“Jesus was matter-of-fact: “Embrace this God-life. Really embrace it, and nothing will be too much for you. This mountain, for instance: Just say, ‘Go jump in the lake’—no shuffling or hemming and hawing—and it’s as good as done. That’s why I urge you to pray for absolutely everything, ranging from small to large. Include everything as you embrace this God-life, and you’ll get God’s everything.”
(Mark 11:22-24 The Message)
When I was in seminary in the late 1990’s, my trek from Western Illinois to Evanston, Illinois, and then back every week, gave me a lot of alone time in the car to think and reflect. I had no cell phone to talk to people the whole way (like I do now when I am driving), just me and the car radio. As I zoomed across I-80 and then through the city in my 1997 teal colored Pontiac Sunfire, I usually spent my mornings bouncing between sports talk radio, news talk radio, and then whatever 80’s music I could find. Then my evening drive home would either be something to make me laugh (to stay awake) or a particular CD that I found great comfort in my soul. It was called Songs from the Message: The Way of Love.
In the mid 1990’s a new translation of the Bible came out called The Message. Eugene Peterson, a Presbyterian minister translated to Bible into a modern, plain language. The CD had several songs that still today just speak to my heart. “I Could Sing of Your Love Forever,” “We Will Embrace,” and “Songs of Life”, just to name a few of the songs on that CD allowed me to just escape from seminary studies and church work. Between the tracks of the songs were excerpts from Peterson’s Message translation. The text above from Mark is one of those.
While I can speak to many individual verses or stories from scripture that have helped me through the years, those words from Mark’s Gospel helped me in that three year stretch of driving, learning, growing, serving between semi-nary and serving my first churches. I was at the beginning of my career, by far the youngest in my seminary and in our conference, and in many ways I was just trying to figure out who I was and what kind of pastor I was going to be and what kind of preacher I was gonna be. But to hear these words… “Embrace this God-life, really embrace it…” became a mantra upon which to accept the very moment of life I was in. And if we can embrace the joy or struggle of the moment, if we can just kind of dwell within the hope and opportunity of the situation, we not only discover God’s providence but we find who God is creating us to be and where God is leading.
25 years later, a friend of mine just kind of put that back on me. In a clergy meeting this past week, all of us clergy were sharing our concerns about moving the church for-ward post pandemic. We have all read the studies about online/in-person, the negative affect of politics on the church, or the general mistrust of organized religion from the emerging generation. Some are pushing the panic but-ton. Clergy are looking to new career paths. I shared my concerns with the group and my friend, waiting til I was done said, “Brad, I have known you for all 25 years of your minis-try and what I know is that God has given a gift in you. God has put joy in you and if you share that joy…people are gonna experience God.”
I know that you are receiving this newsletter just before Christmas and you haven’t even unwrapped your presents yet…but there is a joy wrapped up in you…a gift that God has given you. It is a joy that embraces the moments of family and faith, a joy that remembers with fondness the days that were, of faces we miss, a joy that celebrates what God is doing right now. This is joy that embraces this God-filled season and this God life.
And yet….it is also a joy that embraces this very opportunity we have as a local church, denomination, a Global Church. God has always provided through the ebbs and flows of history and time and God will provide again by raising up leaders among us to remain true to the message of love. Through 2000 years of empires and kingdoms, the only kingdom that has stood is the kingdom of Jesus Christ and God will again lead this church, and our Global Church to a reformation that places the grace and hospitality at the heart of our mission. So if we embrace this God-life…really embrace it…embrace the opportunity that is before us…embrace the gift that is within us…then mountains will move. And we will celebrate the joy of this journey.
So, what year is it? 2022 beckons us forward. Will we be ready? As a congregation our mission should never change. In fact, as divided as our world has become, as contentious the conversation around organized religion has grown into, as incomplete as society has reduced to…the message that God is Love and Love Wins still preaches today! The Mission of Coal City UMC is to be a sanctuary where prayer, worship, acts of mercy, and study of scripture empower persons to live as disciples of Jesus Christ. If we hold true to being a safe place for people to explore God and discover who they are and experience joy then we are ready for what-ever change may come our way.
So bring on 2022! May we embrace this God life!
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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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