Today’s Word from Pastor Jim…
I have been at this a long time. I have witnessed dark seasons of war, recession, and terrorism. I have stood at graveside nearly a thousand times, saying goodbye to strangers, family members, church friends and best friends. There have been divorces, suicides, criminal activity, addiction, interventions, self-mutilation, fatal car crashes, painful betrayals, and death bed calls in the middle of the night. Our church has weathered the storms of societal change and political upheaval. We have dealt with the challenging call of Jesus to love our neighbors. We would like to think that our neighbors are a small group of people who look, worship, and think like us; but Jesus keeps reminding us that they are all our neighbors. This realization led us to open our doors, to love each person, no need to judge them or approve of them, no need to protect Jesus.
In the past 35 years, I have seen it all, or so I thought, and then the calendar spun and it came up 2020. This has been a season of unprecedented suffering in our parish. In the past, there has always been a rather consistent and small percentage of our people who have been in crisis. We took turns burying our dead, and comforting those who were in grief. We took turns wallowing through the darkness of divorce, as others held our hands and prayed with us. We took turns in our depression, anxiety, and despair. We took turns being humanly broken, but each Sunday we returned home to hear words of grace and to receive gentle hugs from our community of faith.
In the past 35 years, I have never seen a time of greater pain and suffering than we are experiencing right now. Parents, students, and teachers are at wits end. Essential workers are weary as they put their lives on the line for us each day. Our senior citizens are suffering the effects of being isolated and shut-in. Depression and divorce are at epidemic levels in our parish. The political and pandemic uncertainty weighs heavily on us all. The dying often die alone, and the living are living a life that before 2020 would have been unrecognizable. And we do not gather on Sunday mornings, we don’t share hugs and laughs and coffee, the choir is not singing, the children are not running in the gym, and the weeks of pandemic have slipped into countless months.
If misery loves company, then we should all feel the love. My dear friends in Christ, please know that you are not alone, the anxious thoughts are shared, the financial distress is carried by many, the dark depressive thoughts are not far from any of us. This is a unique time of loss, loneliness, and uncertainty. You are not alone; God has not left you or the world. You are not alone; we are in this together.
Given this realization, I would ask that you be patient with yourself, be patient with the suffering souls you live with, be patient with your anxiety laden neighbors, be patient with essential workers, and be patient with a church staff that longs for your return.
This may be the darkest season of TLC’s 67 years, but if we are patient, the seasons will change, the pandemic will move to the pages of history, and love will win. God is love, and nothing can separate us from the love of God.
One beggar telling another where to find food, that’s me.
Love and patience,