Having Faith and Continuing the Journey

Pastoral Newsletter, August 5, 2016
– Christina Cosby

Shepherdess with her Flock

Shepherdess with Her Flock
– Jean and Alexander Heard Library (Vanderbilt Divinity School) Record number 55543

This week marks my last week as your pastoral intern. It is, to say the least, a bittersweet time for me. For the past few months, our partnership in ministry has been rich: we have walked together, talked together, worshiped together, studied scripture together, and shared fellowship with one another. I have learned more fully the value in listening and paying attention. I have witnessed astounding faith in a God who called this community into being, and continues to guide this community into the future. The six words that remain in my heart are: thank you, and I love you!

Our lectionary passages this week point to the journey of faith, and following God’s call upon our lives. This can be read in a manner that is strictly personal, but it can also be read as a testament to this community. For nearly the past sixty years, this community has followed the promises of God. This does not mean that the path has always been clear, and in many ways it never has been. However, our past provides hope for our future. God has been in this place, God is in our midst, and God will continue to be with you in the days, weeks, months, and years ahead!

Isaiah 1:1, 10-20 regards worship. What does God desire our worship to look like? God does not care for what happens in the sanctuary (or chapel,) if it does not match what happens in our day-to-day lives. God desires our worship, but only if it is a living sacrifice. This relates to our vocabulary of the inward and outward journey. It is important to have times of personal worship, study, and communal worship, but only if that compels us to go forth and be God’s presence in the world. God asks that we learn to do good; seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, and plead for the widow (v. 17). For us this translates to reaching out to all those who are on the fringes of society.

Psalm 50:1-8, 22-23 continues the theme of summonsing the people to do God’s work. However, in addition to what Isaiah suggests, this Psalm says God cares for our gratitude towards Him. This thanksgiving arises out of the covenantal relationship we have with God. God no longer cares solely for the physical sacrifices we make, but for us to be a living sanctuary devoted to God’s praise.

Hebrews 11:1-3, 8-16 reminds us of our ancestors of faith. Abraham and Sarah were made grand promises by God, so they followed the path that God set before them (even when the path was unclear.) The author of Hebrews suggests that we, too, have the same faith as these forefathers and foremothers. While Abraham and Sarah did not fully see the promises during their lifetimes, God stayed true to God’s word. This is similar to where we, as a congregation, find ourselves in this season of transition. We know God has called this church into being for a special purpose. God has promised us many things, yet we are unsure of the way forward. Nonetheless, we continue along the journey, leaning on the ways God is leading. It is this kind of faith that makes God proud. (It is this same faith that I personally have had the joy to witness this summer!)

Luke 12:32-40 serves as a note of encouragement. God reminds us that we shall not be afraid. Yes, there are big changes in our midst. But God’s presence and promises remain steadfast. Here we see the words, “Do not be afraid,” a phrase that appears 365 times throughout the Bible. This serves as a solid reminder that God is with us each day of the year. However, it is important to notice, each time this phrase is used, there are big changes in ordinary life that follow. As you, this congregation, go forward seeking the ways in which God is guiding you into new life, know that God desires your hearts to be at ease. So, I leave you with the same words that Jesus shared with his disciples, “Do not be afraid, little flock!”

Thank you for being a part of my journey, for the interweaving of our lives. Who knows where God is calling this congregation, or myself over the next year; however, one thing I am sure of is God is still very much at work calling us forward into the life of faith!