“Why should fools have a price in hand to buy wisdom, when they have no mind to learn? A friend loves at all times, and kinsfolk are born to share adversity.’” (Proverbs 17:16-17 NIV)
Every church that I have served had a person whose opinion carried weight throughout the congregation. Some would call it the “voice” of the church where if they spoke, people would pause to listen. But for the most part, it wasn’t that these people worked to sway opinion, it is just that they typically spoke on behalf of the congregation with the congregation’s best interest at heart. Never did they speak with an agenda or with selfish intent and I knew that when they spoke, I needed to listen as well. Their voice spoke volumes to what the congregation was thinking based on history and leadership, vision and community.
At Walnut Grove his name was Tom who spoke with integrity and confidence for that family-tight congregation. At Bardolph, it was Harold whose history and ability to speak to reality that held that community face difficult decisions. In Champaign, it was Dody whose passion for mission and compassion for people solidified the DNA of that church. And as I look around Coal City UMC, there are a number of people who have earned our respect for leading from the center. Though in each church and context the gifts needed to lead vary, the common thread for these who provide sage wisdom is that people didn’t speak a poor word about them. They earned trust and respect through their companionship with others, integrity in word and deed, passion for the church, unity in purpose, and making the church into a family.
The Books of Wisdom in our Old Testament lend themselves to the sage wisdom that we learn from an experienced generation. The Psalms and Proverbs, Ecclesiastes and Song of Songs, and even Job led themselves to an older generation sitting around a fire sharing advice to a younger generation. It is the oral tradition handed down to children to provide not really warning, but how to get the best out of this life. As you weave through the laments and the dangers in these verses, we find a strong heeding to live as community, find unity among our differences, and to place value, high value in the depth of friendship. If you do a simple Google search for “scriptures on friendship,” you will find a number of verses from these books of wisdom. It is no wonder, though, when we know that the “wisdom” of God (the Sophia -“wisdom”) speaks of a relationship. The “wisdom” of God seeks companionship with others. A relationship. Want to know God? Look at each other. Want to experience what God is thinking and doing? Walk with each other. Want to understand the word of God? Be in relationship.
I said it last week in my sermon and I will say it again as my time here draws to a close…in these last 7 years in Coal City, I have grown as a person (gained a little weight) and as a pastor (gray hair of wisdom). I have grown in my relationship with God as I have been in relationship with you. Watching you gain new learnings in Disciple, opened my mind to question what I knew. Serving in the kitchen with you opened my heart to stories about your life and to see where God has placed us together for a time such as this. Struggling through a global pandemic with our multi-layered opinions on leadership sharpened my own sense of resolve. And of course, God’s love...that always wins…made us a family
that sees through the tough exteriors of one other another to the common humanity that binds us together. And I hope that our voices have meant enough to each other that the respect has been earned, dignity has been honored, and wisdom has been passed between us.
That being said, I pray that you have the same experience with your new pastor, Rev. Jay Regennitter. He won’t preach like me. Tell dumb stories as often as I do. He may not love the commercial dishwasher as much as I do. He will have his gifts to bring, his humor to share, his struggles to carry, his wisdom to pass to you…as you will with him as you all grow into God’s vision for your future. It will be important for him to hear your stories and struggles, to work with you and walk
beside you through all life brings. Please do not ask for me to come back to Coal City for weddings or funerals, but please invite him into a relationship that celebrates with you in the highest and lowest moments as well as the everyday/every Sunday moments. Welcome him into the family, the way you made me your brother and let him be himself.
I am excited that I get to be your friend. While I love being your pastor, I now get to be your friend and root for you as you continue to move through life. And you gotta know that though pastors will always come and go, friendship to me is forever. I will be watching your kids grow up on social media. I will pray for you when life gets hard. I will raise a glass to honor your successes. If you make your way to Charleston, I will open my door to you and break bread with you. I get to be your friend.
In the Christian vocabulary, there is no “good-bye”… only the blessing and affirmation that “God be with you till we meet again.” And we will meet again. The wise sages of this life, who shared God’s wisdom in scripture assure us of that.
So…May we embrace, “God be with you till we meet again; loving counsels guide, uphold you, may the Shepherd’s care enfold you; God be with you till we meet again. Till we meet, till we meet, till we meet at Jesus’ feet. Till we meet, till we meet, God be with you till we meet again.”
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9:15am - Sunday School For All Ages
10:30am - Worship Service
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The Coal City United Methodist Church is a multi-generational church family that welcomes children, seniors, and those in between to exciting worship, study, and fellowship experiences.
Some have been members of the Coal City community and the United Methodist Church their whole lives. Others have recently moved to our area and found a home among us. All are welcome.
From the children's moment where the children of our church hear a message in a language they can understand; to carefully crafted biblically based sermons that speak to our current reality as youth and adults; to a variety of high-caliber musical expressions of our faith from classical to contemporary, from organ to oboe, from piano to projected multi-media experiences, there is a place for you in worship. Our services are on the traditional side of blended - familiar, comfortable, but far from stuffy.
All are welcome here.
With choices from Bible studies, to women's groups, children's choir and more - there are so many ways to be an active part of the CCUMC community.
The mission of the Coal City United Methodist Church is to be a sanctuary where prayer, worship, acts of mercy and study of scripture
empower persons to live as disciples of Jesus Christ.
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