April 15, 2017

Lent 2017: Day Forty

Week Six: It’s the End of the Church As We Know It

Reflection for the Week: How can I develop courage to cast a vision for a new church?

When is it you most clearly remember living in joy?

As a pastor, I can remember the day in November of 1995 when I got the call that the Bishop had approved my first lead pastor appointment to Foothills UMC. It was a Friday morning and that afternoon I headed off to a Youth Leadership Training Retreat at Camp Wrightwood. I think I played “We Are the Champions” by Queen over and over for an hour on the way up to camp.

In May 2011, Sue and I shared the joy of our family all being home again to celebrate our son Jason’s marriage to April. In July of 2012, our first grandchild, Dylan, was born. That started five years of joy! And, there are many more illustrations that come to mind of times when I felt joy. In each case, the joy was felt as a part of the blessing of anticipating something good in the future.

But, in between the times of joy, are many other stories. There are repeated stories of the first Christmas or Easter without a family member. There are stories of struggles as a pastor of a local church, not just joys. And, these days, family is apart more than together. So what does it mean “to live in joy” in the in-between times of life’s struggles, especially in light of the joy those first believers felt on Easter morning?

It means the same thing it has always meant at every stage of life. “I am making everything new,” God says in Revelation 21:5. This reminds me that my joy has always been a gift of the future — not the past. I can live in joy because I am living into the future — a future where God still brings the blessing of new unexpected life. This is the nature of our God. God is constantly creating a new day, a new sunrise, a new sunset, and a new season. We are never stuck in what was or what is. We are always promised something new and new things mean new possibilities.

Our role is to cast aside the fear of being entombed by feelings of what life hasn’t been or isn’t. Instead we must cast a vision, or plant a seed that we want to grow in this new creation. What will it be for you? A new relationship? A new commitment to your church or community? A new way to direct resources that move us closer toward the purpose of the church? When we live in anticipation of what good new thing can be in our future, we live in joy. We can only do this because we have a God who goes before us in love, making a new place for us.

Prayer: O God of resurrection hope, I pray for the courage to trust that you are preparing something new. Amen.

Rev. John Farley
Dean of Cabinet
California-Pacific Conference