Pastor's E-Letter

Pastor's E-Letter

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Pastor E-Letter 3/27/20

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About a week into the coronavirus pandemic, Nadia Bolz-Weber, a Lutheran pastor and author posted on Twitter, 

“It’s also now a pandemic of human disappointment. 
Cancelled trips, art openings, sporting events, book tours, concerts. Things folks have been planning for, working toward, and excited about - that’s a lot of grieving on top of sickness.” 

When I read her tweet, I paused for a moment. How true! A pandemic of disappointment- and, along with disappointment, grief. I think so often in these days of high school and college seniors, those students preparing for study abroad trips, those planning cruises and trips to see grandchildren, and those who were just plain excited for a small event coming up. Many of my friends who are getting married are reckoning with rescheduling or postponing their weddings that they’ve painstakingly worked on for months and months. 

There is so much delay of celebration, and along with it, a mountain of disappointment and grief. 

Our Grief Support Group reminds us often that grief doesn’t look one particular way or last for any particular length of time. We often imagine grieving folks who mourn appropriately, crying for just a year or a few months over an appropriately sized loss and then wiping their eyes and moving forward. But this just isn’t how grief works. We grieve over small and large events, visible and invisible things. We grieve the change in our ability as we age, our work when we retire, a place we lived in when we move, a life we once had. We grieve in divorce, in empty nests, over weddings, in awful diagnoses. Then, when we grieve, we are angry, sad, numb, over-productive, isolated or overly social, and the list goes on. And grief often lasts a lot longer than we ever knew was possible.

There is no “right” way, "right" time, or "right" thing to grieve. Grief just shows up, for all of us. It stays as long as it must, changes us in its presence, and is unexpected in its character.

All of my reflecting on grief came to a head this week as I read our scripture for this Sunday, from John 11. In it, Jesus has received word of Lazarus’s imminent death. Lazarus, and Lazarus’s two sisters Mary and Martha, are among the closest of Jesus’s associates. He counts them as friends. In this word, he hears that if he hurries, he can heal Lazarus before he dies. But he doesn’t hurry, and Lazarus dies.

When Jesus shows up, Mary and Martha greet him in the throes of grief. One is angry, one is sad. And Jesus doesn’t try to account for his slowness, but meets them right where they are in their grief, and joins them. This passage is where we hear the shortest verse in all of scripture: 

“Jesus wept.” - John 11:35

Jesus didn’t turn away from their mountain of grief, he joined them in it. He wept for his friend Lazarus and then promised a way forward out of the grief and despair. He was not afraid of their anger or sadness and did not admonish them for it. He was simply present, grieving along with them, sharing in the ministry of the Spirit of God.

Of course, the story ends with Lazarus’s resurrection. This moment is a precursor to Jesus’s resurrection, which promises each of us that death and illness do not have the final word. God in Jesus has defeated death. 

I am so grateful for this word during this season. I find myself praying frequently, “God, where are you?” as I grieve my own canceled plans and changed routines. Yet this passage, and the season of Lent, remind us that God is present with us in the highest of our highs and the lowest of our lows. God has defeated death and will not leave us or forsake us.

As we continue to worship online this week, know that God is present with you in your homes, in your waking and your sleeping, and in that pesky grief. God is not afraid of your anger or sadness, and God is with you.

I’ll join you in worshipping online on Sunday- but in the meantime, we miss and love each of you!

Peace,
Pastor Allee

 

Posted by Allee Willcox with

Pastor E-Letter 3/20/20

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I’m sure your week has been full of questions and concerns, anxiety and fear. The same has been true for our household. This Monday was the first day of spring break and, as of last Friday, was the beginning of a long absence from school for our kids. All four of our kids attend school either here at the church or Suntree Elementary. This was the beginning of a long break from school and a lot of questions about how we were going to deal with childcare and making sure our kids continued getting a good education at home. Like many of you, this is just one aspect of questions surrounding our jobs, our families, our world and even our worship here at church. To say this has been a stressful week, would be an understatement.

When I get to that point of stress and anxiety, I usually try to find a project to keep myself occupied. Monday afternoon I decided I would work on the sprinkler system at the house. The system has been off for a few months. One of our sprinkler heads had been broken and the line buried. I thought I would just dig it out by hand and find the water coming out, but instead just found rocks and dry sand. I got some tools and started digging the hole deeper and found the line with a broken piece on the end. I removed the broken piece and prepared myself for the gushing water and…nothing. The line was dry, I didn’t understand. Then about 6 to 7 inches of mud came pushing out of the line and burst through, right into my face and all over me. I was able to use this new gusher to wash my face off and take off all the mud and dirt and when I did all I saw was four beautiful faces laughing and running through the water. My kids thought it was the greatest thing ever. They laughed and played in the water and helped me put on a new sprinkler head. I was blind with stress and anxiety and then I could see the beauty of the blessings in my life.

Our scripture this week from John 9:1-41 reminds us of a blind man and how Jesus used mud to heal him. As I spent time in the scripture today, I laughed thinking about my kids' faces and the squeals of delight and joy they had. I was so blind to the world that I couldn’t see the blessings that continue to fill me with Joy. It’s so easy to be blind to what God is doing around us right now. It would be easier to follow the never-ending newsfeed of anxiety and fear. Sometimes it might take a bit of a surprise by the spirit to burst forth and show us the light of God all around. I believe as disciples we have that healing balm in Jesus to know the good news of who loves us. To know that in the toughest moments full of all that is wrong in the world, God still desires for us to see the beauty all around. That is the kind of healing I think we could all use.

I hope for all of us to find a moment when we can remove the mud from our eyes and see the beauty around us. As tough as it may be right now, I promise you it is there. It is definitely there.

This week we are offering an online worship experience through our website (suntreeumc.org/live) and through our Facebook page at facebook.com/suntreeumc. Though we may not be in each other’s physical presence, we are together in the spirit. Praise God for the ability to stay connected through this time!

This week we will also be closing the Church Office for normal business hours. If you need to reach someone, we will be able to answer calls to the main church phone line as well as emails to .

With Grace & Peace,

Rev. Augie Allen
Pastor of Outreach
Suntree United Methodist Church

Posted by Augie Allen with

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