The Great Gifts of Summer

posted on July 26

The Great Gifts of Summer

A child who gathers in summer is prudent…
Proverbs 10:5

As our 21 new clergy learned last week, the distinctives of the Northern Piedmont District are spiritual maturity and beloved community. You truly cannot have one without the other. Mature Christians are most likely to welcome others into beloved community, and active members of beloved community are most likely to continuously mature in their spirituality all their lives.

I have always found summertime to be a season of growth. When I was a child, I spent many summer days in the Public Library. My mother knew I was a bookworm, so she made sure we visited regularly. When I read, I magically visited new places, met new people, learned about different cultures, and discovered that not everyone experienced life just like I did. I spent the lazy days of summer with a book in my hand when I was not swimming on the swim team or headed off to busy weeks at camp.

In the United Methodist Church, we believe in lifelong learning. John Wesley’s word for spiritual maturity was “sanctification.” His concept of Christian perfection was based upon a daily expansion of our love for God and neighbor. He based this upon Jesus’ teachings in Matthew 22:34-40, Mark 12:28-34, and Luke 10:25-28. “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.“ For me, summertime has been “bonus space” for assessing how well I am doing at loving God and neighbor.  Along with the intentionality of the Advent and Lenten seasons, summer gives me extra needed space for reflection and correction. Love really is the mission of every Christian, and it is love that opens the doors for every transformational relationship. We cannot authentically offer Christ to anyone we do not love.

I also find summer an extra space to more deeply engage daily scripture reading and spiritual practices. Quiet reflections and needed corrections flow from those moments with God.  Methodists view scripture as primary to Christian understanding, but we have never interpreted scripture literally. We have a long tradition of understanding the cultural milieu of the ancient world. Our reading of scripture is influenced by the TRADITIONS of the early church, the EXPERIENCE of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer, and the REASON with which God has endowed us.

God continues to guide believers in personal decision-making as well as in their leadership of a congregation and their outreach to its community. Summer offers time to assess if your church needs to turn from an inward focus to a focus on the community outside its doors. What is the mission calling for in this season? It is a time to examine scripture, the traditions of the early church, experiences that have drawn us closer to God, and simply to step back from charged emotions and use some good common sense. As I have heard said many times, “one of the good things about United Methodists is that they do not check their brains at the door.”

I hope that your summer has been both relaxing and reflective. As Christian leaders, you need to allow yourselves space to breathe and time to grow. From the cradle to the grave, we are always learning more about the love of God and God’s powerful call on our lives. Please know I pray for you and I pray for God to build a hedge of protection around your spiritual life. You are a valued leader, and we hope that you are enjoying some refreshment, renewal, and reflection.

Yours in the Connection,
Rev. Bev Coppley
District Superintendent

The Great Gifts of Summer