“Therefore, as a prisoner for the Lord, I encourage you to live as people worthy of the call you received from God. Conduct yourselves with all humility, gentleness, and patience. Accept each other with love, and make an effort to preserve the unity of the Spirit with the peace that ties you together(…) by speaking the truth with love, let’s grow in every way into Christ, who is the head. The whole body grows from him, as it is joined and held together by all the supporting ligaments. The body makes itself grow in that it builds itself up with love as each one does its part.” -Ephesians 4:13, 15b-16
Wow! It has been 1 week since my appointment as Pastor of Algiers began and it has been very exciting and encouraging (and of course with moving also comes at least a twinge of exhaustion)! From the awesome generosity of folk filling our refrigerator with tasty food, to volunteers helping unload boxes and hang pictures, to a tour of the Westbank, meetings, learning more about how things are done here, worship—here, online, and at Woldenberg and more, things are off to a promising start. Next week also promises to be exciting as we host Vacation Bible School for the children of our church and community.
This past Sunday I shared with the children the Story of the Stone Soup: a stranger comes to town, puts a stone in a big pot of water and slowly begins to bring ingredients together in a way that draws the community together around the delicious pot of soup. So, I come as a stranger to town carrying within me that which you also already have here: Christ, the Rock of our Salvation–the one who has brought us together for this season. It is also Christ who calls us to grow together. In fact, bringing people, organizations, congregations, and communities together in ways that they can grow and be empowered to build closer relationships with God and more loving relationships with humanity is what I understand my primary calling as a pastor to be. Following so much pandemic separation the calling and need for togetherness seems even stronger. Like the supporting ligaments mentioned in the above text, sometimes that will mean helping hold things together as they are or have been and sometimes it will mean exploring new activities and relationships that can help build us up with love.
I have seen it happen over and over again, throughout my 14 years of ministry: 5 years as a music minister in Missouri and Texas and 9 years of pastoral ministry in Texas and Louisiana. Whether I was in Chillicothe, MO, Dallas, TX or Mer Rouge, Louisiana to name a few, God has brought people together in astounding and wonderful ways and led them to do amazing things because that is what God does. God “by the power at work within US is able to accomplish abundantly far more than we can ask or imagine.” (Ephesians 3:20)
One key word we do not need to miss is US. We ALL have a part to play, and whether it seems small or large, each part is vitally important. I mean think about it…. spices are often the “smallest” contribution to a dish, but especially here in New Orleans, we don’t want to miss out on the spices! The water may seem tasteless, but who wants to eat dry rice? Every ingredient in the dish is important just as is every child of God. Let us ALL gather together around the rock of Jesus Christ and see what God is going to cook up. It will be awesome! Algiers UMC is definitely “large enough to serve and small enough to care,” and I, for one, am delighted to be here.
Grace and peace,