“Lord, we have never seen this day before…,” was a phrase by the congregational lay leader of Turning Point UMC as he opened our meeting in prayer, and it has not left my mind in the two weeks since he prayed it.
First, a bit of background. A group of us had gathered in Trenton, NJ to meet with United Methodist Bishop May and some members of the Turning Point congregation, which he has pastored since he returned from retirement a few years ago. With a smile May said, “When you live your entire life for ministry, you never really retire. And when the current Bishop in New Jersey asked me to serve this congregation I couldn’t really say, ‘No,’ could I?”
Turning Point UMC is housed in the building of the former First UMC of Trenton building and is a merger of two dying congregations. This church merger was declining too, until May offered his gifts of service, leadership, tenacity, and inspiration. Today it is a growing, vibrant congregation reaching out in relevant ministry with the community in which it is located. Each day is viewed as an new and unique opportunity to join in God’s reconciling work in this world.
This encounter with people of faith and the prayer above led to the following journal entry:
The Northeastern Jurisdiction’s Conference Secretaries for Global Ministries met with Bishop May in Trenton on Wednesday. He appears someone who follows God’s guidance regardless of what the institution may say. The lay leader of the congregation opened the time with prayer, and his words stuck with me. “Lord, we haven’t seen this day before…”
Tis rang more true for me than the phrase “It’s a new day!” It made me think of the World’s way of looking at things:
“The more things change the more they stay the same.”
“SSDD – same *stuff* different day.”
“That’s the way things have always been, and, therefore, that’s the way they will always be.”
And while evidence exists to support these sayings, they do not leave open the possibility of Holy transformation.
“We haven’t seen this day before…” provides hope, for while some circumstances or situations will repeat (or are perpetuated), those who call upon God’s name have an opportunity to respond in a new way.
I don’t intend to blow a smokescreen over circumstances and situations, because loss, pain, abuse, and injustice are real. I do not intend for this phrase to mislead people into thinking that their negative circumstances will vanish. However, “We haven’t seen this day before…” means we have a new opportunity to live transformed lives in how we respond, how we pray, and how we choose to talk about situations.
God loves us – God has in the past, does today, and will in the future. That love is not based upon our performance, our perfection, what we have (or haven’t) done, or what has (or hasn’t) been done to us. And today an opportunity exists to know that love in a new way and to share it with others in a new way.
As I write I think about how this would sound (or how I could say it differently) to those in prison, homeless, hungry, stuck in trafficking and abuse, or those with Alzheimer’s. I think how this would have sounded to those in Nazi ghettos or concentration camps. I don’t know, yet I believe there are truth in these words for those who call upon God’s name.
“Lord, we have never seen this day before. Help us give open to the ways you would want to transform our lives and use our lives to transform others. Alleluia. Amen.”