1 Peter 1:6-9
You now rejoice in this hope, even if it’s necessary for you to be distressed for a short time by various trials. This is necessary so that your faith may be found genuine. (Your faith is more valuable than gold, which will be destroyed even though it is itself tested by fire.) Your genuine faith will result in praise, glory, and honor for you when Jesus Christ is revealed. Although you’ve never seen him, you love him. Even though you don’t see him now, you trust him and so rejoice with a glorious joy that is too much for words. You are receiving the goal of your faith: your salvation.
I was appointed to a county seat church after a very difficult five years at a suburban church. My time at the suburban church was marked with several trials: a contingency of the congregation left a few months after I had been there, a tornado devastated several homes near the church, I had a freak heart infection that nearly took my life, and my wife and I both lost parents – all with 18 months.
After that I found myself empty and lifeless, and submitted myself to spiritual direction with a spiritual director. With help, I soon realized that those trials I had endured could be transformational – if I would allow it – into tempering and refining experiences for my faith and endurance. My anger and frustration was slowly replaced with renewal and resolve. So when I arrived at the county seat church, I was a “new” man. It allowed me to help a church, as well as people in and outside of the church, see trials and struggles in a new light, and how, in order for transformation to take place and take root, we have to be willing to endure the trials.
As we are all realizing in the Nashville Area, deep change is slow and sometimes painful. In this season, however, it is what we are called to embrace, so that we can reclaim our task as United Methodists: to proclaim holiness, to make disciples, and to transform a hurting world that desperately needs to hear about and experience Jesus Christ.
Gracious God, while we don’t need to be martyrs, we do need to be willing to step out in faith, to be willing to risk deep change, and possibly endure trials and hardships, sacrifices and disappointments – and to know that you are still God, and that our efforts are not in vain, but rather blessed in the now and future Kingdom as we seek to make disciples in Jesus’ name. AMEN.
The Rev. Sky McCracken
Paducah District Superintendent, Memphis Conference