Elim Extra for Sunday January 21, 2024

Pastor’s Reflection

My apologies if you didn’t get the notice that worship was cancelled due to snow last Sunday, and showed up to an empty church! We tried to notify everyone on Saturday night when the forecast was predicting heavy snow, so please do let me know if you fell through the cracks so I can make sure to put your number in my phone.

We are going to delay the Baptism of the Lord by one more week, and do our affirmation of baptism this coming Sunday. (So this week’s bulletin will be the one we sent out last week.) This message of divine belovedness is too important to miss, especially after exploring Jesus’s manifestation of divine vulnerability and divine grief on Epiphany.

In my online reflection on First Thessalonians 4 last Sunday on Facebook, I lifted up some questions from our Bible Study about resurrection hope. Paul called on believers not to avoid grief, but to grieve differently, to grieve with hope. Many bereaved persons, even those who are believers, have a hard time feeling that eternal life is real, when they are so drastically separated from their beloved. That’s okay; just cling to whatever hope you can find, even if it is the simple hope that by working through the tasks of grief, it is possible to someday feel better. That is new life and resurrection in and of itself, on the other side of this hard and difficult work.

Bishop Michael Girlinghouse applies personal grief work to congregations: “We need to recognize the reality of loss and its impact on our congregation, acknowledge the grief, and, with the courage of our faith, work through it – as hard as that can be. After all, as people of faith, we do not grieve as those with no hope.” (From Embracing God’s Future without Forgetting the Past: A Conversation about Grief and Nostalgia in Congregational Life.) In Bible Study this Sunday, we will examine our personal losses and draw strength from our cloud of witnesses. Please read Chapter 3 if you can.

with love, Pr. Chelsea