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April Pastor’s Column

After Easter, many pastors and church musicians breathe a great sigh of relief and offer up prayers of gratitude. Obviously,IMG_1624 we are grateful for what Easter means – God’s gift of wondrous love made known through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. And we are grateful as well for the many people whose energy and creativity and commitment came together to make worship come alive in the season of Lent and especially during Holy Week and on Easter Day. Our worship is truly the work of many hands and hearts: singers, instrumentalists, ushers, communion preparers and servers, readers, service planners, banner makers and carriers, those who prepare and print bulletins – the list goes on! But, truth be told, we are also grateful that we made through and arrived joyfully at the end of the journey to Easter!

 

Gratitude is at the heart of this season because it is at the heart of Christian faith. During Lent and Easter, we reflect on the most amazing gift of all: Jesus lays down his life for us, and we see into the heart of God. This is how God loves us: as Jesus IMG_4142pours out his life for us and for all people. Last fall, we had as one of our lectionary readings the story of the “widow’s mite.” In the story, Jesus and his disciples are in the Temple in Jerusalem   during Holy Week. Many people are coming to worship God with their offerings which they deposit in large collection boxes.

 

Jesus calls attention to a poor widow who comes up and puts in two tiny coins. Others have given larger amounts, Jesus says, but their gifts are only part of their abundance. But this woman has put in all she had to live on. One of my lectionary group remarked that having two coins (and only two coins!) presents an interestiIMG_0690ng choice: do you give half of what you have or are you “all in”? This woman was “all in” as she made her gift. This year I came to see that what this woman did prefigures what Jesus is about to do, namely to give up his life for his friends, offer up his life for the salvation of the world. Jesus was “all in.” And because of that you and I have life and hope that will sustain us throughout this life and beyond.

 

Over the next month, all of us are encouraged to think about how we will participate in the “Sharing Hope – Building Hope” capital campaign. The projects are important. The goal is a challenge. But as you consider what part God is calling you to play, I hope that what you will reflect on first of all is your gratitude to God for God’s amazing goodness in your life and God’s willingness to be “all in” for us. This is more than a capital campaign; it is a way to say “thank you.”

Cynthia M. Campbell

 

November Pastor’s Column

Every day, I said, “How are you?” And every day, he answered, “Grateful.” He was an elderly African American man who parked cars for a living at a garage I used in Chicago. His wife had died some years before, and parking cars gave him something to do and some (very) modest income. His life had not been easy, and he didn’t have much as the world measures these things. But every day, he said, “I’m grateful.”

 

As Reformed Christians, we stress the “sovereignty” of God. We mean by this that God is first and everything else is second. God is the Source of everything that is. But God is more than an explanation of our origins. God has a specific character. First, in the story of God’s long relationship with Israel, and then in the story of Jesus, we see that God is the One whose steadfast love endures forever, and that nothing in life or in death will ever be able to separate us from God’s love. The only thing that really matters in life – namely, God’s healing and redeeming and life-giving love – is already ours. How can we not be grateful!

 

November is the season for giving thanks. We begin on November 1 by celebrating the saints. We give thanks to God for those who have gone before us in life and especially in faith. We remember loved ones who have died, and we call to mind those whom we may not know personally but who have laid the foundations for our faith. The “communion of the saints” isn’t just about remembering people from the past. It is about being “in communion” with them here and now through the love of God in which all of us – living and dead – abide.

 

November is also the season in which we express our gratitude to God by means of our commitment to support God’s work through the mission and ministry of Highland. Our pledges for financial support in 2016 will ensure that we will be able to do as a church what we believe God is calling us to do. But the primary reason we give is that it is one concrete way to express our joy and thanksgiving for all we have received.

 

Finally, November is the month of our national day of Thanksgiving. Even though it is now interrupted by a plethora of shopping opportunities, we still experience this as almost an island of peace in a fast-paced world. It is a day to rest and renew and reflect and rejoice with family and friends. For Christians, it is a day to turn once more to the God of steadfast love and make our prayer: “For all that has been, Thanks. For all that will be, Yes.”

 

Cynthia M. Campbell, Pastor

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