Hello and welcome back to Joy City, I’m your host, Stuart Welch the Lead Pastor of Life Connection Church located in Modesto, CA. If you are familiar with the show, thank you for your support and encouragement – if you are new to the show, I want to welcome you and let you know that our central theme is God Almighty and our relationship to Him through the sacrifice of His Son Jesus Christ and how to maintain that relationship. And in his book The Practice of the Presence of God, Brother Lawrence encourages us to practice the presence of God daily and try to know the Holy Spirit that is in the Scriptures. Now Brother Lawrence was a lay member, not a cleric, priest or pastor – an ordinary, and I’m putting that in air quotes, brother who loved God. It demonstrates for you and me and millions of others, God wants to draw close to us.
If you are new you may wonder, “Joy City” really? Yes, after the Apostles were beaten and released, they found “great joy…” and Jesus in John 17 says, “that they may have the full measure of my JOY within them.” That yes, we face many trials and storms but the Apostle encourages us, we rejoice in hope and as sorrowful, yet ALWAYS rejoicing…”So welcome to Joy City my friends.
Now I want to jump right into this and my disclaimer is there is no way I could accurately articulate my experience at the 2022 Justice Network, Justice Summit in Azusa, CA last week. I was so extremely blessed and fortunate to present a workshop on Jubilee, a small contribution to the 3-day Summit that spoke to issues on human sexuality, ethnic inclusion in the Western church and racism, poverty & homelessness, housing inequity, my goodness and break out groups and panel discussions. The exploding population in our prisons, even mixed-race brothers and sisters, women in ministry and positions of leadership in the Church.
Truly an amazing experience and engaging conversation and sharing, time to sit in our discomfort when topics were addressed that left you wondering and then rejoicing that God is in the midst of it all and He desires UNITY in the Body of Christ and has laid out a plan for the Church and left it to us to fulfill. We had some outrageous praise & worship with a multi-cultural team, flag dancing and words of exhortation that just left many weeping or wiping their eyes as we felt the heart of God. I mean the Free Methodist way is clear, “Love is the way we demonstrate God’s heart for justice. Like many, I don’t know how God is working thru all of this, I just trust that He is. Because He so loved that He gave His only begotten Son – Jesus. For you and for me, I mean we are even created in the very image of God – so that person, yes, that one – image of God. Yes, that one over there, image of God. Uh-huh, her too, him as well – them and those, yup – the image of God. May the Church rise up, begin to dispel this notion that we don’t love those who disagree with us, that we don’t love those whose actions are contrary to ours, that we don’t love….Rise above it all Church and demonstrate the heart of God everywhere we go and with everyone we are fortunate enough to come into contact with.
Then the heavy hitters; our keynote speakers. Leading off Thursday night Rev. Dr. Alexia Salvateria on Becoming the Body of Christ. I will try, try to articulate some of what she spoke on as she expounded on Isaiah 65:17-24 and asked the question, “Don’t we all want that life?” The promise for a communal and abundant life – YES, we all desire that, hunger for it even. I mean to see the UNITY of the Body so the fu power of God may be released thru the Body of Christ. Well, how do we get there? She took us on a journey, the journey from mercy to justice, using the expression where “mercy and justice kiss.” Seeing thru the eyes of Jesus and having the compassion of Christ. How Jesus feels our suffering as it is His own suffering. She told us that Justice as the big picture question, “What is going on?” While mercy asks, “What do we do?” Lord help us, because stewardship never asks what are the limits of our giving, stewardship is giving everything. I could just go on and on about Dr. Aexia but I would run out of show.
Then, Friday night here comes Dr. Soong-Chan Rah with Prophetic Lament. I was a wreck, as he came out of lamentations chapter 1 and never quit. I mean as the American church, we tend to avoid lament and make everything about praise, but lament is missing and it recognizes struggles and suffering, that the world is not as it should be. Lament challenges the status quo and cries out for justice against existing injustices. He shared about his mother, a single mother who spent hours on her knees in prayer while raising her children and working two jobs. It is heroes like her and so many others that in a church that is self-centered and success driven, we don’t even acknowledge nor recognize.
Beloved, God has called us to justice, because he has called us to Himself and justice is an attribute of God. He lays the plan out in Exodus and through Deuteronomy and relativizes the community so we are now brothers and sisters, not by blood, but by something greater, the Spirit of the living God. https://www.smcfmc.org/news/justice-network-summit-2022
So when God opens our eyes in Joy City we can clearly celebrate others for our differences, we can support one another in our efforts and we can cheer one another on in the spirit of unity and when One wins we all win. Every tribe and nation under heaven, worshipping God as one. As the Apostle Paul says, “may we fight for the UNITY of the faith in the bond of peace…”
No one can come face to face with what God is like and ever be the same. Welcome to Joy City. Seeing His true image, touches the depths of our soul and beholding His glory will renew our minds, transform us and give us strength to live this life for Him. Come on in, where the table is spread and the feast of the Lord is going on. I want to invite you to be a part, a resident of Joy City. A place where the Body becomes stronger and our love for others only increases.
I’ve enjoyed being your host and you can comment below, or email me at pastorstuart@