Dearest Hope Family,
Friday greetings from the Pastor’s Corner!
For as much disruption, furlough, anxiety, and lull as we are all facing and trying desperately to process well, I have a surprisingly large stack of issues and topics that I need to communicate this afternoon. I’ll try to anchor them to three imperatives that can also provide a compass for directionless and overwhelmed folks like me!
Though re-imagined and retooled, worship remains the most formative pursuit and most pressing call for Hope Church. Please continue to make room for “corporate” worship via the livestream from Hope. This Sunday we are pleased to welcome Rev. Jose Portillo to our pulpit. Jose and his wife Anna (Jim and Janet Page’s daughter and Jenny Linton’s sister) are planting a church in Charlotte in the University City area. I have heard Jose preach at our Presbytery meeting earlier in the year, and I am thrilled for his wider ministry to our church this Sunday. Please, also, take a moment to read more about Vive Charlotte and its vision for reaching and shepherding the diverse community surrounding UNCC in their church profile.
Personal access to the means of grace and regular, set-aside time to pour out your heart to God in prayer are absolutely necessary and essential for peace, health, and hope – and never more so than in this season of crisis and uncertainty. If you are looking for an on-ramp into some sort of devotional life, I urge you to make the book of Psalms your guide. Margaret Ann and I have been working through a psalm a day with a rich commentary as a companion. It has given me language to lament, reminders of God’s covenant love and faithfulness, renewed encouragement to trust God, and ample reasons to sing His praise in the midst of it all.
I came across this helpful tip from a recent article: “Regardless of your faith (and even if you have none), if a deeper living connection is your desire too, may I encourage you to pray a simple prayer? Here’s one: ‘Find me. Amen.’ Or ‘Yes, please.’ Or, ‘I’m dying here. Help me.’ Whatever resonates. And then watch for him. ‘Christ plays in ten thousand places.’ Pay attention.”
While you are praying (or, like me, re-learning to pray), please lift up the elders, deacons, staff, and leadership at Hope as we develop and weigh contingency plans for gathered worship, creative discipleship, preparations to welcome and enfold the many who will return to church or come for the first time when the virus passes and the grief remains, and how to minister the sacraments in such a bizarre time. The Session meets Tuesday evening, and we beg your prayers for wisdom and courage to step forward as Hope Church.
This week marks five Sundays of livestreaming and being quarantined. One day bleeds into another. Productivity and momentum are hard to generate and sustain. The incessant temptation to give into lethargy and numbness seems to always be crouching at the door. The grand plans for making the most of the time and learning/teaching new things or sharpening the sword easily wear thin.
Let me encourage you, because Jesus has been raised from the dead and God is at work in this world, resolve not to waste this time of crisis. Weave in new rhythms. Deepen old grooves. Recover and pursue the longings of your heart to know God and enjoy him.
The name of Jose’s church plant in Charlotte is the Spanish word, Vive. It functions in two senses: Vive means, “He is alive”, and it also is an imperative meaning, “Live!” That’s the exact resolve we can cultivate in this exacting season. Because Jesus is alive, we live!
Remember C.S. Lewis’ advice to those weathering the constant threat of the bombings of the second World War? Substitute the word virus for bomb: “This is the first point to be made, and the first action to be taken is to pull ourselves together. If we are all going to be destroyed by an atomic bomb, let that bomb when it comes find us doing sensible and human things – praying, working, teaching, reading, listening to music, bathing the children, playing tennis, chatting with our friends over a pint and a game of darts – not huddled together like frightened sheep and thinking about bombs. They may break our bodies (a microbe can do that) but they need not dominate our minds.”
Peace of the RIsen Savior,