Beloved Church-in-the-Garden Family and Friends,
Happy New Year! I hope everyone had a safe and joyous celebration and that you all will allow God to be the ultimate guide in your lives this year and always! Now that a new year has begun, we have work to do! While 2016 was a transformative year and we accomplished much (renovations, installation, church growth, and greater media attention), our journey is by no means complete and without some future obstacles. In fact, this year will be a year of challenge and change for our country, our world, and yes, our church.
While it is customary to look back on yesteryear and reflect and make meaning of all the events of 2016. I want us all to look forward. I want us to prepare for our future. In this New Year, we as a country will inaugurate the 45th President of the United States. Clearly, after a most divisive election and the revealing of a fractured society, we face a time in our country where many fear for their liberties and being on the wrong end of the economy. Many in our country, and more specifically, in our church and community, feel that our incoming president (and to some extent our legislative and judiciary branches) will not represent them, that the will enact and repeal measures that will curb their freedoms, endanger the earth, and reconstruct an all too familiar dark time for many in this country. We as a church and as individuals need to fortify ourselves for whatever may come this year. Our faith informs us to be prepared and place our faith in God through Jesus Christ. Make no mistake, we are looking, moving, and preparing for the future with a steadfast faith in our blessed Lord.
This steadfast hope and faith is really what we should focus on this year. It is my belief that we have come this far by faith, leaning on the Lord, and trusting in God’s Holy Word. God has never failed us. God will not fail us. However, we must keep asking God for guidance, leadership, and God’s interaction in our lives. As Christ followers, our preparation must focus on our commitment to the mission of Jesus Christ. This year will undoubtedly rest on our ability to be faithful to God through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Last year, at the turn of the new year, I wrote that we need to live out our faith daily. I wrote that we need to be intentional about our actions in faith and our faith walk. I admonish us to speak truth with love to one and another. Those words ring true this year also! To be sure, our faithfulness must be founded on the building block of love. I am asking us to make a commitment to be faithful to the love of God and Jesus Christ. Our love of God will embolden us to seek out justice and to champion the cause of what is right for all humanity. Love will push us to seek a new moral agenda and hold ourselves and this village, city, state, and nation to that agenda. Love will make us take up the battle for equality and inclusion for those who cannot for themselves. Love will buttress our efforts to make this nation accountable to all its residents. Love will speak love’s truth to hate. It will stand and protest. Love will defend itself from hatred. Love will motivate us to learn. Love will cause familiarity which will cancel out fear. Love, brothers and sisters, will give voice to those who voices are muted. Love will give hope to those who have buried it six feet under. Love will give direction to those who have lost their way. Love will lead us to Christ and back to ourselves. Sisters and brothers, I implore you all to remember that this year will be challenging, but love is up to that challenge!
As we move forward this month, we welcome a new praise team to Church-in-the-Garden. We will also be rolling out more media events to reach out to those who are in need of community and a fellowship of which to belong. So, get ready friends, our work lay before us, but God is still moving and we will face this year with love, hope, faith, and determination. As the old hymn says, “For come what may, from day to day, My heavenly father watches over me!”
Rev. Earl Thorpe