From the Pastors
Celebrating our Partnership in the Gospel as Partakers in Grace
“3 I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, 4 always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, 5 because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. 6 And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. 7 It is right for me to feel this way about you all, because I hold you in my heart, for you are all partakers with me of grace... 8 For God is my witness, how I yearn for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus. 9 And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, 10 so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, 11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.” (Philippians 1:3-11).
I can’t find any words more fitting for our current situation as a congregation, than these written above. As I write this newsletter article, we have recently started our cancellation of public services for online options only. While we give thanks that we are still able to have so many tools at our disposal to meet the needs that we face, it still does not substitute the real thing of being in the presence of other believers in Christ.
I am struck by Paul’s words of care and affection for the congregation in Philippi, even as he is separated by many miles and the realities of his situation. The people of Philippi are busy going about their lives as usual, but Paul finds himself under house arrest in Rome, awaiting trial before Caesar. Yet, we see the very heart of the apostle, who even at this time thinks less of himself and more of others. We hear it in his very heartfelt prayers for the people of Philippi. He remembers them regularly. He prays for them continually. He yearns for an opportunity to be with them. He speaks words of blessing over them, as he asks God to pour over them wisdom, discernment, grace, and righteousness.
I can’t help but dwell upon these words, as I think over my personal experience of these past few days. It has been strange going about my daily work. School classrooms and hallways which so often are full of life have been quieted now. A sanctuary that has so often been experienced as a place of warmth and welcome seems so still and so silent at the moment. There is nothing that will press that point home more than trying to preach a sermon to an empty church. It’s just not the same.
But isn’t that what we all are experiencing? Things just aren’t the same, even if we are trying to keep things as “normal” as possible. Every one of us has experienced the disconnect of these days. We have felt the oddity of being separated from our normal interaction with others. We have felt the unease and uncertainties of what will be next. God has created us to be relational people. He has formed us to be a connected and united body of believers. Yet, how do we respond when we are met with these challenging circumstances? Too often when we experience loss or stress or grief or change, we try to fill the silence. We try to numb the pain. We try to distract ourselves with whatever can fill our time at the moment. Today, however, I want to invite you to take some time for silence and reflection. I invite you to pause in the midst of the uneasy moments and ask, “What is God teaching me in this situation? How is God desiring me to grow in a way that I would not otherwise have had the chance to without this experience?”
We are living in what some have called the confusing “in-between.” We cannot, however, rush past these moments otherwise we will miss the opportunity for God to teach us something. We cannot rush ourselves through moments of fear, worry, grief, or stress. We do not unnecessarily dwell in them forever, but we need to get in touch with them. God is still at work. God is still in control. God is still providing for our care. So, what is He inviting us to learn, even from all of this? I don’t know how you might answer that question, but as for me as I stop to reflect, I think of the importance of all those little interactions that I take for granted. I think of all the people that mean so much to me, but I don’t always take the time to tell them. I think of the partnership in the gospel that we have in Jesus Christ and the unique way that God is preparing us to serve others. And above all I think of each of you and I pray that even in this time of uncertainty that “your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God” (Philippians 1:9-11).
Pastor Kurt Ebert