Sharing the Message of Hope

I just sent a picture of myself at 21 months of age in response to a request from Mark Doyal.  He is doing something with it for the Full Cabinet Christmas gathering next week.  It should be fun.

As I looked at the picture, I thought about the 59 years or so that have passed since my father snapped that photo.  All the experiences and events, the feelings, joys and sorrows along the way.  For the most part I have been blessed.  I have always had food to eat and a roof over my head.  I have always had people who have loved me and cared about me.  I have been blessed in so many ways.  And I’m grateful to be at this point in the journey.

Some people I talk to wish for earlier days.  They long for times past.  They wish for days when things were different, before specific decisions were made or their physical body changed.  And while I wouldn’t mind being 30 pounds lighter as I was some years ago, or perhaps being able to get up from a sitting position on the floor with a bound instead of a groan, I really wouldn’t want to go back to any age in the past.  As I have said many times, “I accomplished that age!”  And life in this moment, while different, has much ─ so much ─ good in it.

Contemplating this from a personal perspective got me thinking about our churches.  So often I hear people in congregations talk about former days.  They talk about the way things were with a kind of wistful longing.  And I get the fact that many of our churches are not what they once were.  I get that for many of us the struggles before us now are significant, and making the shifts we need to make to be effective in today’s culture is tough.

But friends my advice to us all is engage the now!  The past is never coming back and there are people in every one of our communities who need to know the good news of Jesus Christ and God’s rich love for the world and for them.  There is no better time of year for us to share the message of hope than this season of Advent and Christmas.  I hope that all of us are strategically looking at ways we might reach out and share Christ’s love with our communities.  I hope all of us are praying for opportunities to invite our neighbors, our co-workers, our family members to a Christmas Eve service or some gathering where they might encounter the message of hope God offers at Christmas.

We, as the body of Christ, can spend our time looking back at what was and wishing we were younger, stronger, or whatever, OR we can appreciate that we continue to possess a message of hope that the world desperately needs and then find new ways to offer that hope and love to all those within our sphere of influence.  That’s still our calling, and we can do it!

Peace,
Bill

A forum to share life changing, hope-filled, joyous stories happening in YOUR CHURCH!

Friends, as I shared with you last week here in DS Castings, I am going to be away this summer.  Following Annual Conference, I will be on renewal leave through Labor Day.  This means, among other things, that I will not be writing this column each week!  I know that many of you are asking, “How will I make it through these long summer months without this weekly word from my DS!!”  Well here’s what I was thinking…

What if castings became, for the summer, a place to tell stories?  What if it became a place where the good news of life transformation in our churches was shared?  So often there are things happening in our ministries that don’t get told.  There are lives being changed, people discovering hope, receiving fresh meaning and joy in all kinds of ways because of what we do and how we embody God’s love, but the story never gets told.  The Good News is received but the “light” gets hidden under a bushel.

So this summer what I want to invite you to do is share those stories!  Write them up and email them in to Liz and we’ll share and celebrate the work of God in our midst.

Too often we focus on the negative side of our church.  We highlight the differences we have.  We center on the scarcity we struggle with and the problems we are encountering.  Let’s take time this summer to talk to one another about the ways we, the United Methodist Churches of the Grand Rapids District are seeing God touching and changing lives!

All you need to do is write the story and send it to Liz Bode our District Administrative Assistant at grdistict@wmcumc.org.

I’m looking forward – with you – to reading these great tales of faith as I relax by the lake!

Have a wonderful summer and don’t forget to share what God is doing in your midst.

Peace,
Bill