Our theme scripture verse this year is 1Peter 3:15. “In your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect.” (ESV)
Eugene Peterson paraphrases it in the Message: “Through thick and thin, keep your hearts at attention, in adoration before Christ, your Master. Be ready to speak up and tell anyone who asks why you’re living the way you are, and always with the utmost courtesy.”
Written to a church facing persecution – verbally and physically – these words were meant to instruct and inspire compassionate and transparent lives lived in the power of the Gospel. Yes, we are called upon to act as living reflections of the grace and love of Christ in our lives. But we are also, as ambassadors for Christ, called to “give a reason” – to speak clearly – about why we love our enemies, support one another, and respect our differences with grace. Essentially we are to let the world know that we are not our own, but servants of the Living God who called us into being, and empowers us to even love the unlovable.
In my younger years I figured being a good person was adequate. After a while I realized there were plenty of good people whose motivation was quite different than a disciple’s. Though similar to Christ-followers on the outside, they often had other motives, from deception, to trying to peaceably get along with others. While I sought to model Christ, others sought to get ahead through kindness. Of course, I am unable to judge the difference; I don’t know what is on another’s heart. That’s the point. If we are to be reflections of Christ, if our desire is to fulfill our calling as disciples, we are to live and reveal lives so attractive that people are drawn to Him; and we must clarify our motivations.
Enjoying the unique blessings God has given us, basking personally in His grace without letting people know why actually does the Lord a disservice. Why was I more willing to talk about a Red Sox or Patriots win than about an answer to prayer or a blessing from the Lord? Why are so many Christians content with being undercover Christians? Why are we hesitant to tell friends about a special activity, an “extra mile” of care offered by a teacher, or share enthusiasm for the new things God unfolds each year at our school?
Do I take for granted what God has provided? Am I aware of the unique privilege it is to be at UCA, which is only in existence due to a variety of ways God has provided over the years? At Parent Orientation I mentioned that from a logical, business perspective, and given the economics of our region, there is no rational way this school could have survived for 20+ years. Our very existence is testimony to God’s provision through many dedicated people.
UCA continues to face increasing financial aid requests from families. Our financial aid budget these past years is essentially equal the school’s deficit. Overcoming this gap will require a number of people, churches, and individuals who believe in the importance of UCA for the families and community. They are led to support the leadership building, and character mentoring accomplished here, responding to God’s call to use His gifts for His purpose by making major financial contributions. Many of these people may not have children in the school, or they may be churches outside our region, yet they see the value of this mission and want to help students attend UCA. It is not easy in this area to find over $100,000 in financial aid! Yet it is essential. UCA is a gift from God of great worth that should not be kept silent; it is important enough to support as a mission.
Some have already made this commitment. I think of a recent bequest from a funding family, allowing us to improve in areas of sound and technology above and beyond the budget. The Petit family saw the value. Amelia Island Plantation Chapel in Florida saw the vision, believing this is a valuable mission and from outside the region support us. In many ways these are all answers to prayer, and a result of people telling the story of what God is doing in our midst.
It is important that we all participate in sharing God’s answered prayer through people and events at this school. Have we counted our blessings? Have we shared them with others?
Last week the newspaper published a supplement to the daily news highlighting “Outstanding Teachers” -- about – our outstanding and dedicated teachers! Out of 16 teachers highlighted in the county, three were from UCA! See the articles on the school bulletin board.
We can praise God for the invitation to The Bronze Ambassadors to represent Vermont at the Big E (the New England Exposition in Springfield, MA). What a joy to see this ministry have the opportunity to reflect the joy of Christian service through ringing on Sept. 24.
There is so much more to talk about. You can make you own list of blessings I’m sure.
On behalf of our UCA family, please know our hope is in Christ. Our joy is in service. For me, it is truly a privilege to serve here! No matter where I travel, I cannot say enough of what God is doing through this mission. This year, let us all “be ready to speak up and tell anyone who asks” why God has blessed us so through this UCA community.
Rev C, Interim Head of School