The Faith to be All In

Pastoral Ponderings—The Faith to be All In—18 NOV 20

I was praying through the sanctuary the morning as I often do, this time in a more ponderous mood.  Thanksgiving is just a week away, and the theme this Sunday, surprisingly enough, is Thanks GIVING.  So you’d think seeing the Autumnal décor would seem just right.  But perhaps with the subdued lighting of only the morning sun shining through narrow windows, and with Advent and Christmas preparations crowding Thanksgiving out already– not to mention the rolling storms and thunder of COVID reshaping both the season and our outlooks– the festive fall colors seemed strangely out of place.  They seemed to speak more of transitions than a season to embrace.

We all find ourselves in a season of transition this year, from the comfort of what we have known, to no one knows what.  We’ve been hoping it’s a season of transition from our exhaustion of COVID, back toward some sense of a post-COVID new normal.  But we can only hold onto that hope if we ignore the mounting numbers, and more and more personal connections being struck by and stuck in COVID and its quarantines and isolation.

Many churches have traditionally come to this time of year with Thanksgiving and Autumn transitions, with a stewardship drive, a generosity campaign– some way of looking to a future where we continue to be a church blessing our community, or  where we commit together to new ways of blessing our community.  But this year when it’s hard to see into the future at all, it’s easier to feel stuck and paralyzed than to make renewed commitments.

“Unprecedented” is a word too often used to describe where we are, yet in many ways it is far from unprecedented. We come from a long line of generations who faced and overcame seemingly endless dark days.  Whether ourselves, our parents, grandparents or other forebears who overcame personal seasons of hopelessness and loss, or as a community or nation making it through years of war and depression, or, if we read our scriptures– slavery, exile, oppression and persecution—all seemingly endless and hopeless, all overcome.

In fact, one of our most memorable treasures of scripture is a whole chapter long litany of over-comers, starting with Hebrews 11: 1—“ Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen…” building to the great conclusion at the beginning of chapter 12—“ Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also… run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross…”  And while nowhere in scripture do we ever even get a hint that this enduring, this perseverance, this overcoming is easy, comfortable, quick, or painless—our need for it, God’s grace which is sufficient for all our needs, and God’s provision for overcoming, are FAR from inaccessible or  “unprecedented.”

While our future is even more shrouded in mystery now than ever, of one thing we can be certain: GOD holds the future, and God is and will be there in the future to bring us through, as much as God has ever been in our past.  And as we commit in generosity to continue to be the church in this place with our prayers, our presence, our gifts, our service and our witness—we are both proclaiming God’s hope to our neighbors and community, and that we are “all in” on God’s winning team.

ALL IN together—Rev. Jim

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