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Category Archives: Joy

“God Sightings!”

(a sermon for May 10, 2020, the 5th Sunday of Easter, based on Psalm 139 and John 16:33)

I think you’ll agree with me when I say that there are times and places and situations when it’s very easy to “see” God.

I remember as a youth taking my guitar with me as I hiked up through the woods to a grassy hillside overlooking one of the great panoramic views of northern Maine, and sitting down to sing and to dream and to pray… all the while absolutely certain that God was right there beside me!

I remember holding each of our three children in my arms for the first time and being filled not only with the wonder of such miracle as a new life but with this palpable sense of God’s joy and pleasure in it!

I remember moments such as when Lisa and I were married… when I was ordained to the Christian ministry… countless times of worship when a word or a song or a prayer awakened in me a clear awareness that I was never alone but in the presence of a Spirit that makes everything you do not only worth it, but wonderful… all the random moments of life when all at once you know, as the poet Robert Browning famously wrote, that “God’s in his heaven [and] all’s right with the world!” 

Yes, sometimes it’s easy to “see” God… or at least to know he’s there.

But then, and I think you’ll also agree with me here, that there are other times that you’ve really got to be observant to see God… and sometimes you’ve also got to make an effort to look around!

I’m remembering a day back in seminary when my fellow students and I were all feeling rather stressed because it was toward the end of the semester when exams were looming and papers were due.  That day, at the end of one of our classes our “Hungarian Hebrew” Old Testament professor Dr. Steven Szikszai suddenly raises up his hand to bless us and then, quoting from John’s gospel, says, “In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” (NKJV) Now, I have to confess that at the time, being a very serious and studious seminarian (!), I wondered what that was all about: I mean, all we’re talking about here is surviving to the end of the semester, right, and about getting our work done; we might be feeling burnt out at the moment but it certainly doesn’t rise to the level of tribulation, or the need for any kind of divine intervention!  This is just something I have to get through on my own; no need for the Lord to come and “cheer me” in the midst of it!

But of course, all these years later I’ve come to realize that Dr. Szikszai had the right idea and that I – in my limited world view and burgeoning faith – had actually succumbed to the false notion that God is too big, too mighty, too… eternal… for my small stresses and little problems!  And friends, that’s completely wrong! I’ve discovered that mistake – what I sometimes refer to as “bad theology” – time and time again in my life:  in moments of grief and profound sadness; times when I’ve felt totally inadequate to whatever task or responsibility that’s before me; situations going on with the people I know and love that I’d love to be able to fix but can’t; problems in life and in the world that are completely out of my control; times like, well, right now with this ongoing pandemic.  For our God is big and mighty and eternal, but God is also as close to us as our very breathing, and cares about what might seem to us, at least, to be the smallest of concerns but which is, in fact, of utmost importance to God; and we know this is true because God came to us in person of Jesus Christ who has, as we confess in faith, “has shared our common lot,” and knows how we live, how we feel and what we suffer.  As the psalmist sang forth in our text for today, “O LORD, you have searched me and known me.  You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from far away. You search out my path and my lying down, and are acquainted with all my ways.”   

What that means for the living of these days, friends, is whether this time of pandemic has touched our lives in ways that we fear our ourselves for those we love or if right now we’re simply trying to figure out how to do another week of staying safe (and sane!) at home, the good news is that the God who has overcome the world in Jesus Christ is with us, right here and right now, bringing us his cheer in the midst of our strange and uncertain days.  Even today, friends, it is possible to “see” God… but as I said before, we have to be observant to discern, as it were, some “God Sightings” in our midst.

And that, I’m pleased to report, is what you all have been doing!

A few weeks ago I asked if you would send to me some of your “God Sightings” in the midst of the days of quarantine; and your response, the stories that you’ve shared, were not only inspired but inspiring!

For instance, from Joyce: “Today I was out in my front yard filling the bird feeders.  A little girl I didn’t know stopped her bike to walk up my driveway.  She handed me an envelope and said, “this is your happy mail!”  Off she went to each neighbor’s mailbox to deliver Happy Mail.  Even before I opened it I was happy!  What a special delivery from a special girl.  These are difficult times we are living in, however, it is creating special moments like this!  For that I am grateful!!!”

And from Julie: “Dave and I have visited with Baby Tony and his parents several times now, through the glass door! A little odd but, necessary in these times! What a funny and happy lil guy! He laughs and snorts and just loves putting his hands up to ours on the door! He recognized us and our voices and smiles. (We do FaceTime visits with Aaron and Tony too!) As we were driving away we felt so happy to have had the opportunity to visit, even without hugs! We will have to work on blowing kisses!”  

Finding safe and creative ways to be with family definitely inspires a God Sighting:  from Gail, “This past Sunday, we unexpectedly went to see and surprise our son Carl and grandkids… Nicole, our daughter in law was in on it!! It was the best day ever … and I’m sure God approved!”

From Joyce again, who tells of visiting with her children at the appropriate social distance, and how one daughter came “to cut her Dad’s unruly hair” because “the barbershop is not an option right now.” She wrote about what a “sweet, caring moment it was.  Reminiscent of the biblical washing of feet.  A moment that ONLY occurred due to a Pandemic.”

It’s a time for trying new things… and for returning to old ones:  as Lisa writes, “One of my biggest blessings through all of this is that have more time to minister with my husband.  We used to be able to do so much together but getting older and hold down a full-time job has kept me from doing what I so enjoy… being a partner and working alongside Rev. Lowry in ministry.  Sundays and Wednesdays have become my happiest days now that I can help through the tough days of Covid-19.”  (And, trust me here, friends… I’m the one who’s blessed!)

And Susan wrote of her “adventures in babysitting:” over the past few weeks:

“I have been babysitting Aly, a seven year old, since the closing of schools due to the coronavirus; her parents are essential employees.  One sunny afternoon while walking, Aly was skipping along the sidewalk and singing away.  All of a sudden she stopped, looked back at me and said “Susan my heart is so full of joy today.”  She then turned back and began skipping and singing again.   One afternoon while outside, Aly picked up a lightning bug.  She ran to me, with her hands cupped and said “Now don’t be afraid” as she opened up her hands for me to inspect the insect.  “Lightning bugs are special too.”  Then she lifted her hands up and let it fly away.  

The wooded area behind my driveway is home to wildlife, mainly chipmunks, squirrels and birds.  Each morning breakfast is served consisting of sunflower seeds and peanuts.  Aly carefully scatters the goodies around wanting all to enjoy in the feast.  As she giggles in delight she replies “I hope they don’t tell all their cousins because if everyone comes to eat we won’t have enough food.”  

I am grateful for the gift of seeing life through the eyes of a child.  Aly reminds me daily that the simplest pleasures in life are worth noticing and celebrating.  Praise God for the little ones amongst our midst.”

And you know, the thing about this time is that for so many of us, these moments of joy and laughter are mingled with sadness over having to be in isolation, about missing family members and friends, about not being able to be together at church, and especially our concern for the people we love around Covid-19.  We’ve heard from some of you how worried you are about the spouses, and sons and daughters and grandchildren who have to be out there working, or who are at risk for catching this virus because of other health concerns… for some of you, friends, it’s very hard to see where God is in the midst of all this.

But even those moments – especially in those moments – God is there.  For instance, Ann tells us about receiving some home cooked meals from a friend and fellow church member – the lasagna was particularly good she said (!) – and how much that meant to her because she doesn’t have family around and things can get rather lonely.  And Reba writes us that even though, like for so many of us, she feels like she’s swimming in worry, the things that make her happy in the midst of these worries are “her daffodils and tulips [that] came up and opened along her walkway,” and how a quick call from a friend brightens the day.  And Deb, who’s actually been allowed to visit with her husband Bob (who’s suffering with Alzheimer’s Disease), writes that he “was having some really alert moments on Monday and was actually out of bed! I was sitting right across from him just chatting as always when he opened his eyes, wide! Those beautiful blue eyes. He smiled a sweet “old Bob” smile and said “Deborah!!”  That’s going to stay with me for a looong time!”

Friends, all through these past couple of months, we’ve been hearing about “not so random acts of kindness:” encouraging letters and cards to folks who are “home alone” and may or may not be connected to the internet; “goodie bags” of treats and inspiration delivered “incognito” to neighbors and friends (and, I might add, their pets) all throughout town;  there’s even been an “egg fairy” bringing fresh eggs to the parsonage! 

These are the things that bring us joy, certainly, but these are things that bring us hope as well:  as Joyce wrote us, “Earlier this week I went out to our composter along the woods in the backyard.  I had vegetable peelings and 2 very sad and slimy cucumbers to deposit.  As I was throwing them into the composter something bright and yellow caught my eye.  There on the ground in harsh soil, poking up through dead leaves was a mini daffodil plant!!!!  A gift to me last year that I had carelessly tossed out after it bloomed.  What a little survivor!!!  So I found a pot, spade and potting soil to enjoy this gift again!  I had to think it was a sign and reminder that even through dark times we can survive and thrive again!!  It made me smile and filled me with hope!”

And then, as conclusive proof that God’s at work, here’s what Carol Ann wrote us: “Here’s something that will work:  Two FREE prescriptions GOD gave to mankind to keep males+females well:  Laughter AND Tears! They help both the sick get well and keeps the well well, all the while spreading the Love of The Creator to all Creation!”

“Believe it or not,” she goes on, “trees thrive on what we breath out as we laugh out loud! So… take in a deep breath and double over with a big belly laugh!  Then, let it all out! You’ll make every GOD-made tree happy and well, just like you!”

That pretty much says it all, beloved:  God is here… right here, right now, right in the midst of the 2020 Global Pandemic, right here among us as God’s own people, right here as East Congregational United Church of Christ… bringing us in this season of anxiety and fear HIS hope, and strength, all peace in believing, and… his cheer.  And what better blessing can we have: “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”

Thanks be to God in Jesus Christ our Risen Lord and Savior.

Amen and AMEN!

© 2020  Rev. Michael W. Lowry.  All Rights Reserved.

 

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Unabashedly Joyful

(a sermon for April 26, 2020, the 3rd Sunday of Easter, based on Philippians 4:4-7)

In pondering our text for this morning, and in my continuing quest these days to unearth some inspirational music from what might be referred to as “the grooveyard of forgotten favorites,” here’s one song that’s been running through my head all week:

“Here’s a little song I wrote,
You might want to sing it note for note
>Don’t worry – be happy!
For when you worry your face will frown,
And that will bring everybody down,
So don’t worry – be happy!
(Don’t worry, be happy now)”

— “Don’t Worry, Be Happy,” by Bobby McFerrin

Now, speaking pastorally, if there’s going to be one song on our lips after this morning’s service it probably ought to be “Joyful, Joyful We Adore Thee,” but I do have to confess that “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” might just fill the bill at a time like this!  Because I dare say what we all need a whole lot of right now is joy; and given that for most of us joy is intermingled with feelings of happiness, one of the best ways to bring that forth is to sing it out!  Because to quote another forgotten favorite, “if you’re happy and you know it… then your face (and your voice!) will surely show it,” and so not only does that serve to inspire joy in those around you, it also becomes an affirmation of our faith and an act of praise.  And isn’t that, after all, what Paul is getting at in our text for this morning: “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice.  Let your gentleness be known to everyone.  The Lord is near.” 

Of course, in all fairness, I suspect that when Paul speaks of rejoicing, he’s talking about something much deeper than to simply not worry and be happy!  What Paul is talking about here in his epistle to the Philippians is about real and unrestrained rejoicing: the kind of joy that lifts us up from the place where we are; the kind of joy that sets the standard for everything else in life, the kind of joy that comes in having ones heart and mind wholly guarded in Christ Jesus.  What we’re talking about here is the kind of joy that exists at the very core of our Christian faith and what ought to serve as the hallmark of our lives as followers and disciples of our Risen Savior.   It is joy unabashed and it is joy unrelenting; and therein lies not only its power and its great importance for our lives… but also its challenge.

And I suspect you know why!  I mean, especially right now: how do you speak of unrestrained joy in an age of pandemic?  How do you tell someone to rejoice who has had to suffer through the effects of the Covid-19 Virus, or worse, who has lost someone to that disease?  What are we supposed to say to all those people whose lives and livelihoods have been totally upended over these past few weeks, with no real resolution in sight? How do you think they’re going to respond to Paul’s exhortation to rejoice in the Lord always?  Quite frankly, I suspect they’d be apt to think it shallow at best and condescending at worst: your life is falling apart?  “Again, I say rejoice!”

 In that context, an unrestrained and unrelenting joy doesn’t seem all that realistic or reassuring, does it?  And yet, in this age as in every age that has come before, that’s exactly what you and I are being called to bring forth in faith! 

So… what are we to do about this? How do we reconcile this call to be “unabashedly joyful” with all the real-world difficulties and struggles that we face?  Can we really “rejoice always,” or not?  Was Paul simply naïve and blind to what was really going on, or when he tells the Philippians and us to “rejoice,” does he have something else on his mind?

Perhaps part of the answer lies with Paul himself.  After all, here was a man whose entire ministry in Christ was marked by worldly persecution and ridicule; who was himself driven out of several towns and cities (often under the cover of darkness), and through the course of his life was also shipwrecked, imprisoned, beaten, and exposed to death, danger, hunger, thirst, fatigue and cold, all for the sake of the Gospel!  At the time of this letter to the church at Philippi, it’s late in his life; Paul’s in prison again, this time under guard of the Imperial capital of Rome, and expecting at any moment that judgment will be rendered and he’ll be executed.  And as if that weren’t bad enough, it turns out that the Philippian church is full of problems: they are few in number; they’re filled with fear and doubt about the future, persecuted by everyone in the city; and what’s more, there’s in-fighting going on at just about every level of the church.

It was enough to make any of us throw our hands in the air and give up trying.  And yet, here’s Paul – who remember, is getting old and feeble and at a point where a bit of discouragement would be understandable – nonetheless saying, boldly and without hesitation, “Rejoice in the Lord always.  Again, I will say it:  Rejoice!”  In fact, Paul says this over and over again – sixteen times in only four chapters of this epistle (!) – and he can do it because this isn’t rejoicing merely for the sake of feeling happy, but because of the one in whom he rejoices.  Rejoice in the Lord, Paul says.  Rejoice in the Lord always!

It turns out that there are two basic types of joy: external joy, the kind that comes and goes with whatever is happening in our lives, and which is wonderful, but is finite and can be easily be displaced or destroyed at a moment of conflict or struggle; and internal joy, the kind of joy that comes from within.  When Paul talks about joy, he means the internal joy that the Lord himself places within us. The great theologian Karl Barth said it well when he wrote that the joy of which Paul speaks is “a defiant ‘nonetheless,’” which draws strength from the gospel story and “from laying one’s deepest concerns before God with thanksgiving.”  This is a deep joy that takes root even in darkness; joy that has its source in God’s great presence and God’s hope for whatever the future may hold.

To put it even more simply, it’s not so much rejoicing because of all the things that have happened to us in life; in fact, very often we rejoice in spite of all that has happened to us, and that’s because we look first to Jesus Christ and what he has done for us, and in us, and to us.  Our joy is to be “in the Lord,” and because of this, you and I can rejoice in all circumstances, even those that are difficult and painful and involve suffering; not because of what it is we’re going through, mind you, but because of the grace of the Lord; the hope, strength, love and understanding we’re given to see it through, no matter what!

A few years ago, Lisa and I were invited with some others to the home of a Jewish rabbi, to share in a Shabbat meal, that is, a Sabbath meal; that night we did everything kosher, the food and the liturgy, and it was wonderful.  Having studied some Hebrew in seminary, it was nice to hear the biblical prayers spoken in their original language; all the traditions that go along with eating in a Jewish household are rich and meaningful, and the music – yes, we all had to sing in Hebrew, folks (!) – was fun and very, very joyful!  And how do I know this?  Because most of the songs we learned to sing that night had a chorus that the Rabbi promised that even we Gentiles could sing: “Di, di, duh, duh, di, di!”   I could do that!

Actually, one of the songs we sang that night I’ve never forgotten; it’s called “Dayenu,” and it’s a song for Passover.  I would not presume to sing that one here today, but suffice to say that the lyrics are a long enumeration of all of God’s blessings to his chosen people, but with a twist: with every verse, we sang about what would have been had God not given one of those blessings!  “Had he brought us out of Egypt, and not fed us in the desert, but brought us out of Egypt, well, then, Dayenu,” which in Hebrew means, “for that alone we would have been grateful.”  It’s a fun song to sing, and what it reminds us is that no matter the challenges we face in the present moment, we still have this relationship with a God who is present and powerful and moving in and through our lives in ways that we can’t even begin to measure or fully understand. 

When we have that, friends; even when we can only perceive it as though it were the size of a mustard seed; well, that’s when we learn to “not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let [our] requests be known to God,” truly knowing that peace which passes our human understanding… and rejoice.

I know… six weeks and counting in this time of quarantine and it’s all too tempting to let ourselves become sad and angry and embittered over what life and this world has “done” to us.  But it is faith in the wisdom, care and perfect mercy of God that strengthens us to transcend these difficulties of life so that we might know life’s real joy, which comes to us in Christ.  I’ve quoted a lot of songs today, but maybe the one we really ought to take to heart is the one about that “joy, joy, joy, joy, down in our hearts to stay.”  Because when others see such unabashed joy in us, they – and our world – cannot help but be the better for it.

Thanks be to God!

AMEN and AMEN!

© 2020  Rev. Michael W. Lowry.  All Rights Reserved.

 
 

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The Way… of Faithful Giving

Opening Scene from “Chariots of Fire,” 1981

(a sermon for October 20, 2019, the 19th Sunday after Pentecost; third in a series, based on 2 Corinthians 9:6-15)

It’s a wonderful scene from one of the great films of the 1980’s: Chariots of Fire, and it still ranks among my all-time favorites.  Now, if you’ve seen this movie (and if you haven’t, why not?), you know that this was the true story of two runners competing in the 1924 Olympics in Paris, one of whom was a Scottish missionary by the name of Eric Liddell.  And the scene in question depicts Liddell trying in vain to explain to his sister Jennie why he had decided to put off a Missionary call to China so that first he could compete in those Olympic Games.  “Jennie,” he says. “You’ve got to understand… I believe that God made me for a purpose… for China.  But he also made me fast… and when I run I feel his pleasure.”

It’s just this little moment in the film, but I think the reason I love it so much is that though I’ll never, ever be confused with someone who is any kind of runner, much less one of Olympic-caliber, nonetheless I understand exactly what Liddell was talking about there, and moreover, I know that  feeling!  I’ve felt it, for instance, in music – many times in singing or playing the guitar – moments when by some miracle of grace everything just goes right; when the melodies and harmonies all come together just as they should and the song, or the hymn or the anthem – whatever the music happens to be at that moment – is, as musicians like to say, “in the pocket.” And let me just say here that there are also times – quite often, in fact – that I feel it in our times of worship together: sometimes, it’ll be there in the music we share; it can also be felt in our laughter, our fellowship and the occasional unpredictability of this time we spend together every Sunday morning; it’s certainly been there in our moments of prayerfulness; and sometimes – not always, mind you, but sometimes – I even feel it when I’m standing at this pulpit preaching the sermon for the day.

And understand, I’m not talking here about everything going perfectly, or even according to plan – trust me here, sometimes the best moments we share as a congregation are the ones that no one saw coming, including your pastor (!) – what I’m referring to here (and I suspect you know what I’m talking about here) are the moments when everything connects; when it’s clear from everything that’s happening that the Holy Spirit is moving in and through this place and its people; when there’s joy that’s palpable or, for that matter,  when  grief and sorrow is mutually borne.  It’s in such moments that yes, we do feel God’s pleasure in it, and in us.  In fact, I would go so far as to suggest to you that this is maybe the primary reason we’ve come to worship and ultimately, what we get out of coming here (actually echoing something we talked about here a couple of weeks ago): to faithfully give the best of ourselves unto God so that we might feel God’s pleasure in what we do.  And to quote Eric Liddell (or at least, as he’s quoted in the movie), “to give it up would be to hold [God] in contempt,” but “to win is to honor him.”

And who are we, I ask you this morning, to deny God’s pleasure?

All of this brings us to our text for this morning, in which Paul is exhorting the Gentile Christians in Corinth to contribute to an offering to benefit the poor Jewish Christians in Jerusalem.  First off, let’s be honest about this particular passage of Paul’s epistle; there’s no disguising the fact that this is a financial appeal, and a pretty effective one at that! Not only does Paul emphasize the spiritual rewards for an abundant response (“For the rendering of this ministry not only supplies the needs of the saints but also overflows with many thanksgivings to God”), while also reminding them that since they’ve been provided with every blessing in abundance, they might also “share abundantly in every good work,”  Paul also manages to, shall we say, “play the guilt card” in mentioning Macedonian Christians (to whom, Paul makes a point of saying, “I’ve been bragging about you.”), suggesting that “if some Macedonians come with me and find that you are not ready” – that is, if you aren’t ready with an offering, “we’d all be pretty red-faced – you and us – for acting so sure of ourselves.” [The Message]  See what I mean?  It’s a stewardship message, basically with no hold barred; and it’s no wonder that we preachers return to this particular passage on days… well, days just like this one (did I happen to mention that next week is Stewardship Sunday here at East Church?).

But all that said, friends, we need to understand that there’s much more going on in this passage than merely a pitch for the benevolent support of Jerusalem; in fact, in just a few short verses of scripture Paul lays out for us “the way” of faithful giving, and whether it involves our time, talent, treasure or all of life itself, it all really comes down to those very familiar words, “God loves a cheerful giver.”  Now, there’s a whole lot that’s interesting about this verse for me, but just about at the top of the list is the fact that the word translated at “cheerful” is from the original Greek word, hilaron, which is also where we get our word “hilarious.”  So this verse could well be translated as “God loves a hilarious giver;” which, at least in our 21st century parlance, sort of suggests a lack of seriousness on the part of the giver (sort of creates an image of someone running through the sanctuary throwing money in the air while laughing maniacally, doesn’t it; not exactly the wisest approach to stewardship!).  No, in this instance, that word hilaron has to do with delight, as in (and this is how The Message translates it, and very well, I might add), “God loves it when the giver delights in the giving.”  And that’s exactly what’s at the heart of the way of faithful giving: delight!  When you and I give of ourselves delightfully – that is, when we find our joy in that giving – we will most certainly feel God’s pleasure in it.

I hasten to add, however, that Paul is not suggesting any kind sort of false piety here or fake generosity; and he’s certainly not demanding, as a parent might ask of a reluctant child, that we “do it with a smile on our face.”  No; that’s the other message of Paul’s stewardship letter to the Corinthians: that each one “must give as [he or she] has made up [his] mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion.”  The act and intent of giving, you see, always has to be from the heart.  And that’s also borne out in the original Greek of this text: the word used for “decide” or to “make up one’s mind” is actually karia, which means heart and yes, why it’s referred to in a hospital as a “cardiac” unit.  In other words, the true way of giving is not meant to be sorrowful, or forced, or born of necessity, but should be that action of a truly delighted believer; the giving itself ought to be a sustained and joyful response to every blessing that God gives in abundance.

Now, does this mean that if you’re not feeling happy or delighted in giving you ought to give it up? I say this as a preacher of God’s word, but also as a church pastor: Perish the thought!  In the words of a church sign I saw some years ago, “God loves a cheerful giver, but God accepts from a grouch!”  Make no mistake; as persons and a people of faith, giving, in whatever form it takes, is part of our spiritual DNA.  To quote John Calvin here, “For we are not born for ourselves merely, so a Christian… ought neither to live to himself, nor lay out what he has, merely for his own use.”  In other words, for the Christian giving is essential, but the motivation for that giving is… everything.  The right motivation for giving, you see, is what brings us joy, it is what fulfills purpose, it serves as a catalyst for a true generosity of spirit, it’s what creates community and it is what fuels ministries of love and peace in Jesus’ name.  And it’s a blessing… one that when extended ends up blessing you in return.

But, says Paul… and this is a very important point… “the one who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and the one who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.”  And I don’t think one needs to be a farmer to understand what that means.

This morning we have had the distinct honor and great joy to dedicate gifts to this church to the glory of God; gifts that were given by a faithful and devoted long-time member of this very congregation, our friend “Effie” Watts. And let me just say once again that while choir robes, tables and chairs, and a clavinova are wonderful, useful and “spirit filled” tools for the ministries of East Church, the true blessing we received came in how it was given to us, in the faithful heart – Effie’s heart – that motivated the giving.  That is a wonderful thing indeed… and I have to say that it’s all served to remind us that in so many ways, who we are as a church – our history, our tradition, our personality (joyous, loving, unique and even at times quirky!), and most especially our shared ministry in the name of Jesus Christ our risen Lord and Savior – all of it has come about as the result of many faithful hearts who have found delight in following Jesus and sowing the seeds of love and faith as they give of themselves to others and to the glory of God, both in this place and out those doors and into the world.  You and I, beloved, we are the recipients of the “surpassing grace of God” that has been given to all the saints, past and present, who have walked the way of faithful giving.

And I’ll tell you something else, in case you haven’t noticed… because of them, and by God’s surpassing grace, we thrive as a congregation here on Mountain Road.  It doesn’t mean it’s all easy and that we don’t have budgetary concerns, because we do; but nonetheless we thrive in this place.  We flourish as God’s people because of YOU, who by that surpassing grace of God give wholly of yourselves with great delight in what God has given you and in joy awaiting what God has yet to do in our midst.

From the bottom of my heart I thank you for that, beloved, and I ask that we all give this matter some thought and prayer as you consider our shared pathway as a church in the coming year.

And as we do, may our “thanks be to God for his indescribable gift.”

Amen and AMEN.

©  2019 Rev. Michael W. Lowry

 

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