Winter, 2017 Pastor’s Message

“Be strong and loving and fearless . . .”

Rejoice, rejoice, take heart in the night, though cold the winter and cheerless, the rising sun shall crown you with
light, be strong and loving and fearless;
Love be our song and love our prayer, and love, our endless story,
may God fill every day we share,
and bring us at last into glory.
- Marty Haugen, “Awake! Awake, and Greet the New Morn”
The New Century Hymnal, Black 107

This new year dawns with a humanitarian crisis of epic proportions continuing to rage in Syria, a biblical land rich in Jewish, Christian and Muslim sacred texts and history, ongoing threats and acts of terrorism at home and abroad, and in the wake of momentous Brexit and U.S. presidential elections that drove millions of new and renewed voters to the polls to cast votes for leadership and legislation rooted in the fear of others who do not generally look, behave, or believe like “us.” Yet, in the face of so much darkness, our call as bearers of the light of Christ [Matthew 5:14-19] is to “be strong and loving and fearless.”

Fear - admittedly a very powerful motivator - so often drives us to construct walls and barriers - literally and figuratively - in an attempt to protect us from that which or those whom we fear. Fear has a strong tendency to turn us more and more in on ourselves in self-adoration as we simultaneously demonize all “others.” As Anne Lamott, quoting her “priest friend Tom,” has written, “… you can safely assume you’ve created God in your own image when it turns out that God hates all the same people you do.” [Anne Lamott Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life, p. 22] Fear leads to isolation, which leads to yet more fear, and the death spiral continues-despite God’s call and Jesus’ words to “fear not.”

What then is the antithesis of fear? Fearlessness, bravery, courage. One of my favorite definitions of courage is “rage from the heart.” It takes courage to believe that love will ultimately triumph over hate, justice will triumph over injustice, peace will triumph over war, light will triumph over darkness. It takes even more courage to commit our lives to follow in the way of Jesus and actively engage in acts of justice-making, love-making, and peace-making that will challenge our very way of being and understanding ourselves in this world.

I pray that each of us, and all of us together as the people called East Church, may begin this year by recommitting our selves to becoming bearers of the light of Christ - even here, even now. If love is to be our song and love our prayer, and love, our endless story, then together, we will need to and can “be strong and loving and fearless.”

Pastor Shelly

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