My recent surgery and subsequent absence from the church reminded me of many things, but there are two of those many things that resonate strongly with me today. One of them is the experience of being a part of a church that cares deeply for its people and expresses those concerns in wonderful ways. Melissa and I have been so blessed by your prayers, thoughts, cards, visits, meals, texts, emails, words of encouragement, offers to drive, and even notes on windshields to name but a few of your expressions of love. You are an amazing church and it’s quite apparent how God’s love courses through your veins. We are humbled and thankful, as many others are or have been, to be on the receiving end of amazing grace!
The other thing that is still fresh in my thoughts, which also is related to amazing grace, is the experience of feeling limited. My desire to be free of pain and to regain the freedom to better engage in physical activities, including hobbies, has not gone like I had hoped…at least to this point. I anticipated the pain of surgery and rehabilitation to follow, but I also planned to heal quickly and get back to the pulpit and being active in the life of the church. The more realistic experience included a slower timeline, but also a profound feeling of helplessness in many ways, especially in the physical sense on the first Sunday I came to church and simply worshipped rather than led.
While I sat in a pew and was spiritually refreshed and energized, I also realized that so many of the physical elements of the worship experience were beyond my abilities at that time. I felt a part of me was missing. I felt that way until I received Holy Communion that Sunday and it was in those moments I once again felt God’s presence and reminder that all would be well and that I should be patient with recovery.
Our faith, and consequently an authentic discipleship, have some similar experiences. For instance, salvation requires belief, but faith is dead if there are not actions that flow from such belief (James 2: 14-26). We are limited, not by God but by our choice, when we don’t act. Our Wesleyan understanding of free will includes not only God’s love that allows us choice, but God’s love (which we call grace) that directs and empowers us to move deeper into faith and resulting action. These actions include loving and serving God and others, but also choosing to get involved and live deeper into relationships that are anchored in Jesus Christ. As we do this, we realize how truly limited we are/have been in life without God and that it is by God’s amazing grace that we can even love God and others.
Easter reminds us of the gift of life as we celebrate Resurrection. The empty tomb is not just an opportunity to remember a day when Jesus rose from the dead, but a time when God acted so decisively that love overcame everything else so that we can be transformed into God’s people. We can believe and we are called to act. We can seek to live as a faithful follower of Jesus in this time and place as we move and live into, and through, the challenges and blessings of life together and with God. God replaces our feelings of limitation and hopelessness with new hope and love day by day when we follow God and trust in his grace!
Thanks be to God for faith, grace, and life as we follow the Lord Jesus!
See you in worship,