8 But you, Israel my servant,
Jacob, whom I have chosen,
offspring of Abraham, whom I love,
9 you whom I took from the ends of the earth
and called from its farthest corners,
saying to you, “You are my servant;
I chose you and didn’t reject you”:
10 Don’t fear, because I am with you;
don’t be afraid, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you,
I will surely help you;
I will hold you
with my righteous strong hand.
“It’s ok. We go way back.”
Despite the challenges of the itinerant ministry, there is something I appreciate about the connections we make through our United Methodist system. I have a whole group of colleagues who were ordained with me, whom I know fairly well because we went through the process together. I have another group of friends from the generation before me who mentored me as I was learning how to do this job. Now I have another group of friends in the generation after me whom I have had the privilege of mentoring.
In this process of growing, learning and leading, of mentoring and being mentored, we discover a lot about each other. We form deep connections. We spend after-hours time eating meals and laughing together after conferences. We collaborate on projects to assist the annual conference and our local churches. We pray for each other’s families. Colleagues earn our trust and confidence, and we earn theirs.
Sometimes, folks look at us strangely when we share an obscure inside joke – and that’s just fine. That’s precisely the moment when we might say something like, “It’s ok. We go way back.”
Do you have friends like this? I hope you do.
Passages of scripture like Isaiah 41 remind us that this is exactly the kind of relationship God has with the people of Israel. They go way back. God saw their suffering in the slavery of Egypt, led them to freedom in the Promised Land, supported them in triumphs and trials, and forgave them over and over again. I imagine that there were times when the people felt disappointed in God, and I’m certain that there were many times God was disappointed in them. And yet, they always stood by each other: the people and their God.
It’s easy to lose heart when we don’t feel like we can trust those we share our lives with. We need to be able to count on those who are close to us. But even when everyone and everything around us fails, the scriptures promise that we can always count on God.
You know how in every ad for a brokerage or financial firm, they include the disclaimer: “past performance is not indicative of future results”? Faith is the one place where such a disclaimer is not required. We can trust God today and tomorrow to be the God we knew yesterday and the day before. So when you begin to fear, remember how God has helped you in the past. We go way back!
By Joe Monahan
For Pondering & Prayer
Is there someone you know that needs courage today? Medford UMC has a wonderful prayer shawl ministry. A prayer shawl is a tangible sign of God’s goodness, one that someone can hold onto long after their immediate challenge has passed. If you’d like to give a handmade prayer shawl to someone in need of encouragement, please reach out to the church.
Prayer: God, when we despair over our present circumstances, remind us that you have been with us in the past, holding us up in the face of every trial. Strengthen us with your powerful hand. Amen.