"Whenever you set sail for a new land, there comes a time when you cannot see the coast." My friend, Bobby, told me that a friend of his back home in Africa had recently posted this comment on Facebook with no explanation. The Facebook post came to mind to Bobby while I was sharing with our Spirit Friends group at the Franciscan Center in Tampa. I was telling my friends about my feelings and thoughts at this point in my new call as a new church planter in St. Petersburg. When we live by faith there are times when we can no longer see either coast–neither the one from where we set sail nor the new destination.
Bobby–now moving from sailing to walking– reminded me that Moses led the people of God through the wilderness on the way to the promised land. In the middle of the wilderness, the reasonable voices were the ones who argued that going back to Egypt, their home for 400 years, was the wise thing to do. But Moses believed in a promised land. Moses led the people in the wilderness for a long time– 40 years– but that was nothing compared to the familiarity of 400 years in Egypt.
Yesterday, my Spirit Friends encouraged me to keep the faith. They told me to keep walking by faith and to continue to trust in God. This is a wilderness time, but many amazing things have happened over the past year. God has been faithful. God is birthing a new faith community in our midst. But it takes time.
I was on the phone this morning sharing this same story with another friend in Pittsburgh. He told me that he just got home from a summer conference where Rev. Joan Gray, former moderator of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA), spoke about the nature of the church. She said one of the the first symbols of the earliest church was a sail boat, not a row boat.
The early church leaders understood that the church was like a sail boat. God calls us to set sail and catch the winds of the Spirit. Joan said church people, too often, are tired because they have thought of the church as a row boat. They are tired of rowing. The church isn't a row boat it is a sail boat, and our job is to set sail in the wind.
While I was finishing my story, my Spirit Friends asked me, "What are you excited about right now?" I was able to say I am very excited about my new call. First, my relationship with God has never been better. I feel close to God and am enjoying God's presence in our midst. Second, I have never felt more clear about the vision and mission of the local congregation than I do right now. Finally, I am enjoying being a pastor. I enjoy all of the tasks of ministry: preparing and preaching sermons, leading worship, participating in mission, planning future gatherings and meeting new people.
That was a great question: What are you excited about right now? How would you answer that question today? What are you excited about? What is God doing in your life this week?