Written by Courtney McHill, United Methodist Pastor
Bible Background – It is extremely surreal to write that this is my last Sunday at McMinnville Cooperative Ministries. On top of that, I realize that MCM is in the midst of major transition which also feels pretty surreal and overwhelming. I have to constantly remind myself to be present in this moment because the world around me feels chaotic. You know the feeling because you are standing close by in this mix. For me, as I look towards moving, my feet feel like they are trying to land in two worlds and that can be a scary place. What will I be in the next location? What will it be like? Will the next community be as incredible as this community (I highly doubt it, by the way)? What will ministry look like? They only have grape juice in communion??? Will I be able to do what I am called to do? And for this community I am sure the questions look different and similar all at once; What will we look like without Mark and Courtney? What will our ministry look like? Will our community be as incredible as it has been? Can we move with the changes? Will we be able to do what we are called to do? In these questions, we get to vocalize how agonizing waiting can be just before the next change.
Paul reminds us in this passage that it really isn’t just up to us. While we might feel that the in between waiting is causing anxiety, Paul begs us to look at it a different way, creating something new in the meantime. Paul takes imagery that we can all connect to, the image of the pregnant woman. Her waiting doesn’t cause destruction, it becomes larger with something new to be born into the world. The waiting because more joy filled as that anticipation grows. And what is growing, is within us. It hasn’t happened to us but the Spirit is moving within us. God has not left all of us to work it out. Paul reminds us that as the church changes (a struggle from ancient times on) God is right alongside us. We don’t even have to figure out how to pray around it because God fills in the blanks. While we question and fret, God is already working to remind us that we are not alone. What will come out of this chaotic time will be beautiful and God filled. God will call us by name and not let us go. God will not leave us where we are. That is the nature of grace.
This gives me great comfort for myself and for this amazing community. It has been my honor and great privilege to serve in this place for the past five years. This is a God filled place built on sacred ground. MCM is a place where people are launched into ministry and definitely called by name. This is a place of listening and love. This place will continue to walk with God in creating the next beautiful thing out of change. Let the joy anticipation deepen. Amen.
“Often when you think you’re at the end of something, you’re at the beginning of something else.” ― Fred Rogers
“In the space between chaos and shape there was another chance.” ― Jeanette Winterson
“How strange that the nature of life is change, yet the nature of human beings is to resist change. And how ironic that the difficult times we fear might ruin us are the very ones that can break us open and help us blossom into who we were meant to be.” ― Elizabeth Lesser
Romans 8:18-30 (Message) That’s why I don’t think there’s any comparison between the present hard times and the coming good times. The created world itself can hardly wait for what’s coming next. Everything in creation is being more or less held back. God reins it in until both creation and all the creatures are ready and can be released at the same moment into the glorious times ahead. Meanwhile, the joyful anticipation deepens.
22-25 All around us we observe a pregnant creation. The difficult times of pain throughout the world are simply birth pangs. But it’s not only around us; it’swithin us. The Spirit of God is arousing us within. We’re also feeling the birth pangs. These sterile and barren bodies of ours are yearning for full deliverance. That is why waiting does not diminish us, any more than waiting diminishes a pregnant mother. We are enlarged in the waiting. We, of course, don’t see what is enlarging us. But the longer we wait, the larger we become, and the more joyful our expectancy.
26-30 Meanwhile, the moment we get tired in the waiting, God’s Spirit is right alongside helping us along. If we don’t know how or what to pray, it doesn’t matter. He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans. He knows us far better than we know ourselves, knows our pregnant condition, and keeps us present before God. That’s why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good. God knew what he was doing from the very beginning. He decided from the outset to shape the lives of those who love him along the same lines as the life of his Son. The Son stands first in the line of humanity he restored. We see the original and intended shape of our lives there in him. After God made that decision of what his children should be like, he followed it up by calling people by name. After he called them by name, he set them on a solid basis with himself. And then, after getting them established, he stayed with them to the end, gloriously completing what he had begun.
Questions for the Week –
What is God doing in you right now?
When change happens, all sorts of things happen in us and around us, what do you do when change is around you?
What reminds you of God’s presence alongside you?