Last week, as I was visiting with Hattie Mae Johnson, she told me about a beautiful redbud tree that was growing in her yard. She did not plant the tree. In fact, her best guess is that somehow through the winds and rains of Hurricane Katrina, the seeds of the tree landed in her yard and began sprouting—an unexpected joy brought by a devastating storm.
As I was considering Hattie Mae’s redbud, I recognized that so much of life is like that tree. Life comes to us as a rather constant mix of sorrow and happiness and it’s in that mix that we often bump up against real joy, the kind of joy we can’t plan for, the kind that just sprouts up and one day starts blooming into something beautiful.
The last few weeks we have opened up the book of Acts together in morning worship where we have seen this same pattern. The sorrow of Stephen’s martyrdom leading to the spread of the Gospel beyond Jerusalem. An Ethiopian Eunuch rejected by so many in society, but surprisingly welcomed into new life within the community of Jesus followers. The Council at Jerusalem working through difficult issues so as to fully welcome their Gentile brothers and sisters in the faith. Sorrow and happi- ness coming together and producing something new, unexpected, and life-giving.
Here we are at the beginning of a month that I know will bring to the UBC family a mixture of sorrow and happiness. We will shed a few tears as we journey with Ashley through the conclusion of her ministry alongside us. We will be nurtured by her preaching for the last time as our Associate Minister on Pentecost Sunday (May 19) and we will surround her with our blessings on her last Sunday with us in worship (May 26). It will be a month to say goodbye and to give our blessings on all that is to come in her life with Brian Harrington.
But May will also be a month of incredible happiness. I am particularly looking forward to Pentecost Sunday when we will all gather for a celebration of our church at Kamper Park. Our children’s and youth committees are working on plans for a festive, church-wide event. Along with lunch and an opportunity to fellowship, our Communicating UBC to Hattiesburg Committee will be passing out car decals with our new logo as we celebrate renewed efforts to share the life of UBC with the Hattiesburg community. It will be a wonderful afternoon together (please make plans to come and even buy a Pentecost Red t-shirt in advance from our youth).
May will also end with our annual Memorial Day Cookout on Wednesday evening, May 29. Not only will we fill the back lot up with smoke from the grill and plenty of laughter, but it will also be an evening to spend some last moments in conversation with Ashley on her final evening with us and to celebrate all that she has given to UBC.
May will be filled with sorrow and happiness. And so, I can’t help but wonder what unexpected new joys might come through it all. Like the redbud in Hattie Mae’s yard, we can’t predict how, where and when new life will sprout, but I am certainly coming to expect it….