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To New Beginnings!

The end of 2022 and all of 2023 has been a profoundly transformative time for me. I’m different. I’ve become intimately aware of the mortality of those I love, as well as my own. I’ve learned the difference between holding on to “things” versus holding on to that which lives in the eternal. I’ve had to let people love and care for me on their terms, not my own. I’ve had to learn that sometimes I can’t just “lean” on others, I have to let them carry me. Frankly, I had to do more than learn these lessons, I had to live them. That changed me. And…helped remind me who I am, who I want to be, who I am called to be. As a pastor, part of who I am called to be is a prophetic voice – a truth-telling voice that encourages people to turn to the Lord. Some people describe it as speaking truth to power, but I like to think of it as speaking power from truth. We, believers and disciples, (and yes, there is difference) are empowered by God’s Holy Spirit to be bearers of love, hope, healing, grace… all the good that God wants to offer the world. To do that, to be the love of God to the people God loves (everyone), we have to know God, to know the story of God and God’s people. We have to know Jesus and stories of Jesus’ life on earth and Jesus’ promises of the life to come. We have to know the Holy Spirit and recognize the work of the Holy Spirit so we can do our part in it. And like the lessons of this last year, we have to do more than know or learn these stories, we have to live them. Within the waning Christian culture, people have forgotten the stories of God, the words of scripture. We stopped telling them because we stopped reading them, learning them, and living them. Being a “good” person has replaced being a “God-loving” person. Instead of pursuing a holy life, we satisfy ourselves with being moral, ethical, and/or “law-abiding.”

I see this as a result of surviving on “bread alone” instead of feasting on “the very word of God” as we are admonished in Matthew 4:4. We’ve come to believe if we pray, its enough, or maybe coming to church a couple times each month is enough, or maybe being in small group is enough. The problem with all of that is the idea that we only want “enough” of God. Enough to believe we’re “good people.” Enough to feel good about ourselves and our priorities. Enough to justify our politics and personal beliefs. It’s like filling up on chips and salsa then finding no room for the meal that actually nourishes you and keeps you healthy. We aren’t taking care of spiritual hunger in a way that properly nourishes us, so we see the spiritual life of our culture, our country, becoming sick. Maybe, we are becoming spiritually sick, if not sick, at the very least chronically fatigued. No energy, no power in our discipleship or in our relationship with God. In 2024, my first prayer for us is for a spiritual hunger that drives us to the Table. I pray that EFUMC will respond to the invitation to immerse themselves in scripture this year. That more and more people in our congregation would join our group that prays daily for the church/community. I pray that every single attendee, congregant, and member would be moved to regular, consistent, faithful, giving of resources to the church as an act of worship. I pray that we do more than learn the stories of God, we would live them. I pray that as we are transformed by God’s word and our faithful discipleship, others would be blessed and choose to follow Jesus too. Here's to new beginnings. Blessed New Year, Pastor Michelle

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