Today’s Word from Pastor Jim…
One of the great stories in the Bible is found in the 41st Chapter of Genesis. Some 1600 years before the birth of Jesus, Egypt was the most powerful nation in the world. Pharaoh was the undisputed leader of Egypt; he was considered to be godlike. In the story, Pharaoh was confused and anxious about two disturbing dreams that he had experienced while deep in sleep. He was told about a young Hebrew servant who was skilled at interpreting dreams. Pharaoh demanded that the dream interpreter, by the name of Joseph, be summoned to the palace.
In the first of Pharaoh’s dreams, he was standing by the Nile, when out of the river came seven healthy, fat, and beautiful cows. They grazed there in the reed grass. But they were not alone for long, out of the Nile now came seven ugly, emaciated cows. Much to Pharaoh’s distress, the seven ugly cows devoured the healthy cows. Pharaoh awoke in a cold sweat. After finally falling back to sleep he dreamed another similar nightmare. This time he saw seven plump ears of grain growing on a single stalk. It was a beautiful thing, but soon seven thin and blighted stalks grew up and swallowed up the healthy grain in a single bite. Pharaoh again woke and was unable to sleep.
Joseph informed Pharaoh that the dreams were, in fact, one and the same. They warned of a coming cycle of crops. The Kingdom of Egypt was about to experience seven years of bumper crops, but the years of bumper crops would be followed by seven years of famine. The words foretold of plenty and want. Joseph formed a plan that would set aside a share of each bumper crop for storage. The provisions that had been saved would then see Egypt through seven long years of crop failure. Joseph’s plan would save the people of Egypt from untold suffering, as together they were preparing for the coming lean years.
Two years ago, the people of TLC set out on a campaign called Vision 2020. The idea was to place our church in the strongest possible position, and to be ready on day one of 2020. We had no idea what was coming in 2020, no dreams inspired us to prepare. But prepare we did. We paved a deteriorating parking lot and took care of deferred maintenance at our community building. We put on a new roof, painted, and replaced carpet. We gave some $14,000 to local foodbanks, and we sent $93,000 off to help the people of Bihar, India.
In addition, we redesigned our playground and made critical technology upgrades. We had no idea what 2020 would bring, but it is clear now that without those technology upgrades and the playground redesign we would not have been able to face this pandemic as seamlessly as we have. Thanks be to God.
The story of Joseph has cast a shadow across my life and ministry. I have never considered it to be a sign of weakness, or a lack of faith, to prepare for an uncertain future. The opposite is true, I think that it is reckless to disregard the future and it is incumbent upon us to lay down a solid foundation that will serve us in the, perhaps stormy, years that wait for us.
Thanks to your generous support, and to the diligent and faithful planning of our leadership, we were able to weather the pandemic storm of 2020. We were able to keep our staff intact, the Preschool continued to serve children and families, our online presence increased, and we now touch most of the states in our country and other parts of the world. The foundation was there to support God’s work. In the midst of a pandemic, we were able to look outside of our church to the needs of others. In 2020, your church gave away $822 a day, every day, 365 days this year, to support our local foodbanks, world hunger, students, families in crisis, war torn countries, and those devastated by natural disaster.
As we move mercifully into 2021, we hope that the worst is over, that fat cows and plump grains of wheat will once again return. But regardless of what waits for us in the coming year, we will face it together, we will care for the most vulnerable, and we will continue to build a strong foundation that Trinity Lutheran Church might continue to serve long after we are gone.
Blessed to be a Blessing. We are never blessed in isolation.
Closer to the end than the beginning!