Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ!
These are the words of greeting that the Apostle Paul used in writing to the churches he had established during his missionary journeys. Appropriate words for any salutation. May God’s grace and peace be with you as we end year 2021 and approach 2022.
What a year 2021 has been. And, it appears as we begin 2022 we are still riding this bizarre “roller coaster” called COVID, characterized by ups and downs, twists and turns, and physical as well as emotional consequences. During the past year, Gardens has experienced changes in pastoral leadership with Anna’s leaving and my arriving. The doors to the sanctuary for in-person worship, once locked, are now open. New forms of on-line worship were refined – approximately one third of the worshiping congregation joins us via the internet. Session and committee meetings are conducted via Zoom. Choirs and special music are back in the Chancel. Dr. Suzanne Galer-Wert is our new music director. Linda Lader is back teaching Monday Bible Study. We had a sense that we were moving toward what people call the “new normal” and then the Omicron variant appeared. Three steps forward… one step back.
A special tribute to Hanlim Chae, Lynda Hart, Linda Lader, Cindy Woodrow, and Amy Kirk for their dedication and devotion to maintaining basic programs during these challenges. They have been the stabilizing keel as “Ship Gardens” has progressed through the storm. As we move into a new year we have hope, even though we live on a fragile planet occupied by fallible humans. Here are a few scriptures that give me hope.
There is hope for fallible humanity. The Old Testament Prophet Ezekiel spoke for God with these words. “A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you; and I will remove from your body the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.” Ezekiel 36:26
And, the Apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “If anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! 18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 that is, in Christ, God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them.” 2 Corinthians 5:17
In reference our fragile planet and unpredictable “mother nature,” there is promise of a new creation: “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away… 2 And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “See, the home of God is among mortals. He will dwell with them; they will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them; 4 he will wipe every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more, for the first things have passed away.” 5 And the one who was seated on the throne (Jesus) said, “See, I am making all things new” Revelation 21:1-5.
Our hope is in God’s capacity to make all things new!