For the past 18 months, Karlie Harper has been the Director of our Tuesday Morning Outreach Ministries. And her family has been an active and vital part of Ocala First United Methodist Church for several years. This week Karlie, her husband, Jon, and their children are moving to Oklahoma.
Below is Karlie's last devotional message from Tuesday Morning Outreach. As always, her words are challenging and uplifting, convicting and hopeful. May you be blessed by her words! And join us in prayer for traveling mercies and blessings for Karlie and her family as they start life anew in Oklahoma!
We love you, Karlie!
Today is my last day as the outreach coordinator. I have loved serving with you and for you all. I want to thank you for walking along with me while I lived in Ocala and served this ministry. It has been easily one of the best experiences in my life. Please know that as I go to my next place, I will hold all of my special moments with you in my heart. That I will continue to use my voice to speak up and advocate for the marginalized in our societies. That I will continue to call out faith leaders, community leaders, and those in positions of power to work towards positive change for all in our society and not just the ones with money and power. I will take what I have learned here and use i t to work against racism, injustice, harmful church practices, and everyday biases. I will take what you have taught me to my new place, and I will do my very best to honor the gift you have given me in that place.
I feel as though I have usually stayed pretty close to two topics in all of my messages: the fact that God loves his people no matter what society says about them; and that we are all called to live a life that shows we are followers of Christ no matter what our situation. And if I am being honest, these are my messages because these are truths that I have to cling to. In our lives, we all face different circumstances and hardships. No one is exempt from struggle. And In the midst of these struggles, it is comforting to know that God loves me no matter my mistakes and failures, and that even in the midst of these mistakes and struggles I am called to live a life that shows I love Jesus. Every day gets to be new. Because he makes all things new. Every day we get to wake up and rejoice that we have another chance to do the next right thing, or ruthlessly love our neighbor, or take up our cross and follow Him. Be the church we as supposed to be in a hurting world.
In Ocala, this church and the folks in this ministry show us every Tuesday what it actually means to be the church. When I say "church," I don't mean one specific church or one specific denomination. I mean the actual bride of Christ, the arms and feet of Christ. Meant to show his love and teach his message. From here on when I refer to "The Church," I mean the church as a whole – not just this church.
I would hope that anyone here would feel comfortable going to any church on a Sunday morning. Because "the church" is as much for the unhoused, the unchurched, the outcasts, the down and out, or the wonderer as it is for the housed, the cradle Christian, and the stable. We are all meant to come together, no matter our differences in the worship of our Heavenly Father.
Because you are just as needed in the "Church" as anyone else. You have a gift that we need, something to offer the rest of us that we are lacking. We need your humor, or your experiences. We need your spirit, we need your opinions, and your insights, and even your anger. Sometimes the “church” needs to know that it's not all unicorns and rainbows and there are real people with real problems living right here in our communities. And if ever you find a church that doesn't welcome you with open arms then you shake the dust from your feet as a testimony against them and move on to find one that does.
"The church" has this problem thinking that being a Christian is easy. That we just go to church on Sunday, maybe throw some money at it and then think we got it down. But, and this goes for everyone – distressed folks, stable folks, cradle Christian, and new Christian – being a Christian is not always comfortable. If you have never gotten uncomfortable for Jesus, done something you really did not want to do- give up something you did not want to give It - then in my humble opinion, you're probably doing it wrong.
So as I close out today, I just want to say thank you, and I love you. And let's remember together that we are loved so completely by our good Father and there is nothing that will ever change that. And also that we need to live lives that show who we are: followers, believers of the Gospel, and radical lovers of our neighbor whoever they may be and that we are the church.
Gracious God: Thank you. Thank you that every day we get to be new – new choices, new ways to love each other, new ways to serve you. Help us because we need your help. We need to hear you, feel you, and see you. Help us to be open and listen for your voice. Lord let us be the church we are supposed to be. A church full of people loving with abandon and grace as we are loved by you with abandon and grace. God, I thank you for these people, our visitors, the volunteers, our pastors, and our friends. Lord, as we leave here today, and I leave here for my new place let our lives blossom with your goodness and evidence of your spirit be shown in all that we do. Help us to remember that no matter what you love us, and you call us into right living with you. In the name of Jesus I pray. Amen.