It already seems a long time ago, but on Labor Day weekend our Pastoral Team from United Presbyterian Church and Iglesia Nuevas Fronteras in Plainfield, New Jersey had the opportunity to travel up to a Presbyterian Retreat Center in Holmes, NY and spend a Saturday praying, preparing, and getting to know one another. I had the pleasure of leading the closing Bible Study on Saturday night after a very full day.
I shared with the group the very familiar passage of the Beatitudes in a reflective, lectio exercise. Drawing upon Kathleen Long Bostrom’s devotional, Finding Calm in the Chaos, I reminded the group of the blessings amidst the challenges of this first sermon that Christ gives.
Though the beatitudes repeatedly bless its hearers and those who identify as meek, poor in spirit, those who mourn, etc., with the confirmation of blessings from God, we are all inherit the challenge of not only ushering in the kingdom of heaven, but enacting it and bearing those blessings and good news to others.
We took the moment to recognize which beatitude we identified with that evening, and where and what challenges and blessings God might be calling us to simultaneously, in our ministry together this year.
Fast forward one month, and just last night as our pastor and I drove home from church, we continued to reflect on the deep need for pastoral care in our community. In essence, just when I felt our churches were bubbling over with opportunity and growth, my eyes have been opened to the new challenges that come in the midst of the blessings God has provided. It is tempting to look to all we have done and worked for and ask God to make things just a bit easier, but our God is not that kind of God. Our God is one who thankfully possesses the power to bless and to challenge simultaneously.
The challenge in front of us in ministry currently is to bless God for all that God has done in our midst, and at the same time, ask God for support to go forward toward growing our church in ways we currently don’t have the imagination and the vision to see.
Have you ever been in this position? In what great blessings in your life have you inherited great challenges from God?