From Pastor Steve
“It is central in the biblical tradition that God’s love for his people should not be forgotten. It should remain with us in the present. When everything is dark, when we are surrounded by despairing voices, when we do not see any exits, then we can find salvation in a remembered love, a love which is not simply a recollection of a bygone past but a living force which sustains us in the present. Through memory, love transcends the limits of time and offers hope at any moment of our lives.”—Henri Nouwen, You Are the Beloved: Daily Meditations for Spiritual Living
The world can so often feel dark. The accidental message of an incoming ballistic missile spread throughout the Hawaiian Islands and for 38 minutes life was changing and the fear was real. The reports of a mother and father abusing their 13 children, chaining them to their beds and starving them is horrendous. Those are only two examples of the daily barrage of darkness we get from watching the news or reading our social media feeds. And there are moments when we look around and all we see is darkness. It can feel hopeless and cause us to despair.
Nouwen writes that God’s love for us is a remembered love. And because that love is remembered it isn’t bound by time but can offer hope in any circumstance. When I hear these words from Nouwen, I think immediately of Jesus as the light that shines into our darkness. Because it is in Jesus that we have received our salvation and witnessed God’s love for us. He is with us in every circumstance and in every moment.
Each year, I am reminded that Bethesda is so often a light shining in the darkness. Christ’s love that has been shown to each of us as God’s children shines through the windows and out of the doors and into our community. This light radiates as we reach out to our neighbors with food, or clothing, or community, or in countless other ways. This is who we are meant to be. This is our witness.
When we feel surrounded by the darkness, we need to remember the light of Christ that shines into the darkest corners and brings life and love to all people. God’s love for us is a “living force which sustains us in the present.” Fear keeps us static; love keeps us open; God doesn’t fail us.
God’s Peace, Pastor Steve
From Pastor Sarah
This past year has been one full of nurtured relationships, friendships strengthened and community formed. I have spent most of my year in conversation with many of you; I’ve heard your stories, prayed with you before surgery, listened to your fears and your dreams; I’ve even consumed my very first cup of coffee. And, I’m so grateful for your willingness to sit with me and to hear my stories, as well. I intend to do much of the same this next year, with a bit of an addition.
I didn’t let the Spirit randomly guide me to pick a StarWord this year; instead, I felt her calling me to write my own: “Discipline” was the frontrunner. I am very used to living a reactive life—responding to each minor crisis as it comes, deciding what to do for dinner at 5pm, writing sermons on Saturdays and lesson plans minutes before class. I’ve decided to become a bit more proactive instead. I intend on setting schedules, making plans, even trying a new recipe or two.
And my biggest endeavor of discipline is to read the bible in one year. And, I would so like you to invite you to join me on this journey. Imagine if we were a people, a congregation, a community that immersed itself in the Word. Imagine if reading the histories of our ancestors, we discovered the future that God was holding for us. Imagine if hearing anew about the wild, reckless love that God has for us, we became ones that did the same for our community. I have no idea what the next year will have in store for us; what I do know…is that if we commit, if we are faithful, if we read (even when we don’t feel like it), we will be transformed. God will use this time to meet us as a community, and to not leave us where we’ve been found.
Whatever your StarWord happens to be this year. Whatever goals you have, whatever hopes and dreams entice you, I pray that it is one where you allow yourself to be met by the God who loves you more than you dare imagine. I pray that this is a year where individually and collectively we become a people that having been met by the Savior, we go out into our community to share the story of when our lives were changed.
Grateful to be with you on this journey,
From Pastor Tom
Thank you, people of Bethesda, for the joyful privilege of serving as your pastor nearly seven years. It is incredible to consider things that have come and gone over a few years. I think about the many dear saints who have entered their heavenly reward and how their memory strengthens my purpose on more difficult days. I think about the many young saints who have received the promises of baptism and how their growth causes me to not lose heart in this rapidly changing world.
Seven is an important biblical number representing the holy and complete work of God in creation and restoration. So, I give thanks for these seven years blessed:
God created the heavens and the earth and rested on the seventh day. Praise God the Father, Who knit together my sons in Andrea’s womb and sustains us in His strength.
Jesus revealed himself with seven “I AM” statements in the Gospel of John. Praise God the Son, who reveals himself to me through pastoral moments at bedsides and gravesides, baptisms and weddings, and conversations of confession, counsel, or coffee talk.
Peter is called to forgive his brother seventy times-seven times and is given the Holy Spirit to hand over God’s forgiveness. Praise God the Holy Spirit, Who teaches me there is grace even for professional sinners like pastors. Joshua is commanded to march around Jericho seven times before the walls come tumbling down. Praise God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit for giving us the faith to keep walking, the hope to keep praying, and the love to keep serving.
Shalom, Pastor Tom