Forest Lake Talks

A Message from Ellen 3-4-20

March 4, 2020

Dear Friends,

Right before Jesus was betrayed, arrested and crucified he said to his followers, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.  I do not give to you as the world gives.  Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.” (John 14:27)  And, as he was sending his disciples out into what he knew would be persecution he told them, “I am sending you out like sheep into the midst of wolves; so be wise as serpents and innocents as doves.” (Matthew 10:16)

We live in a world where evil is real and where real threats to our safety and well-being exist. I don’t think that God wants us to pretend that we are safe or to deny that we are afraid.  Fear is our reminder that we are mortal and temporary and vulnerable.  Fear is a normal, adaptive and helpful emotion . . . . .  unless it rules us above all else.  It is not that Christians are never afraid.  Scripture calls on us to “fear God”, and I think that this refers to how we feel when we realize that God is Holy and we are not.  We believe in a Holy God who is not to be trifled with.  However, fear, when unchecked by faith, is the beginning of hate, greed, war, and the denial of the humanity of those who are different from us.

The Session made the decision to experiment with having a uniformed police officer present for our Sunday morning services between now and the summer when we will likely move to only one service.  There was no specific threat or event to which the Session was responding.  It was more of a recognition that we want to balance both faith and fear.  The Session is responsible for the wellbeing of this congregation, and we recognize that evil and hate seem to be experiencing a revival in our culture.  So, I don’t want anyone to be afraid at church (for any reason save the appropriate fear of God!), and if the presence of a police officer can help safeguard us from random evil or those who are motivated by hate, then we acknowledge the fact that our culture and nation are sick in this way.  We do not want to be victims of what is truly evil.

And, at the same time we – individually and as a congregation – need to be in prayer about how we can be a presence that supports love, peace, justice and mercy!  We don’t safeguard ourselves only for our own purposes.  We safeguard ourselves so that we may serve God’s purposes of redemption and reconciliation!  So, I want to urge you to re-double your efforts to be hospitable and welcoming to EVERYONE who comes into our building.  If you sense danger, you are to report this to the Lead Usher or the Police Officer (whomever you find first).  But, our task is to extend the love and welcome of Christ to all.  When Judas showed up in the Garden of Gethsemane to betray Jesus with a kiss, Jesus said to him, “Friend, do what you are here to do.” (Matthew 26:50)

God alone holds our future in his hands.  We are to be wise and innocent at the same time.  Fearful of what can harm us, but faithful in our trust of God above all else.  It is a tough balance.  I am confident in you, that we can do this together through the power of the Holy Spirit.

May the Peace of Christ grow in us and be poured onto the world through us!

Peace,

Ellen

Ellen Fowler Skidmore

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