Charge to the Congregation
upon the installation of Amy Starr Redwine
First Presbyterian Church, Richmond, VA
June 2, 2019
Jill Duffield, Editor of The Presbyterian Outlook
Be afraid, be just a little bit afraid. Now, I know, this seems counter to Jesus’ repeated instruction to “fear not” and even his reassuring word we just heard, but I want to charge you, First Presbyterian Church of Richmond, Virginia, to be just a little bit afraid. Be a little bit afraid because you are moving out of your normal patterns and practices. Be a little bit afraid because you are taking risks, big ones, for the sake of the Gospel. Be a little bit afraid because you aren’t sure how these new ventures, new ministries, new ways of being faithful in this time and place are going to turn out, but you are doing them anyway. Be a little bit afraid because you are risking your lives for Christ’s sake.
Don’t be anxious, don’t worry about you will eat or drink or wear, but be just a little bit afraid. Be a little bit afraid, and filled with great joy, like someone on their wedding day voicing those lofty vows to love each other in all seasons and circumstances. Be a little bit afraid and filled with great joy, like you were as a small child when you walked to the edge of the diving board and prepared to jump in the deep end of the pool. Be a little bit afraid and filled with great joy like a woman going into labor, the inevitability of birth exciting, terrifying, energizing, exhausting and life changing.
Be afraid, just a little bit afraid, and filled with great joy, like the women at the grave who got the news that not only was the tomb empty, but Jesus was alive, the tyranny of sin and death now vanquished with the resurrection power of our gracious, loving, merciful and Almighty God.
I charge you, First Presbyterian Church of Richmond, get ready to leave behind any death-dealing assumptions you may have and go quickly with fear and great joy to Galilee proclaiming news so good you cannot contain it. With fear and great joy leave behind the confines of your expectations, the limitations of your preconceived ideas, the restrictions of what you think is possible and run toward Galilee, that place right around the corner and across the globe desperate for the love and life and light and resurrection power of the Most High God.
With fear and great joy, that place beyond your comfort zone, that liminal space where you’ve left what you know and you don’t know where you will end up, that new terrain that is both awe-inspiring and uncharted, and run to Galilee knowing that Jesus will not only meet you there, he will be with you on the way.
First Presbyterian, you have such a storied, rich and fruitful past, but I want you to remember that our God is the one who raised Jesus from the dead, calling us forward, birthing new life, making of us a new creation, doing a new thing, and sending us out to the ends of the earth, to participate in that transformation. Such boundary breaking newness will cause us to be a little afraid even as it ushers in a season of great joy. That space when we are a little afraid and filled with great joy is exactly the place where we are fully alive and ready to respond to God in earth shattering, resurrection ways. That is the space where the Spirit does the best work in us and through us.
Now is the time and Richmond is the place for you to be a congregation fully alive, a little afraid, filled with great joy, running to Galilee to share the news that Jesus Christ is risen. He is with us and for us, comforting those who mourn, binding up the broken hearted, feeding the hungry, setting the captives free, bringing justice to the oppressed, reconciling those formerly far off, welcoming the stranger, eating with sinners, and calling us to do so, too. It is enough to make us a little afraid, even as we are overwhelmed with great joy, the perfect space for the Spirit to work, so that we run this race, fully alive, inspiringfaith, nurturing disciples, and serving the world God loves, knowing Christ is with us every step of the way.
To God be the glory.