September 12, 2018
I spent most of Monday with the people who are preparing for the 2019 Special Session of the General Conference of the United Methodist Church. A General Conference is a worldwide gathering of clergy and laity who make decisions on behalf of our denomination. St. Louis will host this session in February.
I woke up Tuesday to images of people along our coasts preparing for the arrival of a hurricane. While I watched the morning news, I was also making some notes in preparation for the monthly meeting of our church’s Leadership Board.
We all spend a good deal of time preparing for events that we know are coming our way. That’s a good thing. I woke up wondering, though, how we go about preparing for those things for which we cannot plan. We know that life will always bring challenges and opportunities. This week in worship I made a bold invitation to our congregation. I asked everyone to find a way to take part in Starting Point. Starting Point is an 8-week exploration of our faith. It’s a way to start, renew and revive the basics of our faith and consider fresh ways in which we can practice our faith. Doing this work together will help us prepare for our future, individually and as a community.
Doing work like this can be a way of preparation. We can be more ready when those opportunities and challenges come along. We can be guided by our beliefs and our relationships with God to respond boldly. We can prepare ourselves to respond to all that life brings by remembering what was written to Timothy, an early church leader. “God didn’t give us a spirit that is timid but one that is powerful, loving, and self-controlled.” (2 Timothy 1:7)
For whatever you find yourself preparing this week, I pray for your courage, comfort, and peace.
September 5th, 2018
I was once invited to officiate at a wedding. The bride said she wanted to meet with me to see if I would fit her vision for the ceremony. I told her that I probably did not and declined. “Vision” is a word that gets tossed around a lot. It can become just a word, with very little power behind it.
Vision, however, is a word that carries a great deal of meaning. Even so, nailing down a vision for a church can be a challenge. We are a church with five demographic generations in attendance. The vision we have for our children may be different from the vision we have for our most senior members.
One aspect of the vision that I carry for Webster Hills is that we be a people whose faith pushes us to act. At Webster Hills, we invite everyone to Follow Jesus. Change the World. I admit, the idea of world-changing action can be overwhelming. What if we started small and grew from there? What are the places you go every day? There is your home, school, our church, a variety of businesses. What are the small things that you have learned from the life of Jesus that can shape what you do and say in those places?
There is, of course, a much wider world around us. One day you may find yourself called to a bigger and more life-changing project than you have ever imagined. But if you don’t feel like a world-changer today, what if you committed yourself to live as someone who makes change happen where you live, work and play?
I believe we can express our faith when we serve with a non-profit organization, volunteer at a school, help plan a community event, even by running for school board or city council. This week, I invite you to consider how you are following Jesus and changing the world. The world you want to reach may be close by or across the globe. What matters is that as a follower of Jesus, you are committed to looking for a need and acting to make a difference.
August 30th, 2018
As summer gives way to fall, I know my schedule will be more crowded. There will be more tasks to complete and more challenges to face. I’m okay with that. I love the work to which God has called me and while a lighter schedule for a time is a gift, so are the seasons that await all of us.
This has also been a summer marked by many conversations with colleagues and friends about things like mission, vision, and values. I’ve named them in the past but I’ve found it helpful to return to them from time-to-time. A check-in helps me understand what if anything has changed and to ask God to help me consider whether I’m letting such things be my priorities and guideposts for my life and work.
A question I was recently asked in connection to my ministry was this: “What is you want for the people of your congregation?” The emphasis was on “for” instead of “from.” As your pastor, I ask a lot from you. I love the ministries that our congregation makes happen and I can see the good that is emerging from those ministries. I’m also able to see the immense possibilities that exist within our community of faith. Jesus said, “Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing and they will do even greater things than these (John 14:12a NIV). I believe these words from Jesus. I believe that Webster Hills is capable, with God’s help, to accomplish more of what God desires for us and asks of us. Because of that belief, I know that I ask a lot of you.
The question of what I want for you is also important. I want for you what Jesus wants for all of us, to have lives that are full and abundant (John 10:10b). An abundant life is one in which our bodies, minds and spirits are filled with joy and strength. A full life is expressed through generosity, openness and a particular desire; a desire to truly know God and to know others; to love God and to love others; to serve God and to serve others.
What I want for each of you and for us as a congregation is a deepening. By that, I mean a faith that is growing deeper and stronger within us. I hope for us a deepening sense of curiosity as we consider how we do life together and how we go about our lives as individuals. I dream for us a deeper sense of boldness and a readiness to step onto paths that will take us closer to the heart of God as we respond more clearly to the needs of our community and our world.
Earlier this summer we shared a worship series, “Word,” that was an exploration of our Bible. We talked about what we can gain in our Bible reading when we approach scripture with a sense of expectation. In other words, when we go to scripture knowing that it has something to show us, but we won’t know what that is until we open the page.
As you read this edition of The Messenger, you will discover the many plans that have been made for us to engage in our faith life together. You will find many opportunities to respond to invitations to become involved now and throughout the year ahead. Whatever your passion, whether it is to learn, serve, lead, worship or pray, what I want for you and our entire community is to enter the season ahead with expectation, curiosity and a desire to claim the abundant life that Jesus has set before you.
Peace be with you,
P.S. Here’s what is ahead in worship
September 2: Think Orange
September 9: Stepping out: Following the Path of Jesus
September 16-30: When You Just.Can.Not: A Story About Running Away
October 7-21: Beyond These Doors: Living Faith in the Every Day
October 28-November 18: Gotta Celebrate: Look What God Has Done!