Pastor’s Letter Nov 2020

Pastor’s Letter Nov 2020

“In All Circumstances”

“Always be joyful.  Never stop praying.  Be thankful in all circumstances,

for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5:16ff)

The national news this morning reported that cases of mental health concerns had risen to an alarming rate.  People are feeling isolated, abandoned, alone, uncared for, forgotten, neglected, unloved.  These mental health concerns were across the spectrum of age, with a strong rise in the number of young people affected.  At a time when socializing is an important part of development, young people find themselves confined to their homes and separated from their peers.  For extroverts (no matter the age), this stay-at-home lifestyle is particularly hard; their source of energy has been stripped away!  The morning news also reported that suicide rates are on the rise.

Added to the feelings of isolation are worries about our own physical health and the health of our loved ones, our financial situation or job, our loss of support or services we rely on, or simply watching the news.  We are bombarded with headlines having to do with the pandemic, racial unrest, political division, extreme climate events.  All of these concerns can lead to anxiety, which can then lead to difficulty sleeping, exercising, eating properly, and/or concentrating, which in turn can lead to depression and worsening mental and physical health.

The church is not immune to these concerns.  It’s important for all of us to evaluate our own mental health and to take care of ourselves.  How are you taking care for yourself right now?  If you are feeling alone, please do not hesitate to call me or contact friends.  I encourage you to use zoom, facetime, whatsapp, or some other form of video-conferencing.  There’s something good about seeing another person’s face and reactions.

It’s also important to reach out to others in our church family.  I love it when church members contact me to ask for someone other church member’s phone number, so that they can give that person a call.  For me, that is evidence of God’s love in action: the family of God showing love for one another.

Reaching out to others is one ingredient for improving our own mental health.  Another ingredient is thankfulness.  In the midst of all that is going wrong, are we able to pause for a moment and identify all that is going right?  While it is easy to think about all that we are missing, are we able to see all that we have?

In his letter to the Thessalonians, the Apostle Paul writes, “Be thankful in all circumstances…”  One of my mentors, John Huffman, pointed out that Paul says, “in” not “for” all circumstances.  We do not need to thank God for circumstances that are evil or abusive or unhealthy or destructive.  But we can remain thankful while going through those situations.  And how do we do that?  We identify the blessings in our lives and give thanks for those blessings.  

Even if every earthly thing is stripped away from us, we can thank God for His steadfast love for us, His free gift of salvation through Jesus Christ, His mercy and grace, His Spirit dwelling richly in us, and ultimately, our eternal hope in Him.  Jesus told His followers, “rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” (Lk. 10:20b)  We have much to be thankful for!

That is why, each year as a nation, we celebrate Thanksgiving Day; and we, as a church family, devote the Sunday before Thanksgiving to offer our public words of thanksgiving to our God.  As in all things, 2020 is different; but this tradition will not be another casualty of 2020.  We will simply do things differently.  

If you would like to offer words of thanksgiving to our God in the worship service on Sunday, November 22nd, there are two ways you can do that: 1) you can write something and send it to me directly via email (or snail mail to the church office, if it’s early enough); or, 2) you can write your words of thanksgiving in the comments thread on the Facebook live-stream the morning of the service.  I will do my best to read these offerings of thanksgiving the morning of November 22nd

Parents!  This would be a good exercise for our young people.  Invite your children to write down all that they are thankful for and then send it to me.  If they handwrite something, feel free to photograph it and send it to me via email or text.  I will try to upload it to the thread during the service.

Rather than let our anxieties rule our hearts and minds, let us count our blessings!  As the old song says…

When upon life’s billows you are tempest tossed,

When you are discouraged, thinking all is lost,

Count your many blessings, name them one by one,

And it will surprise you what the Lord hath done.

Count your blessings, name them one by one,

Count your blessings, see what God has done;

Count your blessings, name them one by one,

And it will surprise you what the Lord hath done.

I’m looking forward to celebrating with you all!

In Christ’s love and service,

Pastor Lance