“Your future depends on how you remember your past. Choose for the truth of what you know. Do not let your still anxious emotions distract you. As you keep choosing God, your emotions will gradually give up their rebellion and be converted to the truth in you…. Do not be afraid. You are not alone…. Remember you are held safe. You are loved. You are protected. You are in communion with God and with those whom God has sent you. What is of God will last. It belongs to the eternal life. Choose it, and it will be yours.” Henri Nouwen from The Inner Voice of Love.
Someone shared this quote with me recently and I have been letting it roam around in my heart and mind since I heard it. When we choose God our lives may take turns we didn’t expect or imagine but we will learn and grow in ways that show us, sometimes only in hindsight, what purposes God had in shaking things up. I doubt we will ever know the fullness of how God has used us in the grand plan of Christ’s reign in the world but we do get glimpses once in a while.
It seems so often that the actions in our past, the tangible pieces of our past take precedence over the reasons for taking those actions. To be fair, it can often be easier to remember the actions because their may be pictures, paperwork, evidence that these things happened. But the ways we came to those decisions may have been the result of the gradual, reflective and quiet working of our hearts and minds. If you are like me, keeping a journal of that work is a difficult discipline, you may have no record at all of the “Why” behind your choices. But this thought from Henri Nouwen has helped me to reflect on the importance of remembering the “why” as much as the “what” in my memories. How might it help us, if we can remember the why and how we approached actions in our past in order to hold those up against the why and how we are approaching the future? What might God be doing in us to prepare us for something that is just out of reach? How can we help each other to trust in a future the is uncertain yet known because God is in control of it?
In the coming year our congregation will be invited to consider our future. I am certain that God is with us and that we are not alone in discerning how to move forward with love for the world and proclamation of the Gospel in Edmonton. I hope that we will be able to do this work with great hope and joy but I do not know that it will be without visitations of grief and sadness. But here again I reflect on Nouwen’s words, words the echo the words of the Gospels, “Do not be afraid.” God’s promises last and we are not alone to seek them out and to live as people of the Way.
As I take my maternity leave I want you all to know that I am so very grateful for this gift of time with my children and family. I also want you to know that my prayers, my commitment and my hopes are still with our church family as well. This call from God to discern the future is a call we share. Let us help each other to keep choosing God and trusting that God will lead us well through whatever the future holds!
As I look out on what may be the last days of green leaves and grassy hills for a while, I am aware that as the fall approaches we are looking towards an interesting year ahead. With new conversation circles starting up, maternity leave changes coming in December and all of the unknowable changes that may come with the changing seasons there is much to look forward to and to prepare for.
What are your routines of preparation? Do you have a way of clearing out your gardens, saving the last of your vegetables, and setting up for the winter that will come? How do these routines mirror the practices of faith and preparation you use as we enter into the end of the church year and look towards the advent season of new beginnings? Sometimes this routine is simply taking time to look around and see what is already happening.
I was recently invited to attend a community roundtable discussion at United on Whyte, the new United Church that was formed after 4 area United Churches decided to merge into one congregation. They invited local congregation leaders and community organizations to be in conversation about the needs of our community. It was an energizing and informative morning.
Did you know that many of the agencies that work to provide food, safety, resources and support to us and our neighbours could use places to connect with clients and neighbours?
Did you know that there are many ways to support the important work that is happening in our community with resources we have on hand?
Do you know that we are already doing some of this work through our partnership with WECAN, the neighbour centre, and the interfaith centre?
We have been prepared for service in our communities and as we see these opportunities I pray we are encouraged to take them!
What does it mean to Follow Jesus? As Christians this question should be a regular one that we are asking and addressing in our lives. After all following is about movement and when we are moving we have to pay attention to our surroundings as they change. We wouldn’t suggest that the driver of the car, we are riding in, not look both ways before turning left or not to keep their eyes open for stop signs and pedestrians, right? I wonder if we haven’t gotten so used to hearing the words “Follow Jesus” that we have forgotten that it reflects action and engagement.
So, just in case, I thought I would take some time to think about what I mean when I say I am a follower of Jesus. Maybe this simple exercise will help you to think about your own discipleship too. Here is what I did.
I sat down and made a list for myself in response to these two questions:
Where do I see the movement of Jesus in my community (not just EMC)?
Where do I see my daily life intersecting with Jesus’ movement in the community?
I realized, that while I saw some ways, that Jesus was working, I also became aware that I hadn’t spent much time actually looking for Jesus out there. The intersections between my daily routines and Jesus’ routine were fewer than I would like. It is like I had been driving my car but without ever seeing where I had been. I am a firm believer that it is always a good idea to check in with yourself once in a while. It can be a helpful way to keep your focus on God in your life and a gentle reminder of routines that may divert our attention from God’s call to be disciples.
So as I was thinking about what it means for me to follow Jesus, it seems the first step is to spend some more time looking around for where Jesus is on the move and going there to join him. You wanna come too? I would love some company.
Check out the work of Greg Finke, who is the author of “Joining Jesus on His Mission.” https://dwelling114.org/
Early in the morning, when it’s the kind of quiet that invites reflection, the women arrived at the tomb. They carried questions about how they would move the stone and do the work that they needed to do. They were prepared. However, when they arrived at the tomb the task had changed. Isn’t it often like that for us—we prepare for the work we intend to do but then Jesus has a different plan?
What do we do when our preparation seems useless in the face of the new challenge set before us?
I like to know what to expect and how things will work. But as I consider the women who come upon the tomb—open to the world and filled with an astonishing message, I can appreciate their hesitancy to speak of it to anyone. I mean, who would believe that one who was dead is alive again? And do we?
What if Jesus has a new plan for the Church? What if we have come to the tomb ready and willing to do what we know how to do and Jesus has some other idea? How does our celebration and remembrance of this Holy Week and Easter Morning prepare us for this unexpected news?
I believe that it prepares us by showing us that others have gone before us. They have also experienced the upheaval and astonishing realities of new life in Christ. Preparation is overrated—we only need to be ready to follow and the rest of what we need to know or to do or to say will come to us along the way with Jesus as our guide. We are invited to an empty tomb to remember and go into the world to look for life and find Jesus there.
“We can look at Lent as a time of death and dryness. Or, we can dream – as riverbeds do – and prepare for rain that will fill us with new life, courage and strength.” @CrumbyPrayers *this is a dried out riverbed near Medora ND at 106 degrees. -Rev. Brian Dixon
(photo and tweet credit to Rev. Brian Dixon @crumbyprayers)
Preachers are always on the lookout for good metaphors. Things that our congregations can easily pictures in their minds and hopefully make connections from those pictures the God’s work and movement in the world. I think that is why Jesus used so many parables. The point of teaching is not to sound smarter than everyone else in the room, the point of teaching is to help people learn.
This is why I shared the thought by Rev. Brian Dixon, a Moravian pastor in Minnesota. In two short sentences he sparked my imagination. I have to be honest I have never thought about a dry riverbed. It just wasn’t on my radar. But it makes sense. Dry ground that is cracked and broken–it looks like nothing can help. How will it ever be able to more than it is? The answer is water. Refreshing, renewing, running water.
What is the “water” that refreshes you in the dry and broken spells of life?
How are we open to receive the renewal that comes naturally through God’s love and movement through the world?
Are you preparing for the rains?