It has been a week filled with a great diversity of emotions. As the flood of news reports continues to come in about the tragedy in Orlando, I remain filled with an overwhelming sense of sadness, loss, and frustration. We mourn the death of the innocent lives, and we lament for all who were injured. We pray for and remember all those directly affected by this horrific act.
In the midst of all this grief, our church is also experiencing great joy this week. We are in ministry with 130 children at our Vacation Bible School. Each night has been filled with excitement and purpose of growing new disciples.
I met a dad whose family does not attend any church, but has brought his children to VBS this week. He told me how much fun his kids have been having. He said, “I can’t believe it! My youngest (in kindergarten) came home last night so excited about maybe having the chance to go on a youth mission trip when he gets bigger.” WOW. This is why we do VBS - to offer the grace and love of Jesus to children in our community, so that they might be transformed and challenged to experience life as part of the body of Christ, and to be a blessing to others.
This is the reality of the tension we feel as disciples… joy in the midst of sorrow.
As followers of Jesus, we are called to a higher standard in both words and actions. We are called to spread hope in the midst of despair, shine light into the darkness, and to always stand steadfast on the promise of resurrection. God helps us to be a people of hope, to act with compassion, to seek reconciliation and justice, to speak words of kindness, and to strive for unity as children of one God.
I hope you will take the time to mourn and to pray for all of God’s children. To pray for those who are suffering this week — in Orlando and around the world. Also pray for children who are experiencing the joy, hope, and love of Jesus at Faith UMC and beyond. And as you pray today and in the days and weeks ahead, I invite you to consider these words of scripture:
This is how everyone will know that you are my disciples, when you love each other.
There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear, because fear expects punishment. The person who is afraid has not been made perfect in love. We love because God first loved us. If anyone says, I love God, and hates a brother or sister, he is a liar, because the person who doesn’t love a brother or sister who can be seen can’t love God, who can’t be seen. This commandment we have from him: Those who claim to love God ought to love their brother and sister also.
(1 John 4:18-21)
“Allow the children to come to me,” Jesus said. “Don’t forbid them, because the kingdom of heaven belongs to people like these children.”
Make plans to be with us this Sunday as we gather and stand on the promises of faith, celebrate the great work of Christ in the lives of children at VBS, and join together in praying for our world.
We also will be kicking off a new Summer Sermon Series called “The Summer Games.” Every four years, athletes from all over the globe come together to compete in the Summer Olympics. This summer, the attention of the entire world will turn to Rio de Janeiro. For these athletes, the journey has been a long time in the making, filled with years of dedication, training, and perseverance.
But the Olympics are not the only place we find these stories. We also find them in the bible. Stories filled with Olympic terms and metaphors urging us to use the commitment of an athlete to be what God would have us to be. Join us this summer on the road to Rio as we look at scripture for coaching and lessons for our journeys as disciples of Jesus.