Thank You Church!
As I sit in my office trying to put the "finishing touches" on my Thanksgiving Sermon for 2019, something dawned on me...I have SO MUCH to be thankful for! I thought I'd share some thoughts with you all to maybe be a blessing but definitely to thank you for being such an important part of my life.
Psalm 103:8 says - "The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger and rich in faithful love."
While I reminisce on this rainy, dreary Friday, I can't help but wonder why God has chosen to be SO compassionate, SO gracious, SO slow to anger, and SO rich in faithful love - to me? I mean, as the Psalmist says, "who am I that you are mindful of me?" I can surely stand with so many others throughout church history who've declared that "my chains are gone," and that I know that there is no condemnation for me because I am in Christ - but I still sometimes feel the shadow of guilt, the sting of regret, and even the shame of embarrassment over past failures. Yet, He is compassionate and slow to anger in the face of my memories. God truly has been rich in faithful love to me throughout my life and many of the most tangible ways that He has "hugged" me have been through your arms!
I know that nobody "deserves" to be a pastor, in fact, it's only by His grace that any dare to try! I am so honored and so privileged that y'all have been gracious enough to call me yours for these past three-plus years! We have been through a lot together. We have felt the pain of too many earthly losses as heaven has gained so many of our friends and loved ones. We have struggled with great pain at times to form a relevant identity in this post-Christian era as we have navigated new technology and worship styles. Our hearts have been torn as we have watched many long-time friends and fellow-laborers decide to worship elsewhere. We've had star-flung dreams of launching new ministries and felt the crushing weight of laying our efforts on the alter with little results. We've watched and welcomed together new baby Christians enter the waters of baptism only to be rarely seen again. We have been through so much loss and pain, and wondering why this life can be so cruel.
Yet, God's Word remains true and He often paints His most beautiful pictures through His people - YOU. So, in the face of such hardships, how can I be so thankful that he is "compassionate and gracious, slow to anger and rich in faithful love?" I have felt the waves of each of your compassion wash over me as our family has faced devastating medical news. We have been bolstered like soldiers on the battlefield as each of you has locked your shield of faith together in unity as you have graciously overlooked so many of my failures as you've continued to walk by faith in our Great God. I have experienced so many of you being slow to anger when you could have corrected, challenged, or even rightly dismissed me. And we have experienced your faithful love day in and out even as I have sometimes failed to meet your expectations. I have quietly watched many of you reach out to one another and to others in our community in many of the same ways! I have so much to be thankful for as I see the face of God in each of you!
So, this Thanksgiving, I know that God is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger and rich in faithful love not only because the Bible tells me so. I have personally experienced these blessings as each of you has poured them generously into my soul. Saying "thank you" is never enough, but coming from one who could never repay you, it is all that I have. So, Thank You! I love you each dearly and wish you the best Thanksgiving ever!