The Journey of Reentry – John Stumbo Video Blog No. 82

May 12, 2020


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How does King David’s experience parallel our own during COVID-19?


Hello, Alliance family. I don’t recall ever giving a message from 2 Samuel 18 to 21. David flees into exile during a time of crisis and then attempts to reenter Jerusalem. It’s complicated, and it has some parallels for us today. Great Commission Day materials have been sent. They’re in your inbox or they’re online. We’re very excited about the way that our team has been able to emphasize this year Caring in Chaos. We have our teams on-site, on location, around the world—being the presence of Jesus and the mouthpiece and hands of Christ in some very difficult world situations. And we have stories for you, videos shot by our IWs on location. And so if you’ve not yet engaged with our Great Commission Day please do so personally and as an entire church. This is a great opportunity for us not only to be looking in our neighborhoods for how God can use us, but as part of this Alliance family we’re having impact across the globe. So please join us for this year’s Caring in Chaos Great Commission Day emphasis. Thank you.

So for today’s theme . . . where were you when news of the coronavirus first began to be a major news story? It was just emerging when I was in Hawaii, participating with the Central Pacific District for their district conference. Joanna and I had the privilege of being with those folks, and I had the joy of doing the National Conversation as we prepare possible polity and Statement of Faith changes for Council 2021. It was a rich experience with that district family, getting to speak in the local Alliance church in Hawaii, and I was very unaware of how much the world was about to change.

In 2 Samuel 18 to 20, David has the horrible experience of his own son setting up his own kingdom and threatening David’s throne. And for whatever reason that I don’t fully understand, David feels the need to go into exile. He leaves Jerusalem. Many people go with him; they make the hard journey down into the valley up the Mount of Olives. Interestingly, like Christ weeping in the Mount of Olives, David weeps as he goes. And he enters into this season of exile. It was an odd season for the king, and many of us have just been feeling it or even are still feeling it ourselves. We didn’t go somewhere else in the exile; we went into our own homes in the exile. And we had to learn some lessons and have some emotions and enter some experiences that were new to us. I’m proud of how our Alliance churches rose to the moment—pastors learning technologies they’d never had to learn and engaging with their communities in ways they hadn’t engaged before.

So, Alliance family, you’ve risen to the moment. I’m thrilled to hear the stories that have come in about how that you have delivered food and practice social distancing while having true means of ministry, where there’s been significant online presence and impact. And so the season of exile has been a season of learning, a season of deep emotion for some of us. I’m fascinated that while my calendar got cleared for the entire month of April and beyond, from my own lower level of my house I spoke to more people in the month of April than I ever have in my entire lifetime.

Exile had its opportunities, but now both in David’s story and in our own story we’re sensing that a shift is about to take place. It’s called reentry. But the road of reentry should not be traveled too quickly, for there are lessons on that road that can only be learned there. I’m coming to you today from the lobby of the National Office in Colorado Springs, which is normally bustling with activity, but today is quiet. We have been in this season of exile so to speak, working remotely from our homes; it’s been very effective. But now with the state of Colorado beginning to open its restrictions 25 percent or so of our staff are back, practicing proper social distancing, wearing masks in public places, taking our temperature before we come, making sure we don’t have any symptoms, cleaning services . . . all those kind of things. But it’s the reentry season for us as a staff, and it has its complications. It has some emotions attached to it which some of us didn’t expect.

In David’s story, his season of exile comes to an end as he finds out that the nation is ready to reclaim him as king and bring him back to Jerusalem. And so the reentry journey begins. And I’m fascinated in the story that it’s not a simple journey back, that there’s complicating factors along the way. A relationship that perhaps had some fissure within it, now becomes a full-blown civil war, if you read the story. A decision that David needs to make. There’re two separate accounts of the same story. Two people speaking to the same scenario, saying very different things, and David needs unique leadership discernment to know where to take his stand on this particular point. And then when they get back to Jerusalem, that’s not the same city that he has left. There’re issues that he has to deal with when he gets back.

I’m finding in David’s reentry story that there are some leadership moments that I as a leader can feel. And then even if you’re not a leader perhaps you’ll be able to relate to that reentry must not be fast forwarded, get rushed through this season, and it requires unique insight because we’re not necessarily going back to this exact same setting. There’re relationships that have to be dealt with, emotions that need to be processed, decisions that need to be made. And it’s not simple.

Those of you who’ve had some health crisis know some of what I’m talking about here. And before I did, I thought the word “recovery” was a happy word. “She had surgery; she’s in recovery.” Great, that sounds wonderful. Maybe the crisis has passed, that the surgery has been conducted. But those of you that have been there know that recovery is not for the faint of heart, that there’re therapists and therapy and exercises . . . and how to learn to do things in a new manner and how to navigate things around your house. This is not a simple or easy thing. There’re emotions that are involved in the recovery process. There’re skills that have to be learned . . . tenacity that has to be formed within us if we’re going to get through. See, Romans 5 teaches us that “suffering produces perseverance; perseverance character, and character hope.” Now, we love to rush to the hope side, and hope is a beautiful thing. We all want to learn character. Character is fabulous. But we may want to bypass that word in between suffering and character—perseverance. Evidently, there’s no shortcut between suffering and character. Evidently, we don’t automatically learn character just because of suffering . . . that there is that in-between phase. Perhaps we could call it reentry. Perseverance. Suffering produces perseverance, perseverance character.

And friends as leaders, I’m challenging us that there is something to be learned during the season about the pace of reentry, the priorities of reentry, and how we handle people during this reentry. Whether you’re a leader or not, I’m coming to you person-to-person to say there’s stuff of our soul that has to be dealt with during this reentry season: processing of the persistent stress that we’ve been under during this COVID thing, dealing with some surprises in our homes or relationships that we can’t just ignore and try to get back to normal. No, no, no, there’s something to be processed at this time. And as churches, I’m saying there are things to be learned in exile—you learned them, thank you—but now there’s things to be learned in reentry that are unique for this moment. Don’t miss them. Because Paul tells us in Romans 5, that character awaits if we go through suffering in a persevering manner; character awaits, and I’m very concerned about the character of The Alliance that emerges on the other end. What’s the character of our churches, the character of our boards, the character of our pastors, the character of our lay people; what’s our character, for me as well, on the other side? I feel some potential for erosion, compromise, or just trying to blow past this season as fast as I can just to create some new sense of normalcy. And the whisper of the Spirit to my soul, perhaps to yours as well: Reentry has opportunities that no other season has. Recovery has opportunities that no other season has. Let’s not miss it.

So, we’re good team?


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