Friday, September 19, 2014

God loves you. Your church does, too.

Receive the Word of God. Learn its stories and study its words. 
Its stories belong to us all, and these words speak to us all. 
They tell us who we are. They tell us that we belong to Christ 
and to one another, for we are all people of God.

   As they prepared to receive their Bibles and the prayer throws made for them by the hands of our Prayer Shawl Ministry volunteers, these were the words that Kelley Conkle read to Ema, Emma, Carter and Davis, the rising third graders who stood before the congregation on Sunday. The faces of these four young people beamed with pride as they received these gifts and the attention of standing in front of everyone. I then made an attempt to capture all of this. I said,

God loves you. Your church does, too.

   I made it to the parking lot after worship before the magnitude of that moment began to sink in further. What a privilege to speak to young people in such precious moments. What an honor to be a small part of what God is doing through the hundreds of family, teachers, counselors, coaches, doctors, nurses, and volunteers who have helped these young people to make it this far. Of course, we know they have further to go. The world is complicated and amazing and terrible and beautiful and sad. They know some of that now and will know more of that later. But, throughout, these two truths do not change; God loves them and so does this church.
Epworth's Sanctuary in April 1963
   Epworth has a long history of shining the love and light of God into the lives of children and adults. It started with families gathering in a home on Rosemont Avenue, continued with months of meeting at Sherwood Methodist Church, and has continued these 51 years that we worshiped here on Devonshire Drive. Our Homecoming preacher, the Rev. Dr. Rick Mitchell, is a part of our great history. He served here for three years, including the time that the Hamp Stevens Memorial UMC congregation merged with Epworth. That merger helped make possible the amazing renovations and updates that our building and parking have seen this year.
   Epworth has a good history. We gather to celebrate the God who makes history worthwhile. We gather to embrace the present that we are called to help transform. We gather to claim and proclaim a future overseen by the sovereign God of the universe that loves us. To that, we can all say, Amen.

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