Through Thick and Thin Places
*Before you read this week’s blog, please read the letter addressed to the congregation from our new Senior Leadership Team (SLT) Chair, Ken Vos, regarding the latest news from our Pastor Search Team. Gracias! (LETTER HERE)
As I’ve been studying God’s covenants with his people this Lent in preparation for Sunday sermons, I’ve been newly impressed by God’s nonsensical faithfulness. In his promises, God essentially says, “I’m with you people no matter what. I’ll be your God. You all will be my people.” Done.
I’ve been mulling over how God is with us in all the highs and lows of life, which often run concurrently in the course of our lives (see last Sunday’s sermon). Another way of putting it is that God is present both in our battles and in our blessings. Still another way of putting it is that God promises his faithful presence through thick and thin.
That particular turn of phrase, “through thick and thin,” strikes me as especially apropos during the 40 days of Lent. This season of the church kicks off with “Fat Tuesday” (that’d be a thick, feasting day) followed by Ash Wednesday (a thin, fasting day). The Sundays on the church calendar are technically NOT part of this 40-day season. They are exempted from Lent so that God’s people can continue to celebrate, feast, and finish one day a week feeling “thicker” than they started in body and soul.
As I shared a short message in each of Elmhurst CRC’s four short Ash Wednesday services, I offered an invitation to turn fully toward Jesus between now and Easter. I offered an invite to behold him, to remember him, to cherish him, to desire to walk with him every step of the way through the agony of the cross to the joy of the empty tomb of Sunday morning.
I also shared that in attempting to turn toward Jesus, most of us would bump into something along the way. Some of us might bump into a problem or a distraction or a besetting sin. Others might bump into a good thing, an adventure, or an opportunity. I repeated the invitation several times: whatever you might be bumping into, it’s worth setting aside for 40 days to fully turn toward Jesus.
As I shared this message the third time, I heard a whisper in my soul. Initially I was unsure whether it was my own voice or the Holy Spirit. The voice said, “Gregg, in your desire to turn toward Jesus, you’re going to bump into the Pastor Search Team.”
I’ve been part of the Search Team for the last six months. It’s a great group of people. Well led. Big hearted. We’ve put forth a tremendous investment of time, prayer, sweat, emotion, thought, and positive energy. Even though we don’t have a candidate to present to our congregation at present, I am 100 percent confident that the good fruit of the Search Team’s work is going to pay good dividends to Elmhurst CRC for years, decades to come.
We’ve been working hard and heartily. When I suggested to teammates that perhaps the Holy Spirit was inviting us to take a breather, there was great resonance and relief. So that’s what we’re going to do. We’re going lay down our labors until after Easter. We’re going to turn toward Jesus.
As of the writing of this blog, we’re six months into a search process. Maybe it’s half time. Maybe it’s a timeout. Time will tell. I am more optimistic about what God has in store for us at Elmhurst CRC than at any other moment in the nine months I’ve been your Lead Pastor.
At our most recent meeting, a gathering of the Pastor Search Team and our SLT, there was an incredible Spirit of togetherness, unity, even of lightness that the right things have transpired. We’re not in an easy place. We’re in a thin place…and a thick place. We’re in a place that is infused with a sense of God’s mysterious timing. God does not promise us an easy time. God does not promise us one victory after another. God promises that he will be with his people through it all, through thick and thin. Amen! We need more of your presence, Lord!
Peace to you,