Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
As I write this pastoral letter, I’ve been reflecting on the significant change that can occur in our lives within just one year. For our children, it can be the beginning of nursery, or a move to a new school or university, or a gap year working away from home. For us adults, it can be a wedding in the family, a new job, or a new home. For those in the latter years of their life, it can be a change in mental or physical health. Life is full of change, and a year of one’s life can bring significant change.
The same can be true of a church family like our own. This past year we have experienced some significant changes. We have ‘fare welled’ dear members from our congregation as they relocated to new places; some of our elderly folk have had a very difficult year with ill health; there have been two deaths in our church family—one sudden, the other expected; we have sent one family off to the Far East for mission work; our dear minister, Ian and his wife Joan, returned to Scotland for a new life of ministry in Inverness; and soon Jackie and myself and Ben will leave for the USA to minister at Westminster Theological Seminary, Philadelphia. It has been a year of significant change for our congregation. Perhaps, like me, you feel a kind of ‘nervous apprehension’ for the year ahead in light of the year that we’ve just had. Well, if so, then let me remind us of three great truths we learnt from our sermon series in Isaiah.
First, in moments of uncertainty and instability, in times of crisis in our lives, let us look up and see the Lord seated on his throne, high and lifted up (Isaiah 6:1). When we experience change in our lives that is outside of our control, it is easy to feel overwhelmed, just as Isaiah did when King Uzziah died — but the Lord is on his throne. Whatever happens in our lives does not take God by surprise. He is in control. Our worlds might be shaking, but he isn’t — he’s still seated on his throne.
Second, in moments of uncertainty and instability, in times of crisis in our lives, let us keep our minds fixed on the LORD, our everlasting rock (Isaiah 26:3-4). When we experience difficult circumstances in our lives beyond our control, it can feel like the very foundations of our lives are shaking, just as Israel felt when they were taken off into exile — but the LORD is an everlasting rock. The trials of life can make us feel like we are ‘losing our mind’. But there is one place to fix our minds: on the God who hasn’t lost his, on the God who is a rock in the midst of life’s crises — firm, immovable, dependable.
Third, in moments of uncertainty and instability, in times of crises in our lives, let us remember that God cannot and will not forget us (Isaiah 49:15-16). Difficult times in our lives can make us feel that the Lord has forsaken or forgotten us, just as Israel felt in exile — but the Lord does not forsake or forget his own. There is more chance of a mother forgetting her own nursing child, than there is of God forgetting us. 'Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you‘. God cracks open the possibility of the seemingly impossible (a mother forgetting her child), in order to present us with the impossibility of the really impossible (’Yet I will not forget you‘). God cannot forget us. He cannot forsake us. Why? Because ’Look. I have engraved you on the palms of my hands.‘ And in Christ, we know that that is literally true. In his body, Christ bears the scars of forsakenness so that you and I will never have to bear such a scar in this life. As the Apostle Paul put it, ’For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height not depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord' (Romans 8:38-39).
May the God of all comfort, encourage and strengthen us as individuals and as a church as we face many challenges and great change in our lives.
With my love in Christ,