Today I’m thinking again about our theme from last Sunday: “Rejoice!” On Sunday this word was visible in worship through song, prayer, fellowship, and service. But over the past two days “Rejoice!” has taken a backseat to difficult, chaotic, and tragic events, particularly the active shooter on Chapel Hill’s campus (just as classes have begun) and the damage wrought by Hurricane Idalia along the Florida panhandle and into Savannah, GA, South Carolina, and the edge of North Carolina’s beaches.
The questions I have asked–and maybe you have asked, too–include: “What rejoicing is possible in these events?” “Is joy even appropriate to bring up?” “Can rejoicing ever really be enough to overcome grief and hate?”
None of those questions have easy answers, unfortunately. But, at the same time, none of those questions are unknown to the church in scripture. Jobs, Psalms, Lamentations, Jeremiah, the Beatitudes, Romans. All these and more delve into the questions of joys place amid difficulties unimaginable and overwhelming. And each, in their own unflinching way, does affirm that even our cries of lament, our heavy sorrows, our sighs too deep for words are intimately connected to “rejoicing.” Because all are prayers offered to a God who is present with us always; a God who, in Christ, entered a painful world and suffered alongside us so that we might know the good news of God’s abiding love in every circumstance; a God, who in the work of the Holy Spirit, calls us not only to cry out in sorrow but also to act with renewed hope and conviction that love has already won and the victory can be seen in our own acts of humbles service and care for those in pain.
The ending of a prayer and statement from the Presbytery of New Hope about the Chaple Hill Shooting reflects this view of how God’s presence might help us turn weeping into hope, rage into joy as we continue to serve the one who came as a Prince of Peace. May these words continue to comfort and call us into a service, not free of grief, but yet full of rejoicing:
Lord, in your mercy…God, we hand our rage and our hope over and ask you to help us hold it. And, more than that, help us know what to do with this holy rage and deep hope we have inside. How can we make this world better? How can we extend love to those who are hurt and want to hurt others? Give us courage to seek justice and love mercy and walk humbly. And also hold us when we want to give up. Amen.
The Lord Bless and Keep You Always,
*In-Person/Livestream Worship: Join us each Sunday at 11:00 am in person or online (via Facebook live) for worship!
Online participation via Facebook Live: https://www.facebook.com/firstpresbyterianchurchofgarner
See our service from August 27 here:
This Sunday, September 3rd, we start a new worship series “Created to Be” which will take us through the stories of Genesis. Come hear, share, and live the good news of who God is and who God made and calls us to be from the very beginning! We will also celebrate Holy Communion.
The Congregation elected Rachel Acton, Carrie Dixon-Cash, Parks Icenhour, and Kevin Wallace, to serve with Elders Roxann Porter and Lucy Paradies, and Deacon Chris Turpin to serve on the congregational Nominating Committee. Please pray for these folks and the people God is directing them toward who will serve as Elders or Deacons for our church. If you have a name the committee should consider please offer it to one of these folks.
*NC Department of Health reports and data show a recent increase in COVID-19 rates, perhaps due to a summer seasonal surge. The church encourages people to be mindful about ways to protect themselves and others, including maintaining distance, washing/sanitizing hands, wearing a mask (always welcome at FPCoG but still optional), avoiding large crowds when you are not feeling well, and having a COVID test on hand. The church office is gathering test kits to have on hand for those who need them. Please contact the office or pastor if you need one.
* Garner Area Ministry URGENT NEED: In June, FPCoG contributed 424 lbs of food to GAM to help alleviate food insecurity in our community. The shelves need to remain stocked though! Please bring donations of ANY and ALL non-perishable food items to the church or directly to GAM in the coming days, weeks, and months.
*Walking Group: The Walking Group meets each Tuesday weather permitting. During these warmer months, please take precautions and stay hydrated! Because it has more shade, the group has returned to walking at Lake Benson Park until the fall. The group meets weekly at 6:00pm
*2023 Vision Update: Our Group is now set and meeting! Thanks be to God for Elders Deb Wallace and Megan Snapp, Deacon Regina Ekoule, and at large members Kathy Blue, Sandy Lee, Joe Prater, and Ken Summerville for being part of this work. They will not be alone though as the whole congregation will have the opportunity to offer feedback and ideas as we discern together what God is calling us to be and do in 2023 and beyond. Please pray for this process to be faithful and fruitful.
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