Then the delight, when your courage kindled,
And out you stepped onto new ground,
Your eyes young again with energy and dream,
A path of plenitude opening before you.
Though your destination is not yet clear
You can trust the promise of this opening;
Unfurl yourself into the grace of beginning
That is at one with your life’s desire.
Awaken your spirit to adventure;
Hold nothing back, learn to find ease in risk;
Soon you will be home in a new rhythm,
For your soul senses the world that awaits you.
-John O’Donohue (an excerpt from For a New Beginning)
A new beginning; a new start; what courage we all need when we are going to begin anew and face the world that God is calling us into. I have just finished my first week at St. Stephen’s as your new pastor, and am in the process of settling into our new home in Wilmington and looking forward to exploring this new state we now call home. It’s surprising just how much catches my attention: different trees - more humid weather - very different dwellings. It’s as if I am looking at the world through younger eyes, taking it all in as a child does in a new surrounding. I was sitting with a cup of coffee (as you will find usually is in my hand or on my desk) watching a bird jump from tree to tree - a species that we rarely saw in Chicago. There is something holy about nature, something that I struggle to put words to - but I do feel the Spirit of God in the simplest of things like this bird. There is comfort in this, as if God is telling me that everything will be all right.
Comfort, yes. Destination, not so clear. When we look towards the direction that St. Stephen’s is being called, into the world to fulfill the mission God has prepared for us, the destination is not as certain as what we all would like. Along the way we will discover so much together, about ourselves - our church - our God. But the promise of grace is always there, the promise of not just the grace of a new beginning, but the grace of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. The grace that defines our Lutheran sensibilities, a grace that has brought us together on this journey of new beginnings. Mission is an adventure, filled with risk and grace at every turn.
John O’Donohue is an Irish teacher, poet, and Celtic Spiritualist. He writes beautifully. He brings us in touch with the first century Christians that came into the lands of the Celts, coming further than ever before. The focus on the accounts of God’s role in creation and the beauty of the earthliness of our faith helps to give my spirituality a grounding. This is where I find my understanding of the Holy and how I walk and move through life.
It is my prayer that we awaken our souls to this adventure ahead of us, holding nothing back and taking the risk of being the light of God that we are called to be. I’m looking forward to getting to know each of you as the weeks continue and encourage you to reach out to me. Let’s talk and let’s see where we are going to go, as a church and as children of God.
Yours in Christ,