Grace and Peace from our Lord Jesus Christ,
I love how Paul uses those words to open many of his letters to the Christian believers at that time. Paul begins his letters with the unmistakable message that God is a God of grace. So Paul brings greetings of grace to the churches of God to which he wrote. In context, he is saying to them, “May God’s abundant and loving grace be with you all.”
What about the next part of Paul’s greeting of “Grace to you and peace . . .”—what is the significance of his mention of peace? Paul was referring to an inner peace, a sense of well-being and wholeness, as he wrote this greeting. This peace, he wrote, came “from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” He understood that “we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” and “this grace in which we stand” (Romans 5:1-2). So it is actually a peace from God and peace with God.
Paul mentions grace first, and then peace, for good reason—because peace flows from grace. We receive well-being and wholeness after having received grace from God. This peace is a profound gift from God. Jesus said: “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” (John 14:27). Paul wrote that Christ “is our peace” (Ephesians 2:14). Through Him and His sacrifice we have peace with God.
That peace should permeate every aspect of the life of a Christian. “Be anxious for nothing,” Paul wrote, “but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7).
With “grace and peace” in mind, I want to ask you several questions that were raised at a Leadership Institute event that I attended several years ago. Questions such as, what changes do we need to make; what is precious and essential from the past to carry forward, and what is essential to keep and what must we stop doing.
These are questions that I have been thinking about since I was appointed in March. It has occurred to me that I’m not really sure that we as a church have a clear vision of where we want to go and what do we want to be known for in this community. That is what the Exploratory Committee is trying to discern but is also something that the congregation as a whole needs to explore.
Proverbs 29:18 (KLV), “without a vision the people perish”. This proverb holds true for churches as well. Congregational vitality hinges on one key dynamic and that is the maintenance and re-invention of a vitalized vision. Programs, people, and proper management aren’t enough. Even money isn’t enough. Without a vision, not only do people perish, but so do churches.
Survival mode doesn’t work. Especially now, a vision is more important than ever. It reminds you that you have a say in the future. It reminds you that you are not just called to steward a building, or a budget, but the dreams of Jesus. And that dream was that everyone would know of the love and grace of God.
So I need to ask you two questions: What is your vision for Woodmar UMC? What are you willing to do to see that vision a reality?
As we enter into this Summer season, I am thankful for Woodmar UMC and I look forward to working with you to develop a vision that every single member will say,”that’s who we are!”