“They spent much time together in the temple[and] broke bread from house to house.” (Acts 2:46a)
Victory was declared in April. In visiting the Donaldson United Methodist Church on the western frontier of our district, I had accomplished a major goal of my Superintendency: participating in Sunday morning worship in each and every one of our North District churches – a feat never accomplished before (I can say with confidence) since the current construction of our District – by far the largest in the Conference with its 108 churches spread out across eight different counties – was just established in 2017. And in those settings, I witnessed Jesus – alive and well!
Bishop Will Willimon reminds us Christians how the gospels record numerous resurrection appearances by Jesus, not risen Christ sightings (Christian Century 3/24/21) – in other words, followers don’t go searching after Him; He shows up, wherever He wishes. Sometimes those appearances are to those of us who are isolated and anxious, huddled behind locked doors (anyone remember Covid??) – and yet, perhaps to our surprise, Jesus shows up! In the music and the fellowship and the spoken word and the breaking of bread, I have been graced by the risen Jesus present in your worship hours. I am grateful for what you do, and have been blessed to get to know each of our congregations in this way.
When candidates for professional ministry are seeking admission into the connection of United Methodist clergy, they are asked to respond to the “historic questions” of our Wesleyan tradition – # 15 of which is this: “Will you visit from house to house?” (Discipline paragraph 330.d) For the first two decades of my ministry in the local church (back in the ‘80’s and ‘90’s), I did that broadly; in the last ten years or so at Hopewell UMC, admittedly, less so…my responsibilities as lead pastor had changed, as had the culture around all of us. As District Superintendent since 2018, however, I’ve gone “old school” and decided that the “house to house” pledge of my ordination now means visiting in worship where YOU worship. I thank you for your welcome.
At the start of a zillion worship hours across the years of my ministry, I’ve greeted folks with our timeless promise: “The peace of the Lord be with you.” (John 20:21a, 26b) Task #1 in the local church is high-quality public worship, “…in which the pure Word of God is preached, and the Sacraments duly administered according to Christ’s ordinance.“ (Article XIII, Discipline, p. 68) Offer them Christ, and share with them peace!
I look forward to my next Sunday-morning visit with each of you,