Beloved Friends- Happy New Year! I pray as we say goodbye to 2019 and welcome 2020, we do so able to let go of all that was with gentleness and look forward to all that is yet to be with hope-filled expectation.

This year, rather than focus on New Year’s resolutions, I am wondering about ways we might be able to more deeply engage, shape and expand who we are as a progressive, inclusive and creative community of faith in downtown Toledo.

It can, to be sure, feel overwhelming at times to ask these kinds of questions- but I think we have already begun. As I look back on this past year I see a plethora of examples of how we have leaned into God’s invitation to love our neighbor as ourselves expanding who we are welcoming home. Through Pop-Up Dinners, the Sunday Community Breakfast, new energy in Next to New, welcoming 24 new members this year, our 2030 Vision process, a fantastic staff, a growing presence and commitment to serve and engage in the wider-community, our support of: Better Together Toledo and Toledo Streets– I see God’s love made real at every turn.

As we continue to expand and deepen our commitment to be a place and people of God’s radical welcome and love I am encouraged by the words of author, minister and therapist Wayne Muller, found in his wonderful book, How Then Shall We Live?

He writes:
Some of us wish to wait till our gift is potent and comprehensive enough to solve all the world’s problems. Seeing that our gift does not stop all the suffering, we decide it is inadequate. But every gift is a drop of water on a stone; every kindness, every flash of color or melody helps us remain hopeful and in balance. Each of us knows some part of the secret, and each of us holds our small portion of the light. We can thrive on the earth only if we each bring what we have and offer it at the family table.    

In his book he goes on to ask the 4 seminal questions spiritual leaders (and communities) have wrestled with throughout eternity:
Who am I? (Who are we?)
What do I love? (What do we love?)
How shall I live, knowing I will die? (How shall we live, knowing we will die?)
What is my gift to the family of the earth? (What is our gift to the family of the earth?)

Muller explores each question through transformative and true stories. And then, just like a good country western song – through each story the reader is able to see and feel and hear pieces of her own story. We glimpse or sense or know that somehow, we too, even in our own moments of confusion, somewhere, there is a deep sense of knowing available to us simply for the noticing.

And it is that sense of knowing and being known by God and each other that forms the core of our identity as a community. Through living into these questions together I am confident that God’s dream for us is already being revealed.

We are not the church simply because of a professed allegiance to a common set of beliefs or practices—that may well be the definition of a club, but not the church. Instead, we are a wildly diverse group who choose to be united and bound one to the other to follow a path paved with God’s love. In other words, there is something beyond our limited selves that is reaching toward us each day, calling us home, inviting us in, and waiting for us to respond so that the world may know Christ’s love.

So, come home this Sunday at 10:00 when we will gather together again. We will be fed first by the word, then be invited to take our place at the table set for us to receive God’s love through the bread and wine we share. I give thanks for each of you as we begin another year together.

May 2020 usher in only what God intends, and may we be poised and ready to receive, and then radically give away, all that we have celebrating what God is doing here in this place and in our hearts.

May you never forget that you are loved.

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