Pastoral Thoughts …
We live in a time of many changes and transitions which can lead to confusion and anxiety which can lead to anger, frustration and fear. I understand these feelings and I too am concerned for the world and the church. Yet, I cannot let myself forget we follow a God, a Savior who declares to us we are not alone and our fears are put at ease with the love and presence of the Holy Spirit. Jesus defeats death to say we need not let our fears overwhelm us. Jesus rises to declare there is hope and joy in our future for He is alive and present with us and into the future. We of St. Mark’s at times let our fears and anxiety overtake us which leads to suspicion, negativity and a critical nature. This is not the will of Jesus who say His disciples would be known by their love and mutual support to each other and to world. Times such as these are also times for transformation and growth of our faith and of our resolve.
I so often hear folks of this church and others bemoan the lack of leaders, worshippers, finances, children and the list goes on and on. If we succumb to this pessimistic outlook we will perish for sure. A seminary professor of mine preached on day during chapel on the title, ‘Snatching Defeat from the Jaws of Victory’, his point being we Christians forget at times we have been given the true and final victory of life in the resurrection of Jesus. We have the Victory yet we act as if we are Defeated! I say enough! Let us see the marvelous work that God is doing in our midst: the gospel is proclaimed and the sacraments are offered each week, we gather for study and consolation weekly, we pray for each other, we care for each other in visits and cards and calls, we welcome the guest, we care for the stranger in our distribution of food and hosting of learning parties, we offer summer VBS, we prepare quilts for refugees of the world, and on and on the list goes. Let us see the good we offer and the strength of our faith. Let us celebrate a congregation of 127 years that has seen worse times than these and persevered with God’s help. Let us embrace this time as a time of rebirth and rededication to move forward in faith in the assurance of God’s presence and strength.
We will soon receive the report from Partners for Sacred Places which will challenge us to see ourselves as we are, to see the areas of strength we exhibit, and to embrace the areas of growth we need to address. It will be challenging to have the open and honest discussion that will be necessary but that is essential if we are to embrace the mission God calls us into living. It is time for us to embrace our differences and converse in an open and respectful process that will allow us to move into the future God wishes for us. As the prophet Habakuk declared to the ancient Israelites so he declares to us:
What’s God going to say to my questions? I’m embraced for the worst.
I’ll climb to the lookout tower and scan the horizon.
I’ll wait to see what God says, how he’ll answer my complaint.
And then God answered: ‘Write this. Write what you see.
Write it out in big block letters so that I can be read on the run.
This vision-message is a witness pointing to what’s coming.
It aches for the coming—it can hardly wait!
And it doesn’t lie.
If it seems slow in coming, wait.
It’s on its way. It will come right on time. (Habakud 2:1-3)
God’s will for us is aching to come and take root. God’s vision for St. Mark’s is coming and if it seems slow, wait for it is on its way. It will come at the right time, this time, now. I believe this to be so. Let us have courage to embrace God’s vision for us even if it makes us uncomfortable for God’s will has never been the way of ease and comfort, it is the way of risk and growth and love. I’m ready are you?
May God bless us in our journey into His Vision Message pointing to what’s coming.