O God, you have called your servants to ventures of which we cannot see the ending, by paths as yet untrodden, through perils unknown. Give us faith to go out with good courage, not knowing where we go, but only that your hand is leading us and your love supporting us; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
The above is a great little prayer from the Evening Prayer service in our Evangelical Lutheran Worship hymnal, and I think it is wonderfully appropriate for the month of May. This month is always one that finds people at exciting transitions. The school year is ending, bringing the summer break that is so desperately longed for both by the students and the adults. And speaking of summer, we might just be able to experience that season this year! We have now had, as of my writing this, two consecutive snow-free Sundays, so I declare with great hope (and potentially considerable folly) that winter has finally come to a close. In these and many other ways, then, our life together this month is summed up by that little snippet of the Evening Prayer service.
Called to ventures of which we cannot see the ending...
One of these ventures began at the end of last month with Canton’s first Rejoicing Spirits service, celebrated on April 26th with friends from the MOSAIC group homes in Canton, Macomb, and Bushnell. In total, 22 people participated in this first service, and plans are already starting to materialize for the next service over the summer!
Another new venture for us that will begin taking shape this month is the new Care Team ministry. As a congregation, we are very good at taking care of one another. In the Care Team Ministry, we will be finding new ways to intentionally weave our gifts of sending cards, cooking, and visiting one another into a blanket of God’s love that can comfort people who are hurting and let them know how deeply they are loved by God and by us, God’s servants.
By paths as yet untrodden…
May 20 brings about a new path for our sister Jaime Goldring, our one graduating high school senior. We send her with peace and prayers in a time of Graduate recognition during the worship service that day.
There is also an untrodden path in my own family, as Andrea and I recently discovered that we are expecting our first child! She is a little over eight weeks pregnant, and everything is progressing well so far! We were delighted to share this news publicly for the first time on the last Sunday of April, following the good results at her confirmation of pregnancy appointment a couple of days earlier. Our due date is December 7th - might make for an interesting Advent season this year!
Through perils unknown...
Of course, these exciting new directions (and the ones shaping up in each of our lives) are not without their potential pitfalls and struggles. Unforeseen challenges lie ahead, and there will be bumps in the road. But amid all our excitement this May, let us lean on the final words of that great piece of Evening Prayer, praying to God: Give us faith to go out with good courage, not knowing where we go, but only that your hand is leading us and your love supporting us; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
2018 is the bicentennial year for Illinois, and there will be undoubtedly be many celebrations this year that lift up key people and moments over 200 years of the Land of Lincoln. Unlike Illinois, though, my home state of Pennsylvania doesn’t have that one historical figure that looms as a giant over all the others. Pennsylvania’s state nickname is the “Keystone State,” named as such because of its importance to and central location in the original thirteen states and the colonial period that preceded the United States. I can’t say that my home state has been consistently noteworthy since then, but at least for a time, we were the keystone that held a fledgling nation together.
This April begins with a keystone of an entirely different sort as we begin the month with Easter Sunday. That keystone is the truth that is revealed in the Easter stories of all four Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) and to which the rest of the New Testament writers testified--that Jesus is the crucified and risen messiah of God. The confession of Jesus Christ crucified and risen is the essential element of Christian faith, the building block on which the Holy Spirit has built the church over nearly two thousand years.
Given our present-day culture’s much higher engagement with Christmas than Easter, it may surprise you to discover that the church’s observance of Easter developed several centuries before our celebration of Christmas; however, that order of things makes more sense when considering the context of these two important stories of Jesus. Jesus’ resurrection from the dead is what makes his birth noteworthy. Indeed, the confession of Jesus Christ crucified and risen is so central to the church’s mission that Easter is not just one day but rather an entire season in the church year. We devote fifty days each year to unpacking what Jesus’ resurrection means for us, beginning with Easter Sunday (Apr. 1 this year) and continuing all the way through the festival of Pentecost (May 20).
Jesus, the crucified and risen messiah of God, was not to be forgotten as were the flash-in-the-pan miracle men throughout history. No, people continue to gather in Jesus’ name. People continue to praise Jesus for his victory over sin and death. People continue to cling to the hope of Jesus’ resurrection and trust in God’s proven ability to create something new where the former things have passed away, even if that means doing something that seems impossible. The Easter good news that we share is simple and powerful: Jesus is the crucified one who died for us, and the risen one in whose resurrection we finally have assurance of God’s forgiveness and hope of eternal life.
Together, then, let us join the loud and joyful shout of faith that will resound throughout these fifty days of Easter: Christ is risen! Alleluia!
Pastor Micah Garnett has been our Pastor since July 2016. He grew up in York, PA and graduated from the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg in 2011. He enjoys worship, working with social services in Fulton County, writing hymns, and cycling.