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(This letter also appears as "Matt's Musings" in the January edition of Intersections, our church newsletter)
To my dear friends and companions on the journey of faith, the Richmond Church of the Brethren, may God’s boundless love, Christ’s grace, and the Spirit’s peace bless each one of you.
As much as I appreciate the important seasons of Advent and Christmas, awaiting and celebrating the in-breaking of God into our lives and our world in radical ways, I’m also a big fan of the less-liturgical holiday of the New Year. It provides me (and you) with an oft-needed vantage point to look back, to look within, and to look down the road ahead.
In sharing my own observations and musings from this cusp in time, the turning of 2011 into 2012, let me begin with a word of thanksgiving. Thank you, each and every one of you, the new and old, children and elders, members, participants, and friends who make up this church. Thank you for allowing me to lead alongside you this past year, for showing me grace as I continue to grow as a leader and as a follower of Jesus, and for your concern for justice and fairness in our relationship as employer (you) and employee (me) as we navigated the waters of part-time pastoral ministry. It has been and continues to be a privilege to pastor with you.
But enough about me - thank you also for the sake of the gospel: your listening for and living into the Spirit’s call towards radical, loving discipleship; your desire to participate in God’s work in our city, our denomination, and throughout all of creation; your longing to discover and explore another way of living in this broken but beautiful world; and your commitments to Christ and to each other that have inspired you to support and participate in our shared life and ministry as a congregation.
Like every other year we’ve faced joy and sorrow together - unexpected goodbyes to loved ones who have died; anticipated, but still difficult, farewells to sojourners that have traveled with us during this season of their lives; enthusiastic welcomes of newcomers to our tribe; celebrations of new birth, graduation, and baptism; losing jobs, searching for employment, and starting new careers; discord and division in the larger church and our own strong statement of welcome and inclusion of all people. We’ve shared a lot of living and ministering in 2011.
As we begin to peer down the path that leads through this new year, I invite you to pause for a moment to look around, to take a step back and see where God is moving in this liminal, in-between time. Even if just for a few minutes, take time to reflect, contemplate, and pray. That’s what I’ll be spending the first few days of the new year doing, and I hope that you can find some opportunities to join me in spirit.
Looking towards 2012 together, how might we continue to support, encourage, and challenge each other? Where are the places in your life that Christ is calling you to go deeper? In this season when we’re tempted to add more to our already-packed lives, how can we help each other to let go, say no, and slow down? Not just for the sake of doing less, but so our lives might more fully express what we believe?
How might this community we are a part of help you to follow Jesus beyond your comfort zone, outside of your existing patterns, and into the lives of the poor, marginalized, outcast, and oppressed? How might you help our community to connect more deeply with one another and with the world that lies just beyond the borders of our fellowship? Together, as individuals and as a church, how might we be evermore centered on living into God’s new kin-dom and sharing that life with others?
Let’s all of us, each of us, you and I, consider what we’re committing to for this new year. What are your priorities, as an individual, as part of a family, as part of our faith community? How do you hope to spend your time and energy, and to what end? What growing edges of your own faith do you hope to explore, and how will you invite us to support and join you?
Perched here, on the precipice of 2012, this coming year seems certain to be filled with possibilities for peace and justice, opportunities for growth and service, times of difficult discernment, occasions for conflict resolution and transformation, moments for prophetic witness, seasons of sorrow and celebration, and many adventures in living peacefully, simply, and together as we continue the work of Jesus. I look forward to sharing all of these Spirit-filled experiences with you.
With ever-deepening love for one another and the world let’s journey boldly into the future, knowing that God goes before us, beckoning us onward, showing us the way.
Grace and Peace,