Have you ever walked into a worship service knowing that it was hard to focus – too many things swirling around in your heart? That is exactly how I felt on epiphany Sunday when I walked into North Scottsdale UMC. The press release from the Council of Bishops was two days old. The Safe Harbor Declaration issued by the Western Jurisdiction Bishops was also present in my heart. The concerns of pastors regarding the January 1 implementation of decisions passed at General Conference 2019 had their place in my thoughts as well.
Then I heard it – the Julian Rush hymn that I have come to cherish – began to play. We all stood and sang the words on the screens:
In the midst of new dimensions,
in the face of changing ways.
Who will lead the pilgrim peoples
wandering in their separate ways?
[Refrain] God of rainbow, fiery pillar,
leading where the eagles soar,
We your people, ours the journey
now and ever, now and ever, now and ever more. 1
Later in the service the pastor stood at the table and began to speak. The words of the sermon filled the space and suddenly I could hear Jesus talking, “Come to the table and let your mind focus on the now – now when I am with you – now when you are free from the pain of the past or the fear of the future. Focus on this very moment, for I am with you now.”
Read with me these familiar words from 2 Corinthians 5:17 – “And if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!”
At the beginning of a new year people long for renewal. But, as Marcia McFee wrote, are we willing to pursue it? Let me ask you a question – How is our own personal renewal connected to “new creation” in others, in our communities and in the world itself? It is time to tend a new creation. “Tending” means to lean in the direction of something… to “attend” to something is to nurture it, grow it, build it, pay… “attention!”2
I don’t know what fills your heart and mind as you begin this new year. What I do know is that God calls each one of us to live into the something new in an intentional way. No half-hearted commitment. We are God’s people and the journey is ours. Let us journey in peace and with love. Now and ever more.
1In the Midst of New Dimensions, Words and Music by Julian Rush (1985)
2Marcia McFee – Worship Design Studio – Tending the New Creation Series