This week, my family and I have slowly – and I mean that, literally – began to acquaint ourselves with our new community and church. On Saturday, the moving truck – yes, truck – came and delivered our possessions to Huntington, W.Va., in the Beverly Hills community, adjacent to Beverly Hills United Methodist Church.
It is where, we pray, we will spend the foreseeable future raising Noah, building a family, and growing together in Christ’s love with this community as we seek to go where Christ leads us.
Every new appointment and pastoral change have anxieties and fears attached to the change. Will they embrace us? Will we be able to honor Christ well with our words, actions, and deeds? Will they accept the fact that on Saturdays I get a little crazy watching WVU football? (That last question might be the hardest for the Huntington folks to accept, but we are trying.)
The anxieties are not just isolated within our own family. They are common in any church that is in the process of welcoming a new pastor. Will the new pastor be able to help turn us around? Will the new pastor be there when I need them?
All of our anxieties, both within our family and the faith community, are an expression of our struggles with adapting, changing, and seeing something new in front of us.
It is often easier to focus on our struggles and fears than it is to express our hopes and desires. Bishop Leonard Fairley, of the Kentucky Annual Conference, will often proclaim that we need to “see the possibilities.” In essence, to find the places of hope and to express our desires that are present within us now through the love of Christ. It is a mantra that I have sought to try to claim, as difficult as it may be at times, within my own ministry.
As we begin to embrace a new season at Beverly Hills United Methodist Church and our own family, where am I desiring to see the possibilities?
First, I desire to claim the possibilities of discipleship growth. When we talk about growth in the life of the church, we often do so within the language of attendance and giving. While those are important marks of discipleship, they are the fruits of something much deeper. That is growing in the image of God and living out our life in Christ.
Discipleship is all about desiring to follow God with our heart, mind, and strength. It is a life strengthened through worship, study, and service. As we are living out our faith in these areas, as a community, we, in time, become focused now on survival, but on thriving in the life of God. So, where do we need to claim the possibilities of discipleship? Where are there opportunities for us to grow, as individuals and a community, in our faith life? How are we going to grow deeper in claiming the image of God?
Second, I desire to claim the possibilities of letting people know that God loves them, and so do we. The truth of how we are loved by God is seen throughout Scripture. In Genesis, it is out of love that God created the world out of nothing. It is out of love that God created us to reflect the Lord’s love and grace. It is out of love that God sent Jesus. It is out of love that Christ died for us. It is out of love that Christ rose from the grave. It is out of love that Christ calls us to go and make disciples. Within it all, what we are loved by God and welcomed to be part of God’s family.
Every person is someone worthy of love and grace. The great thing about love is that we get to share it with every person we meet. What would it look like if we sought the possibilities before us to share love and grace with the people around us? Who in Huntington and Beverly Hills needs to know God loves you and so do we?
Finally, at least for now, I desire to claim the possibilities of God’s presence. I love how the Gospel of Matthew includes two reminds of God’s eternal presence. At Jesus’ birth, we are told that his name would be “Emmanuel,” which means “God with us.” The final words of Matthew’s account end with that same refrain spoken by Jesus when he reminds the disciples that he is always with them. There is never a moment that we are absent of the presence of God’s holy love and grace.
So, what would it look like if we claimed that? Often, at least in my own life, it is easy to fall into the belief we are on our own and everything depends on our own effort. It is easy to forget how God is with us, because we get caught up in doing it our own way.
When we claim the possibilities of God’s presence, we are mindful that our work as a community is in partnership with the One who loves and cares for us. That our mission is to share his love and grace. That we are never absent of his love and grace. So, what would it look like, then, if we claimed that as our mantra that God is with us? I pray it gives us the confidence to be bold, to take risks, to be willing to make mistakes and even fail a time or two, but in all things seek to love God, serve others, and to treat our neighbors as ourselves.
This is an exciting season and I’m looking forward to where God will lead us at Beverly Hills and in Huntington. I cannot wait to see what God will do in us and through us through this season of life.