Yesterday, in worship I shared some thoughts about how worship prepares us to be for Christ in the world. I mentioned the traditional naming of the Sunday after Easter as "low Sunday." Augustine, an early church bishop, commented that it was on "low Sunday" that the newest Christians first took off their baptismal gowns and thus, blended in with other Christians. This blending is was a blessing in many ways. For many weeks, months, and perhaps years those outside the Church had watched and waited to be a part of the Body of Christ. And, now it finally came to be.
But, taking off that robe was a challenge as well. For now, those formerly robed were expected to fully live out the promises they had made. They could blend in and thus gain some anonymity but by doing that they might sacrifice their calling to "be Christ" to the world.
Brothers and sisters, we may be no different here today in Milner and elsewhere. We all run the risk of dropping off or letting others drop out of this world transforming mission we call Christianity. We each have a place in this Body of Christ to serve and call others to serve. We work, we toil, we sing, and we praise, because this is the purpose for which we were made.
Low Sunday might be considered low because it is the newest Christian's first glimpse of where the work of ministry will largely take place - in the valley. The height of Easter was intoxicating but the work of ministry often binds us to the dark corners and messy spaces of this world. It is Low Sunday because it wakes us up and sends us below, from the mountaintop of Easter with a message of resurrection life and light.
Pentecost will be our next special day...we will have to work and wait for it, but I promise there will be another gift for the church on that day. Just you wait and see!
As one with "new eyes" here at Milner, please let me say how wonderful it has been to see you all engaged in ministry these last two weeks! I cannot say enough thanks from me and on behalf of members, friends, and Session alike to those who do so much behind and on the scene here at MMPC.
I could not begin to name them all but you likely know who they are. Please help me this week share an Easter Thanksgiving for the many saints in our midst. They should be reminded how much we appreciate them. Send them a card, make a phone call, tell them in person...any way you do it, just remember to do it. We have so much to be thankful for and many of those blessings have faces and names.
My thank you extends to both the Session and congregation. Thank you for giving John these last two weeks overlapping me. I have been able to visit so many of you because of this opportunity. Furthermore, I've gleaned from his wisdom of serving you. I was able to meet with Lee Sartain while he was in and have a meeting with Aleta Ash next week. I know Lynn Stall as she serves with my wife at Chapel in the Pines in Chatham County. Elbis Hernandez and I have had multiple conversations and I look forward to many more. I hope all of these connections help us to move forward more easily through the interim process.
And, as for the process...you'll see in May our first congregational gathering on the calendar. It will be an evening meeting but I promise all of these gatherings will not be on weekday evenings. We will move the time of these gatherings around so as to include different voices throughout the process. I've started a bulletin board as you enter the door off the parking lot with some interim process notes. And, each Sunday we will have a "Minute for Milner" that will give information along the way.
I'm so excited to be here with you all and see what God is about to do in this place. Resurrection is all around!
That first week went by rather quickly for me. It was wonderful to get to know a few you better through pastoral visits. I look forward to many more as the weeks progress.
In my visits it has come up already, "What will you be doing with us?" or "What is your vision for Milner?" Both of these, along with the many other questions I've been asked, are good. Let me take a moment to address these two for now.
What will you be doing with us?
First of all, I'll be getting to know you. We will spend some time focused on building a relationship together. Milner has had a couple of transitions recently which were quick so it will be important for us to plant our relationship well. We will look at where Milner has been historically to gain an insight to where God may be leading Milner today. This combined work will allow us to begin discovering a new identity and making the necessary changes to support that new vision. Finally, before my time ends this time next year, we will build a support mechanism to commit to this new identity as a pastor search is conducted. Some of this support will be a renewal of Milner's denominational identity as well well as building stronger community relationships.
What is your vision for us?
Interims don't bring the vision but bring the tools, planning, energy, and imagination which assists the congregation in discerning, implementing, and sustaining their vision. I know that many people are concerned about the vision and mission of Milner. What I can say is that God is alive and well in this community and will bless Milner with what it needs to serve God now and into the future. But, what that vision looks like...well, right now it's a bit early to tell.
Many congregations under one roof...
A community for those hurting and excluded...
A space for many organizations to call home here in SE Raleigh...
These are some mission ideas I've already heard and I suspect there are many more out there.
I have put on the calendar for Wednesday, May 24, a congregational gathering to get together and share stories, memories and more. It will largely be a time of reflection. I hope you can attend. I will also look for a date for day time meeting following the 24th to catch those who could not make an evening meeting.
Peace and blessings upon us as we invest prayerfully in this holy discernment.
The winds of change are always blowing. For us both, this can feel like a very windy season. There is much work to do and many opportunities to get caught up in the movement of God's Spirit. Just last Sunday, the prophet Ezekiel reminded us that God can and will re-flesh and bring life to dry bones. Jesus' calling of Lazarus from the tomb gave each one of us opportunity to examine the dead places in our lives and what new life might come from them at God's commands.
Yes, we are resurrection people. But, may I just say that resurrection work is hard work. Frankly, it can be exhausting. As Jill Duffield wrote recently, "Rolling away stones is hard work." And, she's right. Most of us are doing well to the work of the living - add to that the work of serving God's goal of raising the dead - and we are all soon looking for a vacation! I get it. I've been there myself. But, what excites me most about the work of resurrection is that it happens in every faith community - large and small, strong and weak, young and old. It happens in them all because that's what God's promise is all about!
Friends we will be together but for a short time. But, with God's help we will see bones with new flesh and we will roll away a few stones from tombs which have been closed too long. I pray that you'll pray for our work together and that you'll pray for me as I pray for each of you. May God bless us richly and deeply with strength and vision for the days ahead. To God be all praise, honor, glory, and dominion, this day and always. AMEN, Amen!
Milner Memorial Presbyterian Church © 2016
1950 New Bern Ave | Raleigh, NC 27610