Dear fellow pilgrims,
Hello from Saskatchewan where the days are getting longer! All Canadians rejoice at this time of year as we know spring will be coming shortly (some places sooner than others).
Perhaps you noticed the different salutation in this letter. As a church we are all on this pilgrimage or journey together during this time of pre-Easter preparation, leading to Easter Sunday. But rather than this pilgrimage simply being a few weeks during this season of the year, all followers of Jesus are on a life-long journey with him.
The one passage of scripture that was read on Sunday March 12th is a great example of the beginning of this pilgrimage for an unnamed Samaritan woman whom Jesus meets at a well outside of her village.
There are a lot of lessons for us as pilgrims that wecan glean in this rather long story found in John 4:5-42, and I’m sure that many were covered in sermons you heard on that day. But I wanted to share what David Lose said about this story in his blog a few years ago:
As to my reflections, I notice three things that I think are essential in cultivating such faith. The relative vulnerability and openness of the characters is the first…. Second, Jesus doesn’t just talk to her, he sees her.…
He then adds this last point after referring to her question to Jesus as to the proper place to worship (either on the mountain where she lives or Jerusalem):
Third, in response to her question, Jesus issues a surprising invitation. An invitation to imagine that even our most cherished practices matter little if they do not facilitate a relationship with the living God. An invitation to recognize that it is the very Messiah and Son of God who is speaking to her and affirming her worth and value. An invitation to leave behind her burdens and share with others the joy she has encountered in their meeting. These invitations are surprising in that they come from a man to a woman, a Jew to a Samaritan, and a rabbi of relative power and authority to someone who had neither. They are also surprising because each invitation also involves challenge – the challenge of getting over one’s piety as an excuse for keeping a distance from God; the challenge of accepting the new identity Jesus offered; and the challenge of imagining that God could and would use her to share the good news. Invitations aren’t devoid of challenges, and challenges can themselves be empowering when offered out of regard, acceptance and affirmation.
In response to all this, the woman leaves her jar behind, goes out to her neighbours to tell what Jesus has shown her, and brings them to Jesus. Every element of that is risky. Yet she is, in almost every way, a completely different person and so able to take risks. Or perhaps she is simply the person God created her to be but that she had difficulty embracing because of the tragedies she had experienced, and it is discovering who God created her to be that gives her the capacity for risking herself. The Gospel, I think, is often like that, creating something new that is really what God had hoped and intended for all along, and that gift of identity and regard is always empowering. (https://www.davidlose.net/2017/03/lent-3-a-living-water-living-faith/)
I appreciated his comments for those of us, who realize our true identity, being empowered to take risks. Isn’t what this Christian journey is all about?
We, like that Samaritan woman (we’re never told her name), have been challenged by Jesus with realizing this new identity. Because of that, we like her have been given the task of sharing the good news that he has brought to us.
For GCI Canada this is also our challenge. It will mean being willing to sacrifice or risk as we realign our priorities on a local and national level in the next few years.
We have been given a template of what that can look like by our global denominational leaders, as we ask Jesus to show us what “reaching out into our neighbourhood” means to us collectively and individually.
Pondering our future together, I’m reminded of the sermon by the prominent African-American preacher S. M. Lockridge (1913-2000), later made famous by Tony Campolo, speaking of Good Friday where he repeated this line: “It’s Friday. But Sunday’s coming!” Just like how we in Canada look forward to spring turning to summer, we as a church can look forward to seeing what the next chapter will hold for us.
In that vein, I wanted to close with a couple of announcements:
- The Winnipeg congregation ordained two elders in January to help them with what Jesus is doing in their “neighbourhood.” Please pray for Andrea Niemi and Willy Kabonesa as they take on their duties in that congregation.
- Still on the subject of Winnipeg, our national board has approved the move of our national office to Winnipeg in the summer of 2024. This will be a better location for our office as we refocus our purpose in supporting our churches in the years to come.
- We recently hired a Transitional Pastor to help our Toronto West congregation (Cornerstone) to discern the future of what God wants for them. Dave Peever comes with many years experience facilitating the next steps that congregations need to consider moving forward.
Finally, I would like to thank you all for your prayers and support as we discover what new chapters that Jesus has for us in these times of transition. Each one of us holds a new identity in Christ and have been empowered to take risks in living and preaching the gospel.