EASTER LETTER April 19, 2020 “Seeing Isn’t Always Believing”
Notes from the pastor ~
“Spring has sprung, the grass is ris – I wonder where the flowers is?”
I had a neighbor when I was growing up that was infatuated with Spring. Starting mid-February, you could rely on Chet to step out his front door whenever the mood hit him and holler, “C’mon Spring!” He even put signs in the front yard counting down the days: “18 days until Spring!” “17 days until Spring!” Well, wouldn’t you know it but all that hollering paid off because every year the grass grew and flowers popped up and Spring showed up right on time – just like always. Thanks, Chet. Thanks for the help.
I caught myself looking at the early signs of Spring a few weeks back: the first Robin, daffodils, hyacinths, and then later the riot of color on the trees. And as I wiped the pollen off the windshield of the car, I thought, “This is wonderful – but it’s just not right!” It was a silly thought, I admit. It was silly to think that just because my world has been disrupted, the natural order of the world should somehow shift to accommodate little old me. Silly. For what it’s worth, I happened to hear a radio commentator express the same concern a few days later. He came to the same conclusion as me: God is good and we will get through this. In the meantime, enjoy the season and treasure the moments that will come from living in these unique times.
The question that haunts me, however, is what will we look like as the body of Christ when we come out on the other side of the period of isolation? Will churches be remembered as nothing more than institutions that hunkered down and kept to themselves? Will religious institutions be remembered as a body of do-gooders that didn’t do much good? I think not.
So what can we do? What can we do to show the world that the church can be a healing power in a hurting world?
In a recent article titled Church Is Not “Cancelled,” our conference Stewardship consultant Cesie Delve Scheuermann asks the question, “What are we doing to be church NOW?” Hundreds of signs on hundreds of doors at hundreds of churches tell the same story: “Sorry, we’re closed.” What does this say to a person who is out of work? What does this say to a family that has been hit hard by the effects of wide spread disease? “What are we doing to be church NOW?”
Well, we can start by changing the signs on our front doors. Sure, we need to inform folks that our worship services are suspended. But why not provide a listing of food banks and assistance programs that the church supports? Why not invite folks to visit our web sites and Facebook pages? Offer phone numbers to call? Yes, we can do this. The church may be closed for now, but church is not cancelled. We will get through this. In the meantime, let’s not be shy. Let’s not be afraid to shout from our doors, “C’mon peace! C’mon hope! C’mon Kingdom! C’mon Spring!” Pastor Ken
“Seeing Isn’t Always Believing”
Scripture is a funny thing. If you spend enough time and energy reading scripture, it tends to get personal. The words – the ideas – seem to take on a life of their own. They can get under your skin and sometimes, they can even get on your nerves. Take John’s account of Jesus’ appearance to the disciples after his death. We know the story well, and remember that when Jesus first appeared to his disciples, Thomas was not with them at the time. The disciples told him later what had happened, but no amount of wild-eyed excitement would convince him. “I don’t believe you. It didn’t happen. You guys are nuts.” Thomas was, after all, a practical man. He wasn’t one to accept everything he was told as the gospel truth, and he let them know: “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands, put my finger in the wounds left by the nails….I won’t believe. (vs 25) Like I said, we know the story well. And we also know that from this account Thomas, the Apostle of Jesus Christ, is forever branded as the one who doubted. That’s the part that gets on my nerves. The fact is, any one of the 11 would have reacted the exact same way…. had they not seen with their own eyes.
“I’ve started doubting myself a lot less recently – at least, I think I have.” Hmm, maybe I need to post that on the refrigerator door. The thing is, we are creatures of doubt. We question, we assess; we don’t pop the whole jalapeño in our mouth all at once. But the one piece of the “Doubting Thomas” story that speaks to me today is when Jesus said to the disciples, “Blessed are those who don’t see and yet believe.” That speaks to me and it speaks to us. It speaks to us because it causes us to realize a few things about the one constant in life that makes us tick: our belief; our belief in the unending, undying, and glorious love of Jesus Christ. Does it matter if we are called or chosen or just plain lucky to hold our beliefs? Not really. There’s no questioning the what and the why and the where and the how of our belief – it just is. Thanks be to God, it just is.
When I was a younger man I wandered off to some dark places. But through it all – through the missteps and mistakes – my belief never changed. And because of that core belief in the love of Christ, I came to know God’s saving grace. “Blesses are those who don’t see and yet believe.” You better believe it.
For the next few weeks, I’d like for us to seek the joy of believing. Find that quiet, comfortable place in your heart where God resides and….rest. In the weeks to come, chances are that we will be seeing people at their best and we will be seeing people at their worst. Fear can be powerful motivator, and not always for the good. So as we find ourselves confined to our homes for yet another week, seek the joy of believing. Let’s keep the words of David in our hearts as he said, “Keep me safe, my God, for in you I take refuge…..You are my Lord; apart from you I have no good thing.” We will get through this; but until we do, let’s join believers around the world who invite Christ into their homes and rest assured that his greeting will remain: “Peace be with you.”
Amen & Shalom