Freedictionary.com defines open-ended as:
1. Not restrained by definite limits, restrictions, or structure
2. Allowing for or adaptable to change
3. Inconclusive or indefinite
4. Allowing for a spontaneous, unstructured response
Last Sunday, February 26, I opened Luke 7:38-50 and preached about the open-ended conclusion to the story of an unnamed woman who lavishly poured out love upon Jesus and heard the words “your faith has saved you, go in peace.” Fred Craddock points out that this open-ending screams the need for a church that says “you are welcome here”—a place for those who have experienced the forgiveness and grace of God to form communities of love and support. The question is, did this woman find such a community to support her? We do not know. What we do know is that Luke calls us to hear the gospel story with the question on our minds, “What then should we do?”
I was mindful as I prepared for and preached Sunday’s sermon that UBC is a church that is willing to ask the question “What then should we do?” It is not a question we can ask once, and then be done with it. Instead, it’s a question we continually ask ourselves in response to the work of Jesus among us. We ask the question in response to events taking place in our community, nation, and world that impact the lives of our neighbors. We ask the question any time a neighbor, like the unnamed woman in Luke 7, comes to our doors seeking peace.
The very nature of asking this question means that we, the people of Jesus, must be comfortable with open-endings. Sure, we place confidence in the full story of the Gospel, that there will be an ending of perfect love and grace when the fullness of God’s kingdom comes. But in the meantime, the call to faithfully follow Jesus is a call to live an open-ended story. Open-endings inspire imagination and push us to always consider the possibility that Holy Spirit might be leading us in new or previously unimagined ways.
Certainly, part of our reflection at Sunday’s church conference was the continuation of this work—how is our church responding, forming new endings that are really not endings at all.
This work is also crucial to the season of Lent. As we begin the forty-day journey to the cross, we are all invited to ask the question, “What then should I do?” What new opportunities for service to the Kingdom of God might Spirit be calling you to undertake? What new ways of seeing and understanding might you need to lavishly love a neighbor needing the peace of Christ? What new disciplines (prayer, studying scripture, taking time to enjoy the goodness of creation) might you need to adopt to grow in your commitment to follow the Way of Jesus?
May this season of Lent give us new endings as we await the new beginning of resurrection.