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I Must Complain!

I must complain!  OK… this is probably not the message you were looking for today, but still, I must complain!  On January 3rd in celebration of the Epiphany when wisemen of old followed a star to meet a baby King, we encouraged people in our faith community to get a “star word.”  Those who were comfortable with technology went to our website homepage and clicked.  The wheel would spin, and a word would be selected for you with virtual fireworks exploding on the screen to celebrate!  For those who are not so tech savvy, a call to the church office would provide a word personally selected and sent in the mail.  (If you have not yet gotten your “star word”, feel free to take the steps described.)  Some of you were gracious enough to share your word and your reaction.
One woman shared that her “star word” last year was “solitude,” an uncomfortably appropriate word for 2020.  This year her word is “refresh.”  How hopeful!  Another woman who suffered three losses in her family in 2020 received the word “endurance.”  So often the journey of grief feels like an endurance test.  Will that be her 2021 journey?  One grandmother was gifted with the word “enjoy,” and she said she plans on doing just that with her little ones.  Our Music Director received the word “reverence,” a perfect description of her posture as she leads us in worship.  One of our worship Elders received the word “playful.”  At the Christmas Concert this year, he wore bright red velour Santa pants, so I think he is well on the way to living into that “star word.”  One man, whose wife has just been diagnosed with cancer, received the word “together.”  I think that is his plan for 2021.  One woman asked her whole family to get a star word that she will now pray for them in 2021.  Her son-in-law, who works in a high-pressure job, received the word “breathe.”  He told his mother-in-law he is learning how to breathe through the anxiety.
One word after the next… Virtue… Comprehension… Protection… Music… Aspire… Release… Stretch… Charity… Treasure… Each word with a message … a challenge … a calling … a promise.  My daughter-in-law received the word “fun.”  I would have loved to get that word after the exhausting year 2020 turned out to be.  But my “star word” for 2021 is “Test.”  Thus, I am complaining!  TEST.  I thought 2020 was the test.  How quickly can we pivot our ministry from in-person to virtual?  How well can we care for our people in a socially distant construct?  How will we care for the increasing needs of our larger community?  Will we be able to keep all our staff fully employed?  Can we bring the good news of the Gospel into a world struggling with brokenness at every turn?  One test after the next.  There were no classes in seminary to prepare me for leading a faith community through a pandemic, in a country struggling with economic challenge, social unrest, racial inequality and political battles.  I know that each of you has been facing your own “tests” these days.  But 2021 was supposed to be a New Day!  The vaccines are ready, new treatments for COVID have been discovered, the election is behind us… surely 2021 will be better, easier, more hopeful.
But then I watch the news… enough said!  When I look to the world for hope, all I see is the next round of challenges… not enough vaccines… new COVID variants emerging every week… more political battles in Washington… no end in sight to our social distance.  One test after the next.  Will 2021 be just more of the same…?  Or is it possible that the 2021 test is about where we look for our hope.  The prophet Isaiah speaks an important word into the test of today:
The sun will no more be your light by day
Nor will the brightness of the moon shine on you
For the Lord will be your everlasting light
And your God will be your glory.
Isaiah 60:19
The writer of Hebrews puts it this way: “Fix your eyes on Jesus… consider Him so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” (Hebrews 12:2-3) I know that this year is going to offer us new challenges and more questions than I know how to answer.  When I think of all that, I can barely breathe!  So today, I choose to fix my eyes on Jesus.  I choose to find my light in the glory of God.  The answer I seek to the test of 2021 is found only in the Savior.
Amanda Gorman, the poet laureate who recited at the Presidential Inauguration last week, ended her poem with a call to faith.
There is always light.
If only we are brave enough to see it.
If only we are brave enough to be it.
May we look to the One who is “everlasting light” and live as people who reflect His glory.
Shine Lenape Valley!
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