“The LIGHT at the End of the Tunnel”
“Looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy set before Him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken His seat at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:2)
People are saying, “We can see the light at the end of the tunnel…”
This is an old phrase used to describe a bad situation that will soon come to an end or a long, arduous task that will soon be completed. Seeing the light at the end of the tunnel means the difficult time is almost finished and seeing that light gives hope to those who are going through it. Those who are unable to see the light at the end of the tunnel feel hopeless.
2020 has been an incredibly difficult year, one like no other. And although we are not out of the woods yet, we can definitely see the light at the end of the tunnel. At the time of writing, two vaccines have been approved by the FDA and are now being rolled out. Those vaccines should be available to all people in the USA by March or April. Thanks be to God! And thanks to those who worked hard to create and distribute these vaccines.
The funny thing about the light at the end of the tunnel is that we do not know what we will find when we step out into that light. Yes, we are grateful to be out of the darkness, the despair and the dreariness of the tunnel, but what will we find in the light? Will we find a prosperous landscape or will we find a desolate wasteland?
Last spring, I did a sermon series based on the usage of the term – “40 Days” – in scripture. The phrase was used to mark major transformational moments in the lives of God’s people. Our English word “quarantine” comes from the Italian quaratina, which literally means 40 days. I hoped to give some purpose to this season of quarantine that we were experiencing.
As we approach a time when that stay-at-home/shelter-in-place order may be lifted and we see the light at the end of the tunnel, I want us to focus on what we will do when we step out of the tunnel. That is why the sermon series in January is called “The Light at the End.”
When we see the light at the end of the tunnel, we are able to press on to complete the task or road set before us. Jesus is our example, “who for the sake of the joy set before Him endured the cross.” (Hebrews 12:2) Scripture is filled with examples of people who endured hardship, persecution, trials, and difficulties. They were able to persevere because of their faith and hope in God.
Although the Presbyterians do not recognize a “Season of Epiphany,” the Sundays between January 6th and Transfiguration Sunday are sometimes called the Season of Epiphany in other traditions. An epiphany is usually a sudden manifestation or perception of the essential nature or meaning of something; an illuminating discovery, realization or disclosure. When we think of an epiphany, we often think of a lightbulb going off above a person who has experienced it.
So the play between illumination and the light at the end of the tunnel is a good one, I think. In January, we’ll look at different characters in the scriptures who experienced incredible turmoil and strife in their lives and how they used that experience to shape their future to the benefit of God’s people. We’ll finish with the annual “State of the Church Address” on January 31st, asking ourselves what God desires of us as we come out from the tunnel and return to ministry and fellowship in our facilities.
Some things are clear. The world will never be the same. We will never “return to normal.” Churches throughout the world will be different. While FPCSA has added an online component to our ministry, I doubt very much that that will be a major emphasis for us moving forward. Just as more businesses are moving to a “local” model, so I believe the church must return to the local, “good neighbor” model of ministry.
Interestingly enough, pastor and former moderator of the Presbyterian Church (USA), who is also a tech geek, Bruce Reyes-Chow, recently wrote: “I predict that most mainline churches will not have any form of digital worship by 2022. It’s not a critique, rather an observation about capacity, energy, and inertia. Digital is A model for worship and needed for a season, but it’s not THE model and not a savior. It’s nuanced and contextual, but at the end of the day, let’s simply be church wherever we gather.”
Another component that we should be prepared for when we first step out into the light is that we may find some of our members are no longer with us. They may have given up on FPCSA. They may have given up on God. Whatever the case, it will be a tough new beginning. But let me say this. I see the rebooting of the church in 2021 as a new beginning. And every time there was a new beginning in scripture, it was marked by tremendous growth. Perhaps small at the beginning but blessed by God in the long run.
I hope you’ll join the live-stream on the FPCSA facebook page on Sundays at 10 a.m. in January as we prepare for the post-COVID world. Let us prepare ourselves for what life and ministry will be like when we return to meeting in person. And let us continually commit ourselves to God, to one another, and to our city.
I remain committed to you in Christ’s love and service,