Do not be afraid
“One of St. John’s many strengths is its ability to couple a reverence for this rich history with an excitement for the events to come and a desire to assure a vibrant future of worshipping God and making disciples for Jesus Christ.” St. John’s Parish Profile, 2019
This sentence from the Parish Profile captured my attention and imagination months and months ago. Frankly, I heard this sentence not so much as a declaration, but as an invitation for me to listen more deeply to what God might be doing in the search process that was. In my imagination, I wondered if these words were similar to something Jesus might has said to his disciples. After all, Jesus was not trying to deconstruct Israel’s rich history as the people of God, but indeed was ushering in a vibrant hope for the future of how and why we, as disciples, follow, worship and serve others on behalf of God.
As a disclaimer, I have no idea who wrote that sentence in the Profile. However, much like the collection of writings and books we call The Bible, these words are inspired and, they speak to the presence of God, to the call of God and to the revelation of God to God’s people. They are prophetic in bending the arc of history toward an inspired future of active ministry.
If this sentence captures the depth of anticipation for the new chapter of St. John’s which is unfolding, I will carry these words with me. In fact, I will remind all of us again and again, that the vibrant future of St. John’s is being, and will continue to be, revealed by the work of the Holy Spirit. To be fair, God’s vision for us has been well-articulated in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus; yet how that vision is revealed at St. John’s is ongoing.
Bold statements that seek to reconcile the past with the future are not uncommon to the people of God. I believe the tension that evolves when history becomes an unreasonable strain on God’s vision of the future is why we hear, “Do not be afraid,” so often in the Bible. Throughout the Old and New Testaments, God utters these words to God’s people, and generally speaking, they are spoken when a new and uncertain event is happening like a baby being born in a stable whose name will be Jesus and whose life will be an act of salvation for all of us.
Friends, I invite us to hear God’s voice spoken to each one of us, “do not be afraid,” for God is with us as we honor our history, and as we, with courage and hope, discover our calling to be St. John’s in new and vibrant, life-giving ways.