This Sunday Prince of Peace will be looking forward. The Council is holding our annual meeting of the Congregation as a video conference. In preparation for the meeting, we always assemble an Annual Report detailing the day-to-day business of the church, as well as the ministries that make our unique profile in the hectic Silicon Valley.
Many of us who were expected to contribute to our Annual Report were dreading the task this time. There were so many cancelled plans this year. But as each committee lead, council member, or staff person started writing our little piece we found something to be thankful for.
I was privileged to stitch all the stories together into the tale of a year in the life of Prince of Peace. To my surprise, there were many photos to assist in illustrating words of loss and hope. 2020 was not all disaster. 2021 looks to be better. This Sunday we will welcome seven new family units to Prince of Peace. There are singles, and couples, and even families with children, all being called to Prince of Peace through the worst of times. We have much to celebrate!
Please tune in to church this week at 10:00 am to meet our new members. Plan to log on to our Annual Meeting immediately after (we promise the service is under an hour. Since it is pre-recorded we can always edit!)
The Apostle Paul wrote, in 1 Corinthians 13… “For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known.”
These verses came to mind recently as I was at church and saw some faces from our church community that I have not seen in person for a few months. It feels, often, that video conferencing is a dim representation of the actual joy and goodness that it is to be gathered together, in person. While I am incredibly thankful for this technology that has kept us connected, it is no replacement for “being known, face to face.” There is a holiness to us gathering that I deeply miss. And I know so many of you do as well.
As we look to next Sunday (the 31st) and our Annual Meeting, we will be utilizing Zoom to conduct our congregation-wide business. We will hear from and read an overview of 2020, pass a budget for 2021, and spend some time looking to the year ahead. As part of passing the budget, we will be asking the congregation to consider a constitution change. It is a decision we need to make together. And while this year has made us feel separated, there is still so much that is keeping us connected and moving forward together as a congregation.
In the next week, if we haven’t seen you online, we will be calling you to see how we can get you connected via Zoom. Technology has the potential to separate us as a community—especially if we are not online regularly or are uncomfortable with the technology.
Please, if you are reading this and know that a Zoom meeting will be a challenge for you, reach out to me (firstname.lastname@example.org) so we can ensure you are part of it. And, if you are eager for this meeting or know you will attend please also reach out to other members to encourage them to come.
In addition, if you want a “gentle” introduction to Zoom, join us this Sunday at 11:15am during coffee hour. We can split into separate meeting rooms and walk you through the way to use it.
For now, as Paul wrote, we have to (get to?!) deal with these kinds of unique and sometimes difficult ways of being church. We are hopeful that we might find new and fun realities about Annual Meetings via Zoom (like voting in our PJ’s with coffee in hand!).
For Christmas this year, I received a free calendar from a store I visited. It’s a wall calendar, intended to be hung up and written on with special occasions and holidays. Flipping through the months, I noticed that it is void of the typical days we mark such as major holidays or remembrances. Instead, each month has a few shall we say, sarcastic and silly dates marked. For example, the 16th of January is labeled as “End of New Year’s Resolutions.” Looking through the other pages made me wonder, how are we called to characterize or label a day? As church goers, we have the season and celebrations of the church year to add to our calendars--the big holidays, of course, but also the seasons of Lent, Advent, Pentecost, and our current season, Epiphany; the season of well-lit journeys and actively following the star through Jesus early days of ministry until the “big light” of the Transfiguration. While I am eager for these Holidays and the ways they give rhythm to our lives and church community, I am also excited for some of the other “dates” we will get to write in our 2021 calendars. For example, as we slowly mark dates when folks in our midst receive the vaccine, the day when we can gather safely outdoors for worship, the day we might have our mortgage paid off at church. And, of course, the day when we all feel safe singly loudly and joyfully inside together. “The days are surely coming, says the Lord….” Thus begins the words of the promise of God spoken to the prophet Jeremiah. When the Israelites were exiled and separated, Jeremiah spoke unbelievable promises to them…”the days are surely coming when I will make a new covenant…”
It is my belief that in these, some of the hardest and most difficult of the pandemic and in our country’s divisiveness, that I need to hear most clearly of the radical promises of God. I need to be reminded that when it all seems hopeless is when I most need to lean on God’s promises for us. Somedays I feel those promises when I catch a glimpse of someone on campus that I haven't seen in awhile, some days it’s getting to hear the voice of someone I haven’t spoken to in many months, most Sundays it is hearing the phenomenal gifts of our musicians who I know have recorded and re-recorded so carefully to produce a line of music that touches my heart and connects me to God.
This past week, I felt God’s promise as I was stepping outside during the early hours of a shift at Rotating Safe Car Park (RSCP), pausing to catch a glimpse of the sunrise, standing next to one of the other RSCP volunteers in holy silence. Friends, in these hard days, I hope you might step outside in the morning light or as the evening light comes and you stop work after a long strenuous day..I hope you might step outside and say to yourself…”The days are surely coming.” And I hope that in the speaking of those words that your faith might be boosted and your Spirits lifted for another day and night.
Until then, know that we are marking our days with the small glimpses of light and hope and are so grateful for all who bear the light and hope of Christ in these days.
As I write to you today, we are all recovering from the violence and hysteria of yesterday’s acts of terrorism; it feels like just one more thing to make these days feel longer and harder than they should. And I imagine, we are, all of us, tired - if not feeling other things also.
So, what does our faith have to help us respond to the world around us now?
A lot, actually. But not all of it is what we probably want to hear.
I would love to exclaim words of judgement and condemnation, of chickens and roosting, of whirlwinds being reaped and vengeance both great and terrible. And those stories are in our texts, but they are not most of the texts, and certainly not in the story of Jesus; of God who came to us - spreading the word of God’s reign through word and deed beyond the people of Israel into the whole world. God in human form who comes to us and, as we will hear from the Gospel of Mark soon, says, “I have come to call the sinners.”
We, as a people, are meant to work for inclusion into the good, and leave judgement to the One with higher authority.
This is hard to do. And it's one of the reasons we need a community of faith to follow God. Sometimes it takes the presence of others - in any way - to help us in our faith and in our practice so that we can be the people God seeks us to be. Because living a life that reflects the faith we proclaim takes practice - over and over and over. And in the same way so many of us are finding out how much we need that other person around to help with our new year’s resolutions, the habits of faith are just as needful of support and encouragement.
Yesterday was not only a day of political misuse, it was also the day of Epiphany, when we recognize the community of scholars who, following a star, travelled across lands from the East to find the child lord. And this event begins the season of Epiphany, when we focus on baptism and the renewal of our lives of faith.
So, as this new year begins, I pray we may find ways to follow the star, as our Scriptures show us through the stories of Jesus, and that we may find in this church community, and in our networks of friends, neighbors, and family the accountability and connection it takes to live a life which reflects God’s grace and inclusion for all of us into the good.