This past Sunday we began a new series of conversations in Sunday Circle - Christ Church's version of Adult Formation that meets in Old Brick at 9:30. The new series covers the faith narratives of parishioners. Through November, we will be hearing from parishioners about the foundations of their faith, their prayer life, what keeps them grounded, and how their faith impacts their lives and decision-making process. I am very grateful to these parishioners who signed up to share their stories. It was humbling to hear two parishioners share stories that were so profound and yet so personal to who they are and who they have become.
I was struck by an imagery one of the parishioners used to describe her relationship with God. She used the imagery of pedaling a bicycle. It sounded like, "I pedal the bicycle, God holds the steer and God takes me to where God wants to take me." It reminded me of Proverbs 16:19 - We can make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps. God holds the steering and directs us where we are to go. Our responsibility is to simply pedal.
It may not necessarily matter how fast or how slow we pedal; we all have different strengths and abilities, and I think God acknowledges that. What I believe to be of most importance is that each of us is pedaling the bicycle we have been given.
As I reflected more deeply on this imagery, it reinforced the idea that life has never been about God doing the pedaling. Our relationship with God isn’t about God doing the pedaling of our bicycles. Our walk with God has never been about God pedaling our bicycles. If God were to do the pedaling, who would hold the steering and offer the kind of direction that we all need? If God were to hold the steering and pedal at the same time, where would human freedom, creativity, ingenuity, and responsibility lie? God doesn’t pedal and hold the steering; for God to do so would discount our individual efforts in God’s creative and redemptive work among us and with us.
What I have found in my walk with God is that God always, always counts on my effort, however little it may be, to at least pedal the bicycle and leave the rest to him. God counts on me to do that.
There’s a story of a gentleman who would daily go to church and kneel by the statue of Mary, the Mother of God, to pray for him to win the lottery. One day, as he cried and cried over not winning the lottery, he heard a voice out of nowhere: “At least buy a ticket.” This man had been praying that he won the lottery but had never bought a ticket. How can you win the Powerball or the MegaMillions if you do not buy a ticket? The purchase of the lottery ticket is our part of the equation - that is our pedaling.
I learned how to ride a bicycle at about age 15. I remember owning a tricycle when I was a little boy, but that’s the extent of my relationship with a bicycle. One day, I went to visit an aunt whose daughter had a bicycle because her dad worked for the United States Embassy in Ghana. Not far from the area where they lived was the ongoing construction of a highway. Because there was no traffic on this particular stretch of the highway, I would take the bicycle on the highway and just ride and ride. I will ride as far as I could, and then ride back home.
No one taught me how to ride a bicycle; I learned it myself. And what I learned about the bicycle was that the faster I pedaled, the faster the bicycle went. As I rode on the dusty road, I could feel the dust and the air hit my face. It was exhilarating. Riding my cousin’s bicycle was like being on the moon - I loved that experience.
I couldn't ride anywhere if I didn’t pedal the bicycle. It is the same with our faith journey, we could go nowhere, nor can we deepen our faith if we do not put some effort into it. And that effort comes in many, many different ways.
Last Sunday was our Pledge Sunday, and many of our parishioners returned their pledges. I cannot tell you how grateful I am for this great initial response. We have so far raised $247,000.00 from the 72 pledges that we have received. Based on this initial response, it is my prayer that we raise about $550,000.00 from the over 150 parishioners who pledge every year to support our common life. This would help us to be able to do the work that God has given us to do.
If you think about it a little more deeply, you will come to realize that this effort is also part of pedaling the bicycle that God has freely given to us.
As I give thanks to God and to each of you, I am encouraged by the words of St. Paul to Timothy, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me but also to all who have longed for his appearing.”
Each of us has been given a bicycle-not a motorized scooter-for our journey through life and with God. Like St. Paul, our task is to pedal, we have to pedal, no matter what. For, it is only in pedaling that we can also tell our story about God, where God has taken us, and what God has done with our lives.
There’s this element of surrender that undergirds such an imagery of our relationship with God. We cannot take ourselves to where God needs us to be, and so much as we surrender that part of our lives to God-that God holds the steer, we still have to pedal.
May you always remember that the God who gives you the bicycle and also holds the steer is the same God who gives you the energy and strength to pedal the bicycle to where He wants to take you.
Do not forsake this God.