This week I have a three unrelated things to share.
First, this Sunday we welcome Pastor Jim Mason back from his sabbatical. Jim has been on sabbatical since June 1. He has spent the summer traveling and learning from other churches. He’s spent time resting. He’s spent time listening to the Lord about his next season of ministry.
Well done Schweitzer for allowing Jim this space to rest and be renewed. Not every church would make space for one of their pastors to have this valuable experience. A sabbatical is not a vacation; it’s an intentional time away to focus and learn. I can’t wait to have Jim back and to learn from him. He’ll be around on Sunday, I hope you’ll be here to welcome him back.
Second, I have wrapped up the Listening Tour! Over the last eight weeks I’ve met with over 200 people in 19 different sessions. I spent over 40 hours listening to the church. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to sit in living rooms across the city listening to the stories of the church. This was an incredibly valuable use of time. Thank you!
Third, this Sunday we’ll wrap up our Life Together series. I planned this series back in May with the other pastors. The idea of the series started with the simple question of church unity. Church unity is on my mind for at least two reasons: One, the broader United Methodist Church is certainly struggling with unity, and I spend a lot of time thinking about the UMC; two, a pastoral transition creates temptation for division.
We grabbed onto the idea of The Great Commandment: Love the Lord with all that you are and love your neighbor as yourself. This is not normally where I would go for a teaching on unity, but on looking at it closer there is great wisdom here. There are three loves mentioned in the Great Commandment: God, others, self. Loving yourself is an implied third love in this passage. There is wisdom in just considering that order of loves: God first, others second, I’m third. How different would our lives go if we were to love in that order? Also think about what happens when love is the basis for unity in the church.
To me, love sounds easy. Or at least love sounds easy on the surface. But really, love is the most challenging thing there is. I often come back to one of my favorite quotes by one of my favorite authors, Eugene Peterson. He wrote, “There’s nothing I’m worst at in life, than love. I’m far better at competing. I’m far better at getting my own way. But everyday I choose to put love on the line, believing that it is far better to fail in love than to succeed in pride.”
Maybe that resonates with you as well. I’m going to fail at living a life of love, but I’m choosing to put love on the line.