Life Unstuck

Thank God for summer.  The season affords many of us the chance to temporarily step away from our ordinary routines to enter a different rhythm.  For at least a week or two – and sometimes longer (as in the case of this lucky sabbatical-taking pastor) – we depart from places we call home to visit new lands.   Following long pandemic months of home quarantine, a break from the routine can be a gift.   It reminds us life is more than a single day on endless repeat – the kind depicted in the film Groundhog Day.    Even if we love our home (as I do), it is good to break out of the ordinary sometimes. It reminds us life holds not just routine but change and renewal as well.

After laying out the gospel message of Jesus Christ in his letter to the Romans, the Apostle Paul invites the Roman church to not be “conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds” (12:1).  Following his Damascus Road conversion, Saul was acutely aware of how God could instigate change.  And he invited his readers to embrace an ongoing journey of renewal in Christ.  In his letters, Paul repeatedly challenges churches to get “unstuck” – especially when they have fallen into destructive patterns.   The Christian life, as Paul depicts it, is a life unstuck – one open to God’s molding and reshaping in Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Starting September 4th, I will be preaching a sermon series entitled Life Unstuck.  While reading scripture this past summer, I was struck by how often God breaks in to shake things up and bring new life and vision to a people.  Whether it be healing bodies stuck in disease, liberating the captive, bringing reconciliation where there had been calcified conflict, freeing individuals and communities trapped in sin, or disrupting unjust structures, God brings to the world time, and again a life unstuck.

One of the many places in Scripture we see this life-transforming God at work is the book of Second Samuel.  In fact, if you wanted to find a time in biblical history when things were in the greatest state of social and political flux, you might well look to Second Samuel.  In its pages, we read of a seismic shift occurring in the life of ancient Israel: a transition from a loose tribal configuration to a centralized state structure.   In that period of radical change, we see God powerfully at work – pointing people in certain directions, warning about the perils of particular paths, intervening to save, and being a vital part of the transformation of a people.  I look forward to exploring with you the life unstuck we find in the book of Second Samuel – and in our lives as believers.

This past July, I studied the book of Second Samuel during a stay at the Presbyterian church’s Ghost Ranch retreat center in Abiquiu, New Mexico.  I was reflecting on God’s work in times of change.

One evening, as I sat on a lounge chair outside my room, I watched as a lightning storm lit up the sky.  I heard the earth-shaking thunder that accompanied it and listened as the sound of rain beat down on the awning just over my head.  After the long months of drought, we have known in Southern California, the sights and sounds were wonderful.  I witnessed God bringing renewal to a New Mexico landscape right before my eyes and ears and gave thanks for that power that can not only light up the sky but can bring new life to God’s people today.

~Pastor Matt