How are you all doing? I have talked to many people this week who have said, "I'm just done with all this." It has come from pastors, lay people, and family members. We are all weary. It is discouraging to see the case numbers going back up in Allegheny County and across the country, as we realize that we are nowhere near the end of this marathon.
Back in the Fall when we planned this Sermon/Study series, once again God knew exactly what the theme word should be for this week: Perseverance.
What does perseverance look like? Hebrews 12 points to Christ, saying we need to persevere as Jesus did, "For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart." How did Christ persevere even through his crucifixion? He kept his eyes focused on the joy he would feel on the other side, the joy of being reunited with the Father and the joy of breaking the power of sin and death over all of us.
Our story from Peter's life this week is one of the darkest he ever experienced. He was full of bravado when he declared to Jesus that he would never deny him. And then just a few short hours later, Peter's third denial escaped his lips, the rooster crowed, Jesus looked straight at Peter, and he went out and wept bitterly.
There is a striking contrast here between Peter and the other person to betray Christ: Judas. Judas regretted his actions too (Matthew 27). But unlike Judas, Peter persevered. Even with the shame Peter carried from his betrayal, he stayed with the disciples. He was with them on the morning of that first day of the week. When the women said the tomb was empty, he raced toward it, trying to understand what happened. He did not let shame hold him back, and he finally met Jesus face-to-face. Jesus not only forgave him; he gave Peter a new calling.
What would Peter have been like if he had never failed? What if he had never experienced deep shame or remorse? Surely he never could have understood the depths of God's grace without it. God used this horrible experience in Peter's life to make him stronger, more compassionate, and better able to share the joy of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. He could preach it because he had lived it.
Have you had a difficult experience that was life changing for you? Some successful business people say the best thing that ever happened to them was getting fired from a job. Many medical professionals chose that field because they or their families had gone through a difficult illness.
My family went through a series of really rough experiences in the summer of 1989. My mom recently uncovered a photo of us about to climb into the UHaul truck and move across country - with no job on the other end. And the remarkable thing about that photo is that we were all smiling. I remember being almost giddy, anticipating that God had to have something incredible at the end of that journey. Sure enough, God pulled off a miracle that none of us could see. This month, my brother is moving to California, his oldest daughter is moving to New York, and his second oldest daughter, Sophia, is moving in with me until college starts for her in Boston in August. We are reminding each of them of that story of perseverance. Even when the future seems scary, we can fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith. With his help, we can endure.
At the end of his life, Peter reflected on the way he had been changed by hardship, as he wrote, "For a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith-of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire-may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed," (1 Peter 1:6-7). May your faith come out of this shining as pure gold with the light of Christ.
: Many of us are feeling called to pray now more than ever-for the pandemic, for unity, for justice, for forgiveness, for revival. We are setting aside 7pm Wednesday night, July 15, for prayer. We will offer two options - you may join us in person, or you can follow our prayer guide at home. Because meeting outdoors is the safest option, we invite you to bring your mask and a lawn chair, and we will gather in the church drive thru (we will have some extra chairs if you need one). For those of you who prefer to pray at home, we will be providing a prayer guide as part of this newsletter next week. Wherever you are, we invite you to seek the Lord for his healing power over our country and our world.
Our elders have decided that we will continue to offer in-person worship unless the governor moves Allegheny County back to the Yellow Phase. We ask that you wear a mask and follow all safety guidelines if you would like to worship with us at the church. Please stay home if you are feeling unwell, and be especially cautious if you are in one of the groups considered to be vulnerable according to the CDC.
Now is a great time to join a small group! We have groups meeting online almost every day of the week, and we have groups for Tweeners, Middle School and High School, Young Adults, just women, just men, and coed groups. And the Lamplighters Sunday School class is meeting again as well. If you are interested in becoming part of one of these groups, please contact us at 412-531-3387 or email@example.com
Hour of Prayer
(formerly known as Sundays at Seven): A group of us are gathering on Zoom every Sunday at 7pm to pray together, and we would love to have you join us! Here is the Zoom link for a computer, tablet or mobile phone:
. You can also call in from a regular phone - dial 1-646-558-8656 and enter the Meeting ID - 925 6196 4416. For more info, contact Pat Gaudio at firstname.lastname@example.org.
As always, please let us know if there is any way we can support you or connect with you during this season. You can email us at email@example.com, with any needs, prayer requests, or just updates on how you are doing. And you are always welcome to call us at 412-531-3387.