When I was a young child, we had epic birthday parties, or at least that's how it seemed to me. I was born 11 months and 9 days after my brother. My late August birthday and his mid-September meant that we were in the same grade in school. My mom, being the practical and fair lady that she is, would host one epic combined birthday party with all the boys and girls in our grade. (Did I mention we grew up in a small town and one grade was about 20-30 kids.) We would have the party on the farm where we could run everywhere and not make a mess. Mom would prepare food and games and prizes so that each kid would "win" something to take home.
I was excited about the people and the food and the games and the prizes to be given away. In my age-appropriateness, I was also excited about the gifts coming my way! But I was as excited about the inviting as I was about the event. It was so much fun to start the school year by hand-delivering an invitation to every classmate to come and join us for the party. No one was left out. I got to do the inviting (along with my brother). People were excited to get the invitation and talked about it for days. Their anticipation created a deep joy within me.
Trying to put words to how I am feeling about coming among you reminds me of these childhood birthday parties. It's not about gifts and food and games and prizes anymore, though I am excited about the ice cream social after worship! Rather, the most exciting thing for me is the joy of being with the people - you! I have anticipated this coming Sunday for months now, as you have, and am beyond excited for it to have finally arrived. Your anticipation and extravagant welcome has created a deep joy in me that I hope you’ll see in our collective ministry.
So, like I did when I was a kid, I would like to “hand-deliver” this invitation to worship on Sunday. I don't think my mom will plan any prizes for the winner of the "drop the clothespin in the jar" game like she used to do. Rather, the deep joy will be in us being together!
I am honored to start my journey with you as your pastor. I am excited to see what God has in store for us in ministry together. I firmly believe that the best years of ministry for Eden Prairie United Methodist Church are yet ahead of us. I hope you will join the community of faith as we come together this weekend and begin our time as ministry partners for the work of the kingdom of God.
If you're in town this weekend, I'll see you in worship!