A New Year’s Reflection From Pastor Verkouw
Greetings to you in this first week of 2021! I’ve heard (and read ) a lot of people mark the passing of another year with the words, “Good riddance, 2020!” Maybe you, like me, have allowed yourself the satisfaction of joining in the fun of balling up all of the difficulties we are facing right now and pretending that they will be contained in the year 2020 and booted into the past.
But deep down, I know better. There is no guarantee that 2021 will be a better year than 2020. It might, in fact, be worse, when we add it all up. I know…what’s wrong with me, right? My point is, it’s always a struggle to remain hopeful, and to see the goodness all around us when we are pre-occupied with the darkness. But that is the struggle to which people of God are called: “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (I Thessalonians 5:16-18). As the year passes, we remember that it is another “year of the Lord,” a succession of “days that the Lord hath made,” that we are to “rejoice and be glad in” (Psalm 118:24).
Certainly we have been tested in 2020 in a number of surprising and difficult ways. Our public health systems,
our leaders, our democracy itself, all proved to be more fragile and unprepared for this pandemic virus than we assumed they were. Giving, or catching a potentially serious or fatal disease to or from someone else is not something our society has had to reckon with for a long time! Many have rebelled against and even questioned the basic logic and health science of wearing a mask in public. Something so simple and easy to do for the sake of our neighbor has apparently been too much of a sacrifice to ask. Supposed “patriots” are brandishing their pocket Constitutions and whining about their rights in the midst of the largest public health emergency in a century. This past year has been a mirror in which to examine ourselves and in some ways, it has not been a pretty sight, as they say. We wish it would be over.
At the same time, so many health care professionals at all levels, essential workers in numerous industries, teachers and child care-givers, parents and children have responded in heroic ways, working to save the lives of the sick, protect the vulnerable, and provide for the care, teaching and growth of children, often while facing challenges to their own health and economic well-being. A number of vaccines have been developed by collaborations of private business, academic research, and government funding that have beat all the predictions of time and effectiveness. People have responded to the pandemic and its related social and economic fallout with much compassion, creativity, and many adaptive behaviors. Many have made the sacrifices that others have refused to make, and that has helped tremendously. We have recalibrated our expectations and sometimes discovered important priorities that had been lost. Here at Grace so much has changed, and yet we are still worshiping and serving in new ways!
There has indeed been much to grieve over the past year. There has also been much to give thanks for. Another year of life, for those who have remained well, or recovered. And hope in God’s promises for those who have not. It sounds blunt, put that way. But our faith is not just “fair-weather faith.” It is a hope and trust received for use “in all circumstances.” Jesus threw himself into the midst of humanity’s age-old gripe with God, which is basically this: life as it comes to us is not good enough. We want better. We want more. We don’t want to risk the life of love, and the sacrifices love requires, unless it suits us. “Father, forgive them,” Jesus prayed from the cross, “for they know not what they do.” However you think of resurrection’s mystery, let it at least be the awareness that for his sake, Jesus’ disciples trusted that God answered his prayer. Thank you Holy God, for another year in which to learn of your mercy, to practice our trust in your gift, to learn love for one another as you have loved us, and through it all…through it all…to rejoice in your will for us. May our joy be renewed in year 2021, in the love of Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.
Special thanks to all those who donated Christmas gifts for our community dinner guests.Your generosity is greatly appreciated!
Grace member Roberta Myers is collecting caps for the Earth Savers Club at Central York High School. If you would like to help—drop off your clean/label free caps to the church office!
Thank you for helping to protect our planet!
A note of thanks from the staff of Ross Elementary School
To our Grace Lutheran Learning Pod Staff and volunteers,
THANK YOU from the bottom of our hearts for the love and service you show to our SDOL students! You are making such a difference for them, not only academically but also in meeting their physical and social needs.
They will no doubt remember the learning pod as part of their pandemic memory, as a bright spot in a very difficult time. As teachers and school staff, we are so grateful for the presence you provide for our students when we cannot.
Have a joyful holiday! Ross Elementary
Update on Sunday ZOOM Fun for Kids
Happy Epiphany to all!
Kid Fun time: We turned to the book of Matthew this week to read about the Wisemen paying “homage” to Jesus and the dreams sent to Joseph to guide the family on a safe path. This is the 3rd week the kids have been asked to go outside their homes and shout the message of the day for all neighbors to hear. Have you heard them?
Cameron Smith has led us on this charge of shouting the good news. May you let the light of Christ guide you and lead you to shout the love of Jesus for all to hear.
Join us at 9:30 am for our zoom Sunday School – best for kids 1-6th grades. Look for the Weekend Updates and links for Worship and Sunday School email from Pastor!
May the Christmas star lead you to Jesus. The Light of the World.
Youth ZOOM on Sunday mornings!
For youth, grades 6-12, Meghan Kelly and Keith Miller will be leading a youth ZOOMS! Confirmation at 9:00 a.m. / High School at 9:45 a.m.
If you would like to participate – please contact Meghan at email@example.com to receive the link.
As I was thinking about what we should/could do this year in terms of socially distanced Bible study I wanted something that would incorporate scripture and tradition and help us to slow down. Unlike past studies we’ve done during the pandemic we aren’t reading x book during x liturgical season, because I don’t think that helps us slow down.
Together (while apart) we will spend time not only reading John’s gospel, but also meditating, praying, and contemplating and we might venture outside of John. We’re slowing down and embracing whatever path the Holy Spirit takes us on. We’ll be practicing lectio divina, which is a wonderful way of combining scripture and tradition – it’s a traditional way of cultivating a life of faith that is often practiced in convents and monasteries.
Our time of lectio divina (sacred reading) will begin on January 19th. Each week in the Grace News and on our website you’ll find a reading from John, a prayer, and a guide for lectio divina. On occasion I’ll add some insight about John or a particular Greek word/phrase. If you have any questions about lectio divina or questions about John, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In next week’s Grace News I’ll write a little bit about lectio divina and give you some ideas for creating a space and setting apart some time in order to help you begin the process of slowing down.
Pax et bonum, Angie
Our Grace Family
A note from Carl Hartman
Thank you to all those who have kept me in their prayers and thoughts for my back pain and difficulties over the last several months. Last Tuesday the DRG stimulator which was placed under the skin with leads going to electrodes at the T12 level was activated and the staples were in removed. I have received considerable relief; Thanks be to God!
We indeed live in a marvelous time with many things to be thankful for in spite of Covid-19. Thanks be to God also for leading us to the vaccine to protect us from the virus.