Rev. Mike Mack
Worship service Sunday mornings 9:30 a.m.
East Ohio Annual Conference would have taken place this past week. For years, I’ve joked it was “my favorite Father’s Day gift.” However, several years ago the theme for conference really stuck with me. It was “Jesus Is Calling Us.” I confess, in my usual skeptical attitude, I thought “Nice slogan, but it’s probably just a slogan.” When we say “Jesus is calling us”, it begs a few questions: Where? For what? To do what?
Many of the speakers at conference used the slogan expressing many facets of Christ’s invitation into communities of care, support and accountability, and spiritually formation. I think our bishop, at the time, in a single sentence spoke volumes on this subject. He said, “Jesus is calling us, and it is in the local church that we are formed into disciples to be sent into the world.”
As conference progressed, that slogan began to cause me to reflect upon my own journey of faith and the many people who have touched my life in communities of care, support, accountability and spiritual formation. I earnestly began to call to memory the many persons who spurred me on to grow in faith and discipleship. There were my pastors when I was growing up, and the authentic godly men and women that nurtured me in a small rural church. There were teachers and spiritual directors, and college and seminary professors. I was greatly affected by members of the Emmaus community, colleagues in ministry, the 6 congregations I have served, and many mentors that invested in me over the years.
Everything good and godly thing that I have done is the fruit of spiritually formative communities. I realize anything that I have accomplished as a disciple of Christ is a derivative of God’s grace in Jesus Christ and the discipleship of others in my life. The fruit in my life is the fruit in God’s work and the faithful discipleship of so many servants of God. That’s more than a little humbling.
In these days we are distancing even in communities of faith, and it feels strange and sad. I’m not suggesting that we ignore the cautions of governmental officials, but I miss gathering together without distance. I miss laughing together and handshakes. Even though I’m not a hugger, I miss hugs too. However, what I miss most is the ease with which we could contribute to one another’s spiritual formation and development as Disciples of Christ.
In these days, Jesus is still calling us and the call is the same. It is to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” (2 Peter 3:18) This means we both grow in knowledge and grace, but it also implies that we will follow the way of Christ as we put into practice the growth we have experienced.
These are strange times with the Covid19 pandemic and racial justice protests, but Jesus is still calling us. Jesus is calling us to put our faith into practice. Jesus is calling us to stay in contact with our sisters and brothers in the church. Jesus is calling us to reach out to shut-ins, assisted living and nursing home residents by mail or phone. I, like most of you, can’t wait until we can get back to normal, but in the meantime Jesus is still calling.
Jesus is calling and each of us also needs to be thinking about racial injustice, prejudice and disparity. Right now there is mostly the venting of raw emotion, and a lot of talking over and past one another. However, the real work of reconciliation and justice will be done when the emotional rhetoric fades. Responding to Jesus now is mostly a matter of doing what we can in our sphere of influence to foster racial sensitivity, tolerance, inclusion and acceptance of people who are different than us.
Jesus is still calling us to grow in the grace and knowledge of Christ, and even more than ever to do what we can to transform our little corner of the world. However, the question that remains to be answered is, "Will you answer his call?"
Blessings, Pastor Mike