Tuesday, December 15 2020
Christmas is upon us – and this year, more than any other in recent memory for many of us – this Christmas looks and feels a little different. Our celebrations are always different from year to year, but perhaps this year is more different than usual.
Today, our staff will celebrate our annual Christmas lunch together. I will be asking this group of people – for whom I am very thankful and of whom I am very proud – to respond to this one question. What is the one thing they do not want to thank God for this year but know they need to because it has opened the way to experience the love and goodness of God in new ways?
In Paul’s words above, what “tribulations” or “pressures” do they celebrate because of what it has and is producing in them – perseverance, proven character, and hope. But notice the end result is greater than hope, it is the experience of the love of God. As the Passion translation paraphrases it, “And this hope is not a disappointing fantasy, because we can now experience the endless love of God cascading into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who lives in us!”
So let me ask you (and you can ask me), what do I celebrate this year that I do not necessarily feel like celebrating but I know that without it, I would not have had a deeper experience of God’s love for me in Jesus?
Worship: Please join us for worship on Sunday either live or via livestream as we celebrate Jesus as the Prince of Peace. If you are worried about services being crowded, our 8am and 11am services have plenty of room for you to come and join us.
Stewardship: As we close out our stewardship season, if you have not had the opportunity to fill out a pledge card for our 2020-2021 budget. You can access one on the Realm via the “Giving” tab on the left side menu.
May you be healthy and joyful in this Christmas season!
Thursday, December 10 2020
How are you doing? I have probably never asked or been asked this question as often or with as much sincerity as I have these past nine months. I have probably never answered it or had it answered quite as honestly as I have these past nine months. As we walk through Advent in anticipation of Christmas, a valuable spiritual practice would be to ask Jesus to help us answer this question honestly and in a way that helps us grow in His love for us and our love for Him and others.
In what we call the great commandment, Jesus defines the point and purpose of human life in the context of love and relationships – with God and others. Notice the categories He uses - emotional (heart), psychological (soul), mental (will), physical (strength), and social (relationships). Our life with Jesus encompasses each of these categories. Spiritual growth and maturity involve health in each aspect and across the spectrum of these areas. The spiritual dimension is not a compartment of our lives but the whole.
We can use these words as a check-up of sorts. My doctor usually asks me many questions. We can ask Jesus these questions and ask Him to help us answer them in regard to our own lives.
Emotionally – how am I feeling and how are those feelings creating sadness or skepticism?
Psychological – what do I desire and how is that desire creating frustration or fear?
Mentally – what am I thinking about the most and how are these thoughts creating anger or anxiety?
Physically – how does my body feel and how does it affect my moods and my energy level?
Relationally – how am I treating others in my thoughts, words, & actions?
The deepest question centers on my response to God’s love for me. Jesus is less than 36 hours from His crucifixion when He utters these words. His death and resurrection are the demonstrations of God’s love for us. God loves us with all of His heart, soul, mind, and strength in Jesus. The question this poses is: am I trusting or distrusting God’s goodness and love in my life?
After asking these questions, we can spend some time asking Jesus to help us know His love and then to love Him with all we are and to love others as we love ourselves. May we know the deep love of the Father for us in Jesus. May we learn to love what He loves because He loves us so much. May we learn to love how He loves because He loves us so well.
One final note: Thank you so much for your continued support and involvement with WPC during these difficult days. We are so encouraged by attendance at church, engagement with our livestream, involvement in programs, and the faithfulness and generosity you have displayed. As we conclude our stewardship campaign in the coming weeks, we want to thank those who have made pledges for the upcoming year. If you have not done so, would you consider filling out a pledge card either on-line or by sending in one by mail? We understand these are difficult times for many. We begin our budget planning process in the new year. This information helps us to be good and wise stewards of the resources God entrusts to us.
Thursday, December 03 2020
The cry, “How long, O Lord,” can be found several places in the book of Psalms – the hymnbook of ancient Israel. That phrase certainly resonates in me as we move into our 9th month of pandemic. Despite our doors being open for worship and fellowship events happening throughout the fall, the plague has diminished our ability to be together in praise, prayer and partnership. I long for the days when we will be able to joyfully gather without masks and other precautions.
Perhaps you have entertained or been posed the question, “what have I learned during this pandemic?” Many answers come to mind but I am aware that I am unaware of some lessons I have gained – both positive and negative. The encouraging reality is Jesus teaches us some things while we wait that we may not be able to learn any other way. He wastes nothing!
I offer you another question, posed to me by an elder – what 3 things will I never take for granted again? Perhaps you would answer in regard to time, relationships, or community. My list: Jesus, my family, and our church. Jesus taught me a great deal during this time about Himself, me, and life. I am grateful for the soul work He is doing and helping me do. Fortunately, I have not been cut off from my family and have actually enjoyed the time we have gotten to spend together that a normal busy schedule would not have allowed. Finally, our church has risen to the occasion and shown her true colors in some beautiful ways. We have learned the value of worship and how to trust God to not only meet our needs but to give us an abundance from which to share.
As we head into Advent, I want to invite you to consider to returning to “live action” worship. Livestream is a nice option in a pandemic, when we are out of town or someone is sick. However, nothing beats the power of people gathered together in the name of Jesus. Something happens when we are together that cannot happen any other way. We are taking every precaution to make the environment as healthy as possible. For those who have been coming, please continue. For those still uncertain, we hope you will continue to worship with us via livestream and stay connected to us. We need each other!