The Rev. Dr. Elizabeth Mae Magill is the pastor of the Small Church Collaborative and the author of Five Loaves, Two Fish, Twelve Volunteers. ElizabethMaeMagill.com
Reference: Keep On Moving Forward
Gonna keep on moving forward
Keep on moving forward
Never turning back
Gonna keep on moving proudly
Gonna keep on singing loudly
Gonna keep on loving boldly
Gonna reach across our borders
Gonna end the occupations
Gonna stop these wars together
Gonna keep on moving forward
- ©1984 Pat Humphries, Moving Forward Music, BMI
Reflection: Keep On Moving Forward
When I was in college my group of friends often quoted one of our “very funny” lines: “I know suffering builds character, but I’m already a character, I don’t need any more suffering.” We were talking about exams. (Insert eyeroll.)
The outward privilege of my youth is somewhat embarrassing at the same time that my inward struggle with anxiety, suicidal thinking, and figuring out my sexuality remains a defining moment in my faith story. It was so hard to keep on moving forward, but God was there, never turning back. With work, I learned endurance.
Paul insists that “suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us” (Romans 5:3b-5a). I want to believe this, I preach this confidently, and I often cannot accept this. The fact is, sometimes suffering produces death, often suffering is so overwhelming that lives are destroyed. It is not-that-unusual for hope to disappoint us. Hope that says “it will all work out” is a very shallow hope, a dishonest hope, a disappointment.
Often in this present place and time I am beaten down by the impossible nature of our world. War, guns, supreme court musings, pandemics, struggling churches, the child next door with trauma in their past. It is more than overwhelming. Hope is hidden.
I imagine the psalmist crying out in despair rather than glory as they proclaim: “When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars that you have established; what are human beings that you are mindful of them, mortals that you care for them” (Psalm 8:3-4)? I hear these as words of despair.
For me there is pause here, although no “selah” is written. For me, this is a moment to look at the eternity of the universe; for a silent gaze at the stars. It’s chilly, and the ocean, or the mountain, or the desert looms too big around me. The question of who are we, who am I, and where is hope, sits heavily on me.
And then, as happens so often in the psalms, the story changes. In verse 8:5 I find the promise that humans are enough, that I am enough, that together we are enough. “Yet you have made [us] a little lower than God, and crowned [us] with glory and honor.” God glories in us, trusts us, gives us responsibility for the world around us. God’s hope is that we will step up to that responsibility.
This God who loves us as we are, right now, before we decide to do the next right thing created us, and in Jesus Christ made the promise to walk with us in this work. The hope is that we will endure, we will become strong characters, we will keep on moving forward, never turning back, never turning back.
I hope I’ll see you at the Poor People’s Campaign March on Washington, DC June 18. I still may not trust that the world will get better, but I trust that God is marching with us to make it so.
Holy One, walk with me as I work to take the next step forward. Help to keep me from turning back. Amen.
New Prayer Requests:
We ask churches and church leaders to join us in the following prayers either by sharing them during worship, printing them in bulletins, or sharing them in some other way. To make a prayer request, please contact Drew Page at firstname.lastname@example.org
Prayers of Intercession:
- For the people of Ukraine whose lives continue to be shattered by war
- For those grieving or suffering due to mass shootings, including the 11 mass shootings recorded this weekend in which 15 people died and 61 were wounded
- For the family and friends of Rev. Dr. Roger Nicholson, UCC pastor and former member of the historic Connecticut Conference Board of Directors. Rev. Nicholson died May 28
Prayers of Joy and Thanksgiving:
- For the LGBTQ+ community and their allies
This Week in History:
June 10, 1935 (87 years ago) Alcoholics Anonymous (A.A.), the 12-step rehabilitation program designed to help people cope with alcoholism, is founded by Bill Wilson and Dr. Robert Smith, both recovering alcoholics. There are now more than 60,000 chapters of the group in the United States, many of whom meet in community centers and churches.
“Study the past if you would define the future.”
The Rev. Dr. Elizabeth Mae Magill (Liz) is a writer, pastor, and workshop leader living in Berlin, Massachusetts. She is the author of Five Loaves, Two Fish, Twelve Volunteers: Growing Relational Food Ministries and the founder of Worcester ...