Sunday Message for December 26, 2021 – Clothe Yourself with Love

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As you know, this is my last Sunday as your lay pastor.  At times it is hard to believe that I have been doing the services for two years.  However, I have to say, there have been times when it seemed like forever.  If you think back for the last two years, it has been quite a roller coaster ride.  We have made our way through the pandemic that started in March of 2020 and though the virus is still rearing its ugly head our lives are closer to the normal that we remember then they have been in a long time.  The pandemic made being a church a challenge.  We had to figure out how to stay in touch when the whole state was in lockdown.  So the mail and email service parts and message were sent out every Sunday.  Those things have continued since they were started and have been sent out to those that couldn’t come to church and those that weren’t at church on any given Sunday.  Then as things loosened a little we were able to come back to church as long as we kept our distance, wore masks, didn’t sing, and didn’t use our Bibles.  There wasn’t a coffee hour after the service.  We learned new ways to collect the offering and do communion that were safer.  We had a couple of hiccups and had to shut our doors for a couple of weeks at a time but we are here and we are together.  We still do the collection and communion the way we learned to do it and those new ways may stay.  We still don’t have greeters but I think the people that get to church first do a good job of greeting the people that come in after them.  We have coffee hours again, we have lay readers again.  We are singing the praises of God again.  If nothing else this time has taught us to be resilient, to be tolerant, to have patience, and especially to appreciate the little things in life.  I for sure appreciate all of you that helped keep this church going during it all. 

Now, a new chapter in the life of our church is going to start.  On January 2nd, Pastor Larry Stalley will be leading the services with his wife, Mary Beth at his side.  There will be things that stay the same and there will be changes.  We all know how much we like change.  Most of the time, we are so tempted to say but I just like it the way it is, can’t it stay that way. We just need to remember that roller coaster ride we have been on that taught us resilience, tolerance, and patience.  Soon any of the changes that are made will become the new normal for our church.  We need to remember that sometimes change is a good thing. 

It is a part of how churches are run, that when the pastor retires or isn’t working for the church anymore, they are supposed to stay away from the church for a year to allow the new pastor get their feet under them and the congregation to get used and welcome the new pastor without the presence of the person that has been doing their services in the picture.  Well, George and I won’t be entirely gone, but we will have a low profile for a while just so Pastor Larry has a chance to become your pastor.  It is just the fairest way to do things.  Plus it will give me a chance to change my thinking back to being one of the congregation rather than the one in front of the congregation on Sunday mornings.

I had thought I would go back and revisit some of the messages I have given the last 2 years but that would be a lot of reading and could have gotten boring as well.  As I have said there were times when the words just flowed onto the paper and there were times when they didn’t.  There were times when I used props like the baseball bat leaning against the pulpit, the stool that I climbed up on, the pictures that I brought.  Some of the messages I especially enjoyed and some that weren’t as good.  However, you being the people that you are were always positive about the service on any given Sunday.  For that, I say thank you.  One thing that I will especially miss is the children’s time when Jonah was here with us.  He made my job so easy and so enjoyable.  It reminds me that sometimes the best way to understand what is being said in the scripture that is chosen for that Sunday is to look at it and read it through the eyes of a child.  It becomes so clear.

The scriptures that Sue and I read today were fitting for my last message I thought. Psalm 148 tells us to praise the Lord!  In any way possible we should praise the Lord.  How true is that, for where would we be if we didn’t believe in God and in Jesus Christ?  I can’t even imagine where we would be but the life we would be living would be nothing in comparison to the life that we have now.  Even though there are tough times, sad times, we always have God looking out for us and things work out for the best. 

I truly believe what God has taught us that are His two greatest commandments and they are what I strive to live by; “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

If we do just those two things then the rest of what we need to do in this life should just come naturally.  I think the passage from Colossians is another way to help us understand what we need to do.  It just explains how we need to be as people of God.  I am going to read it to you again because it does mean that much to me. 

“As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience.  Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.  Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.  And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body.  And be thankful.  Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly; teach and admonish one another in all wisdom; and with gratitude in your hearts sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God.  And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”

So my friends, my loved ones, take those words to heart.  If we just face the challenges we meet each day with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, patience, and especially love, our lives will be so much richer for doing so.  If our lives are richer for doing so, then that richness should continue to spread to others here in our community, then from here farther out into the country, and from there, further out to the ends of the earth.  What a wonderful place it would be, if every one of us clothed ourselves with love and then shared that love.

Blessings to you all.  Amen.

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