Pastoral Note – May 5

Dear Yates Family –

I miss you and am praying for you often! Today, for the fifty-second straight day, I had to say three little words I hate to say. Knowing how much I like to talk, you might be surprised that there are times I don’t like to speak.  I think you’ll understand, though, when I tell you that this is the fifty-second consecutive day that I did not like having to say, “I don’t know.”

I usually don’t avoid telling folks the areas of life where I lack the knowledge or insight to speak as anything other than a marginally-informed bystander. There is plenty I don’t know.  But I am supposed to know a thing or two about church, especially our church, and I struggle with the large open questions of church life right now. Specifically, what does the future hold for the resumption of church as we know it? What are the short-term changes and long-term impacts of all this? I don’t know.

Not knowing that sometimes keeps me up at night. It’s my particular uncertainty these days.  There are many kinds, of course, so be honest about yours. The uncertainty faced by a healthcare worker, an essential city worker, someone who’s been laid off or a child with no school ahead of them are all unique.  Set down the temptation to compare your uncertainty with others. Recognize your particular uncertainties and name them. Making your uncertainty more specific will actually improve your ability to tolerate it.

I also want to say that no one is immune to uncertainty, either. Even under normal circumstances, daily life is full of it. The uncertainty of our time is amplified by the immense scale of the virus’ spread and its consequences. It has altered the everyday life of billions and the long-term economic and social costs cannot yet be ascertained. To make matters worse, we don’t really know what it means for all this to end.

I received an email from one of you this week pointing me to a remarkable sermon series John Ortberg is preaching these days called “Hope Has a Name.” You can catch them here (menlo.church/messages) and I encourage you to watch!  In a recent message he identifies three “Hope Killers,” life realities we spend most of our time inhabiting these days: fatigue, isolation and worry. How true and very timely. It has made me think about how we can continue to share good news with one another and the world.  When we find ourselves facing the uncertainties of our day without hope, we can feel defeated. I write today to encourage you (and myself) to look hopefully to the future today, even though its specific form has to be revealed to us. We are not defeated. God is not defeated. This is at the heart of our Easter proclamation.

We are created to be remarkably resilient. Each one of us has faced upheavals in our past, and we have adapted and survived. Our community will triumph over COVID-19. As community members, we will also come through this current crisis. It often helps to remember previous experiences of resiliency over adversity written in our hearts and spirits.  Sometimes, we need to be reminded of it during times of uncertainty. I often think about the days after Yates Baptist Church burned in 1946, underinsured and uncertain about what the next steps would be. Think of the courage and tenacity of our spiritual forebears who looked hopefully to the future and with great faithfulness and resourcefulness created space for us to carry the church’s mission into the 21st century and a time such as this. Can you tell a story where God by grace led you to a new beginning, even if you could never envision it?

Those three words, “I don’t know,” do not hold the final say.  There are 3 other words with power to speak into our worry over an uncertain future.  They are words we can share with on another, sometimes without even opening our mouths.  Three words that, when authentically shared, can kindle hope even on the most difficult of days: “I love you.”

I leave you with those thee words this week.  I love you. We are in this together and together we will see it through.

Pass it on,

Christopher

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