Yesterday I had the great privilege of officially being installed or “adopted” as the pastor at a new appointment (Providence UMC in Charlotte, NC). It was a whirlwind of a day, but mostly it was a day full of joy. Everyone was amazingly kind and warm. Lindsay and I felt so welcomed and we are so grateful to begin this chapter of our journey with folks like those we met yesterday.
I preached my first sermon (which you can check out every week here) and although I made a few points, I am struck by the significance of the last one for me today.
We read part of a story in Deuteronomy and Joshua where Joshua was being installed as the new leader and where Israel was being instructed to be “strong and courageous” as they faced the future. The encouragement of Deuteronomy 31:6-8 is fantastic, but I am truly amazed by the implicit message that we are called to journey together.
God repeatedly reminds the Israelites (and I think us too!) that God will never leave us wherever our journey takes us. Our paths will take us down wondering roads to be sure, but God promises to never leave us as we go.
Tucked quietly into this passage is the imperative that we must go through this journey with each other. The “Instruction” Joshua was given focuses on staying in love with God and staying in love with your community. The people would not be successful if they didn’t prioritize each other, if they didn’t stay in connection and communion with each other, no matter how much or little they liked each other.
As I begin this next chapter in my life, I am so grateful to be part of a community that is committed to each other. The sense of family at Providence is amazing and gives me the “warm fuzzies” just walking in the building. Yesterday was an “installation” service formally, but it felt more like an adoption. I feel part of the family and I’m starting to believe that being part of a family is the only way we can thrive. Being part of a group of people who want the best for you, even as we may disagree from time-to-time, it is crucial.
Wherever you find yourself today, know that you aren’t called to go through life alone.
We are all invited to remember that the only way through is together. I hope you have a community you can call family. If you don’t and you are in the Charlotte area, join ours at 11am in The Net. If you are a little ways away, find a church at the end of your street and go love them well. When we do that, when we love others with a deep love that can only come from God, it spreads like wildfire. Wouldn’t it be great to see our worlds ablaze with love?!
Grace & Peace, Pastor Cole
Photo by Andy Jones