Words for 2020: Emergent Flourishing!
“I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.” – Isaiah 43:19
You may have noticed that sometimes it is hard to discern the new thing that God is doing in life – be it personal or in the life of the faith community or in the life the world. But every now and then a reminder from creation conveys God’s creative work of emerging flourishing. So it is that the amaryllis bulb, for me, carries a hidden possibility and promise. It is both amazing yet not complete. It reminds me of these words you likely know from the “Hymn of Promise” by Natalie Sleeth:
In the bulb there is a flower, in the tree an apple seed
In cocoons a hidden promise, butterflies will soon be free
In the cold and snow of winter there’s a spring that waits to be
Unrevealed until its season, something God alone can see.
It seems to me that at the heart of this hymn text is a yearning which is God-given and lies deep within each of our lives. It has to do with a desire to flourish. As you likely know, this desire can be nurtured in all kinds of ways. Some of which, as many of the Biblical texts illustrate, have little to do with flourishing at all. The failure to tend the flourishing of the most vulnerable is what leads to the exile from which the emerging promise from Isaiah above comes. Here is the good news: While our desires for flourishing can easily become parochialized, God’s loving vision and energy for life never does. It truly bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things and endures all things.
Much of our seeking has to do with what we consider to be the shape and form of our own flourishing and that of the world. The commission of Jesus Christ is always local and global – Judea, Samaria, and the rest of the world. You may remember that the symbol of the United Church of Christ, has the orb of the world divided into three sections representing this high and holy calling to engage the entire world locally and globally in love. In fact, Jesus tells us there can be no real flourishing in life apart from such an inclusive vision, in whatever way that may be expressed in any one of our lives and in the life of our communities of faith.
Could it be that the emergence of flourishing has to do with a loving concern and energy that always keeps us looking both inward and outward, building connections that seem sometimes (maybe often times) unlikely? I believe this, in part, is what Jesus revealed in ever new and profound ways.
What might be the shape and form of flourishing in your life and in the life of the congregation of which you are a part in this new year? In what ways might connecting with others beyond your immediate circle allow something of the hidden beauty of life to come into full flower? Could it be that in our life together in the Heartland Conference there is an unrevealed beauty that we might discover by being attentive to one another beyond the spheres we typically engage? I believe there is a hidden beauty that is emerging. I do not know its full form. I do sense that by God’s leading and our willingness to be opened something beyond our wildest imagination will have room to grow – not just for our own good, but for the good of the world. I thank God that I am privileged to be joined with you in this amazing journey. Blessings on you, emerging and beautiful people of God!