August 24, 2017

Dear First Pres,
   I think this past Sunday was one of the most important Sundays of my nearly five years as your senior pastor. It was paramount to name some of the evil we've experienced in our world and in our church. It was paramount to remember that Jesus weeps with us in those things; His weeping comforts us, leads us, and shapes us. It was paramount to hold the First Pres Forum so that we could talk about walking through difficult times together by leaning in full of grace and truth (see John 1:14). And, it was paramount for us to pray together in the Forum for God's glory to be made known. Finally, for any of that to be effective in helping us be healthy together, it was paramount for the Holy Spirit to show up and lead us. I praise God in saying that I sensed His presence all over our gatherings. Did you? I believe, with God's help, we have started well this long path to wholeness.
 
   One of the most difficult parts of walking through this season together, I think, is protecting the anonymity of those in our midst who have been hurt. Unless we are one of those families most impacted, it is not our story to tell. Yet, our desire is for them to know our care and support and love. So, how do we minister to someone who is anonymous in our congregation? We lean in full of grace and truth without preference. In other words, not every family is hurting in the same way or at the same level, but you can bet every family is hurting in some way at some level. Every family could use someone who is praying for them; every family could use someone who brings an encouraging word; every family could use some ministry directed in their way. But we need to do so with wisdom.
 
   In a conversation with one of our members this week I learned that three different folks asked this member directly on Sunday, "Do you know who the victims are?"  Now, if you asked that question to someone on Sunday, please don't take offense. It's a natural question. But I believe it is a question we need to release from our hearts. We need to let it go. We need to ask the Lord to help us release that curiosity, which I know can be fierce. Asking that question, I believe, is more likely to divide us than unite us. We need to replace that question with "How are you?" Or, "Is there anything I can do to help?" Or, "How can I be praying for you this week?" These are the types of questions that will help us lean in full of grace and truth.
 
   Beloved, the road of healing together is not an easy one, but it is a blessed one. It will require all of us to surrender our own attitudes, thoughts, desires, and issues to the Lord. It will require us to move toward the problem rather than try to forget about it. It will require us to remember that it is by grace we have been saved ... not by works, so that no one can boast (Ephesians 2:8-9); none of us are going to walk this road perfectly. It will require us to pursue truth, even if the truth is hard, because it is the truth that sets us free (John 8:32). It will require us all, by the power of the Holy Spirit, to lean in full of grace and truth. When that happens among us, surely, God will be glorified and we will walk in His healing together.

Blessings, 
Jeremy