Where do you live?
As the time draws near for me to make my goodbyes to yet another church in the Itinerant Life of a United Methodist Preacher to which I have been called and to which I have chosen to live, there are many sad thoughts. Today I listened as my children expressed mourning for their current home, their current friends, school, and yes, their current church, I could easily sympathize. This will be the fifth church I’ve said goodbye to in my ministry, and I must confess (with no ill will at all to my previous churches) that this is the hardest yet. I have loved all my churches and this one I’ve been at for five years, five years that have been formative for the church, for me, and especially for my kids. It’s hard to say goodbye.
The words from my daughter in particular were hard to hear–I don’t want to go to church today, I’ll just be sad when I’m reminded we only have one more Sunday after today and I don’t want to be sad. I don’t even want to move–I just don’t!”
I actually believed the words I spoke to her, but still felt every pain she expressed. I don’t want to leave either! However, even as I begin to mourn my days at North Kannapolis United Methodist Church, I am also excited about the new opportunities at McKendree UMC–the next appointment to which I’m called and eagerly go.
It seems at times, all of us humans are called to choose between living in the past or the future or the imperfect fit of the present age and we don’t belong in any of them. My sermon text for the First and Last Sundays at a church are always the same, from Isaiah 43 (The Message):
The Message (MSG)
16-21This is what God says,
the God who builds a road right through the ocean,
who carves a path through pounding waves,
The God who summons horses and chariots and armies—
they lie down and then can’t get up;
they’re snuffed out like so many candles:
“Forget about what’s happened;
don’t keep going over old history.
Be alert, be present. I’m about to do something brand-new.
It’s bursting out! Don’t you see it?
There it is! I’m making a road through the desert,
rivers in the badlands.
Wild animals will say ‘Thank you!’
—the coyotes and the buzzards—
Because I provided water in the desert,
rivers through the sun-baked earth,
Drinking water for the people I chose,
the people I made especially for myself,
a people custom-made to praise me.
There it is–out there in the future, where God is about to do a NEW thing. I’ve always preached that the past is a great place to visit, but I wouldn’t want to live there. But if I’m not living in the past and I’m not yet living in the future, and while I technically live in the present, it’s not where my heart always is…where is it I am supposed to live?
In Beulah Land! The idea of the Kingdom of Heaven from a theological and biblical understanding is that God’s kingdom is not yet fully revealed, but IT IS ALREADY BEGUN. We live in the kingdom of God NOW, in the present, even though it’s not perfect yet. We live, through faith, in the now, but not quite yet time of God’s Kingdom.
And in so doing, even though we can only see it as though looking through a dark glass dimly, we can still see it. “THERE IT IS! Can’t you see it?” Isaiah asks the question. It’s something God is ABOUT to do, but Isaiah can see it and he expects God’s people to be able to see it, too.
I can’t live in the past, but I can learn from it. I can’t live in the future, but I can see it. I live in the present, but not fully as this is not my home. So, where do I live? What is the setting time-wise for my existence as both an itinerant preacher and as a Christian? I’m dwelling in Beulah Land!
Where or when are you living?