My grandmother Judy had a saying, “Well, here you grow again!” This was typically announced at the conclusion of some hour-plus conversation about how someone in our family (you can guess who) was experiencing a profound change in his/her life that was complex and unsettling. Sometimes this change was exciting and hopeful, but it was always twinged with a bit of fear. Most changes to our normal way of life, the familiar rhythm of “how to”, can rattle us to our core. We yearn to look to the future with hope but are also not sure if we are willing to let go of the past. Because at least with the past, we know what to expect.
FPC friends, 2020 has indeed been a year of where we can say, “Well, here we grow again!” Be it the months of sheltering in place, phases of moving about in our city with masks that hide our smiles and frowns, to the fears that we are too close in proximity to one another inside buildings, even reluctance and refraining from embracing our loved ones. The latter being so countercultural to who we are as Christians. As God’s people of God in our faith community, we have also had to shift our understanding of how to worship, study, service and be in care for one another, how to continue to be “together” as the body of Christ while physically apart.
I, for one, am sinfully proud to be one of your pastors. Over the last nine months, I have watched our members step up and reach out to one another. We have leaned into saying yes as we have tried new and hard things, like virtual celebrations of our seniors, an old fashion pen pal program to connect with “essential workers” and homebound members. We have mastered the art of “Zooming” to attend small groups and Bible studies. We have developed a fuller experience via Live Stream as we gather to worship, to vote on important issues, even lay virtual hands on our newly elected elders. Thanks be to God we live in a technological age where we can witness these elders gathered in their homes with families to receive the communal blessing as they begin leading us in this unprecedented time.
Our members and staff have been visionary and creative in how to celebrate liturgical seasons with our beloved Easter cross, our Pentecost picnic, and share the sacrament of communion through drive-by pick-ups and deliveries. And when we could have shut down our community’s call to feed the hungry through Hot Dish & Hope, or delivering canned goods for Urban Ministry, allowing fear to paralyze us. Instead, we stepped it up and have exceeded our goal for pounds of food to share.
Author Stephen Covey writes, “Be open to change and growth. Self-growth is tender; it’s holy ground. But there is no greater investment.”
Growth is tender, and it is indeed holy ground.
God tells us through the prophet Isaiah, “Do not remember the former things, or consider the things of old. I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?”
Yes, Lord, we are perceiving it! With triune God as our compass for how we have adapted in the year 2020, we have shown that we are able to relinquish control and allow God to guide us.
And, yes, change can be scary. But change with open hearts and minds centered in the new and radical things that God is about to do are new ways God is changing us from the inside out.
Just like the seasons are changing, just as our faith community is daily adapting to what is now the “new normal” during the pandemic, you and I are called to change in ALL arenas of our lives. We are called to relinquish expectations we have placed on what is supposed to happen and to pray to be filled with God’s Holy Spirit and God’s vision for our future.
As we prepare for the holiday seasons of Thanksgiving, Advent and Christmas Day, I encourage you to look back over these past nine months. Look back and see where the hand of God was guiding you in new and different ways. What may have felt overwhelming at first now gives way to the hindsight and truth in Isaiah’s prophetic words, God is indeed “doing a new thing in us.” May we give true thanks in this fall and winter season of new ways God is deepening as we grow again!