Search on! v.2014
by Jacob Juncker
This message was offered at Wesley United Methodist Church (Culver, IN) on Sunday, January 5, 2014, as part of a Covenant Renewal Service. To learn more about the service, click here.
From the birth of a British monarch to the blasts of the Boston Marathon bombing to the consecration of a new pope, 2013 found us rejoicing, crying together and coming together in new ways. As we leave the year behind, let’s take a look at the biggest events, news, and people who shaped 2013. The folks at Google analyzed the trillions of searches that were typed into Google over the past year to give us “zeitgeist”–the spirit of season–2013 as seen through the lens of Google.
For not only the world but the church, 2013 was a year of exploration, struggle, and success. There were new beginnings. We experienced new frontiers and ways to help. We found courage and said goodbyes. And, we searched for inspiration in the midst of tragedy and change. 2013 went by fast. And here we stand at the beginning of a new year. What’s next? I suppose that depends on where our commitments lie and what we’re searching for.
In today’s Gospel lesson we are met by the magi who set off to find a world-changing leader. They didn’t know where the mysterious star would lead them, but they were committed to following it. They had been searching the skies for years, looking for a sign that would signify a new hope for the world. And when the sign appeared, they began their journey in faith. It is striking to me that they were willing to follow what they had seen into unknown territory. They were committed to the journey regardless of the obstacles or cost.
The wise men were in search of a newborn king, they embarked on a journey, and they didn’t let fear of the unknown stop them.
I don’t know exactly what awaits us in the New Year, but we mustn’t let fear of the unknown keep us from going where God is leading. We must, like the magi, search on. We must continue the journey together in search of Christ. We must look for him in the face of our Culver community and global neighbors. We must look for Christ in the needs of the most vulnerable around us. We must look for Christ in the forgotten places of this world. And when we find him, we must, like the magi, bow down and offer him gifts.
We must, show the world—in the way that we live our lives—that light has come into the darkness: that God has put on flesh and is walking among us to show us a new way that does not end in death but leads toward abundant and eternal life. In the words of Isaiah, we must “lift up our eyes and look around” (adapted from Isaiah 60:4). We must have courage to see ourselves and the world in light of the Truth. We must have courage to open ourselves to the great mystery of God, willing to be stretched in our understanding of who God is and what God expects. We must bear witness to what we’ve seen and known in Jesus Christ so that the world might come to know the great love of God found in Him.
I don’t know what, exactly, God has in store for Wesley United Methodist Church. I do know where we’ve been.
In 2013, we saw our average weekly worship attendance drop by approximately 5 people while giving—financial and volunteer support of church ministries and mission—has increased. In 2013, we paid nearly twice the apportionment and other mission support as we did in 2012.
In 2013, we expanded ministry, starting a weekly time of fellowship after worship and offering a Tuesday night “Get Together” for fellowship, the sharing of a meal, and discussions of faith.
In 2013, we transitioned our entire preschool staff, transitioning to a more sustainable model for ministry that will lay the foundation necessary for another 44 years of educating the children of Culver.
We also—with overwhelming support—streamlined the administrative committees of the church—moving from four administrative committees to one which executes the vision of a unified Church Council. This structural change has already empowered new people for hands-on ministry that makes disciples and transforms the world.
2013 saw a lot of change at Wesley United Methodist Church. It wasn’t all easy. In fact, some of it was downright painful. Nonetheless, we really are the better for it.
I don’t know what exactly God has in store for us in the New Year, but I do know this: God has moved among us in the past year and I truly believe that God has positioned us to be a shining light in our community. I truly believe that God is calling us to be a gathering of Christ followers that draws together the varied and diverse communities of Culver. I truly believe that God is calling us to be an integral and sustaining part of people’s lives in our area.
I am excited about being in ministry at Wesley United Methodist Church! As we move into the New Year, we have a leadership team—the “Executive Committee”—that is committed to connecting people to Christ and empowering them for ministry. We have leaders on the Church Council who are finding creative ways in which to expand ministry opportunities and use the many gifts and talents of this congregation (and we are a talented bunch!). We have a proposed budget that continues to trim administrative cost so that we can be better stewards of our resources: allocating more time and money to empower people for ministry and mission instead of overhead and office supplies.
I truly believe that we, through the grace of God, are poised to make a dramatic difference in our community and world in the coming year. I believe God is calling us lead the greater-Culver community to Christ so that God’s “Kingdom might come on earth as it is in heaven.”
The question is: are you and I willing to continue the journey? Are we willing, like the magi, to leave the place we’ve grown accustomed to so that we might draw closer to Christ, one another, and the world God so loved and came to save?
Today, I invite you to join with me on the journey: make and renew your covenant with God. Like the magi, let us commit ourselves to the journey in search of Christ: a journey that will draw us closer to God, one another, and the needs of the world. Let us commit to continuing the journey with and for Jesus Christ.
It is my constant prayer that we might continue the search as a community of faith: continuing to search for new beginnings, new frontiers, and ways to help in the name and for the sake of Jesus Christ. It’s my prayer that we might continue to search for healing, courage and inspiration in the love of God found Jesus Christ; and that we might be so moved as to share that love with others.
I don’t know what exactly God has in store for us in the New Year, but I do know this: God has and God will continue to guide us along the “paths of righteousness for his name’s sake” (Psalm 23:3b, King James Version). Therefore, I encourage you to search on so that we might strengthen and make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. Search on in order that we might find Christ in one another and in the world God so loved and came to save. Search on so that this dark world in which we live might see the light and come to know the hope, peace, joy, and love found in Jesus Christ our Lord. Let us commit to continuing the journey. Let us search on.
 Safiyah Fosua, “Epiphany Reflections” at GBOD.org <http://www.gbod.org/site/apps/nlnet/content.aspx?c=nhLRJ2PMKsG&b=5609115&ct=7796209> Accessed. December 31, 2010.