Along the Way...

August 21, 2007

Our guest columnist this week is The Rev. Renae Extrum-Fernandez, Superintendent of the Bay View District in the California-Nevada Annual Conference.

By Renae Extrum-Fernandez

Wild Hogs. Tim Allen, Martin Lawrence, William H. Macy and John Travolta. 2,000 miles. How wild can it get? The film about four friends on a motorcycle trip opened this summer. No, I’m not promoting this movie. I haven’t even seen it! But I think I may be living some version of it. The promotional material asks the question: What if you could take a trip that could change your life?

Nearly everyone goes on some kind of road trip over the summer. Didn’t you? Was it long or short? Did you go with family, friends or alone? Was it to see new sites or touch familiar places? Even the most sedentary find summer ripe for trips to other worlds through books (Did you get through Harry Potter?). Whether we take off on “hogs,” in airplanes or on rollerblades, most of us find ourselves on the move in search of – if not wild adventure, at least a new experience of life. That’s the spiritual side of us.

Jesus knew that. He said of himself, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to rest his head.” (Mt.8:20) Jesus lived on the move. His ministry was one of travel, yes, but much more than that. After his baptism, movement from one place to another characterized Jesus’ life. Luke’s community found it important to tell us how two disciples ran into the crucified and risen Christ on the road to Emmaus. Tom Bandy asks the intriguing and compelling question for our discipleship: Where was Jesus going?

“Follow me...” “Come and see…” Jesus doesn’t journey alone. He leads what Latino theologians have called a ministry of acompanimiento (accompaniment). By its very nature Jesus’ journey is shared. He doesn’t simply walk around doing his own thing. He calls all who will listen to an epic, life-transforming journey with him. He calls us to MOVE from wherever we are now, to a deeper relationship with God. In that transformed relationship, John Wesley found the Spirit’s power to transform the world. I believe Jesus calls our congregations to MOVE from wherever they are to a deeper engagement in His work beyond Emmaus. Perhaps as we seek new understandings of effective congregational ministry our definition could include a clear sense of being led by Christ beyond our comfortable gatherings into the world where God’s children are hungry, hurting, and longing to know they are not alone on the journey.

I have spent my summer months on the roads of the Bay View District visiting different congregations each Sunday. I imagined it would be hard to leave the chancel where I had “belonged” for nine years, but I must say I have thoroughly enjoyed celebrating the presence of the Holy Spirit with a different congregation every Sunday! As church conference season begins I will begin “dashboarding,” as those with rolling offices call it. I am not a big Country-Western music fan, but I am considering having my cell phone ring tone changed to “On the Road Again.”

Renae, four counties, the Book of Discipline and assorted United Methodists. How wild can it get? Fifty-eight church conferences wait for me along the roads of my near future. So does Jesus.