“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the Lord.
“As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.”
Isaiah 55:8-9 (NIV)
Do you ever have a “who, me?” moment? As in, someone asks you to do something and you think you must have misheard them – wait, seriously, you think I can do this? You must not know me like I know me.
Doubting yourself and your abilities is sadly something the advance of time doesn’t cure once and for all. I meet plenty of people as insecure as teenagers in their 80s, people with long lives of obvious successes and victories to celebrate who still look around and say “who, me?” when entrusted with something.
Part of our faith is acknowledging that God’s ways are not our ways, as the prophet Isaiah reminds. This isn’t always a satisfying thing to remember, even as it remains nonetheless true. God understands our limitations and our needs and sent Jesus to live with us, a reminder embodied as we are of God’s love and grace. Incarnation is at the heart of our story, the understanding that the eternal and heavenly God quite literally came down to earth.
While living down to earth, Jesus even lived a down-to-earth life. Born to a family of simple means in an unextraordinary small town, trained in a trade that would serve him well and help others but never lead to absurd wealth, Jesus lived a recognizably good human life prior to his world-changing ministry.
I have to remember this when I get discouraged and feel like I’m never going to achieve the things I’ve been tasked with achieving. A challenge of pastoral ministry is that leading only works when people want to follow. We have uncharitable things to say about people who issue commands to the void. Without cooperation and communication, we would have no church.
This is why, again and again, I will answer your “who, me?” with a “yes, you.” I do this because at one point in my own life God awakened a calling within me and strengthened me through my own “who, me?” moments.
We teach and reteach the humanity and fallibility of Jesus’s first disciples for good reason. As they fought among themselves, got it wrong, turned their back on one another, and fled when the going got tough, we may just see an unflattering reflection of ourselves and the ways we have managed our own times of trial. Yet God still invites us, ordinary saints, to do this extraordinary work of carrying forward the story of Jesus and the ministry he initiated of caring for the vulnerable in myriad ways.
It’s been a challenging year for all of us, though the challenges are never equally distributed. Let us continue to be a church that checks on one another, prays for each other, and supports each other through challenges from outside and of our own making. We can do all things through Christ and through this community we continue to construct, together, but only if we keep at it, together.
Grace and Peace,
19 Days Until Church Conference Reports are Due
For those who have not served on a church committee at some time, our structure is quite simple and follows an annual cycle of events and deadlines. “Appointments” (what we United Methodists call pastoral charges) run from July to July each year and are made at Annual Conference, a session held here in GNJ in May each year though, as the pandemic was peaking in our area then, ours was moved to October (and online) this year. Once the appointments are fixed for the year, we pivot to Church Conference season, when each church identifies new leaders to nominate, accounts for changes to its membership, sets pastor compensation, and a few other responsibilities. Once that slate of officers takes over in January, you set a budget, vision for the year, and then approach another Annual Conference season. This is a simplified sketch, but it’s really quite manageable.
I’m trying to lead this church into a healthier, more open future with leadership that invites more and new voices in each year, but I obviously can’t do this on my own. We are getting a little close for comfort and I still need 2 people to step up and serve on our to-be-constituted Leadership Council. I know there are people who are currently serving who will say yes at the crucial moment, but I know there are people out there with gifts to share. Please, don’t say “who, me?” but “really? OK.” and trust that you are able.
Two Additional Votes at Church Conference This Year
Our Church Conference will be held over Zoom this year on September 30 at 7:00pm. A link will be shared closer to the date so you can join in and participate. We have two additional items to vote on:
First, a vote to give thanks for the life of Paul Huffman and to receive his unrestricted bequest of 1.5 million dollars to be managed alongside the church’s existing funds with Evesham Capital.
Second, a move to further our missional effectiveness by combining our existing board structure into a single Leadership Council. Pastor Ben will hold a presentation on what this looks like for the curious after worship Sunday, September 20. If you have questions ahead of time please reply to this message.
Zoom Coffee Hour Re-imagining
Given our need to rely on digital tools to remain connected through the Fall and Winter, Pastor Ben would like to offer two options to keep the conversation flowing.
First, a discussion group on topics relevant to Spiritual Formation. A good first option would be to work through Richard Rohr’s Falling Upward. This book reckons with the counterintuitive realization that the second half of life, a time where our mistakes, failings, and shortcomings are more evident, is actually the season with the most joy, growth, and spiritual breakthroughs. Not every fall leaves us lower.
Second would be to continue as a loose conversation check-in time.
If there is interest in changing things or feedback to share, please respond to this message.
Worship with Flemington UMC on Facebook
Each Sunday at 10:30am, reach for your phone, tablet, computer, or other internet-connected device for a time of music, prayer, scripture, and preaching. Watching live gives the opportunity to comment in real-time with prayer requests, updates on your life, and more, but if you view the service later you can still comment and share prayer requests and experiences from your life with your church.
If you don’t have a Facebook account, you can simply visit the church’s Facebook page:
The videos are all accessible there without the need to create an account or login. If you have technical questions, please reach out.