From the Pastor's Desk
So Abram went, as the Lord had told him… He took his wife Sarai, his nephew Lot, all the possessions they had accumulated and the people they had acquired in Harran, and they set out for the land of Canaan, and they arrived there. Genesis 12:5-6
I am discovering a deep resonance with the story of Abraham (in chapter 12 he still goes by his old name Abram) and his call by God to the land of Canaan. There are details in this story that can be reread into the story that God is unfolding in my life and that of Rachel and our children. We, like Abraham, are being called to a new place. We, like Abraham, need to gather our family together to get ready to move. We, like Abraham, have to do the execrable work of taking with us, “all the possessions they had accumulated.” (I wonder if Abraham would have needed as many cardboard boxes as we do to accomplish this!).
In a much more profound sense, the story of Abraham resonates deeper than the practical experiences of moving to a new location but in that most challenging of experiences in faith: the experience of trust. Abraham trusted God. Wherever God was telling Abraham to go, even to a land where he would be an utter stranger to those around him, Abraham’s trust in God’s goodness and promises propelled him to take the risk.
This is the way I am choosing to live into the experience before me. I know that Methodist pastors get moved regularly. It is part of the way our denomination organizes the life and leadership of the church. Our longest tenured members of Bakerstown UMC have lived through these pastoral changes many times. But for Rachel and I, this is a moment for us to live into our trust in God, rather than just acquiescence to the practical realities of pastoral appointments.
We trust that God, in His goodness and promises to us, has things in store for us on the other side. We believe that God has things prepared ahead of us that will both challenge and reshape us so that we might trust and love God all the more. We are seeing open up before us, in our immediate future, a place where our faith will grow. We hold to this not as a faint expectation but a firm hope. We have this confidence because we have seen in our lives how God has been faithfully gracious, loving, and good in so many places in our past. And we expect God to be the same when He tells us to go to a new place.
Trusting God, however, is not an experience just for the pastor who moves on to a new location. You can have an Abraham experience without having to change your address. The church always has the opportunity before it to say, “we will trust in God and the new places God is calling us toward.”
For Rachel and I, that is our prayer for Bakerstown UMC as we end our combined 16 years of work with this church that we love so deeply. In the past several years, we have prayed that God would bring fresh winds of the Holy Spirit to this congregation. We have asked that God would put before you a calling that, out of trust for Him, you would say, “yes!” Because we believe that God has things prepared before you that will challenge and reshape this congregation to experience, in more profound ways, the love, faithfulness, and goodness of God.
The question left before you is, “are you willing to take that risk?” Do trust that God has more promised before you as a congregation? Do you believe God is leading you to the next place for Bakerstown UMC? And are you willing to do what it takes to get there? Deep down, I know the heart of this congregation is to say ‘yes’ to these questions. Not just from my sense of things, but from what you have said in the past.
Recently, I was cleaning out our sound booth in the sanctuary in preparation for my move. While up there, I found hidden away a speech from 2001. It was written for the occasion of the inauguration of the new sanctuary. In the words written on the page, you can feel the excitement of the moment. The church was just about to reap the benefits of a bold move to expand this church complex. It was a move that required a lot of prayer, finances, and trust. God had called you to a new place, you had said yes, and you were experiencing the joy of it. The final words of that speech were so powerful in their tone, I thought you should be reminded of them. The final words were these:
“We know this: we celebrate and cherish our past and, like our predecessors in this church, we will not be afraid of change or things that are new. With joy, we will embrace our future proclaiming the never-ending love and grace of Jesus Christ. This is Bakerstown United Methodist Church!”
God has new things in store for you! God is calling you to new places. So do not be afraid! Rather, in joy and abiding trust move forward in God’s calling. Head for the promised land. This is our prayer and hope for you.
In Christ’s Holy love,