Pastor’s Ponderings for January

Wait for the LORD; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the LORD!” (Psalm 27:14 NRS)

One thing we, as a society, are not particularly good at, is waiting.

We wait for many different reasons throughout our lifetime. We wait with great expectation for special events such as birthdays, weddings, vacations, and holidays to come to pass, and we wait for simple mundane things like the mail to come or the toast to pop up.

We wait in lines at the supermarket and we wait in traffic jams. We even have special areas in many service industries specifically designated for waiting.  And although we live in an age of microwave ovens and instant messaging, we still grow restless for having to wait.

The year 2020 was a year that truly tested our capacity to wait. We have delayed the gratification of meeting with family members for special occasions. We have reframed from going out to eat, taking vacations, and even getting our hair cut, all in an effort to help control the spread of the coronavirus.

We have even deferred many group events at church and our gathering for worship services to ensure the health and welfare of our worshiping community.

In the Hebrew language of our Old Testament there were a few different Hebrew words that were translated as “waiting,” each with a slightly different meaning, but when it came to waiting on the Lord, the clear emphasis was the need to wait for God’s divine protection and restoration in times of distress.

As people of God, our heritage is one of waiting—although not always patiently—for the Lord to act. The Israelites waited 430 years for God to deliver them from bondage in Egypt. Then they wandered 40 additional years in the wilderness before being brought into the Promised Land.

Later, they waited for centuries for the promised Messiah. Then, after their temple was destroyed in 586 BCE, they were taken captive once more, this time to Babylon, and again they waited 70 years to be set free.

During their time of exile, they reasoned that God could not be confined to a building and that they surely could worship God apart from the sacrifice at the temple. They learned to become people of the book, as their sacred      scripture took on even greater significance. They learned patience and perseverance, if not contentment, and they marked their days with designated times of prayer and individual worship. And most significantly, they never gave up hope as they encouraged and reminded one another that God is faithful. 

This March will mark one year since our last in-person worship, and we are all anxious to be gathering once more in worship and fellowship. I do believe we will soon be back to in-person worship, although for a time it will feel not quite normal, as we will continue to take precautions to keep everyone one safe.                                                                                                      

In this, our time of exile, let us continue to wait on the Lord patiently and actively,  as we pray for and encourage one another. Let us devote ourselves to the study of God’s Holy Word and expand our own vision of God and strengthen our relationship with our Lord. Let us learn the secret of contentment as we trust in God’s provision, protection, and gracious timing.

Finally, let us take encouragement from the ancient words of the Psalmist, “Wait  for the LORD; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the LORD!”

Yours in Christ,

Pastor Bob

Pastor’s Ponderings for December

“Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see.” (Hebrews 11:1 New Living Translation)

I love the season of Advent in the Christian Church. I love the rich blue colors of the paraments, the lighting of the Advent wreath, the joy of seeing the Chrismon tree all lit up, the Sunday School Christmas program, and the general excitement that builds each week and peaks on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

The season of Advent is a time of excitement and preparation as we wait and look forward to celebrating the coming of the Christ child, but also, look forward—with some anxiousness—to Christ coming in glory.

The bible verse above from the New Testament book of Hebrews sums up, for me, not only the season of Advent but what it means to live life as a Christian.

Because of our faith in Christ, we have “confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see.” As Christians we are stewards of hope, a hope that transcends faith and permeates our day to day lives.

This past year has been a particularly difficult time as we have physically distanced ourselves from   family and friends and our church community in an effort to protect ourselves and each other from the coronavirus. The leadership team at St. Mark’s Church continues to prepare for the time when we feel it is safe to gather for worship, with special safety protocols in place. Much like the season of Advent, we prepare with a sense of hope and expectation, and still we wait, knowing the time has not yet come.

Just this past week we had some exciting news as two U.S. pharmaceutical companies announced the development of vaccines that have shown promising results for fighting the coronavirus. During this  difficult time, this too gives us hope that eventually we will return to life as we once knew it. However, now we wait for the vaccine’s final approval for use and its eventual distribution.

Truth be told, we are a people for who waiting does not come easy. This year has tested our patience and there are many activities and celebrations that we have delayed or cancelled entirely. And still some events come that must be recognized and celebrated, even if it must be in a creatively different way. The birth of our Lord is one such event.

So, once more we wait with great anticipation to celebrate the event that changed the world! The birth of our Lord Jesus, the light that shines in the darkness that the darkness cannot overcome!

As we journey together through this season of Advent, a season that teaches us the virtue of waiting in hopeful expectation, let us hold one another in prayer and resolve to keep each other and our community safe. And let us continue to buoy one another up with the Good News that Jesus Christ has come and will come again! As stewards of hope, a hope that does not disappoint, let us wait with confidence for the things we cannot yet see.

Servants together,

Pastor Bob