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  • Pastor Jim Gronbeck (Retired)

“Remaining Faithful”

What is the Church going to look like when this pandemic is over? We have been dealing with this question for nearly a year now. Here at Zion, you remember our last service before we were shutdown was March 15th. We have been having services with all the protocols being followed with personal distancing, masks, and such since September. But our attendance and the capacity of the sanctuary has been severely limited. We haven’t been able to have our fellowship times after worship; we haven’t been able to serve our dinners and soup suppers; we haven’t even been able to finish our First Communion class yet.

At the risk of sounding whiney, we really have not had any sort of normality about our ministry and the things we do here. We have had to give up a lot in order to be complying with the govt. regulations. But we’re still here. The Church of Jesus Christ is still viable here at Zion, and we are going about our ministry as best we can.

The Church has not closed; we never were closed. We have just been forced to learn different ways of worshipping and doing ministry. In terms of technology, we have learned how to put our worship services online—over the internet. We have been talking about this for a few years now, but whenever we talked about it there was something that came up which caused us to put it off. Now, with the shutdown, we were forced to do it. That is a good thing. We are doing something we should have been doing previously.

The important question for all of us—those here in church and those watching at home-is: “What is the Church going to look like when the pandemic is over?

Will we have a full sanctuary for worship again? Will we have our Fall Supper, Lucia breakfast, Lenten Soup Suppers, our fundraising dinners and fellowship get togethers after worship?

We have tried to be faithful in the midst of these difficult circumstances. We have had to give up a lot in order to remain faithful. But God is still in charge! God will never leave us and God will be with us to bless us just as God blessed Abraham and Sarah with their child—Isaac—as they remained faithful to God.

Abram received stunning news. At the age of 99 years old, Abram was told by God that God was making a covenant with Him. God promised to make Him the Father of a multitude of nations. He was told that God was making an everlasting covenant—a promise to Abram and to his succeeding generations. To top it off, Abram and His wife Sarai, who were long past their childbearing years, would have a son. This son was the one through whom God’s promise would be kept.

No children for 99 years. Then he was told he was to be the father of a multitude of nations. Incredibly exciting, yet very difficult to comprehend.

Abram was not yet a believer. He was a pagan at this time. Yet, when God Almighty spoke to him, Abram believed. He remained faithful to God. The covenant God made was a Divine Commitment Covenant. This means that there was nothing Abram had to do. He didn’t even have to accept it. He did, however, believe God and fell on his face before God. God then gave both of them new names to reflect the Covenant relationship with God: Abraham and Sarah.

The Covenant with Abraham and his offspring was still in effect when Jesus told those following Him that they need to be ready to take up their crosses and follow Him. They didn’t know where this all would take them at the time, nor did Abraham. Following God can take us to places we never dreamed of, and it can lead us to things we never thought possible.

We don’t get to pick our crosses that we are called to take up. When a couple gets married, there is no guarantee as to what the future holds. The joys and the sorrows will come, and yet as we remain faithful to one another, we will endure through the good times and the bad times.

Our world never dreamed of the effects of this Coronavirus pandemic. We had no idea one year ago, what the coming year would be like and who would be affected. Remaining faithful as a congregation, as your pastor, and as worshippers here means that we take up the cross of the pandemic and go forward knowing that God is with us. We make the changes we have to make based on faith.

Hebrews 12: 1-2 reminds us: “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God.”

We are encouraged to remember the sacrifice of our Savior, Jesus, as we are faced with challenges and take up our cross. We can understand this pandemic as a cross the church has had to take up. We don’t always have the chance to choose our crosses, but we also know that Jesus is going before us through it all.

What will we as a congregation look like at the end of this? We don’t know. Will we get back all those who are not coming? Will we have the same programs? Will we have the same people? Only God knows the answers.

As individuals the same holds true. We don’t what the lasting effects of the pandemic will be, or if our relationships and our lives will be the same. Most likely they will all be different because we are not the same as when this all began. We have grown, we have changed, we have lost, and we have gained.

I was visiting with someone this week who just found out I was a pastor. “Is this the end of the world?” he asked me.

“It doesn’t matter,” I replied. “We’re in Jesus’ hands no matter what.”

“Oh, I know where I’m going,” he said. “I’m not worried about that.”

That’s really what it’s all about. We know where we are going, and we know we’re in Jesus’ hands. To remain faithful is to take up our crosses and follow where He leads us, knowing we’ll be okay.

AMEN

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