Rev. Jordan McKenzie
As most of you know, I will soon be moving from Belmont UMC to another church as I embrace the new opportunities to which God has called me. This of course will be a major transition for myself and my family. Likewise, it will be a major transition for Belmont UMC, as it always is whenever there is a change in staff–especially in the pastoral staff.
Now truth be told, transitions aren’t always easy. In fact, transitions are often downright hard. They bring uncertainty, fear, and apprehension. They lead to changes that sometimes we may not know how to navigate. Yet, as difficult as they can be, transitions are simply a part of life. No matter who we are, we all face these times over and over again. In our relationships, our families, our jobs, and all kinds of other areas, we experience times of transition and change. The better we are at dealing with them, the better off we will be.
As I was thinking about this recently, I was pondering Jesus’s passion (his final days as he was betrayed and crucified). I realized that this time in Jesus’s life can teach us a lot about how to handle transitions, as Jesus himself was experiencing a major transition during this time, from being a beloved teacher and rabbi to the one who was beaten, whipped, and crucified as a criminal.
Of course we all know how the story turned out (spoiler alert: Jesus wins in the end), but that doesn’t mean that the transition wasn’t difficult for Jesus. In fact, a careful reading of the situation shows just how hard this time was for Jesus. So what can we learn from how he handled the situation? What sort of a blueprint does he offer us?
I would say there are three key things that Jesus chose to do that can help us deal with our own times of transition and change.
First, Jesus surrounded himself with a strong support network. When Jesus faced his impending betrayal and death, Jesus’s first move was to spend time with those he was closest to. He didn’t stay isolated or go into the situation by himself, but deliberately spent time with his closest followers. Note that he didn’t just choose for them to be with him at his last supper, but he also chose to have them pray with him in the garden (though they didn’t do a very good job of that). He even called them, for the first time, friends. Thus Jesus was intentional about making sure he was not alone (physically or emotionally), even on those last days of his life.
Second, Jesus prayed about the situation and what God was calling him to do. When Jesus came to the point at which he knew he was going to be arrested, Jesus went straight to prayer. And it was not a shallow, half-hearted sort of prayer. Rather Jesus’s time of prayer was a time where he poured his soul out before God and wrestled with what God was calling him to do. He earnestly tried to figure out God’s will with everything he had. Without being rooted in God’s love and presence during the time of his greatest challenge, things may have been far more difficult for him.
Third, Jesus trusted God in the midst of the challenging circumstances. While he was able to have a strong network of supporters and was intimately connected to God in prayer, in the end there was still fear and trepidation on the part of Jesus, to the point of him sweating blood and pleading to have “this cup taken from him.” He struggled with what was going to happen and even why it needed to happen. Yet through it all, he trusted God. Even while on the cross in unspeakable pain and near death, Jesus said “not my will, but your will, be done.” Regardless of how challenging the circumstances were, he trusted in God’s faithfulness.
As we reflect on these points, I think it can empower us to better handle times of transition and change. We need to rely on those closest to us to encourage us and keep us accountable. We need to go beyond lip service to rely on God in prayer and meditate on His will for what we should do. And lastly–and most importantly– we need to trust that God is with us and for us in the situation.
As I sign off of this blog and look toward the future, I hope that all of us will embrace God’s promises for that future– and follow Jesus’s example on how to handle times of transition and change. Sure, these times will never be easy, but they will be opportunities for our faithfulness to grow and God’s faithfulness to shine.
May God’s Spirit continue to lead us forward.