Are you looking for a place to belong? You’ll receive a warm welcome at Richmond United Methodist Church.
We are a church dedicated to Jesus Christ. We are committed to outreach and to minister in His name.
There is an array of family-oriented ministries providing opportunities for children, youth, and adults to grow in faith, to enjoy Christian friendship, and to serve Christ.
There is a place for you at Richmond United Methodist Church.
The Reinvigoration of Our Spirits
Generally speaking, I am not a fan of spring. Perhaps this is because I lived in the greater Cleveland area for a large part of my life, but this season has never been particularly enjoyable for me. The sun shines but the temperature is deceivingly low. Dead leaves litter the ground and the trees are still lifeless. The ground is muddy, the wind is fierce and cold, and the rains seem to suck all joy out of life.
But this year, spring holds the promise of refreshment that we have long desired. We praise God for His provision through nearly two years of pandemic, and we thank Him for the lifting of many of the restrictions we have endured. We especially praise the Lord for the easing of fear about the COVID-19 virus as serious infections and deaths decline. Masks are coming off with more regularity and life is returning to many of its pre-pandemic qualities.
And yet, therein lies the problem: there is no such thing as “normal” life. Recent headlines tell us about a war in Ukraine and tensions with Iraq and China – new twists on the same issues many of us have known since our childhood. So how are we as Christians supposed to encounter these issues? More importantly, how are we supposed to maintain hope in the midst of such times?
This superficially simple question becomes complicated when we realize all the different ways we pursue an answer. In some cases we believe that a political party is the source of our relief – from international tension, economic duress, or questions of cultural morality. At other times we embrace “bootstrap philosophy;” the belief that we can improve our situation and the concerns around us if we are willing to pull ourselves up by our bootstraps. This may mean working harder or smarter, but we believe we are the directors of our destiny. And to be honest, sometimes the corresponding result is that we simply throw our hands in the air and conclude that our concerns are an act of futility. Therefore, we resign ourselves to apathy: we can’t change such large matters, so just enjoy what you can and hope the Browns have a good draft.
Interestingly, this was also a consideration at the root of the book of Ecclesiastes. Solomon examines the problems of life and the myriad means of response, continually returning to the conclusion, “Meaningless! Everything is meaningless!” The singular exception to a mundane and pointless life, however, is the fact that one day we will all stand before our Creator. His driving point is not living in fear of judgment, but rather to continue in the joy that comes from seeking to live in righteousness before our God.
In a similar way, the Lord provided beautiful images of a fruitful and abundant life even in the midst of trouble through the prophet Jeremiah. These images are likewise given in the context of God’s warning of judgment. One such illustration is found in Jeremiah 17:7-8, “But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him. They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.”
God never promises that life will be easy. Belief does not necessarily equal prosperity or happiness. What our Lord does promise, however, is that regardless of the situation or the context, we can live in the joy of His salvation. Jesus expanded on this reality with similar imagery in John 15:5, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”
The truly good news for us this spring is that God promises His presence is not dependent on our strength. Moses encouraged the Israelites by saying, “The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged” (Deut. 31:8). This encouragement came after the Israelites had repeatedly abandoned God’s instruction and His direct intervention for their salvation. In the New Testament, Paul instructs Timothy, “If we died with him, we will also live with him; if we endure, we will also reign with him. If we disown him, he will also disown us; if we are faithless, he remains faithful, for he cannot disown himself” (2 Tim. 2:11-13). Paul’s life and ministry are living examples of God’s unmerited, overwhelming grace even for the worst of sinners. Of course we will struggle, stumble, and fall; we will have doubts and fears that will make the pursuit of faith difficult, to say the least. But Paul also explains, “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:37-39).
The repeated testimony of Scripture is that God wants to bless those who love and follow Him. As James puts it, “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you” (James 4:7-8). This invitation is given to all of us, and we encourage everyone to be renewed and refreshed by the ministry of God’s Holy Spirit as He moves through us in new ways!
For Christ, Rev. Byron