Now I realize that I am not like the Apostle Paul in this moment. I am not sitting in prison, writing words to his congregation that he might never see again.
Words from Philippians that say:
“3-6 Every time you cross my mind, I break out in exclamations of thanks to God. Each exclamation is a trigger to prayer. I find myself praying for you with a glad heart. I am so pleased that you have continued on in this with us, believing and proclaiming God’s Message, from the day you heard it right up to the present. There has never been the slightest doubt in my mind that the God who started this great work in you would keep at it and bring it to a flourishing finish on the very day Christ Jesus appears.” Philippians 1:3-6 The Message
I am not in prison, but in fact, sitting in my office on this rainy Friday afternoon the week before Thanksgiving and it occurred to me that it has been awhile since I said thank you. In this season of gratitude, I wanted to offer thanks. But I hope you know how thankful I am for this church and for all of you during every season of our lives as we follow Jesus together.
I thank you as a Pastor that I have the privilege of serving with you, hearing your stories, praying with you through times of trial and getting to worship with you in the ups and downs of life. I appreciate being able to see God work in your lives and through the ministries of this church; I feel filled up by God’s grace because of this everyday.
I thank you as a wife that you pray for my husband and his congregation and that you understand the struggle we face as a busy clergy couple, especially on Sundays.
And speaking of Sundays…
I thank you as a mom who love my children well. Who smile when my son comes up midway through the Lord’s Prayer to ask me to open up his goldfish bag. Thank you for loving my crying baby who needs her mother even when I am needed up front to lead worship. Thank you for loving my oldest to allow her to really grow up here and ask questions and dance and sing and be herself.
But thank you mostly as a beloved daughter of God. I feel lucky every day to get to be a part of this church’s ministry and thankful that God called me here three and a half years ago. I think it is easy sometimes to take for granted our blessings and the people that love us well. And I just wanted to share that if I don’t tell you enough, I am thankful for all that you are to me and my family.
And not only that, I can see the hand of God at work in your life. I see spiritual depth and maturity in the way you are wrestling with the hard issues that our culture is forcing us to deal with. I see how you care for your fellow church members and Sunday School friends, I see how you serve outside these walls, and want to make the world a better place. I hear you struggle to know how to follow Jesus and be the church in this post-pandemic time and I am right there with you.
But I leave you with this. Our future is bright and filled with great expectations. Your pastors had a Clergy Day apart with the Bishop this last Tuesday and close to 300 clergy from all over our Florida Conference came out to worship, pray, learn and have communion together. We heard from our leader, Bishop Tom Berlin, and we encouraged each other. I heard these words and I share them with you.
“Joy and Hope are an act of RESISTANCE to despair!”
And I couldn’t agree more. And so, wherever you find yourself this holiday week, I bet you will hear the brokenness, the frustration, and maybe some despair. But I encourage you to counter that with Joy and Hope, because there is much to be thankful for in this life we live and on this journey of faith. And today, I am especially thankful that I see Joy and Hope in each of you!
May this prayer be a blessing for you, today and always.
Almighty God, giver of every good and perfect gift,
teach us to render to you all that we have and all that we are,
that we may praise you, not with our lips only,
but with our whole lives,
turning the duties, the sorrows, and the joys of all our days
into a living sacrifice to you;
through our Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
(THE BOOK OF WORSHIP 1965, ALT.)