Words From Your Pastor

                   The Eve of Our National Day of Thanksgiving 2016

Grace and peace to you dear friends in Christ:

                         Sing to the Lord a new song! Sing to the Lord all of creation! (Psalm 96)

Is this not a great exhortation to offer to God our praise and thanksgiving? For what are you thankful this year? In our life together as a community of faith, we can thank and praise God for blessing us with healthy congregational dynamics and for an increase in congregational giving over the last five years. We can thank God for helping us weather the challenges of adding another worship service on Sunday morning and for the blessing of growing together in our life of faith and worship. We can thank God for the blessing of leaders with vision and optimism who are exploring ways to update our aging physical plant. All these and more are blessings we can look to as we give thanks and praise to God. But we can also look to troubling things as well. While giving is up, it is not sufficient to meet our need. While membership is healthy, it is not growing in numbers. While we've added a second worship service, the desired impact has not been realized. While we have wonderful and gifted leaders, we do not have enough of them. We could look upon these indicators with trepidation and anxiety and see these as evidence that God has turned his face away from us.

This is the stuff of life, isn't it? Sometimes it looks as if God is all for us and sometimes it looks as if God is nowhere to be found. What do we do with that? We do this “ we cling to the Good News of the Gospel! And what is this Good News? It is expressed seasonally this way “ God with us is always and especially God for us! The shadow of the manger is the cross. Immanuel, God with us, is named Jesus because he will save us.

The salvation journey for our Lord begins with his miraculous conception in Mary's womb and his birth in Bethlehem. It ends with his suffering and death at Calvary and his glorious resurrection from the dead. His journey becomes our journey by faith. And his journey assures us that God has not turned his face from us. Instead, he has “ out of his extraordinary love for us “ turned his face toward us. In and through God's Son we know that God is on our side and whatever trials and difficulties we face are not occasions for us to turn away from him but instead opportunities to turn to him for strength and support.

This is why, together with the psalmist and all the faithful, we sing the new song of Christ! In all things God is with us by his powerful and comforting Spirit in Christ. I am confident of this. The world may be a hot mess. Our nation may be struggling to come to terms with itself after an extraordinarily contentious election. Our city may be trying to find its way as a welcoming place for all people. But I know this to be true “ that it was for the brokenness of the world that our Lord himself came and gave his life. Were the world perfect then he would have died in vain. And he did NOT die in vain. He came, lived, died and lives again FOR US.

I take great comfort and hope in this Gospel Good News. And something else “ I take comfort and hope from my relationship to you. God has blessed me richly in giving you into my pastoral care. Together with each other, and with God, we continue to grow in becoming the community of faith He is calling us to be.

This Thanksgiving and Christmas, as you enjoy time with family and friends and each other, be comforted and encouraged in the assurance that God is watching over you and he will not allow any of us to perish, though for a time it may be hard. It is, after all, the stuff of life, isn't it? Carolyn and the family join together with me in wishing all of you a very blessed Thanksgiving and Christmas. Know that we are praying for you, even as we know you are praying for us.

Blessings,

Pastor Buono

                    "No one whose hope is in the Lord will ever be disappointed. (Psalm 25)