As we enter the month of June, we – once again – experience some of the natural rhythms of change. Tourists have begun to come into our communities; children have completed schoolwork and will transition into their next grade levels; and the “season after Pentecost” has begun.
June is also the month that our regional United Methodist Churches will send representatives to the University of Redlands for our Annual Conference. New clergypersons will be Commissioned, some will be Ordained, and some will retire from active service. Members of the Annual Conference will also vote on a number of issues including clergy pension recommendations, background check standards, fiscal rules, and of course the annual budget for the Conference.
As is also the case during these summer months, some churches and pastors will be experiencing appointment changes. These changes can be challenging because we can often fear change. Even so, changes can bring new possibilities and perspectives.
It is my hope that we have been experiencing some small and positive changes in our spiritual lives as well. Over the last several months, we have asked some difficult questions of ourselves in our worship setting. Beginning in January we explored “How to be a Christian in 7 Easy Steps,” looking at what harmful expressions of faith might be discarded as well as what essential expressions could help us to grow into more deeply committed Christians. In our Lenten season we explored “Giving It Up,” challenging us to give up things like control and superiority and enemies. Most recently, we have journeyed through Adam Hamilton’s book Half Truths and critiqued some Biblical-sounding phrases that could actually do more harm than good.
Have you experienced a deepening of faith through these journeys? Have you experienced a shift in your understanding of God? Have you engaged in practices that help you to participate thoughtfully and intentionally with the Bible and faith and Jesus?
An emerging tool that has been developed as a part of the ministries of Pacific Beach UMC is the weekly Sermon Preview. This resource is published to our website (as well as through several social media platforms and our weekly email) each Thursday and is intended as a kind of “primer” to help the people of PB UMC to engage with our Biblical texts before we arrive at church on Sunday morning. In addition to this preview, a follow-up is added a few days after each sermon to help continue the learning experience. In other words, the Sermon Preview is both a reminder and a guide for bringing our worship experiences beyond the temporal confines of Sunday morning.
These previews are surely suitable for personal exploration and study. Each week usually includes a short introduction, the primary Scriptures for the upcoming sermon, and a few thought-provoking questions. Follow-ups generally include a short wrap-up and additional questions to further the conversation. Sometimes even more is added! The intent really is to provide a possibility for conversation.
Even better than using these for personal exploration and study is the possibility of talking through these Sermon Previews with a spouse, family member, or friend. Even over the short time our Sermon Previews have been available, several small groups have used these as a guide for group study and conversation. How might your faith life be affected by these kinds of conversations?
As the old saying goes, “the only thing that is constant is change.” When it comes to our faith life, I think it is critical for all of us to constantly seek to change in such a way that we are becoming more deeply committed Christians. I think it is critical for us to constantly seek ways to love our God with all our hearts, souls, minds, and strength. I think it is critical for us to constantly seek ways to love our neighbors in meaningful ways.
In this continuing rhythm of change, I hope for you a sense that we continue to move toward God. Just as God spoke the world into being (“Let there be light!”), I believe that God continues to speak and to call us into love and light. May this rhythm be our heartbeat as God makes all things new.