The word became flesh and dwelt among us…full of grace and truth.John 1:14
Dear Friends in Christ,
The day after the elementary school murders in Texas I had to speak to a few hundred civic leaders at the Mayor’s Community Breakfast in Newton. On Tuesday night I threw away my prepared text for Wednesday morning and instead quoted Hebrew Bible texts for my two offerings. In one I went to Deuteronomy 30, where people confront life and death, blessing and curse. Because that’s what we were doing that day, as we had done two weeks earlier facing the Buffalo murders, and after the Walmart attack and Black Lives Matter revelations. All through these events we’ve been dealing with life and death and counting our blessings without denying our curses.
Deuteronomy got that articulated. But John does, too: he tells us that Jesus, the Word incarnate, was full of grace and truth. We like grace. It is tender and powerful and healing. And it comes with truth: we do not shy away from the events of our world, our families, or our conditions. God’s grace comes along with the stark, wondrous, manifest ingredients of truth.
This June at NHCC we deal with blessings and curses, grace and truth. We have been blessed for 23 years by the faithful Christian leadership of Lynd Matt. He is irreplaceable. And the truth is that it is his desire to move to Manhattan. The truth is we will miss him.
We have been blessed for 101 years with the gift of a property and a parsonage near our church. And the truth is we are not excellent landlords, being more interested in mission than management, and that is OK, too. So it may be time to change our script, and release the house.
We have been blessed with few major injuries during years of pandemic. We have lost beloved family members and we have been restricted — even in our grieving, such as numerical limits on who could attend a memorial. We have suffered and we have limped, for sure. So the truth is that we need to examine our condition and determine how to move forward. Do we have the right staff? Do we have the right offerings? National research says that worship attendance has fallen from 67% to 27% among faith communities, according to Pew. Will folks ever come back here at NHCC? Or do we face new truths that reveal God calling us in new directions?
I am sure of this: June 19 we want to gather to be with Lynd on his last major Sunday here; plus, it’s Juneteenth and even our 150th birthday kickoff. I am sure of this: Our world needs church members and faith communities who care about Texas schoolchildren and Buffalo shoppers and know that Black Lives Matter. I am sure of this: Deuteronomy and John are right—our world has blessings and curses, which is why grace comes with truth, and truth comes with grace. So we’ll be able to examine our offerings, our staff, our attendance, and listen to how God is calling in new directions. We can face blessings and curses as a people of faith.
Come guide our direction by participating in Annual Meeting on June 5, then come sing and give thanks on June 19, and if you are ready to count blessings and tell the truth, that’s what we’ll do this summer and fall to renew and revive and restore the gifts God has given us, together. It’s what resurrection people always do, and that is who we are.