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Newsletter - November 2022

Newsletter – November, 2022

Greetings from the desk of the Pastor! As we move past the spooky holidays – we find ourselves in that tension between lingering fall decorations such as pumpkins and the beautiful fall leaves and the encroaching Christmas decorations that seem to show up earlier every single year. Despite the proliferation of snowmen and Santa’s, the next major holiday after we celebrate All Saints Day is Thanksgiving – and November is such a perfect time to take stock of all God has given us and to remind ourselves that we have a lot of reasons to be thankful. And yet this has been a really difficult year for so many people, and I know the holidays can be especially painful for those who are grieving. Over the last two months I’ve become intimately familiar with the five stages of grief – denial, anger, bargaining, depression and then finally acceptance. And I used to believe they came in an orderly fashion and then once you get to acceptance, you’re all done. But as I have worked and grown and learned as a pastor – particularly in my ministry with grieving families I have learned that real grief works very differently. The truth is that the stages of grieving don’t proceed in an orderly fashion, but rather cycle back around in waves for a long time. In times of grief – especially after the loss of a loved one – the holidays can be a very difficult time to be thankful.

I think about Paul’s words in Philippians where he says, “If, then, there is any encouragement in Christ, if any consolation of love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any affection and mercy, make my joy complete by thinking the same way, having the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose.” (Phil 2:1-2). And those words sound an awful lot like our vision statement from during the pandemic – Eyes Up, Flushing. And those words sound lovely, but sometimes I think – well, sure Mr. Apostle Paul can tell us to be intent on one purpose and to be encouraged in Christ -but what did he know? How could he possibly understand all the struggles and fears and anxieties of our modern church life? But then I remember something very important. Paul wrote those words WHILE HE WAS IN PRISON! The book of Philippians is actually a letter written while Paul was in jail. It’s a study on finding joy REGARDLESS of circumstances – which is such a key teaching for all of us if we want to turn our grieving into thanksgiving.

Sometimes when we are struggling with something, it seems truly unfair that the rest of the world just carries on. It almost feels like the fact that world keeps spinning is unreasonable. At the same time, the fact that life goes on and there will be a fresh morning coming tomorrow can actually shake us out of our grief. The relentless plod of each day can bring us back to ourselves and help us move past the latest wave of grief. It’s been a really hard year for a lot of people – between economic struggles, denominational drama and even just grieving the deaths of so many good friends that went home this year. But sometimes the best way to carry on is to simply carry on. As Paul says, “intent on one purpose.”

In that Spirit, for the month of November I’m excited to announce our Giving Campaign. As we consider our financial gifts to the church, both present and future, we will spend some time every week celebrating the work of the church – both locally and globally to remind ourselves that the work goes on. We begin our month with All Saints Sunday, and by the end of the month we will probably be putting up Christmas decorations. But in between I pray we can all find a reason to be thankful this year. Let’s take Paul’s message to heart – if there is any encouragement, any consolation of love – let’s be intent on one purpose. Regardless of our circumstances, in this place, we are people who love God and love one another. We gather to know God and make him known. We find fellowship of the Spirit with one purpose: to make much of Jesus. And no matter the stage and status of our grief – that truth can always bring us joy. Let’s work together this November to rediscover gratitude in our lives. But until then, I’ll see you on Sunday.

Pastor JJ


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