Once again, Reconnection Sunday at Hayes Barton UMC was a great event! I hope that all of you felt the energy, fellowship, and love for our church and for each other that was evident throughout the morning. The worship services were powerful and our fellowship was joyful. If you are involved with one of the Sunday school classes, perhaps you were able to get back together with that group. These classes are a great way to become more involved in the life of this congregation while also helping to form and prepare us to follow our calling to Christian discipleship. (If you are not in a Sunday school class, there are many to choose from! Please ask Pastor Molly, Pastor Rick, or myself if you need help picking a class.)
On Reconnection Sunday, Pastor Rick also introduced the theme from scripture that will be our foundation and guide for the coming year. This theme is “One Lord of All,” which is based on Ephesians 4:1-7, 11-16. In this epistle Paul is writing to the early church in Ephesus, which is a town on the Mediterranean Sea in what is now the country of Turkey. This wasn’t just a letter to one church in particular; rather several of the churches in the area would have read this letter aloud to the community. It would have been like a “State of the Church” address to update the congregations on how things were going for Christianity as a whole.
In this report of the Church, the author starts out by offering worship and thanksgiving to God. Part of this worship gives thanks that in the Church, Christ has established a bond of unity through love and forgiveness. It is a place that both Jews and Gentiles find forgiveness and salvation. It is a place where all are welcomed to experience God through the power of the Holy Spirit and receive salvation through faith in Christ. Therefore, Paul writes the church this letter to thank them for following the direction of Christ and living into their calling to discipleship.
It is for similar reasons that this text was chosen to be our theme and foundation for the coming year. The congregation at Hayes Barton UMC represents individual uniqueness and diversity. We come from different places, we have different backgrounds, our occupations are different and so are our life experiences. All of these things and more shape us as unique individuals. Yet despite our differences, not only in our backgrounds but also in the ways we follow and experience God, there is one Lord of all. The author made note of this in the letter to the Ephesians. It was true for them as a church just as much as it is true for us as a church.
One of my favorite sayings of John Wesley is something he said concerning what are the essential beliefs to Christian faith and what are nonessential beliefs, or what he called “opinions.” In his perspective, Wesley thought that Christians ought to be cohesive in their love, but it was not essential to have identical philosophies or practices. In his sermon titled “Catholic Spirit” Wesley asked, “Though we cannot think alike, may we not love alike?” Perhaps Wesley had Ephesians 4 in his mind when he wrote this. This statement does a masterful job of capturing the reality that we are created in diverse and unique ways while also acknowledging our one Lord and God of all equally gives us the gift of love, grace, and forgiveness. While it can be shown in our own unique way, we are all called and created to share God’s love to the world.
This year, we as the congregation at Hayes Barton UMC are remembering and celebrating that while we are diverse and unique individuals, there is one Lord of all that offers grace, love, and forgiveness equally to all people in all places. May we share this Good News with the world so that all come to know this truth and respond with faith in Christ as their Lord and Savior. For this, may God be glorified and may it be on earth as it is in heaven!
With peace and love, Pastor Adam