From the Pastor

Following Jesus Together - January 6

Dear Friends,

Happy New Year! For a brief gospel meditation this week, I want to share some well-written words by a former student I had the privilege of knowing and discipling in youth group. She writes,

“I refuse to put my hope in 2021.

How could I place all my hope for a better year in some far off, superficial feeling or figment of time?

What if things don’t get better?

What if the vaccine doesn’t work the way they are hoping?

What if this new president elect makes mistakes?

What if, God forbid, things get even worse?

Where would we be then if 2021 isn’t kinder?

These “what ifs” are not meant to alarm or stir up anxiety, but I mean to point you to Christ - the same One on the throne in 2020 - the only comfort, solace, hope, peace, and joy in the midst of suffering can come to us through Him alone. In Him all things hold together. So I continue to place my trust in the God who knows the beginning from the end and rescues us not because we are good, but because He is good.

So you won’t see me asking 2021 to be kinder to us. But I pray God draws you near in His peace that He is good and in control. I ask God for healing and relief from the suffering of 2020, knowing His holy and perfect will cannot bring me to despair or the end of myself like the things of this world. They say, “when you reach the end of your rope, just tie a knot and hang on.” That’s absurd. We are too weak. His strength and power alone pulls us from the depths.”

Those beautiful words apply what the prophet Habakkuk wrote in the midst of chaotic times, “The righteous shall live by faith.” (Habakkuk 2:4) Here’s what that faith sounds like (3:17-18), again in Habakkuk’s words, “Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation. God, the Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like the deer’s; he makes me tread on my high places.”

May the Lord be our strength in 2021 – as Habakkuk reminds us – God gives us what we need to navigate through uncertain times and places: faith.

Thompson Update
Uncertainty sums up our holidays. I am being tested again for Covid today. I thought I was improving and then got hit again yesterday with tightness in the chest – fatigue and shortness of breath. So they are making sure I didn’t have a false negative last week. I will keep you all updated.

I greatly appreciate your kind words, texts and prayers! By God’s grace everyone else in the house is healthy.

Sunday – Pastor Jim is in the pulpit Sunday continuing through Romans – “16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”

Martin Luther, the famous Reformer, wrote long ago that when he finally understood these words, it was like the gates of heaven opened wide and he stepped into paradise. He was changed by the grace of God. May Jesus do the same for us today!

It’s communion Sunday this week. So please take time to prepare your hearts and minds to feed on Christ by faith and be strengthened by the grace of our good God!

Grace and peace,
Nate

Take and Eat, All the Work is Done

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One of the songs I have been listening to on repeat the last month is by a lesser known Christian musician called, "Son of Laughter."  In his song, "The Meal We Could Not Make", we have a beautiful reflection on the good news of God's grace in Jesus Christ. 

It is an invitation to bask in the rest of Christ earned through the labor of His blood, sweat and tears poured out for sinners.  I find find it helpful in preparing to take communion, as we will on Sunday.  Listen to the chorus:

So take and eat,
All the work is done.
Stretch out your feet
In the Sabbath sun.
With this bread, old ambitions break.
As we pour the wine, we feel our hungry hearts awake
To the meal we could not make.

On the night Jesus was betrayed, He spoke of a deep longing to eat this meal with his friends, "I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer.  For I tell you I will not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.” (Luke 22:15-16)  

Just as we long for the day when earth is invaded by heaven and Jesus makes all things new, we also hear our Lord and Savior deeply longing for the meal that is enjoyed with his disciples.  You and me.  If He had a passionate longing to explain the meaning of His suffering, as he was getting ready to despise the shame of the cross for the joy set before Him, how much more is He looking forward to enjoying the meal when all the work is done? So in eating at our Father's table during the Lord's Supper Christians get to taste, by faith, the fruit of Christ's death (His permanent grace) in order to strengthen our hope and longing for that great day!  

One last thought.  Just the name, "Son of Laughter."  It's a reference to Sarah laughing at the idea of having a son when it was humanly impossible at her age.  Enter, Isaac, the son of promise, the son of laughter.  Christians are called sons of God by faith (Galatians 3:26) as well as sons of Abraham.  Listen in again to the lyrics from our song reflecting on these Scriptures:

See the needy and unlovable
And many enemies.
I know that peace has never worked before
But this feast satisfies the thirst for war
For justice has been won
And mercy’s made us new.

We used to joke about the great hereafter
Now he’s made each of us a Son of Laughter
That little hope in you
Is finally coming true

So take and eat…

If you have a seat at the Christ's table, you should laugh! It's a wonderful cosmic joke, which also happens to be true (Matthew 28).  We are saved by grace. We are welcomed into the feast of our Heavenly Father. We were enemies.  And now we are His sons through faith!  So as you prepare for communion this Sunday there may be some tears.  Tears of repentance and sorrow for our cosmic treason and the hurt we have put on those made in God's image. But grace dries our tears (Rev. 21:1-4) and says, "I paid for this meal, take and eat.  Stretch out your feet in the Sabbath sun."

You can hear the song on Spotify and here on Youtube:  

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yjTjJoAMLEo

There's a great interview with the musician here as well if you are interested: http://rabbitroom.com/2018/01/joking-about-the-great-hereafter/

 

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