Several years ago, after some tragic event that dominated the news, I suggested to a friend that it seemed like we were living in uncertain times. Without missing a beat, they gently corrected me with the reminder that for the majority of the earth’s people now and times are uncertain. Then, not missing the opportunity to enlighten a friend, they went on to explain that modern medicine, air conditioning and lots of other things that define my privileged lifestyle, cushion, and hide so much that is the daily reality for most of our siblings.
I’ve held that thought for the last months as we have lived the Pandemic together. Is what we have experienced the "new normal"? Has the pain we have witnessed and the uncertainty about what comes next damaged our ability to relate to one another?
Just like the small congregation Charnley and I attend near Tacoma, WA, Plymouth adjusted in so many ways to meet the challenge of being a family of faith in a time of crisis. New ways of worship, new ways of gathering, new ways of keeping faith with one another and the Holy emerged over night. We found ways to care but uncertainty was thrust into the middle of all sorts of assumptions about what it means to be followers of Jesus called into a covenant community.
What comes next? Will the pandemic take another turn? Will we be confronted with more uncertainty? Will we need to discover more new ways of “being Church” in covenant locally and with siblings who share this planet with us? How will we let the Christ light shine in the days ahead?
One answer that comes to mind is this: whenever the angel messengers of God appear, they come first with a word that breaks the power of fear. “Fear not!” they proclaim to shatter our illusion of certainty and break open the tough shell of our defenses against anything painful or threatening.
Something I forgot to mention when I preached on the 23rd Psalm two weeks ago is that this spiritual gem does not suggest that God promises a detour around the valley of the shadow of death or an alternative route that leads to paths of certainty. Instead, the promise given assumes uncertainty and offers the abiding presence of God in uncertain times. Times like now. Times like tomorrow. Times like always!
I am happy to be with you! Please know that my door is always open and that I welcome calls.
Bridge Associate Minister
From July 12 to October 3, the Rev. Ron Patterson will be with us again, having served as a sabbatical interim four years ago, and then serving as our interim conference minister during The Rev. Sue Artt’s sabbatical. Ron retired as Senior Minister of Naples United Church of Christ in Florida. Ron and his wife have family here in Fort Collins: their daughter is a member of Plymouth, and their grandchildren are active in Sunday school. Pronouns: he/him.