Dearest Hope Family,
Friday greetings to you all – that’s right, it is Friday once again!
On behalf of the Session, I extend hearty thanks to all who have participated in our survey. Close to 100 unique submissions from you all have helped us frame our upcoming and ongoing deliberations about the why, when, and how of re-gathering for corporate worship. It is clear that a majority of us are open to and eager for reconvening – of course with the appropriate measures in place. I was especially proud to read of your concerns not merely for return or for safety but more so for love of neighbor – ensuring that those who are at heightened risk, particularly vulnerable, and compromised are cared for well and considered in whatever scenarios we articulate and aspire to. Similarly, I appreciate the many articles and messages you all have commended to me personally, and I have benefited from the wisdom, insight, and intention for charting a clear course they have outlined.
The larger cultural conversations reveal a decided polarity, don’ t they? Those options, from my vantage point, aren’t very appealing! I was reminded recently of a passage from CS Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters about the harm of such polarized options:
“My Dear Wormwood, I had noticed, of course, that the humans were having a lull in their European war – what they naively call “The War!” – and am not surprised that there is a corresponding lull in the patient’s anxieties. Do we want to encourage this, or to keep him worried? Tortured fear and stupid confidence are both desirable states of mind. Our choice between them raises important questions.”
Neither “tortured fear” nor “stupid confidence”, truth be told, are helpful in such crucial conversations.
In the face of confusing uncertainty, humility, patience, and trust are at an absolute premium. Articulating a “hot take” or discovering hidden conspiracy theories promise to relieve the tension of having to wait and live through what is unclear. But such pursuits end up adding to the murkiness and anxiety rather than bringing relief. Waiting is demanding in so many ways. No one likes waiting. No one favors uncertainty. I would imagine that our Lord’s specific directive to “watch and pray” (Matthew 26:41) is not one of his most popular or best heeded! Yet that is what I am commending to our leadership and to our congregation, no matter how against the grain it seems or feels right now. As your Session, we are watching and praying, assessing and preparing, in this agreed upon time of discernment between now and the end of May. Please join us. Watch and pray. Wait and trust with us.
More generally and always applicable, how do we live in times of watching and praying, times of waiting with uncertainty? How do we forge a path ahead when the way is not clear? Thankfully, saints down through the ages have paved a way for us with testimony of God’s providence and goodness as well as with hard-won insight through severe trial and error and ultimate advance. I believe they would tell us that in the midst of watching and praying, we must trust what is clear, known, and true and revisit it regularly. Never a better time to re-anchor to God’s care and grace! Judge and trust what we do not know or understand by what we do know, Who we do know! We often sing, “When darkness veils His lovely face, I rest on his unchanging grace. In every high and stormy gale, my anchor holds within the vale.” Or, “Hold to His hand, God’s unchanging hand!” These hymn writers commend trust even when, especially when, the way ahead is not clear. They tell us that we can actually experience something of God’s solid-rock faithfulness in our confusion.
Lastly, then, re-anchoring to God’s care and grace, trusting what is clear and using that to judge what is not, we take the next right, faithful step in worship and work, in love of God and love of neighbor – “build[ing] our hopes on things eternal, hold[ing] God’s unchanging hand.”
So glad and honored that we get to slog ahead together!
Peace of the Risen, Enthroned Lord Jesus Christ,