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Tabernacle United Methodist Church

Thursday Thoughts
June22, 2017

Well, it’s been one of those months, already, this week! Since last we talked, the 235th Session of the Virginia Annual Conference was held, with United Methodists from nearly the entire Commonwealth gathering nearby in the Hampton Roads Convention Center. There were folks from big churches, medium and small congregations, and some that were very small. VERY small - think 15 on most Sunday mornings. We voted on matters pertaining to ordination and other orders of ministry; we retired some, and honored those “transferred to the Church Eternal,” having passed into Glory in the last year. We met and greeted friends, old and new, laughed and talked, shed a few tears and gathered, some 3500 strong, in the main hall to hear reports, to hear great preaching, and to sing together.... that’s what we “sons and daughters of Mr. Wesley” do when we’re together! We heard presentations on “Finding the Way Forward,” related to the pressing social issues with which our denomination is confronted, including same sex relationships and/or marriage, how conservative or progressive we will be in our global household, and whether or not we would continue as “United” Methodists, or seek out different pathways after the 2019 Special Session of the General Conference.

We collected thousands of “Kits” of one kind or another - flood relief, birthing and layette supplies, school items.... two semi-trailers full (floor to ceiling, wall to wall, front to back)! And yes, there was a substantial offering of “4 Cans 4 Conference,” which went to benefit the Virginia Peninsula Food Bank, in nearby Newport News. In this, our 11th year of this offering, we received 7,025 pounds of canned, dry, and staple goods - peanut butter and jelly, beans and corn, fish and corned beef, grits and macaroni and flour, and pop-top cans with all kinds of “ready to eat” foods. We filled up 8 Gaylords (4' by 4' by 3' deep boxes that sit on wooden pallets, moveable by a fork-lift, and weighing nearly 1000 pounds each). Additionally, there was a “potato drop” of nearly 50,000 pounds of potatoes that were portioned into 10 pound bags; and more than 5,000 pounds were directed into our 4 Cans/Food Bank offering! So we sent more than 12,000 pounds (aka, 6+ tons) of food out to local agencies and ministries that will help provide for folk in nutritional jeopardy in the lower Peninsula area, of which we are a part. It is at the core of our United Methodist self-understanding to be in ministry “to, with, and for” those who are disadvantaged, and when all of the members of this year’s Conference have returned to their homes, folks will still be fed in the name of Christ by the gifts they brought to Hampton.

Me? I came through Conference with a boot to keep my newly broken left Great Toe immobile! I slipped on the 4th step at home on Saturday morning, jammed my toe, and fell the rest of the way and lay for a moment in a lump in the floor! (Goldie loved it!) I went to the Sentara ER that afternoon, and again to the “Doc in a Box” on Father’s Day, and then to the Orthopedic MD on Tuesday, and they all concurred: “It’s broken. (Nuts.) Keep this boot for 4 to 6 weeks; it’ll help your toe heal.” It looks like Storm Trooper attire from Star Wars! Not exactly the summer attire I’d hoped to be sporting! I did, however, find a cane - topped by an elephant, nonetheless - for the sake of keeping my balance - and am now in the early days of a lengthy healing spell for my toe. Did I say that this wasn’t how I planned to spend my summertime? Nuts.

Soooo.... what you do when things don’t quite go as you had expected, planned, or anticipated? I saw 3 Doctors in 4 days, plus got through the 2017 Annual Conference (with at least that many Bishops!), came up a bit short of the weight of the food we collected, and did “the Father’s Day thing!” Sometimes, if we’re particularly honest, we find ourselves a bit “discombobulated” by the unexpected turns and twists in the Road of Life! Sometimes, it’s full of fear (articulated and otherwise); sometimes, it’s an adventure, and we want to run ahead, just to see what the future holds; sometimes, it’s frustrating, full of anger and disappointment and loss.... and we find ourselves shaking a fist in the direction of the Almighty, full of “Why?!?” and “What were YOU thinking?!?” and even “I’m just no good. It’s always my fault that things fail to work out.”

I hope that from time to time along the way, you’ve found your way into the Psalms and rummaged around, and happily found that some of them give words to the profound things we’re feeling and don’t know how to express. Over and again, the Psalmist laments, “How long, O Lord?” as if the Almighty had a time-line for the current testing period; or the language surfaces expressing anger and even rage, and repentance, all flowing from the heart, broken in the stresses and strains of everyday life.

At the very least, a wandering in the Psalms affirms that the entire range of the human heart is found in relationship with the loving, gracious God from whom we’ve come, and to whom we shall, soon enough, return. No ranging storm of the heart, no profound confusion about where the next footfall might land, no fountain of tears, no depth of sorrow, “nothing in all of Creation” is able to stand between us and the One Who Loves Us with an Everlasting Love. That’s the heart of the matter; the Bible says so over and again.

About 10 days ago, it was my honor and privilege to speak to the Poquoson High School Class of 2017. Among the things I tried to convey was that “life is what you - and God - make of Plan B.... or C.... or D.... or even Z!” The issue is that our God goes with us ‘round all the corners, through all the Valleys and Shadows, and even high atop the mountains of our successes.

To quote a longtime friend, Bill, “Be at peace with that!” It’ll get you through - even 2 trips to the ER on Father’s Day weekend, or a big, clunky, grey boot that goes up to your knee in the height of the summertime! (But it does blow up the driving range time I’d intended to spend this week! Oh, well....!) It’ll be okay. Me, too.

Grace and peace,
Jim Earley, Pastor

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Last update: June 23, 2017 2:28 AM