By the Rev. Dr. Steve Summers, Conference Director of Connectional Miistries
The whole story is comprised of a series of events that has, once again, become a God-sized testimony to the power of God’s vision for our Conference “to be disciples of Jesus Christ who are lifelong learners who influence others to serve.”
The story started a couple of weeks ago. One thing I’ve learned as the new director of Connectional Ministries is to watch my calendar carefully and often. There are a lot more and different types of meetings planned on my calendar now than when I was a district superintendent. All of a sudden one day a new event showed up on my calendar; it was titled something like “Christmas Star Event” for Monday, December 21. I thought that was an odd new entry and most likely our wonderful Connectional Ministries executive administrator, Mrs. Bev Myers, placed it on my calendar. My guess was that it was some form of a Richmond ministry expression. I didn’t give it much thought until last weekend. My daughter, Laura, was at our new home helping to unpack on Sunday, and I asked her if she knew about the event as I was looking at my calendar and planning the coming week.
Laura quickly educated me on the “Christmas Star” that appeared Monday evening. This was a rare planetary conjunction that has not occurred for 800 years, and scholars believe appeared in 7 BC and might have been the Star of Bethlehem that guided the Magi in the biblical narrative of Christ’s birth. I guess with all that has been going on moving and learning my new ministry context, I missed out on that coming event, but I was excited to hear about it. It’s still a mystery how the event showed up on my Google calendar, but I’ll claim it as a God-event even if it was somehow Google initiated.
On Monday when I came home from the Conference Center, my spouse, Sallie, suggested we have what we call a “car party” –- a pandemic means of eating out when we go somewhere, obtain curbside service, and safely eat in the car. We have grown to love car parties. The plan was to go to a local Midlothian Chick-fil-A (our most popular spot for car parties), get the food, and move to an adjacent vacant movie theater lot just in time to sit, eat, and enjoy an unobstructed view of the “Christmas Star.” I was really tired from a long day, but this once-in-a-lifetime event was too important to miss. We were not disappointed. Sallie’s plan worked perfectly. The beautiful setting sun, the plethora of colors in the afterglow of dusk, and the Christmas Star itself shone with the Glory of the Lord. One could not help but contemplate on this guiding Divinely orchestrated Light that led the Magi to Bethlehem and still leads people to Christ today… especially when we are captured by the Vision God holds for us as a people to learn, influence and serve God in traditional and in ever new ways.
By now you may be asking, “How does the story relate to God’s vision for our conference “to be disciples of Jesus Christ who are lifelong learners who influence others to serve”? A series of unexpected events provides that answer and provides a real-time simple example of our Conference Vision in organic action.
I had taken a couple of photos of the Christmas Star and shared them with our family text message group. Sallie shared one of those pictures with a text message group of friends she has in Winchester since the weather there prevented them from seeing the “Star.” One of those friends, I’ll call her Mary, adapted the picture with the following words formatted upon it, “The Star leads to Jesus and the real meaning of Christmas.” Mary sent the adapted picture to the entire text group list of friends. When Sallie showed me what had transpired, all I could think of was the series of events that led to this unexpected witness of faith in a world in need of Hope.
One might call it a series of serendipitous events, but I passionately believe they were a series of God-events that emulate God’s Vision for our Conference in action. If you will, I encourage you to think for a few minutes upon the many intersections of learning, influencing, and serving present in this simple story. For example, Mary seized a perfect opportunity to provide gentle influence to a group of friends by adding 11 hope-filled words to a picture taken in a vacant theater parking lot during a car party.
The Good News of Jesus Christ touches every grace-filled nook and cranny of our lives. How will this ever-present Holy Star guide you “to be disciples of Jesus Christ who are lifelong learners who influence others to serve”?
Advent Hope, Peace, Love, and Joy,
The Rev. Dr. Steven J. Summers
Director of Connectional Ministries