Appointments to be announced

Sunday, April 6, announcements will be made in congregations across the Memphis and Tennessee Conferences with regard to pastoral changes.  The appointive cabinet has been at work for the last several months striving to listen and discern those appointments that will be missional and foster fruitful and faithful ministry across the two conferences. The work has been done prayerfully and faithfully.


Itinerancy is one of the most distinguishing characteristics of the United Methodist Church.
It was instituted by John Wesley in 1746 when he appointed lay preachers whom he called “helpers” as a means to serve definitive circuits.  This is the method by which we provide pastoral leadership to congregations in our denomination.  Over time the process has been modified and timing has shifted, but, essentially, we continue to live by process we call itinerancy.


Our process is rooted in the Biblical understanding that God’s people are a sent people. Throughout Scripture, God is continually calling and sending persons into the mission field to offer the Good News of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  Jesus sent the 12 Disciples and later 70+ others to preach Good News to the poor, release to the captives and the recovering of sight to the blind.


We Methodists are a sent people.  So it is, each spring the Bishop and District Superintendents do the challenging work of determining pastoral leadership for congregations.


Our goal is always to create the best possible matches between pastors and congregations based on:

–      The missional needs of communities

–      A desire to have healthy, vital congregations

–      A call to reach persons living in our neighborhoods, communities and cities with the Good News of Jesus Christ

–      A pastor’s fruitfulness and faithfulness


So it is that we have completed the appointive work for this year.  Some pastors and congregations not expecting a move will be having changes.  We will ask some pastors to move when it was not their expectation.  Some pastors will move at a salary increase. Some will move at a salary decrease.


Across the Nashville Area, there will be almost $300,000 less salary dollars available as a result of congregations which are reducing salary support in order to be faithful to their mission and ministry.  Some station churches are now at the point of needing to be aligned with a sister church creating a two or three point charge served by one pastor in order to provide an adequate salary package for a pastor.


We have also increased the number of “across the river” appointments.


In all, the work has been prayerful and hopeful for those sent into the mission field across our two annual conferences. In the near future, when it is clear that all of our appointments are fixed, we will post them on this blog for your information.


Please continue to pray for all who are in the midst of transitions, especially spouses and children who will be uprooted.




After posting this article our fine District Superintendents reminded me that we had not in fact completed all our work.  Our Part-time appointments have not, in every district, been completed. These appointments are typically considered appointments that the District Superintendent makes, usually within the leadership of a particular district.

In most cases, our small membership churches are served wonderfully by bi-vocational pastors who are bound to a specific geographical area due to secular employment. Thus, their ability to itinerate is often limited to a district.

There is no way we can provide leadership to our many rural congregations without the faithful work of these who serve the small membership congregations across our two conferences. 

I deeply regret my oversight on this important matter. 

Bishop Bill McAlilly

Wesley’s multiple modes of evangelism

AndrewThompson_sqRecently I’ve been reading Andrew Thompson’s blog series From Wesley’s Pen as he reflects on John Wesley’s life and practice. For those who don’t know Andrew Thompson, he is an ordained elder in the United Methodist Church and teaches at Memphis Theological Seminary in Memphis, Tennessee. He earned the Doctor of Theology degree from Duke University. Thompson’s scholarly work focuses on the thought of John Wesley, the history of early Methodism, and contemporary Wesleyan theology. He will joining us at both annual conference sessions to think about the task of connecting and equipping people to carry out ministry in the United Methodist Church.

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Luke 6

Read and Ponder each passage.

Write the words that leap out to you.

Meet the challenge to write a prayer using all the words you selected.

Then select a phrase or sentence from the passage that grabs your attention.

Write several personal I BELIEVE statements about each passage.

(Try not to let my examples get in your way.)

Words that leap out:


Holy Lord, You call me to keep the Sabbath but more often than not I do not. You call me to pray but I find my self like Martha, busy with many things. You call me to love and it is my deepest desire to love with all that is within my being. Still, when I examine my own spirit, there are moments when love is the more difficult way. I find myself wrestling with my own selfish desires. I find that when I least expect it I am not living and speaking in loving ways. Forgive me, Lord. Break my heart for those who whose lives are impoverished by loneliness, by greed, and by the very fact that life has dealt with them in ways that causes great sorrow and brokenness. Bend my life toward a deepened sense of compassion for those who lives have been shattered in ways that I often fail to recognize or am unwilling to see. Open my eyes to the need around me so that I will see with the eyes of Your heart. These things I pray on bended knee. Amen.

A phrase or sentence from the passage that grabs your attention:

Why do you call me Lord, Lord and don’t do what I say?”

I believe prayer is best done in places of stillness and quiet.

I believe I am called to love my enemies as difficult as that may be.

I believe compassion is the highest calling God can give.

I believe when I live in a spirit of forgiveness I will experience forgiveness more frequently.



I’ve been thinking about discipleship lately and this gospel lays it before us clearly.  Chapter 5 gave us the call of the first disciples and here Jesus picks the remainder of his team. Luke is clearly laying the foundation for a new order that is going to be in direct conflict with the old.  Work on the Sabbath, healing on the Sabbath and the notion that human need pushes beyond the restrictions of the Pharisaic law will cause Jesus difficulty.  I appreciate scholars who help us understand that this conflict that is set up by Jesus as told through the eyes of Luke points us to the reality that the Pharisees are caught between their struggle to choose between competing obligations and the difficulty in accepting Jesus’ new teachings.

The call to observe the Sabbath now is set in conflict with the command to love one’s neighbor. Is the duty of Sabbath rest more important than the call to feed the hungry and heal the sick? Can the love of God be separated from the love of neighbor? Or is the love of neighbor an expression of our love of God? This challenge will reverberate throughout the Gospel of Luke.

If we are deepening our lives in Christ it will reverberate within each of us as we seek to deepen our lives in Christ. Discipleship is demanding and it will challenge us to follow Jesus into the hard places as the balance of chapter 6 indicates.

Report of the The Nashville Episcopal Area Strategy Mapping Team

During the past year, a Nashville Episcopal Area Strategy Mapping Team has been meeting (with members from both the Memphis and Tennessee Annual Conferences) to discern a mission and vision for the area, as well as our core values and primary areas of focus. After many long hours of conversation and prayer, the team believes that God is leading us toward the mission, values and focus described below.

This is a work in progress. The next step is to share this with leaders throughout the area to receive their feedback, allowing us to refine our mission, values, and focus, and then to discover the next steps in reaching a shared agreement about how God is already at work in the Nashville Episcopal Area, and where God is calling us to grow in more effectively being a part of God’s mission in the world. 

I encourage you to be in a spirit of prayer and discernment as we work together to carry out God’s call here in the Nashville Episcopal Area. 

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2014 Scripture Reading Plan — Week of January 12, 2014

Luke 2 (Common English Bible)

Jesus’ birth

2 In those days Caesar Augustus declared that everyone throughout the empire should be enrolled in the tax lists. 2 This first enrollment occurred when Quirinius governed Syria. 3 Everyone went to their own cities to be enrolled. 4 Since Joseph belonged to David’s house and family line, he went up from the city of Nazareth in Galilee to David’s city, called Bethlehem, in Judea. 5 He went to be enrolled together with Mary, who was promised to him in marriage and who was pregnant. 6 While they were there, the time came for Mary to have her baby. 7 She gave birth to her firstborn child, a son, wrapped him snugly, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the guestroom.

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Reflection on Luke 1

“Because of God’s deep compassion, the dawn from heaven will break upon us, to give light to those who are sitting in darkness in the shadow of death, to guide us on the path of peace.” Luke 1:78-79

I’ve been thinking all week about Luke 1, the beginning of the Gospel story as Luke reports it.

Luke hits the ground running and we have to run with him to keep up with all that is about to unfold. Theophilus is named at the outset. Is this a friend of Luke’s, a person of means, an eyewitness? Has he been captured by the power of the Holy Spirit in such a way that he wants to be a part of all that is to come?

Luke acknowledges at the outset of the Gospel that many people have already been at work in compiling the events that have “been fulfilled among us.” What is important, though, is that Theophilus understands that this is a reliable account. So that he can trust that what he has been taught is in fact, trustworthy.

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Scripture Reading Plan for 2014

Many of you will remember that last year a number of bishops joined together in reading scripture throughout the year. Thanks to Bishop Ken Carter who has devised a reading plan for 2014, many will be sharing with us across the United Methodist Connection.   Below is the plan which I encourage you to follow.

1.      We will read a chapter of Luke and then Acts through the 2014 year, one chapter per week.  There are 24 chapters in Luke and 28 chapters in Acts; this will take us through 52 weeks of the year.   Noted New Testament scholar and professor at Candler School of Theology, Emory University,  Luke Timothy Johnson, is instructive as he teaches that the books of Luke and Acts were never intended to be read separately.  He further notes that the life of Jesus and the life of the church cannot be understood apart from each other.   Luke faithfully reported on the life and ministry of Jesus and how this life and ministry continued in the early church.  We can read Luke and Acts within the framework of how the life and ministry of Jesus is among us to this day and as a blueprint for what it means to make disciples for the transformation of the world.

I invite you to begin with Luke 1 the week of  January 5, Luke 2 on the week of January 12, Luke 3 the week of January 19, and onward.  We will note on each conference website the chapter being read each week. You may also click the link at the top of the page to see an overview of this year’s plan.

2.     Our hope is that you will invite at least one person to join you in this practice.  The more you engage this practice and the more you share in this practice with an accountability partner, the more likely you are to maintain this spiritual discipline.  I will be inviting our Conference Lay Leaders to partner with me in this practice.  You might invite a Sunday School class friend, someone in your covenant group, or anyone with whom you wish to share a life deepening experience.

As we seek to discover, connect, equip, and send leaders who shape congregations that offer Jesus Christ to a hurting world one neighborhood at a time, may we root and ground our lives in the these Holy Words.

*Thanks to Bishop Ken Carter for his leadership in this profound Spiritual Practice.

Searching for Easter in the Midst of Christmas

(Many of you have reached out to our family in the midst of death of my nephew, my sister’s son, Gale Stauffer, who died December 23. He was tragically killed in the line of duty, serving the City of Tupelo on the Tupelo Police Force. Below is the message I shared at Gale’s Service of Death and Resurrection. We are deeply grateful for your many, many prayers, cards, letters , text messages and calls as we have walked the valley of the shadow of death. We are grateful we do not walk alone.)

Kevin Gale Stauffer, Jr.

June 22, 1975-December 23, 2013

Lord our God, the death of Gale who has been son, brother, husband, father, grandson and friend, recalls the human condition and the brevity of our lives on earth. But, for those who believe in Your love, death is not the end. Nor, does it destroy the bonds that You forge in our lives. We share the faith of Your Son’s disciples and the hope of the children of God. Bring the light of Christ’s resurrection to this time of testing and pain as we pray for Gale and for one another who loved him deeply, through Christ our Lord. Amen.

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Growing Deep

Jeremiah 17:8-14 

 ( This sermon was preached November 11, 2013 at the Council of Bishops opening worship)

For six years I lived among live oak trees on the Mississippi Gulf Coast in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.  In fact, weekly, I drove down Highway 90 between Bay St. Louis and Ocean Springs, Mississippi – the “beach road” as we natives call it, where there were hundreds if not thousands of live oak trees that are massive in scope and scale.

These massive, majestic, evergreen trees (did you know they are from the evergreen family?) are the envy of every child who ever dreamed of the perfect tree to climb. The limbs hang low and those that have any age to them offer a sense of protection and permanence. If only I had had a tree house built in one of those when I was ten!

The interesting thing that I learned while living amongst these massive trees was that the reason they were so strong, grew so tall, stretched so wide and offered such shade, was that their root system was deep and wide.  We know the central root of any tree is the taproot.  In a live oak the root is called an anchor root.  It literally anchors the tree deep then grows wide with a root system that stretches around and around the tree, often four to seven times the diameter of the tree.

After Hurricane Katrina, though, some live oaks died. In fact, you can travel along the “beach road” from Louisiana to Alabama and see a hundred or more of these live oaks that died. Some creative artists have come along with a chain saw and carved magnificent art out of them.   Beautiful in their own way, they have become somewhat of a tourist attraction.

I’ve wondered if that might be a metaphor for where we see ourselves in the church today.  Some congregations are deeply rooted, engaged in mission and faithful discipleship.  Others, once beautiful places of vibrant and vital community, are now artifacts or museums.  There are many causes of such a decline.  Times of drought, lack of proper nutrients and too many storms threaten trees. In congregations, decline is the result of an unwillingness to engage the neighborhood with the good news of Jesus Christ.

So the question I ponder in this season is: “Lord, are we rooted deeply enough in you that when the drought and storms come we will continue to bear fruit?” The roots of my faith and life come from places where water is plentiful and trees grow large and tall, roots grow deep and branch out.  I’ve learned over time, however, that storms will stunt and heat will scorch trees and fruit is sometimes scarce. It seems to me, this might be a place where we in the church find ourselves.

Jeremiah is clear. Blessings come when one roots one’s life in trust in the Lord.  Old Testament theology does not distinguish greatly between trust and faith.  Trust in the Lord with all thine heart and lean not on thy own understanding, in all thy ways acknowledge Him and He will direct thy paths. (Proverbs 3:5)  Seems like a simple, easy thing to do – to trust, to have faith.  There have been a few times over the last fifteen months or so, as I’ve stepped into this new life as an Episcopal leader, when I’ve wondered if I’m rooted deeply enough, if my anchor will hold, if I’m planted closely enough to the source of living water.

Jeremiah didn’t have a College of Bishops or Council of Bishops or even an appointive cabinet to lean on. He was on his own.   I wonder if he had, might he have said some things differently, prophesied with less vim and vigor?  No, times were desperate and he was passionate.  In fact, if you look at the first six verses of chapter seventeen, he wasn’t doling out blessings; just curses.  Which, these days, if you are a Bishop, you understand quiet well.

In Jeremiah’s time, there was turmoil and exile. Hearts were hardened.  The enemy lurked just outside the gate.  He longed for more for his people. He longed for them to be planted deeply in the soil of faith in trust in the Lord. He knew that if he could call his people to a deeper life and more faithful trust in God, that when the hard times came, and they surely would – as surely as I’m planted by beautiful Lake Junaluska amidst these beautiful mountains – they would come. He knew if one was grounded deep in the heart of God, not one’s own heart, but in the heart of God, when the dry seasons came, fruit would still be born.

Like Jeremiah, we are in an awesome and definitive moment in the history of the Church and the world. When Jeremiah came on the scene, there was great anxiety in Jerusalem.  In 587 B.C., the party was over.  If we are paying any attention to our rhetoric and to our activity, we are caught in a similar place of anxiety.   We live with war and rumors of war.  We ask, when will the shootings end?  How many children have to die?  We Imagine No More Malaria yet we grieve with Bishop Unda in the loss of his daughter to the dreaded disease of Malaria.

We wrestle with immigration and we wonder, “How long, O Lord?”  Regardless of the places the Church has sent us, “How long, O Lord, how long?” So we come together, seeking to be rooted in something deeper, something more profound than the shield of the Office of the Bishop.

And here Jeremiah spoke in a time of great need for the people of God.  As Jeremiah stepped onto the stage of Biblical history, he was deeply rooted in the old memories of Moses, as they mediated in the teaching of Deuteronomy. The covenant was central to all Jeremiah taught and believed. The covenant – deep, demanding and intimate in relationship.  (Bruggeman: A Theological Introduction to the Old Testament, pg. 328)  Jeremiah’s words must have been shocking to people who believed that you should only etch divine or good things on the heart. The central passage of one of their central books Deuteronomy provided as follows:  “Keep these words that I am commanding you today in your heart.”

And yet, we struggle. We work to clarify our mission to make disciples of Jesus Christ only to discover we take one step forward and two steps back.  We get crossed up with one another because we differ theologically on how to best navigate the changing cultural landscape as it relates to our gay and lesbian sisters and brothers.

How shall we struggle to identify what keeps us rooted and grounded in our shared covenant even when we are not in agreement?  How shall we “hang in there” with each other – not in spite of, but because of our different views?  We share deep roots. Our Wesleyan heritage is rich and grounds us deeply in the love of God and love of neighbor.  We share deep roots and from what I’ve noticed over the last fifteen months, our branches spread wide.

I give thanks to God that all of our branches don’t grow in the same direction.   I wonder what it might mean to model personal integrity and authenticity in our differences while modeling how we commit to staying at the same table?  In my own conference, I have reconciling congregations and congregations that hold “True Love Heals” conferences.   Some of us feel called to be prophetic; others of us feel called to hold the tension of the opposites while we wait for God to reveal a solution. Others of us feel strongly that God has spoken.

What are we to do? How are we to navigate this impasse? We come together as a Council of Bishops, active and retired, torn by our own inability to find agreement on the best way forward and deeply divided by how best to live into the covenant of our ordination as elders and the covenant of our consecration as Bishops.  As a Council, we mirror the great divide that exists politically and socially.  We agree to disagree.  We bend our covenants.  Do we deepen our roots in Christ and in one another?

Then, here is Jeremiah; a poet who is acutely sensitive to the pain and failure of his community.  Window dressing was not going to address the problems Judah faced.  Window dressing will not be adequate for facing our differences this week and beyond.  So Jeremiah sets out to tell a better story, to help Israel live a better story. To reposition and imagine a better future in terms of its commitment and reliance upon Yahweh.

Between a blessing and a prayer, Jeremiah spoke.  Our trust in God draws us to trust in each other as rooted in God’s hope and love as people, as the Council of Bishops, as a Church.  Blessed is the One who trusts in the Lord.  Heal me, O Lord, and I will be healed. Save me, O Lord, and I will be saved. (Jeremiah 17:14)  This is one of several that Jeremiah prayed, really, as confession. Praying out of hurt, grief, anger, and a sense of acute danger, the poet prayed.  How do we lead the church in this time in a great cultural change?  What is our heart’s desire? How do we hold this tension between doing no harm and doing good?

Pain forces us to seek out a doctor.  It is a characteristic of our human psychology that we only look for a savior when we are in trouble.  (~Celebration, February 1983)  Friends, we are in trouble.  I’m reminded of the story of a man lying by the pool of Bethsaida who knows that the only time the healing will come is when the waters are stirred.  Well, it’s been a long time since the waters have been this troubled in our church.  How will we be made well?  The constrictions of the human condition ‘force’ us to acknowledge our ultimate powerlessness.  Nothing, nothing is sufficient for us – except God.” (~Celebration, February 1983)

We must risk being a part of the story.  We can trust in ourselves, our priorities, our strengths and become like a shrub in the desert, with no relief, living in the parched places of the wilderness. (Jeremiah 17:6)  Or, we can listen to Jeremiah who calls us to place our trust in the Lord who is the fountain of living water.  So that we are like a tree planted by the water whose roots grow deep in loving God and loving what God loves.  For me, it is incredibly difficult – this notion of surrendering. Every day I wake up and pray, “Today, Lord, I surrender,” but by lunchtime, I’m large and in charge!  Is this really what Jeremiah is after in his prayer for healing? To surrender?

I believe Jeremiah is calling us to a deeper life, a deeper place than we have been.  Shall WE be so bold to proclaim that WE have all the answers?  On the one hand we don’t want to give way on important moral issues.  On the other hand we don’t want to give way to our need to be right, to be superior, and to be in control.  Sounds a bit like original sin to me. My sense in this moment is that our task is at a minimum to learn to withstand the storm, the winds, the rain, the flood, and become who God is calling us to be in this moment.

In recent days, I have turned to the familiar words of Thomas Merton, “I don’t know if I’ve ever done your will.  All I know is that I want to do your will. I’m not certain I’m pleasing you.  All I know is that I desire to please you.”  Isn’t that what we ALL desire?  To live in God’s will like a tree planted, deeply rooted and grounded in God’s love.

Wherever we find ourselves on this theological continuum, we are called to a mystery of transformation. (Richard Rhor, pg. 36, Hope Against Darkness)  It is a mystery, this life with God in Christ Jesus, who for the sake of all of us, walked the way of suffering all the way to the cross.  So when we place our lives before the cross, none of us is in charge, none of us in control, nor was Jesus.  On the cross, someone else is in control. Someone else is in charge.  Someone else understands.

After Hurricane Katrina on the Mississippi Gulf coast, we were no longer in control.  Gone were our homes, cars, stuff and churches. All we had was each other and our faith in Jesus Christ. Today, a storm is brewing around us, maybe in ways that we have not seen in forty years.  It is a storm that we cannot control, try as we might.

This morning I received a devotion in my email inbox.  It captured my mind with these words: “We are not going to solve today’s difficulties with “either/or” thinking.” That will lead to more information but will also lead to splitting. Splitting institutions, even splitting within an individual.  It will not lead to wholeness, which is the understanding of salvation in the Old Testament. In fact, most of us are divided within ourselves this week.  So we must go down on our knees and into the mess in order for us to move through to that new place where God is leading.

At the end of the day, if we fail to hold on to one another, if we fail to surrender to God, and if we fail to be deeply rooted in the deep love, the love of Christ Jesus, we will miss the grand opportunity that lies before us.  How shall we live together and what shall our witness be?

Heal us, and we will be healed.

Save us, and we will be saved.

And then, then our hearts will be pure.

Make plans for ‘Giving Tuesday’ on Dec. 3

givngtues250x250bnnr01Giving Tuesday – Have you heard about it yet?

Created in response to the consumer-driven traditions of Black Friday and Cyber Monday, GivingTuesday will take place on Tuesday, Dec. 3.

For United Methodists, this means every gift made online that day through “The Advance” will be matched dollar for dollar. All you have to do is log onto and search more than 850 missions and ministries.

I encourage all United Methodists of the Nashville Episcopal Area (Memphis and Tennessee Conferences) to participate in Giving Tuesday. It offers us all an opportunity to not only support United Methodist organizations that are transforming the world, but begin the month of December by giving, rather than receiving.

Please join me on Dec. 3 by giving back through The Advance. It’s an easy and meaningful way to show gratitude for the gift of our lord Jesus Christ.

Bishop Bill McAlilly

God Sightings

I am mindful that I am 2000 miles away from those of you who are worshipping Christ today as I gather with the Council of Bishops for our spring learning forum. Today, as a part of my covenant community within the council, we began with worship and reflection asking the question, “Where have you seen God at work recently in your area?”

My heart was warmed as I heard the stories from my colleagues about the way God is moving across our great Church. More than that, I reflected on the places across the Tennessee and Memphis Conferences where God is moving.

A small membership church discovers that there are children within a two mile radius and begins a Sunday School ministry with children who previously had no relationship with church or Jesus Christ.

For 15 years United Methodist Men have gathered at Archer’s Chapel for a fish fry. Five hundred plus men gather for food, fellowship, and worship.

A college student sings “Go Light Your World” in worship and moves a congregation to a deeper understanding of being the light of the world.

A group of youth sponsor a packing event for Stop Hunger Now and pack 10,000 meals for those who are hungry.

An Euro-American congregation has a vision for beginning a multi-cultural worshipping community and invites an African American to join the staff to reach a previously unreached group in its community.

Thirty persons offered their “God Story” to be shared at Annual Conference to help us remember how God is still in the redemption business.

Both of our Conference Staff teams and volunteers are working faithfully to prepare for Annual Conference so that the rest of us can enjoy Holy Conferencing in June.

A young person goes on a mission trip and her friends share the gospel of Jesus Christ with her. As a result, she accepts Christ as her Savior and becomes a part of a local congregation.

God is at work among us. These vignettes only scratch the surface of the greater things God is doing through Jesus Christ in our midst and on the mission field in your communities.

This week, I ask you to be on the look out for God at work. I also invite you to share those God sightings with me. I will be looking for the places where God is at work this week from within the Council of Bishops. I will let you know when and where I see those places.

Together may we be disciples of Jesus Christ who invite others to be disciples of Jesus Christ who change the world.

Practicing Resurrection

Christ is risen!
Christ is risen indeed!

We gathered that first Easter, not in a sanctuary, but on an empty lot where we hoped that one day there would be a church. It was early, as John tells the story, while it was still dark. Danny had, without anyone asking, prepared a fire and it was blazing.

One by one we the gathered around that fire until almost our entire newly formed congregation was present. Children in pajamas. Men in blue jeans and flannel shirts. Women not dressed with their Easter best. They came, not because it was their desire to impress, but because something was stirring in their hearts in new and profound ways.

Donna sang “Up from the grave he arose.”  It was as if the angels themselves were singing.  We read the story of the first Easter from John’s gospel.  It struck me then as it does now, that the first Evangelists were women. Peter and the other disciple believed next. Mary Magdalene went, says John, and “announced to the disciples, ‘I have seen the Lord’; and she told them the things he had said to her.”

Something was stirring in the hearts of this new community of faith. We were finding our way. We were practicing, as Wendell Berry describes it, “resurrection.” We were seeing, before our very eyes, bit by bit, little by little, a new heaven and a new earth being formed.

In Peter  Steinke’s book, A Door Set Open: Grounding Change in Mission and Hope,  he tells the story of N.T. Wright, the New Testament scholar who was being interviewed by comedian Stephen Colbert. Colbert says his view of heaven was a harp, a mint julep and asking Ronald Reagan questions. Steinke says, “Far too many people want to go heaven for the same reasons they want to go Hawaii—to enjoy sun, surf, and siesta…with a view.  But the Biblical final destination is a new heaven and a new earth. All creation has a future.  Our journey in life is not a private affair.  We are invited to become agents of God’s creative work—seeking the lost, feeding the hungry, and befriending the lonely.”

That newly formed, fledgling congregation of individuals that gathered that Easter 26 years ago was becoming a place of hope. Daily, weekly, every time we gathered we prayed, “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread.” Matthew 6:9-11

Easter’s grand promise is cosmic.  The whole creation will be redeemed. As Steinke goes on to say, “The central point of Easter is that God has set in place his place that all things will be put right, set free, and remade. Easter is about God’s new creation and the calling of believers to be agents of the kingdom. Christians are called to embody the hope that the God of promise offers.  The gift of resurrection provides us with boldness.”

Wright proclaims: “Our future beyond death is enormously important, but the nature of the Christian hope is such that it plays back into the present life.  We’re called, here and now, to be instruments of God’s new creation, the world put to rights, which has already been launched in Jesus and of which Jesus’ followers are supposed to be not simply beneficiaries but also agents.”

That young congregation on that early Easter morning was demonstrating their hope in a future that was not yet evident in bricks and mortar. They were saying, though they many not have been able to tell you, that they believed God was redeeming them and with them all that they influenced. They were practicing resurrection and in so doing were putting their hope into action. Indeed, the living hope of Christians is the basis for Christian mission.

  • HOPE for the poor, the sick, the despairing
  • HOPE for the stranger, the homeless, the hungry
  • HOPE for the sinner, the neglected, the embittered

So on this Easter morning, go! Go practice resurrection! Go bear witness to the love of God in  this world! Go and be the new creation!

We are invited and summoned always to discover through following Jesus, that God is always moving toward us and not away from us. God is a God of promise where hope is not wishful thinking but grounded in the promise of a new heaven and a new earth.

Christ is risen!
Christ is risen indeed!