel of Matthew, assuring people of his presence: "And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age." (Mt 28:20). Or Colossians 3:15, in which Paul encourages us to "let the peace of Christ rule in [our] hearts". Or from the gospel according to John when Jesus explains that even though he is leaving, the "Advocate", the Holy Spirit, is being sent to be with us forever. And then when Paul explains in Galatians that we will know who has that Holy Spirit guiding his or her life because of the fruit produced: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
Too often, we want everything in our lives planned out. We want lists made and we want to check things off of those lists.
But, as we learned a couple of weeks ago, life gets interrupted.
And when that happens, we can go crazy, or we can still ourselves, quiet ourselves, and ask God, "now what?" And I believe that God will lead us, even if we can't see where we are going or how all the pieces of our lives may fit together.
So, as we break for MOPS until next year, I encourage you to ask yourselves, "now what?" regarding your faith. Is there something you need to surrender to God? Is there a practice such as prayer or meditation or Bible reading that you want to put into your life? It's not going to be the same for everyone here. But it is a question we all can ask, and we all can find an answer to--even if that answer isn't explicitly in the Bible. It's there through the Spirit, and there through the Spirit working through others.
I'm going to leave you with more of Paul's words in his letter to the Colossians, also from chapter 3, in order to encourage you in seeking God's guidance:
1 So if you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth, 3 for you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ who is your life is revealed, then you also will be revealed with him in glory. 5 Put to death, therefore, whatever in you is earthly: fornication, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed (which is idolatry). 6 On account of these the wrath of God is coming on those who are disobedient. 7 These are the ways you also once followed, when you were living that life. 8 But now you must get rid of all such things-- anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive language from your mouth. 9 Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have stripped off the old self with its practices 10 and have clothed yourselves with the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge according to the image of its creator. 11 In that renewal there is no longer Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and free; but Christ is all and in all! 12 As God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. 13 Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14 Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. 15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful. (Colossians 3:1-15)