Now every year his parents went to Jerusalem for the festival of the Passover. And when he was twelve years old, they went up as usual for the festival. When the festival was ended and they started to return, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but his parents did not know it. Assuming that he was in the group of travelers, they went a day’s journey. Then they started to look for him among their relatives and friends. When they did not find him, they returned to Jerusalem to search for him. After three days they found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. And all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers.
As we read scripture we encounter things that look like our lives and also things that do not. I can relate to annual trips to the same places with my relatives and friends. I can’t relate to misplacing my child for a day, let alone three or four. There are times when the social world of the scriptures looks a lot like ours, and then times like this when we can see how different Jesus’s Jerusalem was to our own world.
What has not changed, however, is the power of a pilgrimage. Traveling to Jerusalem for Passover was a powerful, formative experience for Jesus and all Jewish people to reenact and embody the stories of hope in the scriptures. People today still walk the Via Dolorosa in Jerusalem, the (potentially apocryphal) path Jesus walked to his crucifixion. The Via Francigena, for those looking to stretch their legs a bit longer, is the 1,000-mile pilgrim path from Canterbury to Rome.
There are smaller pilgrimages we make each year, too, tracing our trajectories back to the places we grew up, the churches where we first believed, the meaningful geography of our lives known only to us ourselves. These reenactments of our experiences can help us to see more clearly the ways God has been nudging us toward wholeness and holy living along the way, even in the unexpected.
”But Pastor Ben,” you may point out, “how are we supposed to go on pilgrimages and travel when we aren’t even allowed to go to any of these places now?” A fair question, for sure. We should not be so ready to write 2020 off as a year of missed opportunities and stalled progress. There is much we cannot do, sure, but this day, this season can still be the most transformative in your entire life.
Is there a place or a memory you feel compelled to revisit now? Is there an experience of God, of natural beauty, of anything else, that you are able to undertake even in this present time? Again, this is a year of transformative new beginnings for us all. Be open to the possibility of a new or old experience unlocking new understandings of God’s abiding love and care for you today.
Grace and Peace,
Responsible Return to Worship in the Church Building
We are still on track for a July 12th first service with some of the congregation back in the building and some remaining safely at home. With a spirit of openness and enthusiasm, I am ready to see those who return and to remain in prayer and conversation with those who do not. Here is a rough outline of the latest:
This Sunday, July 5: Greg and Pastor Ben will return to the sanctuary for a live worship service at 10:30am. This is something of a test run to make sure everything is in place for an excellent streaming experience for the members of the congregation who remain at home.
Next Sunday, July 12: We will open the doors of the church at 10:15am for a worship service in person. An usher/greeter will be at each door to welcome you and show you to your seat for the morning. There will be hand sanitizer available at each entrance for use prior to and after service. Face coverings will be worn at all times while in the building. The offering will not be collected by passing plates but rather in a basket on the back table of the sanctuary. After service is ended, ushers/greeters will lead you back out the way you entered. This is our first try at our changing present. Please be patient, flexible, and have fun.
Groups, Studies, and More: A large series of tables have been placed in the Fellowship Hall with appropriate distancing. Groups wishing to resume meeting in person will be able to return, adhering to the same rules and guidelines as for worship: face coverings worn at all times, sanitize in and out and remain appropriately apart. Please let Pastor Ben and Gretchen know if/when/how you plan to return.
Bearing Witness to the Experience of Racism in Our World
Mark your calendar for Sunday, July 12th at 11:30am for an introductory conversation around race and racism in and outside the church, and how we as disciples of Jesus Christ carry a particular call to be active in its dismantling. We will move toward having opportunities to participate both in person and online… please stay connected as we work toward figuring this out.
One member of the church shared this video of Baratunde Thurston’s experience of being black in Wisconsin visiting his white fiance’s family and getting pulled over, and the fear and feelings the experience unlocked.
Again, what else have you seen? What have you not seen?
You can click here to access a short survey that will help me and others plan for a safe return to in-person worship next month. We will look at responses in the next week to see what additional precautions we may need to put in place to ensure our return is Spirit-filled, hopeful, and safe.
Please Send in Photos and Participate in a Visual Directory
All are welcome to send in a picture and some contact information that we can use in a document shared with participants and members of this church to better stay in touch. Please e-mail your photos to Gretchen in the office. While voluntary, this will help us remain better connected in a challenging time.
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.