Greetings in the name of God who goes with us and will not fail or forsake us!
A God who goes with us and will not fail of forsake us! This is the way Moses described God to his people who were embarking on unfamiliar territory.
God’s people, under the leadership of Moses, had left the slavery of Egypt, had then wandered for 40 years in the wilderness and now were on the brink of the Promised Land. Moses knew this unfamiliar territory was what God’s people needed to enter into and embrace. He also knew that they needed the assurance that God goes with them as they journey toward this new reality of their lives. So he reminds them, 6 Be strong and bold; have no fear or dread of them, because it is the Lord your God who goes with you; he will not fail you or forsake you.” (Deuteronomy 31.6)
We shared this verse of scripture in our first pastoral letter in March. Six months have passed and in many ways the journey in front of us seems just as unfamiliar and uncertain.
The extended March break for our children morphed into summer holidays with the hope that September may take us back to a more familiar September school reopening. That wasn’t to be. As the new school reality for this year continues to unfold in the weeks ahead – a reality that certainly doesn’t feel like “The Promised Land” of school – it is our prayer that students, parents, teachers, teacher assistants, all school support staff, bus drivers, and all involved, know that God goes with us on this journey too! This Covid-19 reality does cause fear and dread but it too will be overcome as we persevere together with God who will not fail us of forsake us.
In March we also hoped that before long we would all be back together in our church building and that “church” would feel familiar and “normal” again. We embraced Zoom church as best we could thinking it was a great short term solution. This too has continued for 6 months and there is no clear end of Zoom church in sight. We will not all be back together with a full church building anytime soon. We are however exploring enhanced Zoom options for both worship and faith formation that are explained in more detail in a church update coming early next week. We are planning that an enhanced Zoom worship option will begin to open up the opportunity for some to gather in the building. Please take time to read the update when it comes.
The story of God’s people preparing to enter the Promised Land, and our current journey through the wilderness of Covid-19, reminds us of the reality of growth and change. If we were hoping we could just wait this one out, and then get back to what we knew as our familiar church experience, it may be time to shift our thinking and revision our hope. Maybe going back to what was is not what we should be waiting and hoping for. Maybe we need to be asking God to help us grow and change. As Moses moved the people toward their new reality so we are invited to move into the new church year of September. While it doesn’t feel like the “Promised Land” of church, and some big challenges are still in front of us, it’s certainly an opportunity for us to grow and change. We have said numerous times through the last 6 months that we continue to be the church even when we are not in our building. And we have demonstrated that we are. And that is good news! And that raises more important questions: How open are we as a church to see more growth and change? How open are we to living into new ways of doing and being church together?
We believe that someday we will all gather again, both outside and inside of our building, as fully embodied people, not just head and shoulders on a screen, or an ear to the phone. God made us for fully embodied relationship with each other. We all need that and God will help us get there again! And we pray sooner than later. But until we get there we can still be rooted together in Christ, we can still grow together in faith, and we can still extend God’s love. And the way we do that now in the midst of pandemic is not to wait it out so we can go back to what was. Rather it seems that we are being invited to live together through this pandemic in creative new ways, so that we come back together having grown, matured and changed as a people of faith. That growth and maturity will be both as individuals and as a church together.
There is a wonderful passage of scripture in Ephesians 4 that gives us much to ponder:
11 Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. 12 Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ. 13 This will continue until we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ.
14 Then we will no longer be immature like children. We won’t be tossed and blown about by every wind of new teaching. We will not be influenced when people try to trick us with lies so clever they sound like the truth. 15 Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church. 16 He makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love.
Note in this passage that God gives us the gifts we need to be equipped and to grow. God gives to each of us responsibility; we all have “special work” to do to help the church to grow and change. And God gives the promise that if we each do our work we will come to maturity, we will become more like Christ and we will be a healthy and growing church full of God’s love! What gifts has God give you to help the church to grow in such a time as this? How open are you to offer those gifts and to participate fully in the work that God wants to do to help East Zorra Mennonite Church to grow?
This Sunday we will conclude our “Trees of the Bible” summer series by looking more closely at the East Zorra tree. Like all trees we are invited to grow, to bear fruit and to become all that God created us to be. Covid-19 does not put all this on hold. It does however invite us, in the midst of a tough reality, to adapt, to change, and to grow. It does invite us to continue to find ways to be Rooted in Christ, to Grow together in Faith and to Extend God’s Love! May God help each of us to do our part so that we continue becoming a “healthy and growing and full of love” church!