I remember sitting on the edge of what would be my bed for the summer, in the lake house of a pastor who would mentor me, wondering what I’d gotten myself into. I was 21 years old, a college graduate, and was headed to graduate school to be a pastor. It was a blessing to have choices in grad schools, but choices also make things confusing. I had accepted a pre-enrollment field education placement in a two-point charge in northern North Carolina, which would lead me into three years at Duke Divinity School. But I was beginning to wonder if I should have gone to Garrett Evangelical Seminary (affiliated with Northwestern) in Chicago. I could go home, spend the summer in the comfort of my hometown and try the Chicago gig, which would be much closer to home.
When we start new journeys we often second guess ourselves. Can we actually do what we set out to accomplish? What if we made the wrong decision? And if we fail, will people pick us up or say, “I told you so?”
Why do we do that to ourselves? We tend to forget that as followers of Jesus we don’t believe we are in control of it all anyway. We set out on journeys and let God guide our steps. And we know full well that if we are in the wrong place, God will do something powerful anyway.
At Shueyville UMC, we have started a journey together. And I’m not just talking about you all embracing a young pastor! We have 130+ people reading scripture each day in text groups. We have made it through Matthew and are on to 1 Corinthians. Nothing makes me happier than when people engage with God’s Word and one another, at the same time!
But as I was reading 1 Corinthians 3-4, I realized that our scripture journey might seem somewhat strange and foolish. It might seem ridiculous to read scripture with people you don’t know very well. And what if they don’t hold the same theological opinions you do? It is safer, by worldly standards, to read it alone or with people like you. There is a chance people might figure out you have questions or don’t know hardly anything about the Bible.
And suddenly, we are second guessing ourselves and looking for the first bus back to the comforts of our old ways.
Usually, we find an excuse for why it’s okay to quit something. “I just didn’t have time.” “No one understands me.” Or, in this case, “I got tired of daily text messages.” (Seriously, what’s a couple more?!) Or we flex our Bible muscles until everyone wants out of our group, which is self-sabotage by the way.
Excuses are easier to make than quitting is to accept.
But there is another way. Take a deep breath and remember what Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 3-4. It is really easy to divide ourselves in this world. It is easier to stay with what we are comfortable with and not try something new. And it’s even easier to pad our lives with people who want the same exact things.
Sounds wise, according to worldly standards.
But “this world’s wisdom is foolishness to God” (1 Corinthians 3:19a). The church is Corinth was busy dividing themselves by which apostle they learned from or thought was the best. It was an ancient example of the temptation we face in churches and life today. We tend to find ways to accentuate our differences instead of journeying together in the midst of them.
We go on journeys together because God created us to listen, learn, and love. We don’t have to define ourselves by who we vote for, by what we drive, or by the families we were born into. No, it’s foolishness to the world to say we belong to God and let that unite us, but we are going to do it.
Back to my graduate school decision: I called Duke Divinity School and said I was going home for the summer and wasn’t coming back. The lady I talked to told me to reconsider. She told me that if I started ending journeys early now, it might become a habit. She was right. I stayed and it was not easy, but God showed me all kinds of grace along the way.
Stay the course, Shueyville UMC or whatever church you find yourself in. Journey alongside people in God’s Word, even if it’s for the first time. And remember that “you belong to Christ, and Christ belongs to God” (1 Corinthians 3:23)
*Note: If you’d like to join a scripture text group, let Pastor Brody know. And if you are curious how to set these up at your church, we can help you out!