I took a little trip with my mom and a friend recently. I was taking them for a visit they had arranged which didn’t quite turn out the way we had planned it. The visit didn’t happen. A sick day for the host. But what emerged was extraordinary. A trip up another mountain and down memory lane. A visit to old homes and haunts for my mom that I had heard about, but never seen. A homestead now flooded, not just with memories, but with the water of Riffe Lake. Locations and images to tether stories I’d long heard that existed only in the ether of my imagination. It was a truly rich, and unexpected day I will treasure.
It got me thinking that this is the way of this journey of ours anyway. Despite our plans—good ones, flawed ones (usually a bit of both)—the Spirit of life comes to us where we least expect it and summons us (thank you John Bell, GTG 726) to destinations we “don’t know” finding we will “never be the same.” Abram becomes Abraham, and Sarai, Sarah, the parents of a sky-full of promise because they sat out on a journey with no assurances, no visible end. Let’s face it, in wilderness and in promised territory alike, Israel wanders. In Luke, Jesus sets his face to Jerusalem, but then travels this circuitous journey that is anything but a straight line geographically, or existentially, most surprising of all through death to new life. I don’t know if we’ll ever get comfortable with this one.
Forget the script. We know this life of ours offers no guarantees. As much as we don’t really like it, we know this. And if we pay even an inkling of attention to these scriptures of ours, to story after story after story, we know that our forebears knew it too. It is in our bones. Our DNA. But it does offer a promise. A promise of presence, of spirit, of life under these stars—especially as we prepare to be surprised.
And in times such as these when the footholds of things like truth and security and belonging seem to be especially unstable we can remember we are not lost or adrift or without hope. In fact, anything but.
During Advent and Christmas, we remembered we have these great, thick, sturdy, golden threads that run through our Story and our stories: Faithfulness. Righteousness. Compassion. Justice. Steadfast Love. Peace. These are both a way and an end. Guides and aspirations. Fruits of another kind of the Spirit who inhabits this Story of Ours of God with Us.
And we saw it again during Lent and Easter: Neighborliness. That dance of three in one, one in three, that tenacious reminder of how inseparable we are, no matter how quickly we forget it. And we found it in the scriptures of the season: shelter, secure, abound, settle, restore, welcome, celebrate. Active and passive. Practices and promises.
And after 15 years with you I continue to be astounded at your tenacious commitment to this way in the world and with one another.
So have a look at the stories that are displayed within this annual report. Remember the joy and gift of Julie Kae’s current sabbatical journey—another that will surely return to us filled with unexpected surprises. Relish the richness of musical leadership that we enjoy, even in her absence. Remark at the evolving, yet long relationship we have with Maggie. Welcome yet a new member of our team as Andrea Shirey comes on board in August as our new Director for Children and Family Ministries.
And see in you and one another the stories of grace abounding, rife with goodness and love, and know that God is surely with us.
Grace & Peace,