I have grown quite fond of hiking. I love the trees, the wildlife (well most of it), the breeze, and the sun. In a world so centered on screens and technology, merely walking in creation is a renewing escape. There are times on an unfamiliar trail, particularly on a hot day or when going up a steep hill, when it feels like my steps forward are an illusion and I am not making any progress. In my wiser moments, and if the view affords it, I look back on how far I have come to mute the lie that I am not getting anywhere and will not arrive where I set out to go. The more I hike, the more I have come to realize that it is often the steepest ascents and most difficult journeys that are the most rewarding and reveal the greatest views of God’s creation and me his creature.
If this year was a hike, it has offered uneven footing, unclear trail markers, and a demanding terrain. There have been times that it felt like we were not moving forward at all but looking back reveals how far we have come. February is further behind us than the 9 months that have past would suggest. One step at a time we have covered new ground, gained new wisdom, and have seen God work in powerful ways in, through and around us. Our community, our staff, and our leaders have prayed, shared, given, leaned into creativity and experimentation, have washed our hands more times, and attended more zoom meetings than we can count. Looking back on this year together is humbling and fills me with thanksgiving for God’s grace and for the people of University.
My gratitude becomes excitement when I turn my vision towards what lies ahead of us. I see a church that has walked the Valley of the Shadow together and has a feast of God’s blessings set before it. I see a courageously generous church which God calls to bless and build a better and more beautiful city. I see creative disciples formed by Christ witnessing to the love and victory of God in word and deed. I see the lonely connected, kids laughing, seniors blessed, relationships built, wounds healed, hearts renewed, and hope restored. I see hugs, handshakes, and pot-lucks returning. I see baptisms, confessions of faith, and a place at Jesus’ table for everyone.
If you have a glimpse of God’s hope for this community and this church I invite you to give boldly and with joy. Please find the link to the estimate of giving card for the coming year here and fill it out by December 1.
Paul, no stranger to hard journeys, writes this encouragement to the Philippian believers
Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. (3:12-14)
We know we cannot count on the trail always being easy or smooth but we can count on the faithfulness of the One who has called us to follow him. By God’s grace, we can also count on each other to ease burdens and multiple blessings. I have seen it.
Thank you for your continued generosity to the mission and ministry of University.