Greetings from the Moderator SEPTEMBER 2020
September traditionally marks the start of the "new year." Our churches often resume Sunday School, choir practice, fellowship groups, etc. and we look ahead to stewardship season, Advent, and Christmas. Life gets back to normal after a lighter, more relaxed summer schedule.
Except . . . there’s nothing traditional about this September. Physical distancing, masks, online worship, meetings and fellowship by Zoom have become routine rather than unique. Peaceful protests against racial injustice have been taken over by destructive violence. Hurricane Laura just devastated parts of Louisiana, as if a huge line of tornadoes touched down and stayed down for miles and miles.
We’ve been overwhelmed by circumstances and events for so long that it is tempting to give up. Instead, more than ever, we need to be faithful - to God and the service to which God calls us.
Faithfulness is doing what we know needs to be done, “keeping on keeping on”. Scriptures teaches that our lives are not our own. We belong to God, having been redeemed by Christ to glorify God (I Cor. 6:19-20). Being thus bound to God by ties of love and allegiance, keeping on becomes an imperative rather than a choice.
Faithfulness requires a long-term outlook in the face of opposition, exhaustion, and discouragement. The faithful and sensible steward in Luke 12:42-48 is expected to “keep on” for an indefinite time, until his master returns. The point of the parables of the talents and minas (Matt. 25:31-46; Luke 19:11-27) is how each servant used the money, regardless of the amount. Did they carry out their master’s charge, and to the best of their abilities? Faithfulness may also involve risk. Both parables warn against giving in to fear because of an unknown outcome.
Faithfulness doesn’t just happen; it requires preparation. Both the wise and the foolish virgins in Matt. 25:1-13 intended to keep watch for the bridegroom, but only the wise ones planned ahead and brought extra oil in case of a long wait.
We prepare to be faithful by doing - by practicing it. Being faithful in a little thing encourages us for the next, greater thing. (See Matt. 25:21, 23.) We gradually give our children more freedom and less supervision as they learn how to take on responsibility. In the same way, small steps of faithfulness build up our strength to stand firm.
It isn’t easy to be faithful. Sometimes it seems we’re just going through rote, uninspired motions while we long to see results, to make a difference, to be finished with this charge. Keeping on is as much attitude as action; we continue to do our duty while also praying that God transform it into an act of love and joy.
As we work to be faithful in these days, let us remember the good news Paul shared in I Cor. 15:58:
Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord.
Paul spent the preceding 57 verses of the chapter defending the resurrection. The resurrection is a fact. “Therefore” introduces his triumphant exhortation: Be steadfast (faithful) because our work is not in vain! Our battles continue, but the war has already been won!
Thankful for the many faithful people around me,