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After the death of Moses the servant of the Lord, the Lord said to Joshua son of Nun, Moses’ aide: 2 “Moses my servant is dead. Now then, you and all these people, get ready to cross the Jordan River into the land I am about to give to them—to the Israelites. … 5 No one will be able to stand against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you. …”
Joshua 1:1-2, 5 (New International Version)
As we head into the new year, I would like to be able to say that 2021 has got to be better than 2020 – but that would be arrogant of me. The reality is that we never know what a new year – any new year – will bring. This year, though, we are more aware of the uncertainties ahead.
When the church closed to in-person services in March to help keep our congregation and our community safe from the coronavirus, we had no clue we would be apart this long. Now in the tenth month of online services only, we know we are not done yet with this new reality. When we will be back together in person, I do not know. When reopening does finally happen, there’s a very good chance it will occur gradually, beginning with small groups and remote groups and growing from there.
When we do get back together, it will be different. That’s a certainty. When we can once again gather in person, some people will remain hesitant to participate in large groups. Some will have fallen in love with their small groups and will prefer to congregate in that way to worship. Some will have grown to prefer the online services that allow them to worship on a different schedule. And finally, some who join us from other parts of the country – whether singly or in small groups – will continue to do so. To continue to grow our ministry, we will have to be flexible and adaptable. We will do some of what we used to do but do it better, incorporating all the improvements we have made and adding in new elements as well.
What we will be has not yet been revealed, but we are excited about the possibilities and dedicated to being better. We know that we will not be taking that journey alone. In the passage of Scripture above, Moses has died; the Israelites’ world has been turned upside down as a result. God’s statement to Joshua is: “Moses is dead, but your mission is the same. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you.” When we gather in the future, we will be different, but at least three things will remain the same:
God will still be God.
God will still be with us.
We will still be loving all, changing hearts, and transforming lives.
Let’s make 2021 one of the best years in the long history of the Church of the Warm Heart.
Grace and Peace and Calm and Wisdom and Hope,
8 And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.
Luke 2: 8-11 (New International Version)
My wife and I recently spent the good part of a day making sense of a jumbled mess in our garage. We had good reasons for delaying that task for the better part of the 13 years we have lived in Meridian, but we couldn’t put it off any longer. We expected to fight dirt, dust, and emotions as we tried to create order out of chaos. We weren’t sure what we would find in the stack of stuff, but we knew the foundation upon which it was built: a dog pen and doghouse.
When my bride and I moved to Meridian in 2007, we were a family of four – the two of us, an extremely spoiled feline named Carey Cat that I was forced to accept in order to marry Jeannine, and my faithful hunting companion, a German shorthaired pointer named Daisy. (I probably shouldn’t say this, but Daisy obeyed me much better than any other creature in our household ever has.)
I loved Daisy, and she loved me. We spent many years together hunting upland game birds in Oregon and Idaho. I had eased her into retirement only a few months before I learned I would be moving to Meridian, and I hoped we would all enjoy her retirement together for at least a few years. Unfortunately, that’s not how it turned out. Only eight months after our move, Daisy left me to chase critters across Heaven.
That’s how the pyramid of paraphernalia began. We weren’t ready to lose Daisy, and we couldn’t face dismantling her pen and house. Instead, we began stacking other things in them and on them. Before we knew it, everything was out of control.
We finally dug into the task on one of the last really nice days of fall. We organized, recycled, discarded. When we got to the bottom of the stack, we faced our emotions and moved Daisy’s things into the driveway. An unexpected blessing occurred when a neighbor saw them and asked if she could have them for her daughter’s new puppy. We heartily agreed. It lifted our hearts to know they were going to someone who could learn to love a canine companion the way we had loved Daisy.
Daisy has been on my mind frequently since that day. Descriptions of German shorthaired pointers almost always include the terms “boisterous” and “enthusiastic,” and Daisy was the embodiment of both. When I came home from work, she would stand up on her hind feet and then repeatedly jump straight up into the air – coming 18 inches off the ground – with elation over seeing me. Her excitement over an impending trip in the pickup was easy to see; every inch of her quivered. Her expression of joy always made me feel good.
It strikes me that we could learn an important lesson from Daisy. What if we expressed our joy just as unabashedly? When God gave us the gift of his Son, the angel brought “good news that will cause great joy for all the people.” How do we express that joy? Is it clear to those around us? Our joy should be at least as obvious to others – although admittedly in different ways – as a boisterous and enthusiastic hunting dog greeting her returning owner. No one should have any doubt, no matter what is going on in the world, about our reaction to the good news.
As we approach the sacred celebration of the birth of Jesus, I urge you to share the joy!
Grace and Peace and Calm and Wisdom and Hope and JOY! JOY! JOY!