Pastor's E-Letter

Pastor's E-Letter

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Pastor's E-Letter 07/17/20

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Dear Church Family,

My mom often tells me that “the unknown” is my personal kryptonite. 

“The unknown” is specific- it isn’t necessarily a crisis, or a new thing. Both of those can be “known quantities,” and are easier to navigate for me. I love a good crisis plan, and I love moving or doing something that requires long lists of steps. In that way, disliking the unknown is often an asset for my leadership: I’m really good at making a plan. 

But the truest unknown is different. It is a void that we stare out into. It is, in so many ways, a characteristic of both everyday life and the larger conversations about life, too. Transitional times bring up big “unknown kryptonite.” I’m sure you’ve asked these questions, too. When will we move? Will I keep my job? Will I survive this illness? What will this look like a month, or a year from now? How will I go on after this person is gone? For parents and teachers this week, the questions are particularly painful and scary: how will my children go to school? Will they? Can I afford to stay home, or to keep them home? Will I, or my students get sick if we go back?

In that way, COVID-19 has been one giant unknown since day one, hasn’t it? 

This week on the podcast we talked about how things have changed for us since the pandemic began. Are we still afraid of the same things? How are we coping? What good have we seen? These questions feel especially important as the pandemic has found its current epicenter in Florida. (Be sure to check out this week's podcast- there is plenty of good happening at Suntree!)  

As I thought about these questions for the podcast, I realized these past few weeks are a transitional time in thinking for me as we began to turn our eyes towards the fall and our long-term planning. We wrote in our planning notes in March and April and May- surely we will be back by Easter, Pentecost, July 1st! Surely we will be done with this by the end of July. Yet, here we are. We are still living in a world indelibly changed by COVID. It is scary, and it is unknown. We can no longer expect to duck under the wave and avoid this season. 

This week in Genesis, we continue to explore the character of Jacob. You see, Jacob’s story is not unlike our own. For many chapters in Genesis, Jacob is on the run, fleeing what has come before and afraid of what comes next. He has slept in the desert with a rock as a pillow. He has fled Esau’s threats. This week, we read that he wrestles God. This symbolizes for so many the closeness with which God comes to us, even in the midst of our fear and fleeing. 

Yet even in all of Jacob’s unknown, he is paying attention. He encounters God again and again out on the run, as he makes crisis plan after crisis plan. He marvels at God’s presence. He wrestles with God in his anger and unknowns, and he comes away a changed man. For Jacob, this week marks a change in thinking, a transition towards reconciliation and his true calling. He is ready to set out into the unknown because he has wrestled with an ever-present God.

You may be ready to throw in the COVID towel. Me, too. You may be tired, afraid, cranky, or just plain sad. Me, too. But as we read Genesis this week, we hear God’s call to marvel at the ways the Lord is surely in our lives. We hear that God has always been the God who would come close enough to us to wrestle with our doubts and fears, and to walk with us in our deserts. While God’s truest character is fulfilled in Jesus, it is this moment in the Old Testament that seals God’s intimate character for me. 

The hope that I have as my thinking transitions to “long term coping,” instead of “crisis coping,” is that God is unafraid of my big emotions. God is showing up, drawing near, getting into the ring with me even when I don’t feel worthy or ready. God has never left our sides, but draws intimately near in all of our change and transition. 

Surely, the Lord is in this place.

Surely, the Lord is in the unknown.

We are not alone. 

Be safe, Pastor Allee

Posted by Allee Willcox with

Pastor's E-Letter

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I heard a stand-up comedian once say that on first dates, he would rather ask someone what they hated rather than what they just liked. His argument was that hate- of anything from pickles to racism to a certain part of town- got more to the heart of a person than their favorite binge show, or flavor of ice cream. Getting to the heart of a matter is difficult on first dates, on social media, and even in churches! A popular phrase used among pastors is "the questions beneath the question,” meaning, topics that get to the heart of any matter. It is never about carpet color, what’s for dinner, what business we work with on any given project, or what color flowers a family wants at a funeral. It is almost always also about something else. This is where the “question beneath the question” comes in- the heart of the matter. It is a helpful reminder as we navigate complicated times interpersonally and globally: it is almost never about the first thing.

One of these “heart of the matter” questions we could ask ourselves is, “What are we (am I) afraid of?” 

Even before humans can speak, we have answers to this “heart of the matter” question. Spiders. Tornados. The dark. Losing mom, dad, sister, or brother. As we get older, the answers get greyer, deeper, and more complicated. We are afraid of abandonment. War. Hunger. Rejection. Weakness. The way we age. Death. 

This week has been one of those “heart of the matter” weeks. Our fears have been on full display. For African Americans in this country, their answer to this question has often, rightfully, and tragically been racist systems in our country, which can often include the police. So many forces that I take for granted as a white woman are filled with fear and uncertainty for people of color, and this tide of fear and uncertainty is hard to stem in a world where events like the killing of George Floyd continue to regularly occur. For those of us who don’t have this experience, we can be afraid these days, too. If we are honest, racism can often stem from our fear. We are afraid of those who are different from us, the places they’re from, and particularly this week, the emotion that people of color have shown in the days after a public death like George Floyd’s. Our fear also stems from uncertainty, but not all fear is justified. 

This Sunday in worship, we will address fear head-on. In the empowerment of Pentecost, we are taught to not be afraid of this world but, through the Holy Spirit, to work for God’s love and justice to be real and tangible. In perfect love, there is no fear, which empowers us to be open and loving to those who are different from us. For white people, this also means being open to hearing how fears can be legitimate in people of color, and how we can be part of the solution.

Suntree’s 4D Vision Plan commits us to the work of racial reconciliation and justice. We continue to do this work by first examining our hearts and minds, and asking God for help to see which fears are legitimate and which fears we can be released from to learn how to love those who are different from us. As a part of this, we will begin on June 10th our study of "White Fragility" by Robin DiAngelo, which addresses fears specific to White People and our inability to address the way racism pervades our society. For me, to begin reading this is to get honest in my heart and mind about my fears, too. I hope you’ll join us for that and for worship.

See you then,
Pastor Allee

Posted by Allee Willcox with

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