reflections from the 9/24 Sent series sermon given by Rev. KurtHeineman, based on the Acts 8:26-40 story of Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch.
The phrase, “God’s grace has preceded our human response”, shared by Rev. Kurt, seemed to cast a beam across my reflections on the sermon. Initially, my thoughts pointed to how the Spirit makes ways through the actions of God’s children for His glory and love to be realized. This led me to recall the repeated awe expressed by many congregants over the past two years, basically consisting of: ‘There is something exciting going on.’ And, ‘The Spirit is moving here.’
It is. The evidence is all about us: our loving and gifted FPC staff; the evolution of the Children & Family and Youth teams into Family Ministry; the Neighborhood Closet ministry; the Deacons refocusing their ministry on care and connection; the Coffeehouse Conversations by the Community Outreach Committee; the Mission Team offering grants to non-profits; the deep investment of congregants in leadership, church participation and financial stewardship; the generous legacy gift from the Gotz estate; and the many new attenders finding welcome and connection. God’s grace is faithful and beyond imagination.
Secondly, in the question Rev. Kurt posed, “Who is the Spirit pressing near me to get to know?” was the challenge to consider those ‘at the edge’ of my personal known world, or a step further- ‘outside the margins’ of community. Again, I see God’s grace preceding our human response to both the personal and the community ‘pressing’. Though it feels out of sequence, I want to first consider our Lord’s call to ‘know, appreciate and join with’ His children ‘outside our margins’, who seem just that bit further from our personal circle. Then, close with a thought about those a reach closer, who are just ‘at the edge’.
So, how can we come to know those in our community the Spirit is pressing us near? FPC has been blessed to have a leader who has dedicated her life and work to understanding this question, Donna Brundage. She and the Community Outreach team have established the Coffeehouse Conversation events for this very question. The intention of these open forums, with speakers who are professionally invested or personally experienced with each topic, is to offer the FPC congregation an opportunity to understand the needs and circumstances of those who are ‘at the edge’. These are community members who are homeless, dealing with mental health concerns, challenged by differing physical or cognitive abilities, overcoming addictions or may be contemplating suicide. Understanding can replace fear and remove biases and could help us to trust that our commitment to being a LOVE 1st church could look like confidently pressing near the ‘outside the margins.”
Ironically, it is often the opportunities and connections that are closer, more personal to us, that require greater trust and confidence in God’s grace to steps toward. Yet, it seems like this is exactly what is going on in our congregational body. So many folks across the church are responding to the Spirit’s pressing to step towards the edge of their comfort zone and such an example, which includes the wisdom of a child, is my closing anecdote.
Since mid-August, it has been announced there is a calling for a Sunday School teacher for the 2nd - 5th grade group. It is so satisfying to learn this important opening has been filled perfectly by the grace of God. There are a few circumstances that make this fill somewhat of an amazing surprise: in addition to being a wife and mother of three young children, this person works full time outside of their home. Though her teaching experience with children has been limited to VBS during a Lima, Peru mission trip and as a co-teacher in Sunday School; she has a strong background of teaching adults in the field of dental hygiene at the collegiate level.
At first glance, these circumstantial conditions seem like challenges that might dissuade a busy young woman from risking a ‘yes’ to pressing herself to a new edge in this teaching ministry. But this is God’s work. His grace has preceded her response. So, just how was her heart open to receiving His grace and gifting in preparation for this calling? The simple answer: the wise and inspired words of a child.
Not just any child, specifically, one of her own. It was her oldest son Alex’s sincere encouragement upon hearing the announcement of the position, which prompted her to consider this ‘edge’ opportunity and to step forward to fill this need. It was a child who gave voice to God’s preceding grace, telling her, “Mom, you should do that!”
Along with encouraging you to take every opportunity to get to know, appreciate and join in with, as many of our wise children and youth that you can, I invite you to join me in welcoming and thanking Tracee Dahm for her courage to say “Yes” to pressing ‘to the edge’.
Peace and every good, Yvette
Our staff is voluntold each week and with grace they share their thoughts.