Greetings in the name of Christ

Rev. DiAnn Baxley

I am Rev. DiAnn Baxley, the relatively new pastor at St. Luke’s United Church of Christ.

My husband Mike and I were called to St. Luke’s this past October, and are so blessed to be part of this family of God and this community. Spring is now here, and there have been so many warm and lovely days these past few weeks so naturally, late one warm afternoon found my husband Mike and me out on our deck enjoying our backyard.

As we sat there listening to the birds and feeling the warm breeze, our attention turned to our crabapple tree.

We were reminded of the miracle of God we witnessed last year while looking at this tree. By patiently waiting and watching, we could actually see the buds pop open and the flowers burst forth from the buds right before our eyes. We were blessedly amazed! We sat and watched for a good half an hour. This year we wait with joyful anticipation to witnessing again God’s ongoing creation.

This got me to thinking about two things.

The first was how important it is to spend time in quiet solitude to deepen our relationship with God – and to hear God’s voice speaking – maybe even through a blooming flower. Sure, now that the weather is nice most of us are getting outside. But I would take a guess that this outside time is spent doing yard chores, playing with the kids, or doing some other activity. When was the last time you blessed yourself with just sitting and watching the clouds go by, or the wind blowing the branches of the trees in patterns like an artist’s hand as they put paint on a canvas?

The Psalmist writes in 46:10 that God tells us: “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” The Gospels are full of Jesus’ teachings of the importance of us going off into nature for a time of solitude and prayer. He began his ministry in solitude, he made his important decisions in solitude, it is how he dealt with troubling emotions like grief, and it is how he fed and rejuvenated his soul from his ministerial work.

More importantly though, Jesus’ solitude was how he went deeper into his love relationship with the Father. It is where he heard the Father’s voice speak to him. And Jesus invites us to follow him in this practice of solitude and prayer so that our souls too can be rejuvenated. Time alone helps us get in touch with ourselves. Time spent contemplating and observing God’s world helps us mature in our faith as we gain a deeper understanding of God’s love and ongoing creative power.

God’s love and care for our natural world is an example of the Father’s ongoing love and care for us as His children. Sitting still long enough to see a flower burst forth from the bud will teach us to be still and see how God is working in us, helping us grow in our gifts of the spirit, so that we can burst forth in joyous service to God. Taking time for solitude with God is necessary if we are to “know God.” Jesus is our example to maturing in our faith. It is through following Christ that we can fully live joyful, peaceful, and grace-filled lives. But then these thoughts led me to my second pondering. What if it had been only me who saw this miracle in the flower? Would anyone have believed me? Fortunately, there were two of us, and so as we shared our story together, we were believed. Jesus teaches us in Matthew 18:20, “For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” In coming together in Jesus’ name there is power in our stories of hope, peace and life.

However, just as there are so many distractions to keep us from our alone time with God, so too are the many distractions of the world that keep us from going to church and being part of a family of God. We can get out of the house to go to social events during the week, but Sunday…let’s be honest…coming and learning and growing in the knowledge of God on Sunday is, well…an extra that we can easily take off our list of “to do’s.” Understandably, some of us have to work on Sunday, but when Christ is first in our hearts and lives, there are always ways to be part of God’s family other than on the Sabbath.

Fortunately for us, God sent himself to walk among us. Jesus came to die on the cross for our sins, and give us eternal hope through his resurrection, but that’s not all.

Jesus’ teachings remind us that it is NEVER too late to walk closer to God, to let God into our lives, and to be part of the family of God. Jesus is our hope and our promise of new life. Jesus is the head of our church, and Jesus should be our first love.

Over this next year, we at St. Luke’s UCC will be exploring the case for Christ in our lives as individuals, and as a Church. How are we living our lives? Are our lives a reflection of the “me first” attitude of the world, or are they a reflection of the love, forgiveness, service, and grace as exampled by Christ in God’s word.

It is so easy to say “yes” to the things we can see in this world, but “no” to the one thing that can offer us the greatest peace. If you belong to a church, embrace your family of God joyously and with all your heart. If you are looking for a family of God to be part of, we invite you to join us at St. Luke’s this year on our journey to the heart of it all…Christ. Come and be part of the hope, the joy, the forgiveness, and the love everlasting.

Blessings for your springtime journey with Christ, Pastor DiAnn.

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