Before Jesus ascends to heaven he says, “When the Holy Spirit comes on you, you will be able to be my witnesses in Jerusalem, all over Judea and Samaria, even to the ends of the world” (The Message). With these final words, Jesus hands off his ministry. It’s now up to a ragtag bunch of fisherman to spread the good news of God’s amazing love for all creation and to continue teaching, healing, and loving like Jesus. In part because of how much Brady and I love the Olympics, I can’t help but think of this handoff as Jesus passing the disciples the baton of faith.
Do you remember who passed the baton of faith to you? Who were the formative people in your life who modeled God’s love, who encouraged you to cultivate a relationship with Jesus, who showed you what it means to be a follower of Jesus Christ?
For me, there were many. Most importantly, my parents taught and modeled God’s love. They made sure I understood the most important thing in life is a relationship with God. Because of their commitment to God and the church as top priority in life, I had Sunday School teachers, youth group leaders, pastors, and many others in my home church who helped me develop my relationship with God. Together they passed the baton of faith to me.
Who were the people in your life? Are they still part of your life? I invite you to reach out to them with a simple word of gratitude. A text, a facebook message, an email or even a handwritten note via snail mail. There’s a chance they have no idea how influential they were in your faith. Plus, God might want to use you today to offer them encouragement in their own journey of faith.
The truth is, we need one another no matter how long we’ve been carrying the baton of faith. As a follower of Jesus, and even as a pastor, I need people in my life who keep me accountable, who encourage me when I’m down, who help me understand more of God’s word and what God is saying to me now. I can’t do the Christian life without them. I need the community of faith -- the church -- the ekklesia -- to speak truth into my life and to challenge me to see outside of my own perspective. And I need a safe place to share my struggles and to be united with others in prayer.
Many of you have shared with me that your Sunday school class or Bible Study have been this kind of community for you. If you don’t have a small group, a place to be known deeply, or a small unit of people who encourage you to keep growing in your faith, I invite to you to consider being part of a small group soon. We have several groups starting in the coming weeks, and we will offer more as people show interest. I’m already praying about what kind of small group God would like me to begin at FHUMC, and I’d love to hear your thoughts, hopes and needs.
Peace and love,
Kristin Clark-Banks is the pastor of Forest Hills UMC.