What Do We Want to Be in 2021?
When 2020 started for me in Istanbul on my way to Uganda, little did I know that it would end with stay at home orders and an inability to celebrate Christmas in person with the people I love at TPC. When the shutdown happened, I kept thinking this will be over soon, but as the weeks stretched into months, I became resolved to the fact that we seemed to be in a holding pattern that would last for the remainder of the year. I have heard some calling 2020 a lost year, but I have come to see it as a year in which we have been forced to decide what is important to us. Since we could not continue with “business as usual,” we are able to make choices about what we value.
As I look back, I can see what some of those values are. The first thing that comes to mind is community. While it is not the same, many of us have been able to gather virtually through worship, coffee hour, small groups and committee work. Many of the TPC meetings I have been a part of, have been equal parts business and fellowship. I have noticed joy in many of your faces as you get to spend time with each other. The comment I have heard the most often is “I can’t wait until we can be with each other again.” This has also been evident in the work of our Deacons and Youth Group. Our Deacons go out of their way to not only keep us connected, but they have looked for ways to bring joy into our lives as well. The youth have joyfully served through the grocery delivery and many, many, other service projects. Emily tells me that along the way, many inter-generational relationships have begun. While this does not replace the face to face connection, it has gone a long way toward filling the gap.
Another value that has shown brightly is our passion for serving Christ through mission outreach. God has provided for you, and through you, God has continued providing for us and given us extra so that we can share it with our mission partners and support them through this time. To every mission opportunity we have offered, you have responded with passion.
It started before the shutdown when we gave $1,300 in gift cards to help our neighbors that lost everything when their apartment building burned to the ground. This was followed by support for Family Promise, Youth Flamingo project, The Giving Tree, The Keeping CHRISTmas Market, and not to mention, the way that you have continued to provide for the church. You have generously given to God. I see this same spirit in our Spanish language ministry. What this tells me is that our partnership with God in reaching out to our community is a very important value to us.
As important as those two values are, the one that I am most thrilled with is how you value your relationship with God. The reason that community and mission are such strong values for us grows out of our relationship with God. 1 John 4:18–20 says:
18There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear; for fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not reached perfection in love. 19We love because He first loved us. 20Those who say, “I love God,” and hate their brothers or sisters, are liars; for those who do not love a brother or sister whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen. (NRSV) (emphasis added)
I know that worship online pales in comparison to what we had each week before the shutdown (no one misses the choir more that I do), but in spite of that, you have continued to join together for virtual worship each week, to be inspired, to connect and to learn more about who God is and what God desires in the relationship that you and God have. The thing that holds us together is our love for God, and each week we gather, virtually for now, so that we can grow in that love for God and watch it spill over in our love for each other and our community.
So, with the news of at least two vaccines being distributed, we are starting to see an end to this long year, and the hope that this long nightmare will soon be over is starting to grow. As we look forward to the time we can re-gather to sing of our love for God, let’s start asking how we want to live into these values in the new TPC that is emerging.
Because of Christ,
Steve Ranney, Pastor