Dear Friends in the Faith,
I send greetings in the name of our risen Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. I want to wish a blessed and joyous Easter to you and yours.
Like you in this last year, I have been uncertain about when the COVID-19 pandemic will end, and what will be the aftermath for the world and for our country. In a March 29, 2020 article in Time magazine, the biblical scholar N.T. Wright wrote about how “lament” is a word and practice we need to recover from our Christian tradition in times like these.
In other words, God does not give us all the answers we want when we want them. What God does give us is a sense of peace and assurance in the middle of the storms of life. He gives us strength to lament as Jesus did in the Garden of Gethsemane, “Take this cup from me… Nevertheless, not my will, but yours be done.”
Jesus prophesied to his followers many times of his death and resurrection. When he was crucified on Friday, all hope for them seemed lost. Yet, death was not the final answer. In raising Christ from the dead, Almighty God defeated death forever. God rebuilt the whole of creation in three days to offer a way that we might live with the Lord forever. As the Apostle Paul proclaimed to the Corinthians: “Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep.” (v. 1 Cor. 15:20). The Lord Jesus Christ even made this promise to those who follow him and call upon his name: “Because I live, you also shall live.” (John 14:19)
Therefore, though it feels like the Good Friday of our lives, we are Easter people. Easter offers us a “foretaste of glory divine,” in the words of hymn writer Fanny Crosby. Let us celebrate the first fruits of what God is doing among us, and anticipate the glory of a Resurrection Sunday that is to come when the pandemic wanes (as it will).
Though it feels like the Good Friday of our lives, we are Easter people. Easter offers us a ‘foretaste of glory divine’.
I see fruit through nearly 80 children and youth who participate in our Footprints and Barefoot ministries on Wednesday nights. I see fruit through the herculean effort of our church staff in the last year to create the infrastructure for an online worship experience. We have over 500 people tune in each Sunday for our livestream services online. I see fruit through five confirmands who were confirmed on Palm Sunday, March 28.
Consider these four other ways you might offer your fruits to the Lord as a sign of gratitude for what He has done for us.
- Sacrifice your pride, and invite a friend to church online through Facebook, YouTube, or our website, even if they might say no. Invite them to one of three services on Easter Sunday, April 4. We can welcome others to encounter the living Christ through worship from here or from home.
- Consider a sacrificial gift to repair our stained glass windows for the “I Love to Tell the Story” campaign, which has set a goal to raise $50,000. Write “window repair” in the memo line of a check made out to First UMC, or give online. Consider these words of Jesus as you contemplate such a gift: “Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.” (John 12:24, NIV)
- Contemplate in prayer making a lasting gift to God by leaving a legacy to His church. The Endowment Committee has options for those who remember First UMC in their estate plans.
- Most importantly, offer yourself “in prayer and thanksgiving as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God.” (Romans 12:1)
Thank you so much for your support of the ministries of First UMC through your prayers, presence, gifts, service, and witness. We continue to pray for each other during these unprecedented days. God will sustain and guide us to better days in the months ahead.
It may be Good Friday in our lives, but rest assured, Sunday is coming. With it, the resurrection power of God will renew and restore all things.
With the Love of Christ,