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There is something renewing about a new calendar – the pages clean, the little squares for each date empty, waiting for the possibilities of a new year. As we begin a new year as a congregation our year holds possibilities and challenges as well. Possibilities for reaching out to our community in new ways, of ministry partnerships and opportunities for spiritual growth. Challenges for a 30+ year old building that is needing attention, a building that has been a blessing to us and our community. The past year has been abundant with new experiences from a choir concert with other churches to a ministry to those seeking asylum and refuge from the violence and death in their homelands to an expanding outreach to the students at Independence High School. We have much for which to be grateful, much that makes us hopeful in the new year.
Please join me in this new year in praying for our congregation and its mission and ministry, that we may continue to be faithful to God’s call that we might be a blessing for others.
Serving Christ with you,
Recently, our General Assembly Stated Clerk, the Rev. J. Herbert Nelson, called the church to prayer for justice, peace, and security for the people of Cameroon. As many of you know, this call to prayer hits home for us because of a family in our own church. Many in their family have had to flee homes and are living in the bush in order to be safe. (I am not mentioning specific names for security reasons – that is how dangerous this is.)
Well before this made the news in the PC(USA) our congregation was aware and we have made donations to support the Presbyterian Church in Cameroon. who have been helping to feed those who have sought refuge in the bush. Our gifts to Presbyterian Disaster Assistance (think of One Great Hour of Sharing) have helped to provide basic necessities to Cameroonians who have sought refuge in Nigeria.
This may not seem to be a “Christmasy” message. And yet it is, in that it calls us to do the work of Christmas. In this season when we celebrate the birth of one whose parents sought refuge first in a stable and then in Egypt, let us offer our prayers for the people of Cameroon and all those who seek safe and peaceful places to live and to thrive – to have the life God intends for us all. As we proclaim the coming of the Prince of Peace, let us continue to pray for and work for Peace on Earth.
How to say ‘thank you’? God is pretty clear about what is desired – justice, kindness, humility. Things that can and should be offered year round. For aren’t we always grateful for God’s love and grace. Yet, it is good to take a time apart to reflect on all for which we are thankful, particularly those things for which there is no adequate expression, no words to fully express what is in our hearts.
This November, I am particularly in that position of finding ways to offer thanks when there are no words to say what is in my heart. The outpouring of love, the signs of grace, the expressions of support, the prayers that were offered, the emails, the notes, the texts in the midst of my mother’s dying and death, were as surely signs of the movement of the Holy Spirit as any I have known. I was not at all surprised – after five years as your pastor, I have seen this time and time again; in many circumstances, in our church family. But I continue to be in awe and to be grateful that God brought us together for such a time as this.
Know that as I reflect on all of God’s gifts this Thanksgiving, the easiest to offer and the most difficult to express is all you have been to me in these past days. But, as part of my offering, I will seek to be to others what you have been to me. Thank you for allowing God to be so at work through each of you.
“Sing to the Lord a new song…” writes the psalmist. And yet how much we love what is known and familiar. But then we have opportunities to try a new venture and carry some of the familiar with us.
I am so grateful for the adventurous spirit of this congregation. Twice this month we tried “a new thing”. First we worshiped with two other churches in park outdoors. But in the midst of that unfamiliar territory, we heard familiar hymns and the same words for communion that bring us together.
Then we gathered at Menaul School for an All Church Retreat- again going into unknown territory, and yet the faces, the Bible stories and the hymns were all familiar. When we go forward, while still taking part of who we are with us, we can sing a new song for God, we can grow together in faith.
When we are told to sing a new song, we are not told to forget the old songs. Rather we are called to add to our repertoire, that there may be yet more ways to glorify our God. Just this month we found that we can glorify God in a park, with other congregations, and on the campus of school doing things in ways we had not before, but with people we already love and know. All these things not only glorify God but build up the Body of Christ. Perhaps you joined the Bible Study for the first time this fall, or have decided to join the vocal or bell choir, or started going to lunch with the men. All these can be new songs for God. Thanks be to God for all God’s marvelous gifts!
Serving Christ with you,