“How I long to see you!”
Dear church, the Apostle Paul wrote those words in more than one of his letters. Thus far, whenever I read these expressions I thought they were “nice” sentiments. He really liked and missed his people. How cute and adorable! As you know, he spent huge junks of time apart from the church communities he had founded, sometimes traveling, sometimes writing from prison in a world that wasn’t terribly open for the gospel message. And so, he wrote to his church flock in Philippi: “God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus.” And he wrote to his disciple Timothy, the recipient of two of his pastoral letters, “I thank God, whom I serve, as my ancestors did, with a clear conscience, as night and day I constantly remember you in my prayers. Recalling your tears, I long to see you, so that I may be filled with joy.” (2. Timothy 1: 3-4) And he wrote to the early Christians in Rome, whom he had never met before, “I long to see you so that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to make you strong- that is, that you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith.” (Romans 1: 11-12). It’s funny how you come across those passages and you think you know what they are about, until one day you realize there is more to it.
“How I long to see you!” It has fast become a commonly shared craving among us, a longing for the normalcy of human interaction, for the irreplaceable eye contact and the thousand or so things we communicate via body language, and so much more. Now we really know how Paul felt! I have received many little notes from people in our church saying they miss their community, they miss their choir rehearsals, they miss being together. And I feel the same way, despite the fact that I have always been comfortable spending long periods of time in solitude and relative quietness. These emails have become the most important vehicle to communicate with you, share insights, provide encouragement, and a faith-full perspective during these times. But at the end of the day, I am with Paul: “I long to see you!” My thoughts and prayers this morning are again with all of our homebound members and nursing home residents who are cut off from their family members and loved ones. Judy J., who serves as one of our visitation deacons, sent me the following picture of Herb K. (see attached) who lives at Gwynedd Estates. It was taken by one of the staff there. Herb is 93 now (I believe that’s correct), and he has always had a brilliant analytical mind, paired with an appreciation for community, togetherness, and fun. In his heyday, he worked as an engineer in several overseas assignments, including Persia and Panama. In fact, he brought his whole family to Panama for a period of time (Molly and all four daughters – with the exotic birds in the photos to prove it). We have some elderly people in our congregation who could tell stories… But the truth is, behind every person, there is a story, and to me, a big part of our faith journey is learning to tell your story with a hopeful, self-respecting and humble attitude, which is borne out of an awareness that you are part of a greater whole – God’s community! “How I long to see you!”
There are birthdays to celebrate today, on April 24, another popular one. Our greetings, love and blessings go to John M., Eric G., and Phoenix W.
Churches and Faith Communities are wrestling with loads of tricky questions related to a re-opening of our buildings at some point. Yesterday, I saw a document from a local church that passed on a questionnaire of important “re-opening” questions, ranging from how many people to allow into the building initially, to safe distances, communion procedures, cleaning procedures, etc. etc. They produced a three page document with great questions for us to ponder. Which also means: there are a lot more questions than answers still at this point. But we will figure this out together and will get through it. Of that, I am certain. I hope that when our council meets next time via Zoom, we will have a draft document that addresses all those questions in thoughtful and practical ways. We will keep you in the loop.
Today, you can drop off food donations for Manna and again place it on Lisa’s truck. I talked to her this morning. You can first use the back seats and then the covered truck bed. Lisa said she was overjoyed last week to get so many food donations, signs of your care for others. Thank you, church, you are the best! Today’s timing for donations is as always: 11:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. Thanks for your generosity!
I am so pleased that we have a total of 20 volunteers who are starting to work on our big St. Peter’s Devotional Book Project. This was something we had already discussed in our Adult Faith Formation Team a while ago; and it just feels like the right time to start it now. Our volunteers (including two couples sharing duties) will produce close to 100 devotion texts this year and about 130 in the next two years each. Some will write the minimum 4-5 devotions per year, some will do more. By the end of 2022 we plan on bringing it all together to publish a St. Peter’s Devotional Book, with a devotion for every day of the year. To me it is an important project in our quest to stimulate faith and depth of spirit among the people of our congregation.
In our children’s ministry we are also considering different approaches as we get closer to those summer months. Our Director of Family Faith Formation is working on a summer concept that will likely offer virtual children’s services, but I will hold off on this until the concept is fully developed. But we are thinking hard about how we can help our parents with young children in the upcoming months and we have some wonderful ideas. Stay tuned.
Today, I would like you to pray for Ginny O., the mother of Jim O. Jim, and his wife Renee joined our church last year. They live in West Point. Renee wrote:
“Please add Jim’s mom, Ginny. She has tested positive for COVID 19. She lives in Manor Care, Montgomeryville, which is under a recent high positive situation. If you have other church members that live there, you may want to touch base. I ask for prayers for Ginny, although still asymptomatic and (her husband) Roy as he faces this challenge without being with her”
Blessings to all of you on this rainy day…
Be blessed and be safe! Pastor Andreas Wagner