A Message from Ellen
March 31, 2021
I need to begin by saying “Thank You” to you, my church family. I cannot tell you how much I have needed, felt, and appreciated your prayers and love in the last month or so. I have experienced your prayers carrying me – both in a physical and spiritual sense – over the last 6 or 8 weeks. And my family has been overwhelmed with your love and expressions of support. I am so sad to have lost my mother to pancreatic cancer. And I am also truly grateful to have had her as my mother for 83 years. So, I am both sad and grateful at the same time. And I am learning more about myself and about my faith in a God who is eternal love embodied in the person of Jesus Christ because of this sadness and also because of your love. Thank you for walking with us.
And then, as we began to approach Holy Week, five families in our church family lost loved ones in the last two weeks of March. Our congregation will hold five funerals in the space of fourteen days. That is a lot of loss. We have a lot of weeping to do. And yet, every time I meet with a family to plan a “Service of Witness to the Resurrection” we end up both laughing and crying. I have experienced this before, but never with the intensity of this Holy Week. Somehow, in a way that should be contradictory, we are able to grieve and to celebrate in the face of death. Death is scary. But when we are honest with ourselves, we must face the fact that no one ever gets out of this life alive. We will all die. God made us to live, but not forever. And while we do not yet see what comes next, our Scripture – and our experience – is full of clues that all say that God is love, and God is eternal. “God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them.” (1 John 4:16) When we know love, we know God. And when we are loving, we reflect God’s love onto the world around us.
I believe that God is love, and only love is eternal. So, either the Gospel is about God’s love and reconciliation or it is not Gospel. And, if we – in our own lives and actions – are not working to practice and to strengthen our ability to love, then let us invite and encourage each other to love. What grows in the lives of those who love God is called the “fruit of the Spirit”: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” (Galatians 5:22-23). So, when we gather to worship on Easter, we remember that while you and I will all ultimately die to this life, Jesus invites us to love. We are invited to love – God, self, and our neighbors – in such a way that we participate in the eternal reality. When we love we become a part of God’s Rule – both now and forever.
None of us are perfect in love. But Easter is an extended opportunity to remember how much God loves us, and to recommit ourselves to love each other. I have felt your love, and it is amazing and powerful and life-giving. Easter is an invitation to work again at love. If you are feeling angry, hostile, impatient and afraid, then come to worship on Easter. Ask God for help with this. Choose to let go of fear and anger and ask God to fill those spaces with the Holy Spirit instead. Come and worship the God who is love, and who came to earth in human form so that we could know, feel, and then share the love God gives. I think that is really close to the heart of what it means to be Christian. Come, let us worship that God!
Ellen Fowler Skidmore