As I sit down to write this, Wren and I find ourselves in a flurry of transition. Currently, we are in the midst of furiously packing up our house, packing for Annual Conference, and perhaps most exciting — packing to go on a cross-cultural trip to the country of Turkey. Now, I know what you are thinking: “Gosh Pastor Kate, this is a really crazy time in your life to be planning a cross-cultural trip!” (And… you would be right.) Turkey was not on my “Top 10 Destinations” list, I knew very little about the country when I said yes to the trip, and it IS a crazy time. But an opportunity presented itself and as we should consider doing with all good opportunities… I seized it.
As I have been preparing for this trip, it has been astonishing to learn that roughly 60% of places mentioned in the Old and New Testament are actually located in what is now the country of Turkey. We will be traveling along a similar route to the one Paul took on his second and third missionary trips, and visiting places such as the ruins of Ephesus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Lydia, Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch of Pisidia. (Read Acts! You can imagine how much I was nerding out as I learned I’d be visiting these sites.)
In reading the scriptures and reflecting on Paul’s travels in relation to my own, I have also been reflecting on the pastoral transition we participate in together and the kind of word or prayer I want to leave with you. Paul spent his life traveling to new communities (one of the original itinerant pastors, to be sure), and he always seemed to have a word that inspired, renewed, and cast hope for the congregation he was leaving behind. As I read through his letters, I can understand quite well the sting he must have felt as he wrote to communities he loved but with whom he could not remain. In the book of Ephesians, I came upon a few verses that have long been a favorite of mine and hold particular potency for me in this time:
“For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in the heavens and on earth takes its name. I pray that according to the riches of his grace, he may grant that you may be strengthened in your inner being with power through his Spirit, and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love.
I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.”
– Ephesians 3:14-19
Paul (or one of his associates) is writing to the community at Ephesus about possibility.
He is talking about the transformation that is possible in communities, churches, and relationships when we choose to root and ground ourselves in the cosmic scope of Christ’s love for the world. Paul prays that the Ephesians would be so in tune with this love — a love that penetrates the world around them all the way through to their inmost being — that when it shows up in their lives and in the world around them, they would not miss it but witness to it. Paul prays that these people would not only intimately know the love that Christ has for each of them, but that they would share this love with all of their fellow creatures and allow it to change their whole world.
This Ephesians passage has become my prayer for each one of you. Over these last two years, I have had the privilege of watching a little United Methodist Church in Hopewell, NJ dream big dreams and be given a renewed sense of what is possible when we root and ground ourselves in the cosmic scope of Christ’s love. You have taught me to dream bigger and have gifted me with a deeper sense of Christ’s love for me, just by being who you are. Stay the course.
Commit to grow in Christ’s love as you serve your community and one another — and you’ll be amazed at what God does.
You have been given a mighty vision: To be a community of hope for a hurting world.
You have been called to a lofty mission: To be a home for people to be transformed by the love of God in mind, body, and spirit.
And you have only just begun.
Each week at the end of the service, we sing, “As a green bud in the spring time is a sign of
life renewed, so may we be signs of oneness ‘mid earth’s peoples, many hued.” If you have ever wondered why I insist on singing this song every week at the end of each service, the answer is this: I have always deeply believed that you are the green bud, Hopewell UMC. And I promise to journey with you as I keep you in my heart and prayers, with every inch that you grow.
— Pastor Kate