The Pastor’s Page July 2021

It’s hard to believe that 1 year has passed since our lock- down. As I write this, we have just completed the Vacation Bible School that should have been offered to our families and our community last summer. This year, we gathered without masks. Last summer, we barely saw each other unless it was via a screen or from a (very) safe distance. In many ways, the lost year of 2020 seems very fresh; in other ways, it seems like a distant memory.

Last summer, I recall a woman—not from our church— that had seen me out and about and asked: “Preacher, do you think we’ll ever get back to normal.” I responded to her: “Yes. After all, we did it one- hundred years ago.” She looked at me quizzically. I had to explain to her that lockdowns and masks were part of the great influenza pandemic in 1918. What was then known as the Spanish Flu tore through our land shortly after 1918 and an estimated 675,000 Americans died from it at a time when our national population was less than one-third of what is currently. Strikingly, the memory of that event faded quickly from our corporate consciousness. As one historian noted, “as soon as the dying stopped, the forgetting began.” It was as though we had a case of collective amnesia.

In this month of July, we are called upon to remember. As the end of May called us to remember the fallen who purchased our freedom with the sacrifice of their lives, July calls us to remember our founding as a nation—the land of the free and the home of the brave. We live in a time when we are divided over what our history means. Some want to forget these aspects of our history while others want to deny other aspects. We are called to remember our history not in part but in the whole. There are moments of noble service and sacrifice, and there are others that are scandalous and reprehensible. There are others that are a mixed bag that we cannot sort out.

Still, it is our history. It is filled with characters who fought for freedom while owning slaves. There are civil servants and community heroes who had dark and twisted personal lives. In the pursuit of noble goals, some used questionable means to arrive there. To maintain power, some have excluded and disenfranchised others. While building a land of personal liberty, our national government often supported ruthless dictators over- seas. Still, this mixed bag has brought us freedom and prosperity unparalleled in history.

It’s a lot like our scriptures. Apart from Jesus, no one is portrayed as anything close to perfect in scripture. All characters have their flaws. Paul murdered Christians before becoming one. Peter denied Christ before helping to lead the early Church. Abraham—like many others—created his own path instead of waiting for God’s to open before him. Moses was a reluctant leader with bouts of frustration with his people. And oh those people of God who backslid, idol-worshiped, and contradicted God again and again and again. Still, that mixed bag carried God’s redemptive message to us and ensured its transmission to us even if it was delivered in broken vessels and flawed servants.

The same is true of these days. We need to remember. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, stood on Franklin Field at the University of Pennsylvania in 1936 as he was re-nominated for a second term as his party’s candidate. That day, he remarked, “Philadelphia is a good city in which to write history.” To write history is to remember—the good, the bad, and all that lies in between.

Also, the weight of history falls unevenly upon various generations, and FDR acknowledged as much. In 1936, the nation and the world was not facing a pandemic but there were evil forces threatening to infiltrate the land in another way and threatened global stability. As he accepted his nomination, he brought his thoughts to a resounding conclusion: “To some generations much is given. Of other generations much is expected. This generation of Americans has a rendezvous with destiny.”

I believe that we too have a rendezvous with destiny. The- se are days that call for bold action. As Chris- tians, we have to boldly proclaim the hope that we have within us (I Peter 3:15). We have to humble ourselves to serve our neighbor in need (Matthew 25:31- 46). We have to share our doubts as much as our faith, and show our struggles alongside our convictions. We have to reveal our humanity to our neighbor, which opens the door to sharing the Gospel of Christ with them. People al- ready see enough fake and plastic people in the world. Now, is the time to demonstrate the whole Gospel and our whole lives to others.

Recently, I’ve been calling on you to pray and to pray and to pray some more. Praying is an act of remembrance. In prayer, we remember God’s promises. In prayer, we re- member our calling as children of God but also as His ambassadors (II Corinthians 5:20) as well as to be a priest- hood of all believers (I Peter 2:5). In prayer, we find our rest, but we also receive the strength to go into the world and carry out our mission here on earth. The power of Pentecost—and the preaching, teaching, and service of the disciples in the days that followed—was enabled by the days spent in prayer in Jerusalem (Acts 1:14).

It’s also in prayer where we bring our whole heart before the Lord. We bring petitions as we pray for the needs of individuals, our community, and our world. We bring praises as we celebrate joyful occurrences and things for which we are thankful. We confess our personal sins and our communal sins. Along with this, we lament what breaks our heart and saddens us.

And God hears our prayers. He hears and receives all that we offer Him. As we bring our whole selves, He helps us to make sense of it all. He focuses our story to share that with others. What we tell of ourselves resonates with their story and opens the door for a deeper personal understanding, but also provides the space for the Gospel of Jesus Christ to fall upon their soul like good seed onto good soil.

It’s not always enjoyable to remember the struggles and pain, but that is part of our story that has prepared us for our rendezvous with destiny—our opportunity to share the Gospel of Christ and build His kingdom now and in this place.

With love and faith and service,

Pastor Randall