The Rev. Dr. Joanne Martindale
Newsletter # 24
First Presbyterian Church Napa
Tuesday November 17, 2020
Purple seems to be the new color, the pandemic numbers are increasing so we will NOT be re-opening the church on Sunday, November 22, as we originally planned. We will continue Zoom worship until such a time when we are allowed to enter the sanctuary for corporate worship again. When will that be? We do not know, so we wait.
The thing is, when we are all gathered again for worship, safely, in the sanctuary, each of us will have learned a lot about who we are. The pandemic and safety guidelines have made us aware of what worship means to us, and why, what relationships, family, love, compassion, selflessness, holidays and so on mean to us. We’ve thought about how we communicate, how we can create fellowship, and how we practice our Christian faith together. Along the way we’ve also rethought values about work, belongings, and self-care. We’ve been alerted to the acute need for God’s justice and mercy in the world.
What have you noticed about changes in your mind? What have you noticed that you really care about, more than you realized? What have you noticed that you care about much less than you realize? Are there changes you have made in your life precisely because of how the quarantine and pandemic have gone for you and your family?
Some of these changes have been welcome, and some have been unsettling. This is what human experience has been for as long as there have been humans. And as a human reality, added to the reality we understand in the risen Jesus Christ, through whom we and all things in heaven and on earth are reconciled to God, this is even more the case. We are God’s people: all these changes are part of life, but they are more than that as well. There is, for us, an end or telos, a new reality God is working even now in our midst. That reality is the peaceable kingdom, the banquet table, the new heaven and new earth.
We didn’t begin all this without God. God was already present and at work when quarantine began.
Where can I go from your spirit?
Or where can I flee from your presence?
If I ascend to heaven, you are there;
if I make my bed in Sheol, you are there.
If I take the wings of the morning
and settle at the farthest limits of the sea,
even there your hand shall lead me,
and your right hand shall hold me fast.
If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me,
and the light around me become night,”
even the darkness is not dark to you;
the night is as bright as the day,
for darkness is as light to you.
We might think there are places shut off from God, places where we can go to be separate from God, places we think God doesn’t see. We might think God is not already with us in despair or doubt or anger, but God is. We might think that change in ourselves, our relationships, or our congregation by definition is surely not what God wants. But here we read from the psalmist that God is present in movement and in change, because God is ever-present in life. All of who we are and long to be, all of what we want and dream about, all of what we grieve and question: it is all present before God.
One of my favorite Christmas carols bears this truth to us. Do you remember “Once in David’s Royal City?” Here is the verse on my mind:
And our eyes at last shall see Him,
Through His own redeeming love;
For that child so dear and gentle,
Is our Lord in heaven above,
And He leads His children on,
To the place where He is gone.
Jesus is already leading us through this pandemic. Jesus is already leading our congregation through this pandemic. There will be more changes to come, of all sorts, changes that are welcome and some that are unsettling. But the changes in our life are always toward that place where Christ is leading us with redeeming love. It is the narrative sweep of scripture, the promise of healing, relief, wholeness, joy.
Isaiah 11, Isaiah 25, Revelation 21:
A shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse,
and a branch shall grow out of his roots.
The spirit of the Lord shall rest on him,
the spirit of wisdom and understanding,
the spirit of counsel and might,
the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.
His delight shall be in the fear of the Lord.
He shall not judge by what his eyes see,
or decide by what his ears hear;
but with righteousness he shall judge the poor,
and decide with equity for the meek of the earth;
he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth,
and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked.
Righteousness shall be the belt around his waist,
and faithfulness the belt around his loins.
The wolf shall live with the lamb,
the leopard shall lie down with the kid,
the calf and the lion and the fatling together,
and a little child shall lead them.
The cow and the bear shall graze, their young shall lie down together;
and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.
The nursing child shall play over the hole of the asp,
and the weaned child shall put its hand on the adder’s den.
They will not hurt or destroy on all my holy mountain;
for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord
as the waters cover the sea.
On this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples
a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wines,
of rich food filled with marrow, of well-aged wines strained clear.
And he will destroy on this mountain
the shroud that is cast over all peoples,
the sheet that is spread over all nations;
he will swallow up death forever.
Then the Lord God will wipe away the tears from all faces,
and the disgrace of his people he will take away from all the earth,
for the Lord has spoken.
It will be said on that day,
Lo, this is our God; we have waited for him, so that he might save us.
This is the Lord for whom we have waited;
let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.
And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying,
“See, the home of God is among mortals.
He will dwell with them;
they will be his peoples,
and God himself will be with them;
he will wipe every tear from their eyes.
Death will be no more;
mourning and crying and pain will be no more,
for the first things have passed away.”
And the one who was seated on the throne said, “See, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this, for these words are trustworthy and true.” Then he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give water as a gift from the spring of the water of life.
Do you see? In Isaiah and in so many other places in scripture God has promised to lead us to this new heaven and earth in which people are comforted, fed, safe, and thriving. When God sees all of who we are, God is seeing us through the eyes of redeeming love: God’s love.
We know things will be different for us on the other side of this pandemic. There will be a “new normal.” God has not changed, and God has always been, is now, and will be leading us to God’s own self, to an astonishing life of redeeming love, of feasting and joy, of delight and play.
What we want to remember, though, is that this astonishing life is not completely cut off from our life now. Ours is not a world-avertive faith: as Presbyterians, we do not use God as an escape. Life with God is not out there beyond this world. Instead, God is in this world, and on purpose, as Emmanuel (God-with-us), even Jesus Christ. Remember that in Isaiah 43 we read that God is right now doing a new thing. Now it springs forth. Our faith is world-formative. We ourselves are already working with God to build this new reality that God is bringing to us. Change is always part of God’s life-giving process.
As you consider the changes, then, that you have experienced yourself in the last eight months, where have you seen new glimpses of God’s love and work? Where have you seen the changes bring opportunities from God to show love, pursue justice and reconciliation, or to enjoy life?
In your life, in the life of the congregation, in the entire world, God is already at work. Isaiah 43:
Do not remember the former things,
or consider the things of old.
I am about to do a new thing;
now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.
The wild animals will honor me,
the jackals and the ostriches;
for I give water in the wilderness,
rivers in the desert, to give drink to my chosen people,
the people whom I formed for myself
so that they might declare my praise.
We don’t know how long this all will continue, or what the next eight months will hold. We don’t know what new hardships there might be, or what deep need in the world will increase, or what joys might present themselves. It is God’s work to save, not ours. It is God
…who by the power at work within us
is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine.
Let’s call to mind what our siblings in the faith have been passing on to us from generation to generation: the promises of God. As we have been reading in Joshua.
“Only be strong and very courageous, being careful to act in accordance with all the law that my servant Moses commanded you; do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, so that you may be successful wherever you go.
This book of the law shall not depart out of your mouth; you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to act in accordance with all that is written in it. For then you shall make your way prosperous, and then you shall be successful. I hereby command you: Be strong and courageous; do not be frightened or dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”
Friends, be strong and courageous,
First Presbyterian Church Napa News:
Operation Christmas Child 2020
We are in the homestretch of our Operation Christmas Child mission project!
Our mission is to provide local partners around the world with shoeboxes filled with small toys, hygiene items, and school supplies as a means of reaching out to children in their own communities. Samaritan's Purse ships these simple gifts outside the United States to children affected by war, poverty, natural disaster, famine, and disease. It's now more important than ever to share God's love with His children at this time!
There's still plenty of time to get involved:
- Come by the office and pick up a pre-folded box to pack yourself. Please return it to the office by Friday November 20.
Help us reach our goal of packing at least 50 shoeboxes online. You can do this by going HERE.
- Volunteer to help set up on Friday, Nov. 20 at 3 p.m., for the OCC packing event on Saturday, Nov. 21, at 10 a.m. to 12 noon. Contact Fransine at 707-224-8693 to sign up to help with set up.
Join us for our packing event in the gym on Saturday November 21 from 10 a.m. to 12 noon. We still have plenty of slots from 11 a.m.-12 p.m.!!
If you would like to reserve a time by yourselves for you and your family, we can do that too! Let us know!
There will be no more than 10 people socially distanced per half hour!! Registration will be required to maintain social distancing and Covid safety. Please click HERE to reserve your spot for this event! You will receive a confirmation confirming your time slot.
For more information, please call the church office at 707-224-8693.
Live Stream Worship
Due to recent changes in our Napa County Covid tier, First Pres Napa will not be opening for in person worship this week! We will continue to have worship available online with a new Live Stream edition! Please keep an eye out for this Thursday's E-blast for more information!