Preparation: July 5, 2020

Good Morning Church,

James 1:22-25 New International Version (NIV) 22 Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.23 Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror 24 and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. 25 But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do.

Today we begin a new chapter in the life and ministry of the United Methodist Church of Wellsboro. As with any new beginning, there is excitement and anxiousness all rolled up into one package. There is uncertainty, and yet we have dealt with tremendous uncertainty these past four months, and God has continued to be faithful to this church and to each of us. Life has never been without some challenge, but God is good all the time and all the time God is good.

Today is the beginning of a new season of ministry for God’s church here in Wellsboro, and yet we need to remain honoring of what God has done and faithful in what God will do in the future. As a United Methodist minister, it is an honor for me to serve with different communities for a time, and it is an honor to follow amazing ministers in the good work they have done. Because of the very nature of our structure, I believe ministers have stronger bonds and connections with one another. We rely on one another to do good work, we rely on our churches to be great partners in ministry, but most importantly we rely on God’s grace and wisdom to guide our steps.

As a young child, I never really had to think about where my food came from. We would hop in the car, drive to the local Giant grocery store, and pick up all the things that we needed. As I got older, my parents began to grow some vegetables in the back yard, both as a fun hobby and as a way to eat healthier and cheaper. It was always a wonderful experience to walk out the back door and pick tomatoes, peppers, lettuce, etc. I loved this, and it was exciting for me when Steph and I got married and she showed an interest in growing our own garden. The past couple of years we have grown quite a bit of our own food, and harvesting veggies all throughout the summer has been a true blessing in our lives. It’s an amazing feeling to see the tangible rewards that can come from hard work and dedication, all while connecting more with nature.

To let you know a little about the character that I saw in Pastor Rich and why I was so excited to follow in his leadership with you all, I have to take us a long ways back, all the way back to February. I know that’s not that long ago, but it kind of feels like was too. When Steph and I came to visit with the council in February, Pastor Rich mentioned that he too also had a green thumb and enjoyed growing a vegetable garden. Knowing we would be moving midsummer, we were disappointed to know we would be arriving too late for planting season. Rich so generously asked if we would like for him and Erin to begin one for us. Steph and I were so grateful for his offer, and we of course accepted his hospitality. Pastor Rich and Erin began the garden from seeds out front of the parsonage and tended to it until we both made our transitions. You can even see the fruits of this labor if you drive past the home, as the garden now is in full growth, teeming with zucchini, dill, kale, and spinach. Now Steph and I have the great gift of continuing to tend this garden, and soon we will be able to eat the veggies of that labor. As we weed, water, and prune, we think of all the work Rich and Erin put into beginning all of this for us.

While reflecting on that this week, it occurred to me that this is quite literally the perfect example for pastoral change. We are called to plant seeds in a community, to help that community tend those seeds, and then assist in gathering up the harvest. Pastor Rich did great ministry with you all and walked alongside you all in that good work. Now it is my privilege to partner with you in continuing to tend the garden until the day that we can harvest a tomato here, a zucchini there, a few peppers from over here. That is the calling to which we have all answered. To be Christian is to see where the work needs to be done and work together with the Spirit to get it done.

God has gifted us with such an amazing world, and I am honored to serve alongside colleagues like Pastor Rich. I am excited for the opportunity to partner with you and this church to do God’s work. I feel confident in the work that we can do together because I see the work you all did with Pastor Rich through the Holy Spirit. And yet, this does not make pastoral changes any easier. As humans we are challenged by change and it will often times feel draining to our souls. This is also where we all find ourselves in this moment in time. The calling for all Christians is to continue to cultivate that good soil and prepare that way of the Lord.

James reminds us today that we are to not just listen, but also do the work. We are to be doers of God’s ministry. I can not do that good work alone, you can not do that good work alone, but together we can constantly see the beauty of God’s creation more fully. Friends, the work has only just begun. There are so many people that Jesus wants us to love on, care for, and touch their hearts.

Paul reminds us in 2nd Corinthians “Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.” We do not live for ourselves, but rather live to serve others and serve Jesus Christ. The love that has been poured out on each and every one present here today, needs to be shared with others.

I believe that the United Methodist Church of Wellsboro can continue to be a beacon of light and love in this world. Through God, we can see our lives continually transformed by God’s infinite grace. It is truly a gift and a blessing to be here with you all today. The past four months have been trying for all of us in so many ways, but we have and will flourish because God does not forsake us or forget about us. God intercedes to bring us hope when there is no hope, comfort when we feel like the world is crumbling around us, and love when we feel most alone. Let us take that message out into our world today. May we prepare ourselves for getting our hands in the dirt and planting even more seeds for Christ. The good shepherd has gone on before us and is laying the path out for us. Church, let’s follow him together and see where he leads us. Amen.