A MESSAGE FROM THE REV. J.C. AUSTIN: THE WAY BEFORE US
Recently, Pastor Lindsey and I were talking about various aspects of this season in the in life of our congregation, both in terms of Lent beginning and in the larger sense of our strategic mission work. As we were talking, she told me about a Quaker proverb that I had not heard but greatly appreciated.
The full version of the proverb is “Proceed as the way opens,” but it’s often truncated simply to, “way will open.” What it means is that sometimes we have to undertake something without knowing exactly how to go about it: the “way” is not clear or marked out. But that doesn’t mean we don’t undertake it; it means we proceed, and we continue to proceed as the way “opens,” as it becomes more clear that we’re going in the right direction.
And what’s wonderful about the shortened version, “way will open,” is the sense of conviction that it will open if we are willing to proceed in faith and trust. It may be a wandering path, there may be some false starts or wrong turns, but as we proceed, the way for us to go opens up before us and becomes more and more clear.
“Way will open” obviously has a lot of resonance for us as we are striving to discern the way into a vibrant, faithful, impactful, and sustainable future as a congregation through the creative use of our energy, ministry, and resources. But it also has resonance for us in our individual lives. So many pastoral conversations I have with people boil down to struggling to find their way in their professional or personal lives.
One of the challenges, and sometimes even one of the unexpected benefits, of the pandemic for many people is that they are reconsidering many of the assumptions they have had about how they want to live their lives and faith. What are the things that will bring authentic purpose and joy and peace? What are the things that need to be let go in order to live into that promise? How can we find a new way to live?
Given all that, I want to invite you this Lenten season to explore what “way will open” means for both you as an individual and for us as a congregation.
To that end, the Lenten Sermon Series will be on this very theme, exploring what Scripture has to say about what it means for us to proceed as the way opens in our journey of faith. We will begin this Sunday, fittingly, with Jesus in the wilderness, trying to discern the way in which his ministry should go, in a sermon entitled, “At the Crossroads.”
In addition, I want to invite you to our Sunday morning combined Adult Education series, as well. This class will be meeting in Fellowship Hall at 10 a.m. for the next four weeks, and will be exploring the insights of the two books that the Session and Trustees read last summer and which have been guiding their strategic work ever since. The books are Shift: Three Big Moves for the 21st Century Church, by Mark Tidsworth, and We Aren’t Broke: Uncovering Hidden Resources for Ministry and Mission, by Mark Elsdon.
While you are certainly invited to make reading these books part of your Lenten discipline, there is no expectation that you will have done so in order to participate in the class. Rather, we’ll be presenting the key points of the two books and discussing them with an eye towards how they might speak to us right here at First Presbyterian Church of Bethlehem.
I am excited about this season in the life of our church, in terms of observing Lent together and even more so in terms of our strategic work. I hope that you will make a special effort to be a part of these crucial conversations, and I look forward to being in them with you!
Grace and Peace,