Recently, I spent some time with our oldest son, Cameron. In a moment of intention, Cameron insisted we get out of the house and spend time together in a quiet space so that we may plan for the year ahead. The day began with breakfast at Metro Diner in Indianapolis followed by several hours of prayer-bathed honest conversation with a son coaching his father. This moment convinced me of the power of giving our dreams and goals a voice. As we continue into the first month of 2018, we cannot rely solely on hope, though it is a healthy characteristic of the Christian life. In addition to our hope, we must also act with purpose.
Throughout our time together I learned and was reminded of many things, a few I will share with you here —
1. Our thoughts need space
We need time to think and be. For me, it’s time spent in solitude, giving myself the space necessary to breathe and just be with my thoughts. I often speak first to my Fitbit wristband, saying there will be no steps earned for a period as I allow my thoughts and dreams to marinate or simply relax in the presence of God.
2. Making resolutions is worth the effort in 2018
This year, I am only making a few personal resolutions and encourage you to as well. As we resolve to do something new or return to a practice of years before, it is essential to share our intentions and goals with others, which invites an individual or accountability group to cheer you on and encourage your faithfulness when you feel weary. Change takes time, but it is worth the investment. Rather than feeling obligated to do something look toward the benefit of self-renewal and a more profound commitment to caring for family, friends, and self.
3. Relationships matter because people matter
I have a colleague from Iowa whose mantra is always consistent, “It’s all about relationships,” and I can not agree more! Jesus modeled intentional relationships through discipleship, evangelism, effective leadership, and at the end of the day, Jesus was all about relationships. Calling us to join him, in Matthew 4:19 he said, “Follow me and I will make you fish for people.” (NRSV), a reminder that people matter. In Galatians 6:2, the Apostle Paul encourages us to “bear one another burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” Healthy relationships involve prayer and work. Damaged relationships require honesty and forgiveness, as well as a heart of peace. Neglected relationships require confession, attentiveness, and help from the Holy Spirit. May 2018 be the year that we are all about relationships.
4. Live your truth, seek God’s truth
On more than one occasion, I have heard our three “30-something” or millennial children say that “people have to live their truth.” We each must be authentic in who we are while living with respect for others. I believe Jesus is speaking truth to me when he shares the “I am” statements in the Gospel of John. We are invited to seek God’s truth and live our truth as Christians who are United Methodist and to embrace Jesus as Lord and Savior, as well as John Wesley’s general rules for Methodism. As we live into this new year may we; Do No Harm, Do Good, and Stay In Love with God.
5. Keep our eyes on the prize: being in Beloved Community
I believe we in the Church have some challenging and exciting work to do. The bar of respect for diversity, civility, global compassion, and hospitality has lowered in some corners of our society. Though I am reminded of our victory in Christ Jesus as we, Christians, press towards our goal to love our neighbors. Recent language and policies promoted by our elected leaders continue to build bridges of hatred instead of bridges of peace. These acts contradict the vision of Beloved Community espoused by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. As we took time to be together in community and reflect this past Monday, it was a reminder that the King Holiday was never meant to be a day off but a time to focus on the pursuit of Beloved Community. A commitment to service and the common good, where the world is not divided into camps of victors and victims. A commitment to building bridges where there is a celebration of diversity and consistent equality - for all, and where the only supremacy we speak of in the vision of Beloved Community is the “Reign of God.”
So as we continue forward in 2018, may we be steadfast in our pursuit of becoming a more missional-minded Indiana. Let us choose to be stepping stones to foster connection and not stumbling blocks to delay or separate. And while it is evident that our value and commitment to the mission, mission work, and missionaries is strong here; we know that being missional will demand more from each of us. As we approach differences with respect, seek to enhance our cultural intelligence (or better our cultural fluency), and lean in to engage in critical conversations on race, human sexuality, unity, and the mission we will find ourselves inching closer as we answer all that God is calling us to do and be in Indiana and throughout the world.
I believe God is always doing a new thing. And I am praying that you would experience a tremendous new year and I look forward to hearing the ways God is using you to further the Kingdom by encouraging life-giving changes for Jesus Christ through the love of our neighbors - down the street and across the world.
Bishop Julius C. Trimble