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Pastor’s Note: Take Advantage of a Fresh Start


When I was watching the Olympics recently, I saw a runner in a qualifying heat get tripped, knocked off the track, and fail to advance to the next round of the event. Tears, confusion over how to act, and angst over the end of dreams were all over his face. And then the ruling came in that he had been unfairly knocked down and would receive a pass into the next round of the competition – a fresh start to pursue the Olympic medal he came to pursue. It wasn’t the way he expected to advance, but the difficult moment gave him a new opportunity to move ahead with renewed focus.

Many of you have told me that the last year or two has felt (and in some cases continues to feel) confusing, disorienting, and discouraging as life has knocked you off track in a way you hadn’t planned. You’re working in a new location, facing different relational dynamics, struggling to sort through the emotions you feel and the emotions others tell you to feel. Now while continuing to battle tough “competition” from Covid and the surrounding angst and tension, we have an opportunity to move forward. How will you do that? Will you ignore the pain you feel and the lessons you’ve learned and just plunge back in search of busy normalcy? Or will you take advantage of a fresh start to reevaluate how you approach life, what’s most important, and who God continues to call you to be?

Over the past few months, the Session and Staff of Southwood have been praying through similar questions for our church. As hard as this season has been, what has God taught us that we need to remember? As we look ahead, what priorities must remain firm? As we move forward, what opportunities do we have to meet the needs of our community in this time? What does it look like for us as leaders to shepherd and disciple more intentionally, humbly, and effectively? We don’t believe the answers God has led us to are profound or unique, but we do trust they are biblical and vital for our health as God’s people, his family on his mission.

What you’ll see in the pages of this issue of Branches is an overview of some of those priorities and ongoing commitments – some very familiar, others perhaps fresh to you. Some of you will have heard much in here over the past few weeks, but sometimes it’s helpful to see it in writing, too. And if you have comments or questions about where you fit in with the mission of Southwood and the mission God has given us, please reach out to any of us in leadership with your ideas or questions.

As you evaluate your own life and your own “fresh start” this fall, I’d urge you to double down, refocus, or get back on track with Jesus. His grace is indispensable for you to move forward with real purpose in your own life, and it’s the hope He’s called you to share with others. We need Jesus – and because of that we need each other in his body and we need to share his heart for those around us who desperately need the hope of Jesus themselves. Come back to worship with us. Join a small group again or for the first time. Find a way to serve. But don’t just move on and waste the gift of a fresh start after a tough fall.

If we’re running a race in the days ahead, the Bible tells us it’s one for which we will need perseverance – so we must fix our eyes on Jesus, who endured the cross on his way to the throne of God. Let’s together focus on Him, dream of eternity, and dive into the work He has given us to do in the strength of his Spirit today!