From the Pastor’s Desk
23Let us hold fast to the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who has promised is faithful. 24And let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds, 25not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” Hebrews 10:23-25 NRSV
From The Pastor’s Desk:
Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,
By the time you will be reading this, another Annual Conference will have been concluded and I will be returning from a time away. You may remember that in my last article, we began to converse about our distinctly Wesleyan heritage and that moving forward, “we will approach our worship, teaching, discipleship and our renewal of them in a distinctly Wesleyan manner, drawing on the rich heritage, doctrine and practices we have adopted as a congregation of the United Methodist Church.”
Annual Conference always reminds me of one of the essential practices of our faith and that is connection. I am excited each year to renew my connection with laity and clergy with whom I have formed relationships over many years. I may not see some of these folks at any other time and yet I know that because we are united by faith in Christ, these persons are supporting and praying for me and I can call on them in times of need. This connection is a grace-filled force which keeps us accountable to one another as well as rooted and grounded in our love for God. John Wesley understood this connection as more than simply a description of our stewardship style, but rather a, “fellowship of love, accountability and mutual ministry”.[i] Connection is at the heart of our tradition as United Methodists.
God grafts us into God’s family through Jesus Christ into a connection, a family community we call “the Church”. Wesley knew that we needed to embrace this tenant of faith-that we are not alone. He knew the great power for love in action through our “connection” with God, one another and as the body of Christ.
We are being challenged daily in our faith journey and as the body of Christ to be steadfast to God’s commandments through faith in Jesus Christ. Standing up to these daily challenges requires everything we’ve got- heart, soul and mind as well as faith, prayer and action. God knows and Wesley clearly understood the impediments to maintaining connection. Our culture elevates self-love and sufficiency as well as individualism. Steve Harper remarks in his book, Prayer and Devotional Life of United Methodists, “When individuals or groups did not live in connection, he (Wesley) saw it as the usual and primary cause of their decline.”[ii] And, “when people further lost their formative connections, they became cold and dead.”[iii]
Our Methodist heritage and “ways” provide a vast storehouse of tools and resources for continuous spiritual growth and equipping ourselves for God’s mission. Our Bishop particularly emphasized this as we gathered for our first Plenary session last week. At Central and Riverview, we will be focusing on reconnecting and learning about them as well as encouraging one another in living them out. I realize that in many cases over the years we may not have given a lot of thought about our connection to our heritage, doctrine and practices or, for that matter, the connection these form between us. Familiarity often has that effect. For those who are new to our traditions, you may never have heard about or studied them. In the next few weeks and months, together we will take a closer, more focused look at just how our faith, particularly our United Methodist faith, prepares us for life in a Post-Modern culture.
At Conference we were reminded that we are an invitational church. Wesley made invitation to discipleship an integral part of every service, as well as calling for a response. This was not a call for response of conversion specifically, but encouraged an awakening to God’s grace to be formed to faith in Christ and deeper spirituality. The first action of the church was welcoming those seekers who responded and getting them started on the journey to Christian faith.
My friends, this is where we, too, are beginning. We are not “cold and dead” yet how do we take on this challenge of making connection with welcoming the lost, the least and the losers (By the way, that’s us too!) to a wider and deeper connection through faith in Jesus Christ right here in Beaver Falls? As Wesley ended each sermon, let us find new ways together to ask one another, “Who among you is tired of living in sin and living for self? Who here is ready to flee the wrath to come and live for God?”[iv] This invitation reminds us that our first action in disciple making was and is connection, it is an invitation to Christian formation. How might we best welcome and invite ourselves, our family, friends and neighbors to true discipleship, connecting in deeper relationship with Christ and in God’s mission?
Your Fellow Servant in Christ,